World War II Hero's Jacket Found Amid Sandy Wreckage

The military hero to whom the jacket belonged had a "heart like a stormy sea," according to his West Point yearbook

By Andrew Siff
|  Thursday, Nov 15, 2012  |  Updated 10:08 AM EDT
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A mystery has presented itself in Sandy Hook Bay, N.J. where a military jacket belonging to a World War II hero was found amid the wreckage of Sandy. Andrew Siff reports.

NBC 4 New York

A mystery has presented itself in Sandy Hook Bay, N.J. where a military jacket belonging to a World War II hero was found amid the wreckage of Sandy. Andrew Siff reports.

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A mystery has unfolded in Sandy Hook Bay, N.J. where a military jacket belonging to a World War II hero was found amid the wreckage of Sandy.

Donna Gugger and other members of the Sandy Hook Bay Catamaran Club were sifting through piles of debris on the devastated shore this week when she found the jacket. 

"It was partially buried... about three-quarters of the way under the sand," said Gugger.

Gugger pulled the jacket out and wiped off all the sand she could from the outside. As she hung the jacket out to dry, she speculated at first it may be a "neat costume."

"It had these really pretty brass buttons that caught my eye," she said, comparing it to a Sergeant Pepper jacket.

But then Gugger noticed the label sewn inside the jacket: West Point was printed on it, and the name "Degavre" was written by hand.

She called West Point, and the academy confirmed the jacket belonged to Gen. Chester deGavre, a World War II hero with a silver medal for bravery.

According to an obituary in the New York Times, deGavre was one of the first Army officers to take parachute training at the outset of World War II, and was chief of staff for the airborne invasion of southern France in 1944.

DeGavre died in 1993, but his college motto seemed to predict the future.

"His yearbook, it mentioned his heart was like a stormy sea," said Gugger.

The deGavre family used to live on the Navesink River, just a few miles around the bend from the Sandy Hook Bay. But Gugger and other members of the Catamaran Club still don't know how the jacket wound up there.

Gugger packed up the coat Wednesday and shipped it to West Point to be cleaned. From there, it will be reunited with the veteran's 98-year-old widow in Virginia, who told NBC 4 New York she's thrilled to be getting it back.

There's still cleanup to be done in Sandy Hook Bay, but for Gugger, "the stormy sea returning this coat is, to me, a miracle" -- recognition that, because of the storm, a soldier's proud service will be remembered. 

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