Metal detectorist in Italy finds bracelet belonging to American soldier from WWII

Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 5:07 PM CDT
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BOSTON (WCVB) – A Boston family is in possession of a long-lost heirloom thanks to an intrepid Italian teenager.

A bracelet belonging to a World War II soldier was found in the woods near 19-year-old Gabriele Pavolttoni’s European home.

“Beyond what you find, there’s always a history,” he said.

Pavolttoni said he was interested in finding out who the person behind the bracelet was.

He was metal detecting in the woods near his home in Pisa, Italy, when he heard the noise every detectorist hopes for.

“And then my metal detector starts like, ‘Bing, bing, bing, bing,’” he said.

He started digging when something shiny caught his eye.

“So I pull it out from the ground. I put it in my hand and I saw, OK, this is a bracelet,” he said.

The silver bracelet had a World War II soldier’s name engraved on the front along with the date 1943. Another name was on the back.

Pavolttoni said the name was Lt. Ernest Holtzclaw, a member of the U.S. Army’s 34th infantry division.

He said he knew he wanted to return it to Holtzclaw’s family, and was able to locate the man’s grave in Boston.

The 19-year-old hopped on a plane with his mother to travel to the commonwealth of Massachusetts with an important mission.

When Pavolttoni spotted the American flag in Mount Hope Cemetery, he knew he was getting closer to finding the soldier’s grave. Then he stumbled into the man who knew how to help.

Jim Killeen works at the cemetery and said he came across the Italian family.

“I noticed them kind of walking around aimlessly, not set at any one grave,” he said.

Killeen and another cemetery worker then helped Pavolttoni track down the grave and the Holtzclaws’ home.

When they got to the house, the soldier’s family said they were stunned to have the bracelet of Ernest Holtzclaw returned to them.

“I was shaking because, wow, this is his family,” Pavolttoni said.

During World War II, the U.S. fought against Italy and dictator Benito Mussolini. Americans along with other Allied Forces invaded the country in 1943.