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National Guard NCO stole WWII dog tags from National Archives

A volunteer displays a pair of dog tags and some coins found at an archeological dig site near Diss, England, Sept. 6, 2017. The excavation was led by the American Veterans Archeology Recovery Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching active-duty service members and veterans archeological skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
May 21, 2019

A VA National Guard sergeant is scheduled to appear in a federal court on May 29 for stealing the dog tags of WWII soldiers killed in action.

Robert Rumsby, 29, volunteered to identify the remains of missing soldiers by conducting research at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., but he stole at least four of them, according to

Some of the dog tags missing from the National Archives were recently discovered in Rumsby’s home. He now faces misdemeanor charges after admitting he stole the dog tags.

“I think the intent was there. I think the approach was wrong. Even at the time, I knew the approach was wrong,” Rumsby said. “I had taken four identification tags from those record groups specifically for families I knew would treasure them.”

Rumsby and his wife, Brittany, have been banned temporarily from the archives, although she has not been charged with any crimes.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s spokeswoman, Sgt. 1st Class Kristen Duus said, “the policy is to find the remains of service members, identify who they are and locate living relatives — so when remains are identified, any items found with the remains proven to be the service members are given to the next of kin. These items can include old photos, identification tags, watches, eyeglasses and wallets.”

Duus added, “Once they are the property of the family, they can decide to keep or donate them to archives, museums, et cetera.”

Investigators were able to connect Rumsby with missing relics after discovering that he was the only person to view that particular box. They then traced the box of dog tags back to Rumsby after identifying one of them in a photo he posted online.

It was the IG office that requested a search warrant of Rumsby’s home with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

When the search was executed, officials discovered the dog tags of Airmen Albert J. Whitus, James F. McKee and John E. McKenzie, and 1st Lt. Theodore R. Ream, all of whom died in WWII plane crashes that Rumsby had been researching.

Officials said the tags of Whitus and McKenzie were displayed on the fireplace mantle amongst miscellaneous items from the crash and photos. Rumsby returned McKee’s dog tag to his nephews.

Whitus, Mckee, and McKenzie were among those killed in a B-24 aircraft collision along with Rumbsy’s great uncle, Sgt. Donald. W. Sang, who sacrificed his own life to save his crew members.

“I held on to them for many years and never really got around to finding the relatives to see if they were still interested,” Rumsby said.

Rumsby notified the Air Force and his uncle was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which he accepted in his uncle’s honor.

Rumsby has collectively spent more than 2,000 hours researching identification. He said, “It’s burned me. I’ve seen while identifications were still in the process and remains are in the lab and families die off. Siblings die in the process of waiting for identification. It’s taken a massive toll on me emotionally and mentally.”

Ream, who died in a separate plane crash, was the great uncle of Rumsby’s wife. Ream’s dog tag was located at Rumsby’s grandmother-in-law’s home in a shadow box.

All have been returned to the archive.