Thief steals WWII relics off Muskegon warship museum

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Police are looking for the person who stole priceless World War II memorabilia off a warship docked in downtown Muskegon.

The USS LST 393 once carried thousands of soldiers. Now a veterans museum, it’s home to thousands of war artifacts. Staff says that last week, some of those items went missing. 

The staff posted a surveillance image on Facebook showing the man they say police want to talk to in connection to the theft. The nonprofit group says the man stole hats, buttons, medals, patches and other items that were on display.

Glass case with two medals
An Aug. 14, 2019 photo shows the glass case aboard the USS LST 393 that contained the Purple Heart someone stole.

“First they took the hat that was up here, they took the insignia on her sleeve, they took a couple buttons,” museum manager Ike Villalpando said as he looked over Margaret Tolar’s Air Force uniform on display.

Tolar served in the Air Force in the 1940s. Several of the pins and patches were taken directly off her uniform.

Old photo of Margaret E. Tolar in uniform
A photo of the female U.S. Army Air Force veteran who earned the medals and patches stolen from the USS LST 393. (Aug. 14, 2019)

“Every once in a while you’ll see an article about people desecrating a gravestone. I used to feel bad for those people, now I can empathize,” Tolar’s son Jim Korbecki said as he looked at his mother’s uniform.

“First reaction was anger, second reaction was disappointment. Why would somebody do that?” Korbecki said.

Korbecki said the uniform is not only a point of pride for his mother but also signified history for their family: the service is the way his parents met. 

“Each display in this museum represents a life, represents sacrifice,” Korbecki said. “ I just want it back.” 

veterans uniform missing medals and patches
An Aug. 14, 2019 photo shows the uniform a thief stripped of medals and patches during a visit aboard the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum. (Aug. 14, 2019)

Anyone who recognizes the suspect is encouraged to call Muskegon police at 231.724.6750.

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