Irving Mann has been in business long enough to be skeptical of out-of-the-blue offers that seem too good to be true.
So the founder of Mann's Jewelers in Rochester was cautious but intrigued when an email arrived at his store from a woman wondering if he could possibly be the Irving Mann whose military tag she said she'd found a day earlier in her barley field in France.
After all, the World War II veteran didn't recall losing a dog tag after landing in Normandy with the 90th Infantry division on D-Day and fighting across Nazi-occupied France.
"It had to be false," thought Mann, who'd recently celebrated his 88th birthday.
"You hear of so many scams going on, that somebody's going to fake it, do some research and say, 'I would be willing to return your dog tag. However, it will cost you X number of dollars.'"
A series of email exchanges between Mann's daughter-in-law, Charlotte Mann, and the French woman, Sophie LaFollie, eventually convinced the Manns she was for real. For one thing, LaFollie relayed the serial number from the aluminum tag, a number Mann has never forgotten: 42023412.
"She specifically said, 'I'm not interested in any kind of reward. The only thing I'm interested in is what happened to you that you would have lost your dog tag where I found it,'" Mann said.
Then the beat-up pendant arrived in the mail, leaving Mann to marvel at its journey and recall his own through the village near Rethel, France, where his outfit had dug in for a few days' rest and traded Spam and cigarettes for fresh eggs with two young women in a farmhouse nearby.
"Any (doubting) thoughts I may have had disappeared immediately when I had the dog tag in my hand," Mann said. LaFollie included a picture of her farmhouse, where her grandmother and aunt had lived during the war. "Memories came flooding back," the veteran said, remembering how he'd scrambled those eggs in his steel helmet, stirring with his bayonet.