Ridgewood man reunited with grandfather’s lost WWII dog tags after nearly 10 years

A Ridgewood man has been reunited with his grandfather’s World War II dog tags, which he thought were lost forever nearly 10 years ago.
Scott Steinberg lost the dog tags on August 8, 2015, after jumping off his friend’s boat at F Cove – a popular party spot in Brick. The tags were issued to his grandfather, Melville Steinberg, back in 1943.
“I always joked that he lived through World War II with the dog tags, and I lose them at F Cove in Brick, New Jersey. So it was kind of embarrassing,” Scott Steinberg says.
As the years went by, Steinberg's anguish turned to resignation over the loss. Meanwhile, the tags? They were sitting in a wooden bowl on desk of Shelann Coughlan in the town of Dover.
“I saw this gold chain with these tags around the neck of the bottle,” she says.
Coughlan had found the tag on the beach near Brielle Road in Manasquan, miles away from where it was lost, along with a crucifix Steinberg had received for confirmation. The chain was wrapped around a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey. No one knows how the items traveled so far from the bay to the ocean.
“It was almost like it was placed there strategically,” Coughlan says.
When she found the tags, Coughlan began her own search for the owner by contacting veterans’ organizations and scouring the internet.
But Melville Steinberg was living in Florida in his late 90s, playing poker and enjoying a nightly raspberry and vodka. He was a member of the Greatest Generation, not the internet generation. Coughlan found no trace of him through Google or Facebook. Every so often, she says she would search again.
“It was always in the back of my mind that this needs to be back with the family,” Coughlan says.
And then last month, Coughlan gave it another try and got a hit – Melville Steinberg’s obituary. He died on Feb. 24, 2020, at the age of 103.
She sent a message to Melville’s grandchildren listed in the obit. A reply came back while she was waiting at the pharmacy with her daughter.
“I had goosebumps. I was crying. We are at the pharmacy picking up [my daughter’s] medication, I had tears rolling down my face. People are probably thinking, ‘What is up with this crazy lady?’” Coughlan says.
Then later that day – Father’s Day - Scott Steinberg drove to Dover to pick up the dog tags and give a big hug to Coughlan. He put the tags in a Father’s Day card and presented it to his father, Melville’s son.
“We all started tearing up. It was great,” says Jeff Steinberg.
The Steinbergs plan to share a drink with Coughlan down at the Shore this summer to thank her. It will be vodka, Melville Steinberg’s favorite – and Coughlan’s as well.
“No wonder I love the man,” she says.
Melville Steinberg served in Europe in the 51st Engineering Battalion during World War II.