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Soldiers signed a World War II flag more than 70 years ago, now a UK man is hoping to find Arizona relatives of one of them

Joseph Grant has counted a total of 116 names on the flag he bought for his museum. One of them, he believes, has ties to Arizona.

PHOENIX — Joseph Grant has collected items from World War II for nearly a decade, so when he spotted a flag in May 2021, he knew the value.

“It’s such a unique item,” Grant said.

Grant, who lives in the U.K., bought the flag from a dealer he’s known. Across the red and white spots on the fabric, names and locations are written in black letters. He’s counted 116 names in total.

“That says Cannon Company 315, 79th infantry and in Germany at the bottom. So that's the main text that told me what company this flag belong to,” Grant said showing the flag.

Among the 116 names, he found one with possible ties to Arizona.

“Jewell T. Liles is just at the bottom here,” Grant said pointing to a name written in black ink on a red swath of the flag.

Beneath Liles’ name, it shows Liles is from Flint Springs, Kentucky.

According to FindAGrave, Liles and his wife are buried at National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona. Liles appeared to have died back in 1998, and his wife in 2010.

According to Grant's research, Liles’ relatives moved to Phoenix, and he’s hoping to find them.

“I’d love to know as much as possible as they can tell me about even the little stories and anything they might know,” Grant said.

In the UK, Grant and his father opened a World War II museum out of their garage with the memorabilia they’ve collected. The items collected in the Grant World War II Museum range from uniforms and hats, some, Grant said, with names on them.

“I immediately want to find out as much as I can about them,” he said. “That way it’s not just a name anymore. It’s a person.”

As for buying the flag with the 116 of the mostly American soldiers’ names, Grant said he looks at it as the "biggest research project ever."

“My goal is to get photos for every single one of the names,” Grant said.

So far, he’s been able to track down four photos of the soldiers who signed the Nazi flag.

“Obviously the Nazi flag is a symbol of hate, but ultimately, them signing it makes it a symbol of victory,” Grant said.

Ultimately, Grant hopes to find where exactly the flag came from. He said it’s a large flag, that maybe came off a building or was hung off street lamps as a banner.

But it’s the soldiers who signed it, that Grant is wanting to share more about, so what’s written becomes tangible.

“If we don't find their stories, and remember their stories, and they are just going to be names on the flag eventually. And I don't want that to happen,” Grant said.

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