Pfc. Andrew Kindsvater of the U.S. Army's 60th Infantry Regiment was fighting on the Western Front and participating in the American advance to the Rhine during World War II when he found a small accordion.
Kindsvater participated in the Battle of the Bulge and fought in the Hurtgen Forrest and the Ardennes. He was wounded at the famous Bridge at Remagen, where he earned the Purple Heart Medal, and was sent home with the accordion safely tucked away in his bags.
The instrument stayed in the family, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott A. Kindsvater ultimately inherited the instrument from his grandfather. It was always the will of the family to find the owner of the accordion and return it after they discovered a small engraving referencing the previous owner, "M. Kupp - Schleiden." A decadelong search ensued that yielded results.
While serving as the deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence at Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium, the general issued a request to the German city of Schleiden for help in the search for any surviving descendants of the Kupp family. His executive officer, German Lt. Col. Aicke Lippert, assisted in the effort.
Amazingly, they found the Kupp family. And after his appointment as deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Kindsvater worked to return the accordion to the family.
The original owner, Mia Kupp, died in 2007. But her surviving sister, 87-year-old Christel Nierhoff, agreed to host a ceremony with the city of Schleiden, where the instrument was handed over Nov. 28.
In front of family, friends, city officials and the people of Schleiden, Kindsvater acknowledged how special the event was for him and his family — including his cousin, Alan Kindsvater, who flew in from St. Louis with his wife and children for the event.
"It is fitting that we give this heirloom that has become an heirloom in my family back to the Kupp family," the general said. "Thank you to the mayor, the Kupp family, the town of Schleiden and my German executive officer, Aicke Lippert, for making this family dream a reality."