A collector of vintage movie cameras in East Tennessee found the name and number on one of them taught him more than he ever expected about the life of a soldier from World War II.
"How do you write a story about someone you never knew?"
That is the question Joe Campbell poses on a web page he devoted to his discoveries about the life of Lt. Fredrick Brevillier.
"I did some searching of the name and tracked down some family members," said Campbell.
On the underside of a Kodak Cine', Model E, 16mm movie camera, given to him by his sons for Christmas, Campbell found that soldier's name, rank, and division number. It set him on a journey that not only connected Campbell with the soldier's family, but also led to discoveries about Lt. Brevillier's life and death.
"I've got a letter from the war department that was sent to his mother after his death...he was awarded the purple heart," said Campbell.
The collector turned part-time historian learned Brevillier never had children, never married, and lost his life at the age of 27. The lieutenant made the D-Day invasion but was killed in another fierce battle in the interior of France before his unit made a memorable push into Paris.
"He was killed in action about three weeks before that in Gathemo, France," said Campbell, "I don't know the details of how he was killed." But Campbell did track down pictures of Fredrick Brevillier, letters he sent to his mother, and the family home in Erie, Pennsylvania.
For an East Tennessee collector, it was an unexpected mission, sparked by curiosity drawn from a movie camera, one that instead of recording history, Campbell credits with helping uncover it.