Information on missing soldiers is not just knocking on our door. There's much to be read and examined. Finding an isolated grave requires patience, perseverance and last but not least a whole lot of time.
In addition to the foundation all members have jobs and a family so it requires a lot spare time of its members. This is why we've set some conditions which you should read before you issue a request for help to Stichting Missing In Action (MIA).
Fortunately nowadays the internet provides information much easier than before. Almost all information on our globe and the history of it can be found on the world wide web by for example using Google and Google-Earth. Some things are not so easy to find though. Many WWII documents from are not (yet) digitized. Still, paper archives might be required which are not always easily accessible.
For example: In case of U.S. Army missing persons we can quickly find information. What we are looking for are the locations where the missing person was last seen and not numbers. We find for example a report which provides the following information;
89 - Killed and Died of Wounds
406 - Wounded in Action
243 - Injured in Action
32 - Missing in Action
707 - Non-Battle Casualties
Also mentioned in the report is the period; January 01, 1945 - January 31, 1945 and that it's in the vicinity of St. Vith in the Belgian Ardennes. However, the towns mentioned in the report are scattered over an area of roughly 40km2 which is 50% forest. You simply cannot run a marathon tempo with a metal detector and searching the entire area is virtually impossible.
It’s not said that a search will be easier if a more precise location is known. In the Ardennes there is a lot of logging and pine woods are re-planted once about every 30 years. It could be that the entire forest has disappeared or is completely changed. The report provides no names of the missing and does not clarify later found victims. From those 32 missing in action there is no certainty that they are still missing.
How do we proceed?
First we need a hint. This may be for example through publications on internet while receiving a request from someone who is looking for a family member.
As soon as we've got a reasonably hint we will gather as much info as possible about the person and his/her unit. By filtering this information, facts will remain for us to continue to work with. It might sometimes take a few months or years before we have a clear picture.
Through the facts and/or clearly correct information we can compile a targeted search plan. With this plan we will go to agencies and institutions in order to convince them of the need to search for remains. Organizations (like municipalities, government and/or other institutions) will have to give us permission to search on their land. In case of private owned land we will need permission from the landowner sometimes combined with government permission.
If all licenses and permits are granted, the physical search starts. We will systematically search the grounds for traces, in the hope that our ultimate goal is reached; discovery of the missing persons field grave. The excavation itself will be done by government institutes. Our foundation may not excavate any remains because we do not have jurisdiction. The government institution will be activated immediately after contact with the local police or via direct contact. Whenever we find explosives, we will contact another government institution with the request to remove the explosives.
Obviously we want attend the excavation. We hope that the discovery is so complete that a positive identification can be done. This will require help from a Forensic Institute, the U.S. DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) and/or the BID-KL (Bergings- en Identificatie Dienst Koninklijke Landmacht). At this point our goal is reached, whether the identification is positive or not.
You have found human remains… Now what?
In case you might find any human remains, we strongly advise you to contact the local police immediately. They will start the procedure to send forensics and/or military to the location indicated by you.
It’s important to leave everything how you’ve found it and that you not remove anything from the grave. You don’t know if it’s a wargrave you’ve discovered or a crime scene. Leaving everything in its place might increase the odds for a positive identification. Leave the excavation itself to experts!
Why Stichting Missing In Action (MIA)?
You must first understand that our primary objective is: providing the missing soldier a worthy resting place.
There are hundreds of reasons why you want to inform Stichting Missing In Action (MIA) instead of following the law. It may be that you've been "trespassing" and you may not want to get caught with your discovery, or you've seen things during a joint search with friends, but do not want burden your comrades with any problems.
We disapprove all aforementioned but we do understand why these things happen. Sometimes circumstances do no occur like you wished them to occur. We prefer that you inform us about these kind of things so at least the remains can be excavated and the family can be informed. This is our only goal.
Obviously it is desirable that you provide us as much information as possible (for example; you’ve found a wallet or a nametag). This can speed up identification. You must provide as much information as possible on the initial location, so we have legitimate grounds for further research.
Everything can be done anonymous! If you fill an fictitious e-mail address on the contact form, we are not able to see who did the reporting, not even by IP data. We can unfortunately not contact you with any questions. If you do fill in an legitimate e-mail address, then your data will not be passed on to third parties. They remain in possession of the foundation until they are no longer relevant to the investigation. After the investigation this data will be removed from our systems.
We will forward your findings to the applicable authorities. Again, we strongly advise you to contact the local police immediately after you discovered human remains and keep us uninvolved.