Thursday March 31, 2016
Limburgs Dagblad
Author: Stefan Gillissen

World War II still interests many. Amateur Archeologist risk almost everything during their search. Unfortunately not all have good intentions.

Grave robbers in the meat grinder
By Stefan Gillissen

Lights hover above the ground. They dance through the murky pine tree labyrinth. You can hear voices whispering in the night. In 2016 the men haunting the German forests are very aware that they need to be quite, but sounds carry far.
Soldiers fighting during World War II during the Huertgenforest battle knew this well. The slightest noise could kill you instantly.
After 7 decades the treasure hunters doesn’t have to fear death. All they have to fear is a big fine because what they are doing strictly prohibited. They search for World War II remnants but actually they disturb the largest European East front cemetery

Over 35.000 got killed in and around the Huertgen forest. Hundreds of them are left behind in the woods. Huertgen forest even has his own nickname; The Meat Grinder or Death Factory.

The stuff left behind during the war is like gold for WWII relic collectors. You can almost call the relic hunter trips in Huertgen forest but also in the Ardennes “gold fever”. By the day, more and more individuals go out with metal detectors. Sometimes it even provides extraordinary finds like dog-tags. Usually the relic hunters will try to return them to relatives, but that intension is not guaranteed. A large amount of the found relics will be offered on internet auction sites. For prices from 25 Euros helmets, weapons and insignia will find its way to the anonymous collector. This is really not appreciated by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Agency (JPAC). This U.S. Department of Defense division is searching worldwide for unaccounted soldiers and all clues lost will obstruct their investigation. JPAC has 400 employees and a 35mln budget. Their task; after World War II over 78.000 American soldiers were missing in action. Human remains received by JPAC will be investigated at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. As a result a soldiers still can be buried by his family.

There are also Dutch initiatives. The Dutch Stichting Missing In Action (MIA) for instance has gradually gained governmental trust. The Non-profit organization is currently trying to find the remains of Cliffe Wolfe, Raymond Blanton, William Roller and Virgil Carson. All commemorated on the tablets of the missing at Margraten U.S. Cemetery and Memorial in Holland.
Stichting Missing in Action (MIA) warns for searching former battlefields. Searching there is risky because a lot of weaponry is still live. The first years just after the war it killed hundreds of civilians. Most amateur-archeologists are aware of this risk and notify dangerous finds to the authorities. Problem is, not all do like a man on a form showing his illegal recoveries. The postscript says enough; the live “sheiss” has been put where it came from!