I did this as a child. Searching with a metal detector for the remnants and traces of the Second World War.
I wasn’t aware that human remains could be buried on the places I went to. Actually I have never thought about it much, simply due to the lack of knowledge then. Of course I have heard stories of human remains findings, but the internet was not there and the newspaper and the news were not interesting for me during my young years.
A friend collected WWII stuff. He had several mannequins dressed as British soldiers, fully equipped including a Lee Enfield. The room always smelled like mothballs and museum. Sometimes we sneaky smoked a 1942 cigarette through the window of the room. Just for fun, we sometimes burned the contents of bullets and I still can remember the smell of gun smoke.
Searching the woods around Arnhem and the gardens of the Oosterbeek Airborne Museum were not unusual. Today that’s quite different! Arnhem, Oosterbeek (Renkum) and Nijmegen (all Netherlands) and more municipalities have a detector ban. Fines can go up to thousands of Euros and the detector could be mercilessly taken from you. I apprehend these rules. The holes and pits that I now encounter in the woods, are an attack on nature. Mainly the damage is caused by "treasure hunters", without any respect for nature and other people's property.
After years of random search, it was time for some serious work. In early 2008 there was serious conversation among the members of Foundation Stichting Missing In Action (MIA) of raising a foundation. It turned out that all members had the same ideas about the necessity and usefulness of Foundation Stichting Missing In Action (MIA).
I personally find it outrageous that thousands of people are still buried in field graves. The walls on American cemeteries are filled with names of missing soldiers. Some are lucky that they found after all these years, but most of them unfortunately never will. As I deepen myself into this matter, it appears not at all easy to obtain information. Especially German casualty information is hard to find. There is a database, but there can only be searched by name. The German government does not seem to know (or doesn’t not say) the exact figures. It seems that after all this time, there is still some kind of shame. This is understandable, because I listen to the debates regarding the question if the Germans should be celebrating May 5th (Dutch Liberation Day) or not!
The foundation is badly needed in my personal opinion. There are few institutions and individuals who appear to care about all the missing World War II. Along the way we have more resistance than cooperation, and ‘from pillar to post’ is not an unusual phenomenon.
The foundation is for me more than just an interesting activity. Bringing the people (because we are still talking about people) home is a goal that became real. The reunion with family and a dignified final resting place is what I would like to grant them. For me, nationality doesn’t matter. During the last period of the war, it were mostly very young Germans who were sent to trouble. Those boys and girls did not have the choices we have today in our wealth of freedom.
Tino Dam, 2008
Chairman Stichting Missing In Action (MIA), Netherlands
Since April 2018 Tino Dam is an official Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) volunteer.
He earned this badge during one of the DPAA and Stichting Missing In Action (MIA) joint efforts bringing home a missing soldier.