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OneShot
11-28-2009, 10:04 AM
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France — The gray wall of the missing soars high over Omaha Beach, etched with names of lost World War II troops and the melancholy mystery of “comrades in arms whose resting place is known only to God.”

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The New York Times

The remains of five Nazi soldiers were discovered in a shallow grave near Bavent, in northern France. All retained their ‘dog tags’ – small aluminum plates on a chain inscribed with name, rank and number – which would normally have been removed by their comrades and sent home to the Fatherland. Rifles and machine guns were all taken, possibly by British parachutists who had lost their own weapons during the night-time landings before D-Day. ‘The bodies weren’t covered before being buried which was unusual,’ said local council director Jean Deloges. ‘The presence of identity tags also suggests that they were buried extremely quickly by English or Canadian parachtists who were operating in the sector. All the Germans were clearly killed in the early hours of June 6th 1944.’ Tunic buttons have revealed that one of the men was an officer, with artifacts also including gas mask bags, gold teeth, and even a Berlin-made fountain pen. The grave was found on May 8th by an amateur historian investigating the battlefield around Bavent, seven miles north east of Caen. The town is even closer to the fabled Pegasus Bridge, where the first troops to land on D-Day were from D-Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in a 6th Airborne Division glider. Their commander, Major John Howard, led his men against an onslaught of enemy fire, including an attack by the 21st Panzer Division. It will now be up to archeologists to establish whether the newly discovered Germans died fighting airborne soldiers, or in a combined air and sea bombardment. Commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, led by Lord Lovat, eventually arrived in Bavent after landing on Gold Beach. In Bavent the Commandos experienced World War One-style trench warfare, with the Germans well dug into their positions. Today a green tent covered the burial site, with a permanent guard watching over it. An exhumation will soon take place, with the soldiers likely to be buried in the German military cemetery at La Cambe , near Bayeux. Efforts will also be made to trace any surviving family.




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Along the wall, set in the American cemetery here on the Normandy cliffs, bronze rosettes mark soldiers whose remains have been found in the 65 years since the D-Day invasion. But for the vast number of missing Americans from the war — almost 73,500 — there are few rosettes and thousands of unanswered questions. With time running out to crack the case of the missing soldiers, the United States fields teams of military researchers to search for the remains of World War II troops, but it has limited resources. So much of the detective work has fallen to amateur sleuths in Belgium, France and Germany who hunt for makeshift graves and the ghosts of war. Their tools are Google satellite photos, old-fashioned shoe-leather investigation and high-powered metal scanners that can detect a helmet 20 feet deep. But most vital are the memories of elderly villagers who dig back deep into their past, some with sadness about old allies, some with nagging guilt about the killing of ancient enemies.

“We have maybe four or five years left, and then it’s over,” said Fabrice Corbin, founder of Génération Souvenir, a volunteer group with 30 members that has been searching for grave sites in the French countryside of Normandy for the past five years and has located about 20 remains. “The old witnesses and memories will vanish. And without witnesses who remember what happened, it will be very, very difficult.” Amateur historians played crucial roles in discoveries last month of the remains of five German troops in Bavent in northern France and an American soldier in St.-Germain-d’Elle, a village taken five times in 1944 by American soldiers. The skeletons of the German soldiers were found with their helmets still on. In January, the Pentagon announced the identification of the remains of two American soldiers found in the Hürtgen Forest in Germany; the American researchers had been led to an old foxhole by a local amateur detective.

“There are thousands of missing soldiers buried in France — Australians, Poles, Americans, Brits, Germans and Africans,” said Jean Desloges, who is in charge of archaeology for the French regional cultural affairs agency, DRAC. “Every year we find about 20 remains.” The American military lists about 88,000 soldiers who are still unaccounted for from its wars, but the vast majority are World War II service members.

A major complaint of the families of those soldiers is that government search efforts are largely concentrated on the missing from more recent wars, particularly in Southeast Asia.

“With an intelligence and research section of about 66 personnel, only four are assigned to WWII — one of whom just resigned,” according to Lisa Phillips, president of WWII Families for the Return of the Missing (http://www.wwiimissing.com/). The Pentagon has active missions in Vietnam and South Korea, and one scheduled this year in Germany. But they do not have the same luxury of time as local grave hunters who use many of the same search methods and range from avid historians who collaborate with the authorities to clandestine collectors who pillage artifacts for sale and then move on.

“Sometimes we are called to open sites which have already been emptied of everything helpful to identify remains,” said Col. Christian Duhr, the military attaché to the German Embassy in Paris. “I know there are a lot of collectors who don’t care about the humanitarian aspect, but every identifying badge or medal answers a question for a family.”

In recent years, a number of elderly French resistance fighters have come forward with information about secret burial grounds, said Julien Hauser, who represents the German War Graves Commission in France, where an estimated 7,000 German soldiers from World War II are missing. “It’s on their conscience, and they want to talk,” Mr. Hauser said, recalling the story of a man who told him he was part of a firing squad of 10 French resisters who lined up to shoot 10 German soldiers and then could not bring himself to kill. Elderly witnesses are critical to hunters like Génération Souvenir, whose members begin every search with interviews. Typical was the case of Pierre Crevel, who grew up on a farm in St.-Jacques-de-Lisieux, Normandy, where a P-51 Mustang crashed on June 10, 1944. Mr. Crevel revealed the location of the plane’s plummet to the grasslands and told of his fleeting glimpse of a pilot on the ground with an unopened parachute, before German soldiers arrived. Working with that information, volunteers began a search, working in crews of five, one operating the metal detector and the others digging by hand or industrial equipment — taking care to avoid unexploded munitions. On the second day of excavation, the hunters found a plane registration plate and contacted the American authorities, allowing them to identify the pilot as Lt. Raymond Phillips, who had long been listed as missing; his remains were not found.

“People are willing to talk to me because they have nothing to fear from me; I’m not part of the government,” said Mr. Corbin, who founded Génération Souvenir with the goal of exhibiting historical finds in his Normandy museum, the Museum of the Atlantic Wall, a six-floor German bunker in Ouistreham. Although the authorities and cemetery officials are wary of collectors, they give credit to groups like Génération Souvenir for searching in a systematic way that mirrors the techniques of government researchers. When the remains of American troops are discovered, families have the choice of burying soldiers at American cemeteries in Europe or a burial back home.

sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/world/europe/05france.html (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/world/europe/05france.html)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1184995/Remains-Nazi-soldiers-killed-D-Day-discovered-France.html (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1184995/Remains-Nazi-soldiers-killed-D-Day-discovered-France.html)

Frittz
12-03-2009, 02:16 AM
Now that is pretty haunting...Great article...

Kreidler
05-19-2011, 05:14 PM
I know the Topic is old, but i got to say its not even hard to find remains here, if you search up the old battlefields and trenches.
Sadly , how its written in the article, many of my artifact hunting compagnons even collect the dog tags :ugh:

I mean its a thing of respect and honor to at least leave the dog tags on the bodies, regardless of their haritage.

Personally, i even dont collect stuff laying next to dead soldiers, as the stuff is mostly given to family members. Got around 20 German and 5 US graves found by myself and i ALWAYS called the red cross to get the remeins of the M.I.A's and inform their families:wink1: