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WWII Battlefield Relic Hunting

Discussion in 'Battlefield Relics' started by Son of WWII Spearhead Tank Commander, Oct 20, 2009.

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  1. Son of WWII Spearhead Tank Commander

    Son of WWII Spearhead Tank Commander recruit

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    Like many on this forum, I too would love to be able to someday buy a state of the art metal detector and head out to some of WWII's most storied battlefields.

    What's always intrigued me are the following four things:
    1) What lies out in the vast Steppe in Russia outside of Stalingrad where the casualties were so high on both the Russian and German side? And has anyone ever gone there to search for battlefield relics? If so, would the country allow you to even take them out?;
    2) The D-Day bombardment of the Normandy coast badly missed its' mark, dumping tons of munitions well behind the beachhead into hedgerows and farmers fields. Has anyone had the opportunity to search these fields with a metal detector?;
    3) I don't know why National Geographic or the History Channel doesn't do a videotaped dive off the beaches of Normandy. There has to be a large debris field filled with half tracks, jeeps, Sherman tanks (especially those equipped to supposedly float), and at least one "Mulberry" (artificial harbor). Does anyone know if any such film expeditions exist and are commercially available?; and
    4) All of the advice to seek WWII battlefield relics that are underwater seems very sound, but to what length have all of the water ways, rivers, etc., that zig-zag the fighting in Europe really been explored?
    *****
    I would love to hear from any and all of you on the above topics!
     
  2. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    As we all know WW2 relics are found all over former battlefields to this day. The T-34 pulled from the bog that still ran, and the recent find of the shot-down FW-190 near St Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad) are just two of the famous ones.

    Since the scale of the fighting in Europe was enormous there's little doubt that looking around the right spot, especially with a metal detector, would be bound to turn up something. Not sure of the advisability of doing such a thing in a place like Russia, you would get some funny looks at the very least, and even if you found something my guess is it would not be easy to get it out when you left. The Western European battlefields took place often in densely populated areas sometimes, after so many years you're bound to find somebody though that wold show you a good place to look. I heard a story of a guy one time present day, doing some building work, in Holland, that found an MP-40 walled up inside a tavern or someplace like that.

    In high school in the late 1970's i knew a guy who had recently vacationed in Italy with relatives. They took him to some old abadoned WW2 German bunkers to show him, and there were still old shells and mines and stuff laying around. The Italians, or Americans, or whoever did such EOD work at that time and place, had simply come some time between WW2 and then, and disarmed the stuff by removing all the fuses and explosive, thereby turning them into nothing more than scrap metal (apparently they must have felt it wasn't worth bothering to haul it all out, and settled for just making the war junk inert). I couldn't name the town, too many years have gone past, either Sicily or Italy though.
     
  3. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I know some of the stuff off the Normandy Beachheads was removed by the French in later years because they were hazards and contained live ammo. Historic beaches though they may be, they are still beaches used by the locals and tourists for normal beach activity.
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The loneliness of a WWII Forums relic-hunter.....

    [​IMG]


    ......;)
     
  5. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    that field looks suspicious Martin, do you have your high-waiter boots on ?

    crap my cousins Fw 190A-9 still rests in a field buried west of Misburg Germany, wish someone would go on a frei jagd for it.
     
  6. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Outstanding in your field
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I really wish it was my field ! :cool: I'd be out there with a shovel every weekend.....;)
     
  8. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    May I suggest a book? It's called "The Dead of Winter" by Bill Warnock. How battlefield investigators (they started out as relic hunters) WWII veterans, and forensic scientists solved the mystery of the Bulge's lost soldiers. Because I'd love nothing more than to walk the Ardennes and search my tail off...but you have remember, sometimes what you find is greater than yourself. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the recovery of lost soldiers remains, and anyone who might find themselves relic hunting a battlefield.
     
  9. AnywhereAnytime

    AnywhereAnytime Member

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    luketdrifter likes this.
  10. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    Man, still has the 29th's ID on the helmet. That's amazing!!
     
  11. jagdpanther44

    jagdpanther44 Battlefield wanderer

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    That UFO, in the top left corner of the photograph, was probably packed with alien militaria collectors just waiting to swoop down on the field after you left, martin. :D

    Back in June, Pegasus and myself went for a search in the woods that can be seen in the background of the photo.

    We were pressed for time (as usual!) and only spent a short time in there but came away with part of an MP40 magazine, a few 7.92 cartridge cases and a number of unidentified metal objects...possibly vehicle parts?

    Next year, we will set aside more time for a more thorough search...hopefully. ;)
     
  12. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    I'm curious as to how you relic hunters operate. What do you bring on your hunts? Aside from the metal detectors and digging implements, anything else? I briefly dated a gal that was an archeologist at Fort Michilimackinac (the longest ongoing dig in North America...very very cool to see www.mackinacparks.com ) and the process was very detailed. Of course, they are professionals with nothing else to do! Just curious as to your process and how you go about the search.
     
  13. kevindistel

    kevindistel Member

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    I'm not a relic collector, I don't even own a metal detector but I've done a bit of detecting with others in Normandy, Holland, and in the Bulge around Bastogne, and west of Grandmenil.

    First of all it is a bit dicey, technically you can get in trouble if you get caught trespassing or using a metal detector in many places throughout Europe. If someone wants to throw the book at you and make life difficult they can.

    I know of someone who was actually shot at by a French farmer last June in Normandy. He admits he should not have been there (he had asked for permission a few days before but was denied, he pressed his luck a few days later. I guess he laughs about it now but...).

    Along those lines though, there are many people who spoil it for others; they'll trespass, and dig up a field (or a yard!) and not replace anything, or leave garbage...you can see why some folks get upset.

    With that said, If I'm going to be on someone's land I'm always sure to ask permission, and go with a local person in case things get complicated.

    But that is only half the battle, successful metal detecting requires a bit of skill and acumen in trying to determine where certain positions may have been. (It isn't always how it was depicted in the history books either) In some ways it helps to think like a squad leader in assessing the terrain and looking for obvious areas of approach or defensive positions.
    A lot of times by finding the remains of fox holes, gun positions, or command dug outs, ammo from both sides etc. you can put together a pretty good picture of the movement of the battle.

    I've found a lot of bullets, fuses, casings, ammo cans and things like that on WW2 battlefields, but a lot of places have been picked clean for the big ticket items so finding an MG42 in a hedgerow is less than likely these days.

    But finding things in the ground wasn't the only way to come across those items. For years farmers had picked up things on the battlefield and put them in their barns, collectors know where to go to find them. A bunch of farmers have some amazing things (parachutes, Medical bags, musette bags, mines, unexploded grenades, rifles you name it) they'll show you if they like you. A few years ago I was with a friend who had a tip about an abandoned farm in Normandy just above Carentan. I accompanied him to the barn, and right inside the door were 3 Gerry cans in good condition. (He left them--it isn't really easy to bring a gas can, or 3 on a plane back to the states.:)

    There was a well on the farm, rumor had it that the surrendering Germans who had occupied the farm were forced to drop all their weapons down the well, we didn't get to find out if that were true or not, maybe someday.

    More recently, just off the 501st DZ in Normandy a line of stables was being refurbished to be part of a B&B, in the attic of the stable they found a heathy cache of US and German weapons, ammo and other things, all in pristine shape presumably left there since June of '44. So it pays to have people in the know.

    Last month a WW2 vet was in Bastogne, a guide took him to what the vet was was pretty sure was one of his old foxholes. They dug up some unspent .30 cal ball ammo that the vet was pretty sure he dropped in December of 44. What the vet didn't know is that you can't put that in your carry on bag, so when he got to the airport in Amsterdam they stopped him. It took some smooth talking and an understanding security chief to let him keep his bullets.

    Interesting topic to say the least.
     
  14. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    A lot of reading beforehand ( especially personal accounts and detailed battle histories, etc ). I then take along the relevant copy of After The Battle and the largest-scale map I can find of the area.

    And then I use a very small hand-trowel ( I have never used a metal-detector ). One last thing you need - PLENTY of time.......;)
     
  15. mhuxt

    mhuxt Member

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    "Oh yez, ze Eenglish, 'e deeg in ze field, oui oui.


    Ah teenk, it waz, 'ow you say, ah minefiel'.






    H'op! P'raps ee find sometin' jus' now!"

    :D
     
  16. jagdpanther44

    jagdpanther44 Battlefield wanderer

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    In recent years, i've occasionally used a metal detector during my trips to Normandy...after gaining the landowners permission. Most of my finds have been unearthed along the edges of fields and i would never trample through a field full of crops.

    The best time to look is just after the fields have been ploughed (around April) as this brings more relics to the surface, there is also more of a chance of getting permission to enter a field as sowing has not yet begun.
     
  17. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    I don't know where "Son" is, but he might find this interesting-

    SYMPOSIUM ON THE MANAGEMENT, SCIENTIFIC STUDY AND CONSERVATION OF BATTLEFIELD ARTEFACT ASSEMBLAGES
    Friday 13th November 2009
    University of Bradford, UK

    Specialists in battlefield archaeology of the pre Industrial period and of the 20th century, together with others specialising in finds analysis and conservation, will lead a series of session. Contributors will also include several representatives from the national organisations responsible for management of historic battlefields in the UK .

    The meeting represents and important step in project run this year at Bradford, led by Rob Janaway and funded under the AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Research Clusters Scheme, which has the objective to promote the development of an integrated approach to the management, scientific study and conservation of battlefield artefact assemblages. Further details on the project are available at: http://www.battlefi eldstrust. com/resource- centre/battlefie ldsuk/periodpage view.asp? pageid=844&parentid=199

    We would like to encourage all those with a practical involvement or professional interest in the subject of battlefield archaeology, relevant finds analysis and conservation, or management of the sites themselves, to take part. There is no fee for attendance.

    For further details and to indicate a wish to attend please email Glenn Foard:
    g.r.foard@leeds. ac.uk
     
  18. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    Thanks for the input, gang. Interesting to hear about the different approaches.
     
  19. colletorww2

    colletorww2 Ace

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    I have not been able to do any detecting with a metal detector yet, i am planning to buy one and go crazy this summer, tho i have found alot of stuff where i lived before that my grandfather had.

    I have also been to a couple german fortresses, and i am planning to go there this summer, and one thing i have thought of for quite some time is to look for more parts after a german plane shot down close to where i lived before.
     
  20. David Cohen

    David Cohen Member

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    I would love to go over and try to dig up stuff but that won't be for a few years. The only WWII place I've been to is Pearl Harbor and that was when I was eight.
     

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