WWII gear in Holland has local ties

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114789149223603.jpg’, ‘Photo provided by Maarten Lichteveld’, ‘Maarten Lichteveld of Holland displays some of the World War II gear he uncovered.’);

An ordinary holiday turned into a lesson in history for a Netherlands man.

Maarten Lichteveld of Holland used a metal detector to uncover items that belonged to a World War II soldier who once lived in the Rockford area.

While vacationing last February, Lichteveld began searching for collectibles near Noville, Belgium, where fierce fighting took place in winter 1944. An avid metal detector and collector of antiques, Lichteveld discovered an old military mess kit (makeshift dishes for eating in the field), several knapsack buckles and hooks, and a piece of a military helmet. The mess kit bore the name Ray Lang, and contained the Army identification number 16047981. An online database confirmed the identification of Pvt. Lang.

According to , Ray R. Lang was born in Iowa in 1920 and joined the United States Air Corps. Jan. 6, 1942. The database also confirmed that he lived in Winnebago County at the time of his military enlistment, and was employed as an automobile mechanic. A specific city of residence was not listed.

In an interview with The Rock River Times, Lichteveld said keeping the items for his collection would not be appropriate, as at least a portion of his find belonged to the man who served his country during a very turbulent time in history.

Lichteveld said: “I would like to give these things back to Mr. Lang if he is alive or to his family, who I think would be proud of (their) relative. In that area, there was a famous battle fought between the Germans and Americans.”

Dec. 6, 1944, three divisions of the German army plunged into the Ardennes Forest in Hitler’s last attempt to win the war by taking over the region. Instead, attacking forces were met by an 80-mile wall of American and Allied defenses. After 44 days of fighting, The Battle of the Bulge, which included more than 1 million men and resulted in more than 180,000 casualties, was over, foiling Hitler’s plan. In terms of losses, the battle, also known as The Battle of the Ardennes, was the most devastating conflict to American forces in World War II.

Lichteveld, 34, who works as a handyman in the village of Arcem, now spends much of his time waiting for his opportunity to return Lang’s belongings in person.

“If I can find out if Mr. Lang is still with us or we can find his family, I would fly to America to present these things to them,” Lichteveld said. “It is important to me.”

Those with information regarding Pvt. Ray Lang are encouraged to call The Rock River Times at 964-9767.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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