By Andy Sabisch
US Army Soldier Stephen Petruno was stationed in the coastal region of England in 1944 as the US prepared for the invasion of Europe.
All too often, the general public gets the wrong impression about those involved in the hobby of treasure hunting thanks to the actions of an inconsiderate yet visible minority or press coverage that often sees detectorists as being into the hobby “for nothing but the money.” Well, thanks to a group of avid XP DEUS metal detector users in England and the power of the Internet, a story unfolded that truly shows what this hobby is all about.
The story starts in 1942 when a young man by the name of Stephen Petruno living in Hellertown, PA answered the call to duty as the country entered WW II and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Just after he was married in January 1944, he was sent overseas and was stationed in the coastal region of England preparing for the invasion of Europe. Stephen’s two brothers, John and Michael, also enlisted in the Army with Stephen and were assigned to a unit that took part in the D-Day invasion. The area of England surrounding Slapton Sands in Devon was used as a practice site to support the Utah Beach assault and this is where Stephen Petruno was assigned as the run-up to the invasion began. The troops spent many grueling hours preparing for their upcoming role in the war using the fields and beachheads that mirrored the conditions they would face once they landed on the French shore. With the thousands of soldiers criss-crossing the countryside, personal items were bound to have been lost and on one of those days in early 1944, Stephen Petruno’s dog tag slipped from his neck and was lost beneath the surface of an English farm field.
US Army Soldier Stephen Petrunos' Dogtag was located with the XP DEUS metal detector by Nigel Holt nearly 7 decades after it had been lost on an English Farm Field.
Jumping forward in time some 68 years, a group of detectorists known as the South West Searchers held a club outing on some fields near their home base not far from Slapton Sands. Several of the members were XP DEUS users and had joined a growing community of worldwide detectorists that have made the switch to XP from other brands.
As an interesting XP factoid, Mike Holland who is the club’s Find Liason officer and webmaster said that the XP DEUS was taking the detecting community in England by storm. Despite the South West Searchers being a relatively small group, he said that their were 8 current members using the DEUS with at least one more pending. The main reasons given for the growing adoption of the XP line, and the DEUS in particular, include the detector’s lack of weight, ease of use, overall reliability, the totally wireless design and because the capabilities of the DEUS have proven themselves in the field. Another factor that Mike said has convinced people to migrate to the XP line is “that the company’s founder Alain is a hunter himself, actually listens to what the users are saying and is willing to change or bring out new and exiting accessories & software updates to meet the needs of those using the XP equipment.”
Nigel Holt and Mike Holland of the South West Searchers detector club holding Stephen Petrunos' recovered dog tag which Nigel located and returned to the family in 2012.
One of the club members, Nigel Holt, slowly wandered across the field with his DEUS and reached a plateau overlooking the valley below. Enjoying the view, he refocused his efforts and recovered several targets including an old pewter button, some coins and what initially looked like a piece of scrap copper. As he brushed some of the dirt off the object, he saw that it was a military dog tag that had lain underground for quite some time. While it did not get any awards at the next club meeting, Mike Holland took an interest in the dog tag and offered to try and see if the owner or family of the owner could be located. Leveraging the power of the Internet and resources on a U.S. metal detecting forum, Mike was able to locate the family of Stephen Petruno who unfortunately had passed away in 1980. After a number of E-mails between England and the United Sates, the long-lost dog tag was reunited with Stephens’ daughter, Linda.
The Petruno family is appreciative beyond words that first, detectorists in England actually found an item lost by Stephen so many years ago and then took the time to track them down to return what they consider to be a priceless piece of their family’s’ heritage.
Her sentiment was clearly visible in a short note that she sent to the South West Searchers club which said. . . . “I am so excited just being able to talk with someone who has an article of my Dad’s from World War II. From a simple hobby such as yours, these little parts of history can lead to locating family members who share in the joy of what the treasure hunt uncovers. Thank you from our entire family! I know my father was very proud to have served in the U.S. Army, along with his two brothers, Michael and John. Many thanks to Mike, Nigel and all of the other South West Searchers for the extra effort you made to solve this “mystery”.”
And a special word of thanks goes out to Alain and his team at XP Metal Detectors for producing a detector designed by detectorists for detectorists that allowed Nigel Holt to make the recovery that bridged a gap in time of nearly 70 years. What at first seemed like little more than a piece of trash was brought back to the family of a brave soldier that traveled halfway around the world to help restore peace during a period of turmoil.
Looking over the finds posted on the clubs’ website one can see numerous impressive finds that members have made with many having been located with the XP DEUS. . . clearly quality equipment uncovering quality finds!