the-netherlands / audiospot

The African-American gravediggers

LiberationVictory and defeat

In the autumn of 1944, the Americans choose the village of Margraten as the final resting place for the men killed in battle. Margraten has just been liberated, and whilst the fighting continues elswhere, a group of African-American soldiers are given the task of digging their graves.

One member of this group is 19-year-old Jeff Wiggings, a messenger from Alabama and First Sergeant of the 960th QMSC (Quartermaster Service Company). He is sent to help the 3136th QMSC which is already struggling with the enormous number of soldiers being brought for burial.

The military cemetery near Margraten and Cadier en Keer is marked by a 30-metre-high landmark shaped like a tower.

It is the only American cemetery in the Netherlands and covers an area of more than 26 hectares of what used to be arable land. Most of the 8,301 servicemen buried here died during the liberation of the south-east of the Netherlands and the Battle of the Rhineland and the advance to the Ruhr region.

The site was liberated on 13th September 1944 by soldiers from the 30th Infantry Division of the First American Army and was designated a cemetery and monument to the fallen on 10th November 1944. The site has been made available to the government of the United States of America for use in perpetuity.

Faces of Margraten

8,301 American soldiers have been buried in this cemetery; another 1,722 names are listed on the Walls of the Missing. We do know the names of all these men and women, but who were they? Where did they come from and what did their lives look like prior to World War II?

The Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven (Foundation United Adopters American War Graves) hopes to make a unique tribute to the men and women buried there by trying to give as many names of the soldiers buried in or memorialized at the Margraten Cemetery as possible a face, by decorating their graves or names on the Walls of the Missing with a personal photo through the project "The Faces of Margraten" during a Memorial week once every two years. The next tribute is scheduled to take place in 2020.

Discover The Faces of Margraten 2018

Tourist information

Amerikaplein, Eijsden - Margraten - GPS code N 50 49.248, E 5 49.379