The Netherlands / Cemetery
Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. The U.S. 30th Infantry Division liberated this site on 13 September 1944 and 8301 American military rest here.
Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. The U.S. 30th Infantry Division liberated this site on 13 September 1944 and 8301 American military rest here. The cemetery site has a rich historical background, lying near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway built by the Romans and used by Caesar during his campaign in that area. The highway was also used by Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, and Kaiser Wilhelm II. In May 1940 Hitler's legions advanced over the route of the old Roman highway, overwhelming the Low Countries. In September 1944, German troops once more used the highway for their withdrawal from the countries they occupied for four years.
The cemetery's tall memorial tower can be seen before reaching the site, which covers 65.5 acres. From the cemetery entrance visitors are led to the ‘Court of Honor’ with its pool reflecting the tower. At the base of the tower facing the reflecting pool is a statue representing a mother grieving her lost son. To the right and left respectively are the visitor building and the map room containing three large, engraved operations maps with texts depicting the military operations of the American armed forces. Stretching along the sides of the court are the ‘Tablets of the Missing’ on which are recorded 1722 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
Within the tower is a chapel. The light fixture in the chapel and the altar candelabra and flower bowl were presented by the government of the Netherlands and by the local provincial administration. Beyond the tower is a burial area divided into 16 plots, where 8301 American military dead rest, their headstones set in long curves. A wide, tree-lined mall leads to the flagstaff that crowns the crest.
At the cemetery in Margraten many of the graves have flowers, placed by people who have adopted one or more graves and thus want to show their gratitude to the fallen liberators and their next of kin. The original idea to adopt graves of the American liberators came about in February of 1945. To this effect the “Burger Comité Margraten” (Citizens Committee Margraten) was formed. The committee’s goal was to support the set-up of the American Cemetery with an extensive adoption campaign.
The adopters were supposed to regularly visit the adopted grave and, in case this was appreciated, keep in touch with the next of kin in the U.S. The campaign gained massive support. At the first Memorial Day in 1945 every grave was decorated with flowers. At the second Memorial Day one year later all graves (at the time an incredible amount of 18,764) had been adopted. Captain Shomon, the founder of the American Cemetery, praised the members of the committee for all the work they had done. Since 2015 all graves as well as all of the names in the Walls of the Missing are adopted and there even is a waiting list.
Faces of Margraten
A total of 8,301 American soldiers are buried under these crosses and Stars of David. Another 1,722 names are listed on the Walls of the Missing, only a few of this group of missing were later found. We know their names, but who were they? Where did they come from and what did they do before the war? Who was the person behind the name? With the project Faces of Margraten the Fields of Honor Foundation seeks to put a face to as many of these soldiers as possible by placing a photograph near their graves and their names on the Walls of the Missing. Each grave represents a story of a soldier, resistance fighter or civilian casualty. By passing on stories we keep memories alive. Sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful. Stories about loss through war are stories that should never be lost. Because with these stories we can pass on peace.