Near Margraten, a small town in The Netherlands, the 611th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company established the 9th Army Military Cemetery for the burial of American military personnel who died in battles nearby. This was in September, 1944, in time for the Battle of the Bulge, fighting in Belgium and many more battles as the Americans fought into Germany.
I became interested in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten several years ago when I read about their program called “Faces of Margraten.”
The goal of “Faces of Margraten” has been to give a face to the 8,288 of the military dead who rest at Margraten. In addition, at Margraten the “Tablets of the Missing” display 1,722 names of those who are still missing. If the remains of someone listed on the “Tablets” have been recovered and identified, a rosette is placed by their name. Out of approximately 10,000 interred or listed as missing, only nineteen hundred do not have pictures. If you are interested in helping this project click here to go to the “Faces of Margraten” website.
Bi-annually during Dutch Memorial Day weekend, the Cemetery displays the photos at the individuals’ graves. Also narrative stories about some of military personnel buried at Margraten are on display. Thousands of visitors learn about those who gave their lives for our freedom and theirs. The photos make the experience more personal. Looking into the face of the young man who gave his life makes that sacrifice real.
Another fascinating detail about the Margraten cemetery is that since 1945 local Dutch families have adopted graves and there is a waiting list of families who want to adopt a grave when one becomes available. The Dutch families place flowers on the graves and research the individual so they know who they were, what they did and how they died. In this way the Dutch honor their liberators, young American men who gave their lives to secure the freedom of the Dutch people.
Joseph Shomon wrote a book about the establishment of the Netherlands American Cemetery titled “Crosses in the Wind.” The book tells the story of the 611th Graves Registration Company from its beginning until the cemetery at Margraten was finished and dedicated. It is very interesting if you want to know more details about the people and the process.
The American Battle Monuments Commission bears responsibility for all of the American Cemeteries overseas where our dead from WWI, WWII and Korea are buried. This includes the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten.