70 years after World War II, Dutch families show they have never forgotten their liberators. Each grave in the American cemetery has a waiting list of families to care for it

They haven’t forgotten. For 70 years, the Dutch have come to a verdant U.S. cemetery outside this small village to care for the graves of Americans killed in World War II.
On Sunday, they came again, bearing
Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own.
For the American relatives of the fallen, it was an outpouring of gratitude almost as stunning as the rows of white marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family, as well as local schools, companies and military organizations. More than 100 people are on a waiting list to become caretakers.
At the cemetery’s annual commemoration, 6,000 people poured onto the 65-acre burial grounds just a few miles from the German border, including scores of descendants of American war dead who had traveled here from all over the United States. They were eager to pay tribute to parents or grandparents who had died to defeat the Nazis. But they also wanted to thank the Dutch families who had been tending the graves of their loved ones, often passing the responsibility from one generation to the next.
For Arthur Chotin, 70, who had come from Annapolis, Md., to finally meet the couple caring for his father’s resting place, the devotion of the Dutch was a source of awe.
“What would cause a nation recovering from losses and trauma of their own to adopt the sons and daughters of another nation?” asked Chotin, the only American descendant to speak on Sunday. “And what would keep that commitment alive for all of these years, when the memory of that war has begun to fade? It is a unique occurrence in the history of civilization.”
On the site of an orchard
The bodies arrived in a procession of trucks and trailers. Everyone in Margraten could smell the death.
It was November 1944, two months after the village’s 1,500 residents had been freed from Nazi occupation by the U.S. 30th Infantry Division.
But the war wasn’t over. In late 1944 and early 1945, thousands of American soldiers would be killed in nearby battles trying to pierce the German defense lines. Booby-traps and heavy artillery fire, combined with a ferocious winter, dealt major setbacks to the Allies, who had already suffered losses trying to capture strategic Dutch bridges crossing into Germany during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.
Now, the U.S. military needed a place to bury its fallen.
The Americans ultimately picked a fruit orchard just outside Margraten. On the first day of digging, the sight of so many bodies made the men in the 611th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company ill.
“They looked and looked,” wrote Joseph Shomon, the commanding officer of the 611th, in “Crosses in the Wind,” a 1947 memoir, “then suddenly, a few made a break for the latrine.”
Right from the start, Margraten embraced the Americans.
The town’s mayor invited the company’s commanders to sleep in his home, while the enlisted men slept in the schools — welcome protection against rain and buzz bombs. Later, villagers hosted U.S. troops when the men were given rest-and-recuperation breaks from trying to breach the German frontier defenses, known as the Siegfried Line.
“After four dark years of occupation, suddenly [the Dutch] people were free from the Nazis, and they could go back to their normal lives and enjoy all the freedoms they were used to,” explained Frenk Lahaye, an associate at the cemetery. “They knew they had to thank the American allies for that.”
The first burial at Margraten took place on Nov. 10, 1944. Laid to rest in Plot A, Row 1, Grave 1: John David Singer Jr., a 25-year-old infantryman, whose remains would later be repatriated and buried in Denton, Md., about 72 miles east of Washington.
Between late 1944 and spring 1945, up to 500 bodies arrived each day, so many that the mayor went door to door asking villagers for help with the digging.
Over the next two years, about 17,740 American soldiers would be buried here, though the number of graves would shrink as thousands of families asked for their loved ones’ remains to be sent home.


  1. Can one imagine the horror IF Germany won WW2?
    There would be No Islam into Europe, No mosques, No Turks flooding Germany, No Africans flooding France and Sweden, No Israel, No Communism, No Obama, No World Bank, No Feminism and No Porn. It would be awful.

  2. robertsgt40May 25, 2015

    Does the senator mean this is the most deliberate waste of taxpayer's money aside from being in Afghanistan in the first place? Need clarification senator.

  3. starviegoMay 25, 2015

    "Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family..."

    German??? The Germans should eulogize their own war dead, not those of another nation. Their young men died in the service of their country, not in the service of fascism.

  4. Jeroen van DoornMay 25, 2015

    I am in the Netherlands and my 95 year old aunt says its a shame the USA has become like the Nazis we fought here.,

  5. ddearbornMay 25, 2015


    So never mind the rest of the 7+ trillion America wasted on phony wars for Israel. Lets sack any General's that are left that still object to putting Israel first and would refuse an order to wage war against Americans.

  6. David MowersMay 25, 2015

    Germany did win because the United States immediately adopted fascism doing every single thing the Nazis did and more.

    We pardoned all of their intelligence agents and folded them into the U.S. C.I.A. and took all of their scientists who continued working on all of the horrifying things Germany wanted and the U.S. no has.

  7. David MowersMay 25, 2015

    Just know that when the rest of the world finally gets sick of our amorality and rises against us that many in America will fight on your side.

  8. ceonwulfMay 25, 2015

    Is it true? it comes from the Washington post.

  9. ceonwulfMay 25, 2015

    The Germans were not Fascists. Fascism is corporatism, exactly what the allies were. That fat useless paedophile churchill coined the word on order of his Jewish sponsors.

  10. ceonwulfMay 25, 2015

    It's a lie.

  11. Lots of talk about slapping down the senior brass for not cancelling it, but nothing on who was contracted to build it?
    Did the construction contract go to one of the usual bi corporations? If so, that would explain it's construction going ahead, after the usual lobbying of course!

  12. what about Israeli, L. Paul Bremer's theft of 6 billion during the Iraq massacre, and rabbi Dov Zakhiem's theft of 2.3 trillion from the pentagon while comptroller and many many more and much larger thefts from the USG?

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