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Thursday, August 1, 2013

American Cemetery in Margraten Holland

Rubbing sand from Omaha Beach on William
Allen's stone. 
In World War II American military leaders made a promise that no American soldier would be buried on enemy soil. Most American soldiers were buried in cemeteries near the battle field where they were killed- many in France. As the War ended, American soldiers had invaded Germany and were fighting on German soil, in some cases approaching Berlin. The soldiers who died in Germany were all removed and taken back to Margraten Holland.

Each family of the fallen soldiers was given the choice to have the soldier buried in Margraten or to be returned to the United States to be buried in a private or national cemetery. Once the decision was made by the family, the decision was considered final and could not be changed.

At one time there were over 17,000 soldiers taken to Margraten. Today the cemetery holds only American soldiers, and it has over 8,000 fall US soldiers from WW2 buried there.

William Allen's grave.
My wife's uncle, William Allen was killed at the end of WW2 and is buried in Margraten. We had an opportunity this summer to visit the cemetery. The assistant supt. of the grounds took us to visit William Allen's grave and to also visit Bob Arnold's grave. Bob was Bill's brother in law. We were escorted by Frans and Pauline Roukins. Pauline's family has cared for Bill and Bob's graves for over 60 years.

We had the opportunity to place flowers on the grave. The Supt. then explained a special practice they do with families of the soldiers. The stones of white marble with engraving are very difficult to photograph. To help them be more photographed, they provide sand for the family members to rub over the name so it can be seen. The sand is shipped in from Normandy beach. The significance of the the sand is that the soldiers who are buried in Margraten all started their invasion of Europe at Normandy beaches in France.
Over 8,000 fallen US soldiers are
buried in Margraten.

Our visit was a very emotional experience. It certainly makes one appreciate the sacrifice made by these soldiers.

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