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DRUMMER FEATURE MAY 13, 2018

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The Echoes of War

Remembering the fallen United States WWII heroes of The Netherlands

By Miriam Orr

Imagine, for a moment, your heart racing in your chest with fear as your limbs tremble and your head spins with a myriad of thoughts swirling through your mind like a whirlwind. You're far from home, and all around you, the echoes of war are loud.

Fellow men fall around you, while you hope beyond hope that you'll one day make it home from a land that is not your own.

This is The Netherlands, World War II.

 

Where in the world?

Nestled in a quiet village, 10 kilometers east of Maastricht, is Margraten. At the most southern part of the Netherlands, this village was once a municipality, and in 2011, Margraten merged with a neighboring entity, which is now known as the Eijsden-Margraten municipality. With a population just under 14,000 souls, the village is small, but has a rich history of being involved with a war that shook the world – World War II (WWII).

While what is known about this place is not its towering buildings nor bustling populace, Magraten hosts what is perhaps one of the most solemn memorials erected in remembrance of WWII – the Netherlands American Cemetery.

Dedicated in 1960, the cemetery covers 65.5 acres of land, with approximately 8,301 burial sites of American troops who defended the Netherlands during Hitler's advancement. Of those 8,301 burials, 1,722 of them are declared as men who were missing in action (MIA) during the war, and are currently unidentified. Many of those same graves are unmarked to this day.

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial is the only American cemetery in the Netherlands, and it rests near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway, originally constructed by the Romans, and used by Caesar himself during his efforts of conquest in that area. Other famous names to tread that highway were Napoleon, Charles V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and finally Hitler himself, when in 1940 his troops advanced over the route to overwhelm and overthrow the Low Countries. Finally in 1944, the Germans would use that route for a timely retreat from the countries they'd conquered and occupied for four years in the last days of WWII.

Within the cemetery is the memorial tower, and when guests arrive, they are led to the Court of Honor with pools, which reflect the tower. A statue at the base of the tower represents the many women who suffered loss of their loved ones, and on either side of the tower are rooms which contain engraved maps that lay out the operations of American troops during the war. Along the entire court are the Tablets of the Missing where 1,722 names are recorded, and where Rosettes mark those soldiers who names have been recovered and sites identified.

The burial area is divided into 16 plots, and every single one of the 8,301 graves line up perfectly in order.

This area has a strong connection with the Dutch, who since 1945, have invested in the cemetery where generations have adopted the graves of the American men who fought diligently and died for their freedom. They bring flowers and visit the graves to commemorate the service members and honor their sacrifice. The Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery Margraten manages the program, which collects photos and names of the fallen, and helps sponsor the commemorative Dutch Memorial Day event, while the U.S. War Department oversees the operations of the cemetery.

Anthony Glavan, of Monticello, has been involved with this project for a number of years. Coming from a long line of servicemen, Anthony understands the importance of commemorating these men who served not only the United States during the World Wars, but who also were vital players in the cause of liberating The Netherlands, in addition to much of Europe during that time. His own uncle, Louis, is one of the brave men who are buried in Margraten.

 

A history shared

Anthony is very solemn, as he sits forward in his chair, elbows on his knees. He stares momentarily to the box beside him, where a myriad of memorabilia is packed neatly together. He takes a moment to lift a folded piece of paper from the box, carefully unfolds it, and points to the list of names printed in bold black font.

"These are many members of my family who have served in the armed forces," he  says, pointing to one name particularly. "This is Louis – he served in World War II, and survived many a scrape, and is buried in Margraten."

Anthony explained that President Eisenhower, as WWII was coming to a close, would not allow servicemen of the U.S. to be buried on enemy soil in Germany.  In 1944, the Margraten Cemetery was reserved to bury U.S. soldiers, and Americans asked for local Dutch help in beginning to bury and care for graves. Some British and Canadians were also buried in Margraten, but the majority of the buried are U.S. soldiers.

After the Battle of the Buldge, Eisenhower gave the order for a cemetery, and approximately 18,000 fallen were taken to Margraten.

In 1945, the local people of Margraten village started assisting the U.S. by taking care of the graves and ornately decorating them in honor of their service. Shortly after the war concluded, the U.S. War Department began asking American families of the deceased if they wanted their family members' bodies to be shipped home for burial arrangements, only to have roughly 60% of the original 18,000 servicemen brought home. The remaining 40% received burial in Margraten.

Every year, the Dutch hold a local ceremony on what is known as Dutch Memorial Day, where more than 3,000 photos of fallen servicemen are displayed on headstones and the Walls of the Missing, where the Dutch can see, eye-to-eye, those who gave their lives for their liberation.

Anthony has visited Margraten a total of three times, mostly recently during a Memorial Day ceremony. "It's a very quiet, reverent time," he explains, "and also very beautiful to see people gather around to honor our men buried on foreign soil. The cemetery is always decorated so beautifully with flowers, and you can just walk the rows of graves in reverent, almost ominous, silence. It is truly remarkable."

Anthony traveled to the cemetery in 2001, 2003, and more recently in 2015, where he witnessed his first Memorial Day service. There, he met Greta Sins, whose family takes care of Louis' grave. She explained to him that her family has been doing so for generations since the end of WWII, and will continue to do so because of their undying gratitude.

 

Minnesota and Margraten

During his research about his uncle, Anthony decided that he wanted to get involved with the process of identifying the 1,722 men who are missing and unidentified at the cemetery. So, he reached out to the Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery in Margraten to see how he could help.

He found out that, currently, there are approximately 90 servicemen who have been listed as Minnesota citizens who are unidentified in Margraten – unidentified, as in, there is no photograph or background information listed for them.

"Their names are accounted for but not any biographical data," Anthony clarified. "The goal is to get every grave identified with a photo and brief information over there." The project centric to Minnesota servicemen was named the "Minnsota Faces of Margraten."

Approximately 90 servicemen from Minnesota are not currently picture-identified in Margraten, as of a count at the beginning of the year. Since Anthony has been involved, 61 of the 90 individuals from Minnesota have been identified with photographs and information.

The Dutch locals created a listing online, known as the Fields of the Missing, which runs through www.ancestry.com, where families can research the names of the servicemen to track down information. It exists to bridge the Dutch to American families, in an effort to stay in touch and work internationally to commemorate fallen heroes.

On the matter, Anthony shared, "I think this is so important to make sure that these men do not fade into history unknown and unidentified. They did a great service to not only a people, but to our country during WWII. I'm so glad someone watches over my Uncle Louis' grave, and that we stay in contact, because it really bridges the gap and shows my family what this was all for to begin with. It brings a nice closure."

Louis Glavan saw much combat after he was drafted in 1942, at 20 years old. He would serve with A-Company, in the 60mm Mortar Platoon – first in North Africa in 1943, in the 18th Infantry, part of the First Infantry Division. Later that same year, he served in Sicily, and then was on Omaha Beach in June of 1944. Louis saw combat across France, helped liberate the Mons in Belgium, and was among those who were at the German border and captured the first German city for American forces.

Louis also served in the Battle of the Bulge, in the north shoulder of the skirmish. He was killed in action from an artillery shell on March 20, 1945, which Anthony explained was a Good Friday.

"It is both harrowing and bolstering to know my family served in that war, and lived such a legacy," Anthony shared. He explained that the First Infantry Division was among the most experienced, and one of the top divisions in the area at the time, and that his uncle was among some of the most experienced and war-hardened men in Europe. That fact, he commented, was honorable for him as a nephew.

Memorial Day in Margraten will be May 27, where soldiers, locals, ambassadors, and family members will gather to remember the fallen heroes who so gallantly gave their lives during a troublesome and difficult era of world history. Anthony plans to attend more ceremonies in the future to commemorate his uncle and the rest of America's fallen troops – while also working diligently to see more graves identified and brought to life with photographs.

Anthony asks that if members of the community have any information on loved ones that are buried in Margraten, that you reach out to him to see the project through. He can be reached at 1-763-548-4308. For more information on Margraten, as well as additional photos, please visit https://www .abmc.gov/cemeteries-mem orials.

Following are a list of those remaining Minnesota servicemen that have not been yet been photo-identified in Margraten. Anyone with information regarding these listed men are encouraged to contact Anthony, in an effort to recognize them at the cemetery in Margraten.

Those unidentified fallen heroes are:  Aldrich, Louis T.; Arnold, Levi A.; Bajula, John R.; Chester, Lewis H.; Christensen, Holger R.; Detlefsen, John; Ellerbusch, Herbert W.; Evans, Roy W.; Johnson, Leonard M.; Kayute, Marvin E.; Kosloski, Paul L.; Lambrecht, Alexander; Lehmann, Monroe J.; Ligaard, Herburne W.; Moen, Richard S.; Nason, Charles M.; Nelson, Percy C.; Peterson, Lloyd M.; Phillips, Hymen; Reichenbach, Theodore.; Sahlberg, Raymond E.; Schneider, Elmer E.; Scott, James W.; Tate, Robert J.; Westlund, Clarence R.; Wolstein, Isadore; and Young, Gerald E.

 


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