AWC Going Dutch May_June 2019


The monthly magazine of the American Women's Club of The Hague

Margraten (cont.)

Continued from page 31

There was Cliff from Ohio who went to schools and talked to kids about the war. “As long

as I’m alive, I’ll keep talking.” And he did. There was Dan. They’d joke and call him “The

Poet in the Foxhole.” He kept his notebook in his foxhole and wrote when the war was quiet.

Each for his own memorial earned praise that will never die and with it the

grandest of all sepulchers, not that in which his mortal bones are laid but a

home in the minds of men.

Erik Hazelhoff, a Dutch citizen and after the war a naturalized American, wrote a book

called Soldier of Orange (Soldaat van Oranje). It’s a true story of what he and his friends from

Leiden University did for freedom. “There comes a time in our lives” he wrote, “when we have

to take a stand —when we say to ourselves—this can’t go on! This can’t be.”

Glenn, Cliff, Hy, and Dan took a stand. Their comrades-in-arms, who rest in Margraten,

took a stand. Freedom is not free! It wasn’t free then and it isn’t free now! Young men and

women are taking a stand today because, “Some things simply can’t be.”

Margraten isn’t just about yesterday, it’s a message—a challenge for now! Eli Wiesel, a

survivor of the Holocaust, author, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, cautioned, “It’s not

just that we remember, it’s what we do with those memories.”

Every Memorial Day, Dutch families, thousands of Americans, and people from many

countries come to Margraten. There is a memorial service conducted by a rabbi, a priest, and

ministers. The American ambassador and the Queen’s Commissioner speak, and usually a

high-ranking member of the military or the government.

For thousands of Dutch people, every day is a memorial day. Grandparents and parents come

with their children—sometimes three, or even four, generations. They come with springtime

flowers or on a birthday. They come on rainy, windy autumn days and trudge in the snow with

shopping bags of Christmas arrangements. You see them walk from one grave to another to

take care of their soldiers.

The service concludes with the wreath laying, followed by a flyover. Each year Overseas

Americans Remember (OAR) lays a wreath. The wreath-layer is either a combat veteran or

a family member of a veteran. This year, Lt. Col. Mike Hanson, USAF, an “Iowa boy” and

a decorated veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, will lay the OAR wreath. OAR also lays a

wreath for the Timberwolves, to fulfill a promise made long ago. More than 100 Timberwolves

are buried in Margraten, comrades-in-arms of Glenn, Cliff, Hy, and Dan.

After the wreath-laying, there is sometimes is a few seconds of silence. In the distance

comes the roar of F-16s. They streak across the horizon over the crosses and stars and almost,

it seems, scrape the towering white chapel. One breaks away and climbs, and climbs and disappears

into what feels like forever. At that moment, you know why you came.

Soldaat van Oranje was made into a musical. It has been playing for years in a hanger converted

to a theater on what was the Valkenburg Airbase. There is a memorial to Erik Hazelhoff

behind the Wassenaar War Memorial on the Schouweg. Half of his ashes are buried there and

the other half in Hawaii, his home in America.


Since 1945, the Dutch people have cared for the graves at Margraten. Every single grave

and name on the Wall of the Missing is adopted by a Dutch family. The Adopt a Grave program

is unique to Margraten.

They Are Buried in Margraten

Six Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor:

• Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole – San Antonio, TX

September 18, 1944 near Best, Eindhoven

• Sgt. George Peterson – Brooklyn, NY

March 30, 1945 near Eisern, Germany

• Pvt. George J. Peters – Rhode Island

March 24, 1945 near Fluren, Germany

• Pfc. Willy F. James, Jr. – Kansas City, MO

April 8, 1945 near Lippoldsberg, Germany

• 1st Lt. Walter J. Will – West Winfield, NY

March 30, 1945 near Eisern, Germany

• Pfc. Walter C. Wetzel – Virginia

April 3, 1945 near Birken, Germany

Four women—two nurses and two Red Cross workers:

• Dorothy J. Burdge – Ohio

May 1, 1945

• Anita McKenny – Florida

Nov. 26, 1945

• 1st Lt. Christine Gasvoda – Michigan

April 13, 1945

• 1st Lt. Wilma R. Vinsant – Texas

April 14, 1945

40 sets of brothers and a set of twin brothers.

106 Graves of the Unknowns: “Here Rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known

But to God.”

172 African-American Soldiers.

179 Jewish Soldiers:

• Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose – Denver, CO

March 30, 1945 near Paderborn, Germany

The highest-ranking American killed by enemy fire in the European Theatre of

Operations, and the most decorated soldier buried in Margraten.

• Pfc. Robert van Klinken – Kitsap City, WA

September 20, 1944 near Neuen, Netherlands

A first generation Dutch-American, a veteran of Normandy and Market Garden, and

a liberator of Eindhoven who astonished the locals during a victory celebration. He

spoke their dialect when he reassured them they would catch some hidden Nazis.

“Wacht more eevns. Wie hoain heur der wel oet.” (“Hold on, we’ll get them out.”) – Robert

van Klinken, who died in the land of his mother and father.

Come to Margraten this Memorial Day. You will never forget it.

Bring a flower, walk around, say, “Hello.”


Sunday, May 26

3 p.m.

Netherlands American Cemetery

Amerikaanse Begraafplaats 1, Margraten

MAY/JUNE 2019 33

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