Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. The U.S. 30th Infantry Division liberated this site on 13 September 1944. Here rest 8.301 American military dead.

The cemetery site has a rich historical background, lying near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway built by the Romans and used by Caesar during his campaign in that area. The highway was also used by Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, and Kaiser Wilhelm II. In May 1940 Hitler’s legions advanced over the route of the old Roman highway, overwhelming the Low Countries. In September 1944, German troops once more used the highway for their withdrawal from the countries they occupied for four years.

The cemetery’s tall memorial tower can be seen before reaching the site, which covers 65,5 acres. From the cemetery entrance visitors are led to the ‘Court of Honor’ with its pool reflecting the tower. At the base of the tower facing the reflecting pool is a statue representing a mother grieving her lost son. To the right and left, respectively, are the visitor building and the map room containing three large, engraved operations maps with texts depicting the military operations of the American armed forces. Stretching along the sides of the court are the ‘Tablets of the Missing’ on which are recorded 1.722 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

Within the tower is a chapel. The light fixture in the chapel and the altar candelabra and flower bowl were presented by the government of the Netherlands and by the local provincial administration. Beyond the tower is a burial area divided into 16 plots, where rest 8.301 American military dead, their headstones set in long curves. A wide, tree-lined mall leads to the flagstaff that crowns the crest.

Adoption Program at the American Cemetery Margraten

At the cemetery in Margraten many of the graves have flowers that were placed by people who have adopted one or more graves and thus want to show their gratitude to the fallen liberators and their next of kin. The original idea to adopt graves of the American liberators came up in February of 1945. To this effect the “Burger Comité Margraten” (Citizens Committee Margraten) was formed. The committee’s goal was to support the set-up of the American Cemetery with an extensive adoption campaign. The adopters were supposed to regularly visit the adopted grave and, in case this was appreciated, keep in touch with the next of kin in the U.S. The campaign gained massive support. At the first Memorial Day in 1945 every grave was decorated with flowers. At the second Memorial Day one year later all graves (at the time an incredible amount of 18,764) had been adopted. Captain Shomon, the founder of the American Cemetery, praised the members of the committee for all the work they had done. Since 2015 all graves as well as all of the names in the Walls of the Missing are adopted and there even is a waiting list.

Click here to see a video about the Adaption Program.

Faces of Margraten

8,301 American soldiers have been buried in this cemetery; another 1,722 names are listed on the Walls of the Missing. We do know the names of all these men and women, but who were they? Where did they come from and what did their lives look like prior to World War II? The Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven (Foundation United Adopters American War Graves) hopes to make a unique tribute to the men and women buried there by trying to give as many names of the soldiers buried in or memorialized at the Margraten Cemetery as possible a face, by decorating their graves or names on the Walls of the Missing with a personal photo through the project “The Faces of Margraten” during a Memorial week once every two years. The next tribute is scheduled to take place in 2020. To see The Faces of Margraten 2018 click here.

Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial