• Fredericksburg couple Dwight and Karen Oestreich recently got the opportunity to meet with the couple who cares the grave of Karen’s late uncle, William Dietel Jr., who is buried in Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands. Among those meeting with the Oestreichs were Corry Schouten, second from left, Dirk Schouten and Bindert Helder. At left is a friend of Helder’s while at right is his grandson and fiancé. — Submitted photo
  • Dwight and Karen Oestreich pay respects to uncle, others KIA at WWII cemetery in the Netherlands

Oestreichs pay respects at Margarten Cemetery

This summer my husband, Dwight and I, along with our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons who live overseas had the privilege of visiting Margraten Cemetery.

Margraten Cemetery is one of 24 military cemeteries in 15 countries for Americans who died in World War I and World War II.

We visited this particular cemetery because my uncle, William Dietel Jr., better known as Junie or Deacon, is buried there.

He piloted a B-17 (Flying Fortress), nicknamed Sky Queen, and was one of nine killed on July 28, 1943, near Surbuizum County of Friesland, Holland. Two others survived and were taken prisoners of war.

This particular cemetery is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. It sits on 65.5 acres of gently rolling farmland just south of the highway.

The site was liberated on Sept. 13, 1944, by troops of the U.S. 30th Infantry Division which were advancing northeastward toward the Roer River in Germany, as part of the U.S. First Army.

A battlefield cemetery, one of the first to be used for the interment of American soldiers who fell on German soil, was established here on Nov. 10, 1944, by the U.S. Ninth Army.

Unlike national cemeteries, there can be no further burials in the American military cemeteries overseas except of those remains which may, in the future, be found on the battlefields. 

In all, 8,301 Americans are buried here, representing 43 percent of those who were originally buried in this and other temporary cemeteries in this region.

Most of them gave their lives in the airborne and ground operations to liberate eastern Holland, during the advances into Germany over the Roer and across the Rhine and in air operations over these regions.

Of the 8,301 dead who gave their lives in their country’s service, from every state in the Union, the District of Columbia, England, Canada and Mexico, 106 are Unknowns.

In no less than 40 instances, two brothers lie buried side by side, while one headstone marks the common grave of two Unknowns.

On the exterior wall of the museum is this inscription taken from Gen.  Dwight D. Eisenhower’s dedication of the Golden Book in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London: “Here we and all who shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live.”

There is also a court of honor which lists the name of 1,722 of our Missing of the Army and Army Air Force who gave their lives and who sleep in unknown graves. Their names include men from every state of the Union (except Alaska) and the District of Columbia. 

We were privileged to meet the couple who have adopted our uncle’s grave for many years.

 

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