The article below was published in Pinnable’s newsletter in .


The Netherlands American Cemetery

The Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial in Margraten is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. Most of the 8,301 war dead here died late in 1944 & in 1945, in the airborne & ground operations in Eastern Netherlands, during the advances into Germany over the Ruhr river, across the Rhine river, and in air operations over these regions. Because no American soldiers were to be permanently interred in enemy soil, those killed in Germany were laid to rest at Margraten or Henri-Chapelle. When the last soldier was buried in 1946, the Margraten cemetery had become the largest American military cemetery in Europe. Initially, there were 17,742 American & 1,026 other Allied soldiers interred, as well as 3,075 Germans, the latter buried in a separate section of the cemetery. The bodies of the other Allied & German troops were soon transferred to other cemeteries, and in the late 1940s over half the American dead were repatriated to the US; the remaining ones, including forty sets of brothers, were reburied at Margraten.

The memorial tower at the Netherlands American Cemetery Margraten
The memorial tower at the Margraten war cemetery

In the 1950s, the cemetery was expanded according to a design by architect Henry R. Shepley from the Boston firm Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, and Michael Rapuano, a landscape architect at Clarke, Rapuano & Holleran in New York. Today, the cemetery looks pretty much the same as when it was dedicated in 1960. At the base of the memorial tower in the Court of Honour, facing the reflecting pool, is the statue Peace by sculptor Joseph Kiselewski, representing a mother grieving her lost son. Stretching along the two sides of the court are the Walls of the Missing on which 1,722 names are recorded; small rosettes mark the names of those since recovered & identified. Beyond the tower is the burial area, which is divided into sixteen plots with headstones set in long curved rows. A visit to a war cemetery can easily become overwhelming; the small but impressive chapel in the memorial tower provides an excellent place for reflection & contemplation, and for setting your mind to peace.

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In 1961, Henry R. Shepley was appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau ‘for the great World War II American Cemetery & Memorial Chapel at Margraten in Holland that he designed’. The NY Times & other sources have erroneously credited the sculptor Arcangelo Cascieri as the designer of the World War II Memorial at Margraten, but, as the booklet Sculpture shows, Cascieri’s contribution was limited to the design of the bronze door to the chapel, depicting the Tree of Life, probably made together with his associate Adio di Biccari.


The other military cemeteries in the Netherlands are the Dutch Grebbeberg War Cemetery in Rhenen, the British Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Bergen op Zoom, Brunssum, Mierlo, Milsbeek, Mook, Nederweert, Nijmegen, Oosterbeek (Arnhem), Overloon, Sittard, Uden, Valkenswaard & Venray, the Canadian War Cemeteries in Bergen op Zoom, Groesbeek & Holten, the Soviet War Cemetery in Leusden, and the German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn. Two more Dutch war cemeteries can be found in Loenen and Overveen (Bloemendaal).

Albert Schweitzer

Soldiers’ graves are the greatest preachers of peace.


In American military cemeteries the headstones are inscribed with the deceased’s name, rank, unit, state of entry into military service, and date of death. British cemeteries’ headstones contain the regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty, a religious symbol & a personal dedication chosen by relatives. Although I appreciate the American cemeteries for their monumental qualities, I prefer the British ones because of their more personal touch.


The website Shaping our Sorrow shows how the CWGC undertook the mammoth task of commemorating the British Empire’s dead, providing insight into the difficult & often controversial decisions that helped to shape remembrance as we know it.

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