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Photos of Union County WWII Dead Sought by Dutch Organization

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"The Faces of Margraten" seeks photos of Union County soldiers who died in Europe during WWII and are buried in the American War Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.  Credits: JOOST CLAASSENS/COURTESY FACES OF MARGRATEN
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There are 10,023 graves in the American War Cemetery in Margraten.  The project has photographs of just 3,300 of the soldiers buried there.  Credits: JOOST CLAASSENS/COURTESY FACES OF MARGRATEN
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THE NETHERLANDS – Two are from Clark. Others are from Linden, Elizabeth, Roselle Park, Union County. They all died on the battlefields of Europe. It is there they remain.

Martin Gustav Schmitt died near Linnich Germany on November 30, 1944. He was a corporal with the 407th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 102 Infantry Division, M Company. Hometown: Clark, Union County, NJ. 

John J. Stacy was killed in action in the vicinity of Kothen-Zorbig, Germany on April 18, 1945.  He was a private, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, G Company. Hometown: Clark, Union County, NJ. 

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Little is known about these men; perhaps a mother’s or father’s name, an enlistment date, a birthdate, a battalion, a rank. But now a group of Dutch volunteers hopes to fill in the blanks and put faces to their names.

The soldiers are buried in the American War Cemetery in the town of Margraten, the Netherlands and listed in the Fields of Honor - Database.

In early May, as part of the Netherland’s annual observation its 1945 liberation, a private foundation will host “The Faces of Margraten” tribute in the American War Cemetery.

The tribute seeks to place a photograph of each soldier buried in the cemetery next to the marble cross that bears his name.  With photos of just 3,300 of the 10,023 Americans buried in the cemetery, the foundation is reaching out to find pictures from relatives or friends of the World War II soldiers.

“Maybe you’re related to one of the soldiers, and have a photo tucked away in an album you haven’t looked through in years,” said Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves. “Please look again, and if you find one, help us honor the sacrifices of thousands of other Americans by contributing the photo to ‘The Faces of Margraten.’ Each photo matters, even if the quality is not great, because it means another soldier who will be honored."

Vonk said the photos help visitors identify with the men and women buried there.

“Looking at these photos makes you realize that they were not just soldiers; they were young individuals like us with a family, friends, interests, and dreams,” Vonk said. “We could have been them had we lived in a different time and place."

In 2015, 25,000 Dutch citizens attended the inaugural exhibit.

"The number of people that came out showed that people widely continue to recognize the importance of remembering those to whom we owe our freedom, even 70 years after the end of World War II. Moreover, the visitors' responses revealed that people were touched by the fact that they could look straight into the eyes of our liberators,” Vonk said.

Photos can be submitted through the project's website, www.TheFacesOfMargraten.com. Submitted photos and information that is known about the soldiers can be found in the foundation's Fields of Honor - Database. The database includes soldiers buried in Margraten, the Ardennes and Henri-Chapelle cemeteries, and in isolated graves throughout Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Since 1945, Dutch citizens have adopted the graves of the soldiers buried in Margraten, visiting them and decorating them with flowers.  Vonk, himself just 23, said that a younger generation of Dutch now continues to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice over 70 years ago.   

"When I speak to people they sometimes say that the youth no longer cares about the past and those who fought for their freedom. I do not believe that,” Vonk said. “Many young Dutch people show an interest in the war and continue to visit these cemeteries, and many, like me, have adopted a grave and are volunteers for ‘The Faces of Margraten’ tribute. We will continue to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for many years to come."

The following Americans from Union County, NJ died in the liberation of Europe and are buried in Margraten:

CONROY, Steve J

Union County

DORAN, Harold J

Union County

DURETT, Harold E

Union County

EVANUK, Walter

Union County

HALTER, Joseph J

Union County

HERSH, Austin J

Elizabeth, Union County

KATZ, Harvey M

Elizabeth, Union County

LACI, Joseph

Union County

LEVER, Robert T

Linden, Union County

MC CARTHY, John J

Union County

MIGLIORE, Thomas N

Union County

MORGAN, Earl

Plainfield, Union County

NOWAKOWSKI, Joseph E

Union County

O'SULLIVAN, John D

Elizabeth, Union County

RANGER, Donald G

Plainfield, Union County

ROSSELET, John U Jr

Union County

SCHNELL, Albert E

Union County

SWANSON, Arthur W

Union County

TANSEY, Raymond E

Union County

TARDIER, Jack

Union County

THORNE, Thomas P

Rahway, Union County

TIRONE, Michael J

Roselle Park, Union County

TORRENCE, Lorne J

Plainfield, Union County

VAN CLEEF, Arthur A

Union County

WARD, Edward S

Union County

WHELAN, Larry P

Union County

WOLSKI, Ignatius C

Union County

ZUEST, Harry W

Union County

 

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