Dear members of the 44Th BG VA.
First of all, I shall introduce myself: My name is Rob
Willemsen and I live in the Netherlands (Europe). I was born and raised in
Arnhem almost 45 years ago and still live in a small town near Arnhem.
I’m married, have two children and my profession is
As long as I can remember, I have an interest in WW 2.
Living in a city with such a lively history during WW 2 sure did help stimulate
OK, I hear you thinking, what does all this have to do with
Let me explain a little more.
As a person with an interest in WW 2, I read a bunch of
books, newspaper articles and visited a couple of battle sites, such as the
Two years ago, I was watching a TV-program which had a
topic about the American War Cemetery in the Netherlands near Margraten.
The central lawn with flag
post at the end and the graves on both sides.
Pond with chapel/tower and
the walls of the missing adjoining
With this Soldier it all
During this program I learned that there was a foundation
that arranged the adoption of graves of killed American soldiers. I never knew
about this and after the TV-program my wife and I talked about that possibility.
The thoughts about the program kept spinning in the back of
my head for a couple of days and after a second conversation we decided to ask
the foundation to grant us two graves or missing persons to adopt.
The cemetery has a large “wall of the missing”. Actually
there are two walls opposite of each other, on these walls the names of soldiers
are inscribed that were killed at sea, in the air or on land and of which the
body was never found.
After some 5 weeks we got a letter in which we were told
that we were granted to adopt two soldiers, both inscribed on the walls.
Adoption of a grave or inscription means you will visit the
cemetery regularly and take care of the grave or inscription by means of lay
down some flowers in honour of the soldier and attend the memorial day
activities if possible.
Because I wanted to know more of these two men I started to
surf the internet in search of information. This search brought me to the 44th
BG VA website because one of the soldiers was a member of the 506th
BS and flew in a B-24 named “Cactus”.
They were shot down on their first mission on 22 March
Missing in this enumeration are
V.R.Fouts (Pilot) and R.K. Nordquist (radio operator).
Through the 44th BG VA website I came in touch
with Mr. Don Prater and Mr. Roger Fenton. They were very helpful to obtain more
information on the “Cactus” and it’s crew.
Roger Fenton could even provide me with a (digital)
photograph with most of it’s crew showing in it..
After a discussion with my father-in-law, a new idea had
set into my mind and I asked the foundation if it was possible to adopt more of
the Cactus-crew. Luckily the foundation made an exception for me and it resulted
in the adoption of 5 more members of this crew. For some obscure reason two
crewmembers are inscribed on the wall in Great Britain and two crewmembers had
already been adopted by others.
Why would somebody, born more than 20 years after WW 2, adopt these
soldiers you probably ask yourself. I can’t explain. I think it has to do with a
sense of obligation to these men. They gave the most precious thing they
possessed, namely their life, for us to live our lives like we do now.
This following text (from the wall of the cemetery
entrance) says it all I believe.
To honor these men, I am planning to make a commemorative
frame and I have acquired some items to put in there, together with the crew
photograph and pictures of the wall inscriptions. See next photograph.
44th BG patch and the “flying eight balls” patch shown are RKO Movie
A Purple Heart Medal and an Air Medal is the next thing on
my list to acquire for this frame.
I’m also going to build a model (1/48) of the “Cactus”
looking as close to the original as possible, for static display in my office at
During an email conversation, Don Prater asked me to write
an article about this and the result you have just read.
The foundation that arranges the adoptions for the
Margraten cemetery has it’s own website (also in English) and you can read more
about their history at:
In case you are a relative of a buried soldier and whish to
contact the person that has adopted the grave, I would suggest to contact this
foundation. They are willing to make the contact between relative and adopter
If there are readers that know things about the “Cactus” or
any of the crewmembers or know of living relatives of one of them, please
contact me on the following email address:
firstname.lastname@example.org or through Don Prater or Roger Fenton.
Rob Willemsen (The Netherlands)