Wednesday, October 6, 2010
In an earlier post, I shared an email from Ron Wintjens of the Netherlands -- a private citizen who adopted the grave of 671st Bomb Squadron pilot Francis De Mand at Margraten cemetery, also known as Netherlands American Cemetery. In response, I asked Ron how he came to be interested particularly in Lt. De Mand. Here is his touching reply:
"I've been to the cemetery this weekend for placing some flowers on the grave, because of the 29th of September, the day Francis died. ASAP I'll take the pictures you've asked for. It's no problem for me to take these pictures. If it's possible I'll take them on a sunny day.
As to your last question, I can only say that I've been always interested in WWII, I've been several times to Normandy (with my dad) and I thought of it as my duty to adopt a grave. Also my daughter (now 11 yrs) got interested and said a few years ago she would carry on with this adoption if I couldn't take care anymore for the grave. Thus the future of our grave is secured and the tradition will live on. So we will not forget!
I knew from the Dutch employee at the cemetery, that USAF records were easy to get from the administration in the US. So I asked for an airman. In those days you could choose a grave, because the fist generation adoptants were on the threshold of extinction, so to say, and there were several adoptants who didn't have a successor or died without taking notice of this matter. Nowadays, there's a waiting list for an adoption grave.
It's beautiful every time I see the white crosses perfectly lined up. Walking up the cemetery a strange melancholic wearyness and sadness takes part of me. I can't help it. Every time I feel the same feeling. I think it is special. I go to Francis' grave and put the flowers in front of the white cross, say a few prayers and leaving the cemetary I sit down for a few minutes in the chapel with it's beautiful inscriptions on the walls. It's a pity that the rush of life nowadays, prevents me from spending more time on searching for more information, networking and maybe making contact with relatives of one of these boys.
I'm glad I came across this mail and that I took some time to mail to you (should have done this right from the start!). Feels good!
Grtz Ron Wintjens