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An everlasting memorial: Dutch revere war dead, including Duluth brothers

Eleven miles from the German border, in the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, sit the neighboring burial crosses that mark the graves belonging to brothers Theodore and Joseph Beardsley of Duluth. Killed in World War II roughly ...

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More than 8,000 soldiers are buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands -- including Duluth brothers Joseph and Theodore Beardsley, who died while fighting in World War II. (Photo courtesy of Sebastiaan Vonk)

  Eleven miles from the German border, in the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, sit the neighboring burial crosses that mark the graves belonging to brothers Theodore and Joseph Beardsley of Duluth. Killed in World War II roughly seven months apart, the two men never married or sired any children. A nephew, living in a small, patriotically decorated apartment housed in what once was the Gary-New Duluth Hotel, is one of the last remaining Beardsley relatives to know anything about the brothers. He sat among his cats earlier this month and recalled what he could of his uncles. "My dad grieved all his life after he lost his two brothers," said Bob Beardsley, 69, talking about his father, Roy. Roy was the youngest of the three sons born to Leonard and Almeada Beardsley. The boys grew up on tiny Ramsey Street in West Duluth. They were close, and they saw it all - the Great Depression, the war. "We served," said Bob Beardsley, who himself did three tours in the Vietnam War. "That's how we were raised as kids." Like Bob, the brothers were tall - all more than 6 feet. He recalled from his dad that Joe came home on leave for what would be his final visit several weeks before the historic invasion of Normandy in June 1944 that would take Theodore's life. Joe's ominous words during that visit home are part of family lore. " 'Don't let them ship us home,' " Bob recalled, having heard the story from his late father. Though the brothers were disinterred before reaching their final resting places, they never left the European theater. Beardsley visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten several years ago, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled the visit as being among of the best days of his life, saying of the cemetery, "It's immaculate." Finding the Beardsleys The first email to the News Tribune about the Beardsley brothers arrived March 7. It was from Terry Hirsch of Indianapolis. She wanted to know if the newspaper would be interested in writing about the brothers in hopes of securing their photos. Among the 8,301 Americans buried and 1,722 listed among the missing in action, only a portion of the soldiers featured photos in an elaborate Internet database called "Fields of Honor" that Dutch volunteers have created to identify and connect with their liberators. "I know this may not be a typical story you would cover," Hirsch wrote. "But I think after hearing of the relationship between the Beardsley brothers and the Dutch people, your readers might be able to help." Hirsch signed the email, "Just a volunteer." With an interest in World War II history, Hirsch was smitten with both the pastoral beauty of the Margraten cemetery and the Dutch people's effort to investigate and learn about each and every soldier buried there. She took particular interest in the 40 sets of brothers buried at Margraten and set about researching the Internet for photos. "What struck me about the Beardsleys is that one was (first) buried at Normandy overlooking Utah Beach and the other 12 miles from Germany," Hirsch said in a recent telephone interview. "There were 600 kilometers between them. Someone had gone to such work to bury them next to each other." That someone, she learned, was the Quartermaster Corps, a logistics branch of the U.S. Army that set about reducing 50 or 60 temporary graveyards throughout the European theater to less than a quarter of that. Roughly 60 percent of exhumed American soldiers were sent home - a process called "repatriation" - and the others were permanently laid to rest in overseas American military cemeteries that remain operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. At Margraten, some 3,000 German soldiers had to be exhumed in order to create exclusivity for the American soldiers. "What a job," Hirsch said. "It started in 1947 (and lasted) until 1951. It's an amazing part of the war, if you think about it." An astute researcher After a quick check for photos with Bob Beardsley and another relative turned up empty, the search to find images of the Beardsley brothers continued. On April 11, Karen Smoley of the Twin Ports Genealogical Society surfaced with an email. Smoley is the research chairperson for the society, and this spring she has been updating the local library's obituary index. She logs names, dates, the name of the newspaper and which page number an obituary appeared on, so that people can swiftly access an obituary on microfilm rather than scrolling through one paper after another. She responded to a News Tribune inquiry about the brothers within 48 hours, producing their obits and their obituary photos - Joseph's in the Duluth Herald and Theodore's in the then-hyphenated Duluth News-Tribune.
"I just love looking through old newspapers," the 74-year-old Smoley said. Smoley spent three years in Germany earlier in her life as what she called "a dependent wife in the Army." She recalled that time, in the 1970s, as being an eye-opener for her. The Baader-Meinhof Gang - later known as the Red Army Faction - was terrorizing Germany, including American military installations. She was living in a big military housing area, and bombs had gone off in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. "When the gang said they were going to plant a bomb (on the base), the concertina wire went up immediately around the housing area," she said. "It was really scary." While there, Smoley visited the concentration camp at Dachau. She was struck at the number of political prisoners who had been contained there - how neighbors could turn in neighbors who had not been sympathetic to the Nazi cause. It's different, she said, from anything we've experienced in the United States, which has yet to see a protracted invasion on its soil apart from the Revolutionary War. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2566110","attributes":{"alt":"Joseph Beardsley","class":"media-image","height":"300","title":"","width":"187"}}]]"We, Americans, we've never seen an open war in this country - like the things they've faced in Europe," she said. "The feeling in Europe is different." It's a feeling that resonates with a 23-year-old Dutch student by the name of Sebastiaan Vonk - a feeling he carries with him generations beyond World War II. As the precocious chairman of the Netherlands' United Supporters of American War Graves Foundation, he has made a pastime of learning all he can about Margraten's war dead. "Everyone has his own interests, and what I do is not very common, I guess," he said in a telephone interview with the News Tribune. "But on our team we have about five or six people the same age as I am." Reverence for liberators Vonk recalled adopting his first grave in Margraten at age 13 or 14 as what started out as a general interest in WWII. Vonk and Hirsch explained that all of the graves in Margraten are adopted by people from the Netherlands, with a waiting list of more than 300. The Dutch people started looking after the soldiers immediately after the war and have been doing so for the 71 years since it ended. Families, school classes, businesses and more have adopted the marble gravestones with the understanding that they will visit on occasion, supply fresh flowers and, when possible, provide additional research for the database. Some adopters correspond with their soldiers' families. Some people visit the gravesites as often as every day, saluting and bowing. The caretaking of the cemetery has been featured in a documentary short film and in the Washington Post. An event earlier this month that was tied to the database saw more than 25,000 visitors come to the cemetery to see the "Faces of Margraten" - in which Vonk and the other caretakers affixed as many photos of the soldiers next to their gravestones as possible. The Beardsleys photos were not secured in time to be a part of the event, but they were immediately posted onto the Fields of Honor online database and will be presented graveside at the next such event in 2018. Vonk has been to the United States to visit with families of two soldiers whose graves he has adopted. The pull to their history only gets stronger as he grows older - especially now that he is about the age many of the soldiers were when they died. "You start to think about, 'What if I had lived during that time?' " he said. "I didn't have to be sent overseas to fight in places I'd never heard of. I'm fortunate and I don't take it for granted." Duluth's ties to Margraten A search by Terry Hirsch yielded 11 soldiers buried in Margraten who were born in Duluth; several of the men also had Duluth listed as their hometown. All the men can be researched in greater depth at the Fields of Honor database at fieldsofhonor-database.com.   Joseph Beardsley, 23 Theodore Beardsley, 25 James Boget, 30 John Davis, 20 Robert Doyle, unknown Marvin Kayute, 23 John McGillis, born 1921 Thomas Merritt, 19 Lloyd Peterson, born 1917 Robert Stuart, born 1920 Eldon Wallinder, 19   Eleven miles from the German border, in the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, sit the neighboring burial crosses that mark the graves belonging to brothers Theodore and Joseph Beardsley of Duluth. Killed in World War II roughly seven months apart, the two men never married or sired any children. A nephew, living in a small, patriotically decorated apartment housed in what once was the Gary-New Duluth Hotel, is one of the last remaining Beardsley relatives to know anything about the brothers. He sat among his cats earlier this month and recalled what he could of his uncles. "My dad grieved all his life after he lost his two brothers," said Bob Beardsley, 69, talking about his father, Roy. Roy was the youngest of the three sons born to Leonard and Almeada Beardsley. The boys grew up on tiny Ramsey Street in West Duluth. They were close, and they saw it all - the Great Depression, the war. "We served," said Bob Beardsley, who himself did three tours in the Vietnam War. "That's how we were raised as kids." Like Bob, the brothers were tall - all more than 6 feet. He recalled from his dad that Joe came home on leave for what would be his final visit several weeks before the historic invasion of Normandy in June 1944 that would take Theodore's life. Joe's ominous words during that visit home are part of family lore. " 'Don't let them ship us home,' " Bob recalled, having heard the story from his late father. Though the brothers were disinterred before reaching their final resting places, they never left the European theater. Beardsley visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten several years ago, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled the visit as being among of the best days of his life, saying of the cemetery, "It's immaculate." Finding the Beardsleys The first email to the News Tribune about the Beardsley brothers arrived March 7. It was from Terry Hirsch of Indianapolis. She wanted to know if the newspaper would be interested in writing about the brothers in hopes of securing their photos. Among the 8,301 Americans buried and 1,722 listed among the missing in action, only a portion of the soldiers featured photos in an elaborate Internet database called "Fields of Honor" that Dutch volunteers have created to identify and connect with their liberators. "I know this may not be a typical story you would cover," Hirsch wrote. "But I think after hearing of the relationship between the Beardsley brothers and the Dutch people, your readers might be able to help." Hirsch signed the email, "Just a volunteer." With an interest in World War II history, Hirsch was smitten with both the pastoral beauty of the Margraten cemetery and the Dutch people's effort to investigate and learn about each and every soldier buried there. She took particular interest in the 40 sets of brothers buried at Margraten and set about researching the Internet for photos. "What struck me about the Beardsleys is that one was (first) buried at Normandy overlooking Utah Beach and the other 12 miles from Germany," Hirsch said in a recent telephone interview. "There were 600 kilometers between them. Someone had gone to such work to bury them next to each other." That someone, she learned, was the Quartermaster Corps, a logistics branch of the U.S. Army that set about reducing 50 or 60 temporary graveyards throughout the European theater to less than a quarter of that. Roughly 60 percent of exhumed American soldiers were sent home - a process called "repatriation" - and the others were permanently laid to rest in overseas American military cemeteries that remain operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. At Margraten, some 3,000 German soldiers had to be exhumed in order to create exclusivity for the American soldiers. "What a job," Hirsch said. "It started in 1947 (and lasted) until 1951. It's an amazing part of the war, if you think about it." An astute researcher After a quick check for photos with Bob Beardsley and another relative turned up empty, the search to find images of the Beardsley brothers continued. On April 11, Karen Smoley of the Twin Ports Genealogical Society surfaced with an email. Smoley is the research chairperson for the society, and this spring she has been updating the local library's obituary index. She logs names, dates, the name of the newspaper and which page number an obituary appeared on, so that people can swiftly access an obituary on microfilm rather than scrolling through one paper after another. She responded to a News Tribune inquiry about the brothers within 48 hours, producing their obits and their obituary photos - Joseph's in the Duluth Herald and Theodore's in the then-hyphenated Duluth News-Tribune. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2566109","attributes":{"alt":"Theodore Beardsley","class":"media-image","height":"300","title":"","width":"187"}}]]"I just love looking through old newspapers," the 74-year-old Smoley said. Smoley spent three years in Germany earlier in her life as what she called "a dependent wife in the Army." She recalled that time, in the 1970s, as being an eye-opener for her. The Baader-Meinhof Gang - later known as the Red Army Faction - was terrorizing Germany, including American military installations. She was living in a big military housing area, and bombs had gone off in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. "When the gang said they were going to plant a bomb (on the base), the concertina wire went up immediately around the housing area," she said. "It was really scary." While there, Smoley visited the concentration camp at Dachau. She was struck at the number of political prisoners who had been contained there - how neighbors could turn in neighbors who had not been sympathetic to the Nazi cause. It's different, she said, from anything we've experienced in the United States, which has yet to see a protracted invasion on its soil apart from the Revolutionary War.
"We, Americans, we've never seen an open war in this country - like the things they've faced in Europe," she said. "The feeling in Europe is different." It's a feeling that resonates with a 23-year-old Dutch student by the name of Sebastiaan Vonk - a feeling he carries with him generations beyond World War II. As the precocious chairman of the Netherlands' United Supporters of American War Graves Foundation, he has made a pastime of learning all he can about Margraten's war dead. "Everyone has his own interests, and what I do is not very common, I guess," he said in a telephone interview with the News Tribune. "But on our team we have about five or six people the same age as I am." Reverence for liberators Vonk recalled adopting his first grave in Margraten at age 13 or 14 as what started out as a general interest in WWII. Vonk and Hirsch explained that all of the graves in Margraten are adopted by people from the Netherlands, with a waiting list of more than 300. The Dutch people started looking after the soldiers immediately after the war and have been doing so for the 71 years since it ended. Families, school classes, businesses and more have adopted the marble gravestones with the understanding that they will visit on occasion, supply fresh flowers and, when possible, provide additional research for the database. Some adopters correspond with their soldiers' families. Some people visit the gravesites as often as every day, saluting and bowing. The caretaking of the cemetery has been featured in a documentary short film and in the Washington Post. An event earlier this month that was tied to the database saw more than 25,000 visitors come to the cemetery to see the "Faces of Margraten" - in which Vonk and the other caretakers affixed as many photos of the soldiers next to their gravestones as possible. The Beardsleys photos were not secured in time to be a part of the event, but they were immediately posted onto the Fields of Honor online database and will be presented graveside at the next such event in 2018. Vonk has been to the United States to visit with families of two soldiers whose graves he has adopted. The pull to their history only gets stronger as he grows older - especially now that he is about the age many of the soldiers were when they died. "You start to think about, 'What if I had lived during that time?' " he said. "I didn't have to be sent overseas to fight in places I'd never heard of. I'm fortunate and I don't take it for granted." Duluth's ties to Margraten A search by Terry Hirsch yielded 11 soldiers buried in Margraten who were born in Duluth; several of the men also had Duluth listed as their hometown. All the men can be researched in greater depth at the Fields of Honor database at fieldsofhonor-database.com.   Joseph Beardsley, 23 Theodore Beardsley, 25 James Boget, 30 John Davis, 20 Robert Doyle, unknown Marvin Kayute, 23 John McGillis, born 1921 Thomas Merritt, 19 Lloyd Peterson, born 1917 Robert Stuart, born 1920 Eldon Wallinder, 19  Eleven miles from the German border, in the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, sit the neighboring burial crosses that mark the graves belonging to brothers Theodore and Joseph Beardsley of Duluth.Killed in World War II roughly seven months apart, the two men never married or sired any children.A nephew, living in a small, patriotically decorated apartment housed in what once was the Gary-New Duluth Hotel, is one of the last remaining Beardsley relatives to know anything about the brothers.He sat among his cats earlier this month and recalled what he could of his uncles."My dad grieved all his life after he lost his two brothers," said Bob Beardsley, 69, talking about his father, Roy.Roy was the youngest of the three sons born to Leonard and Almeada Beardsley. The boys grew up on tiny Ramsey Street in West Duluth. They were close, and they saw it all - the Great Depression, the war."We served," said Bob Beardsley, who himself did three tours in the Vietnam War. "That's how we were raised as kids."Like Bob, the brothers were tall - all more than 6 feet. He recalled from his dad that Joe came home on leave for what would be his final visit several weeks before the historic invasion of Normandy in June 1944 that would take Theodore's life. Joe's ominous words during that visit home are part of family lore." 'Don't let them ship us home,' " Bob recalled, having heard the story from his late father.Though the brothers were disinterred before reaching their final resting places, they never left the European theater.Beardsley visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten several years ago, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled the visit as being among of the best days of his life, saying of the cemetery, "It's immaculate."Finding the BeardsleysThe first email to the News Tribune about the Beardsley brothers arrived March 7. It was from Terry Hirsch of Indianapolis. She wanted to know if the newspaper would be interested in writing about the brothers in hopes of securing their photos.Among the 8,301 Americans buried and 1,722 listed among the missing in action, only a portion of the soldiers featured photos in an elaborate Internet database called "Fields of Honor" that Dutch volunteers have created to identify and connect with their liberators."I know this may not be a typical story you would cover," Hirsch wrote. "But I think after hearing of the relationship between the Beardsley brothers and the Dutch people, your readers might be able to help."Hirsch signed the email, "Just a volunteer."With an interest in World War II history, Hirsch was smitten with both the pastoral beauty of the Margraten cemetery and the Dutch people's effort to investigate and learn about each and every soldier buried there.She took particular interest in the 40 sets of brothers buried at Margraten and set about researching the Internet for photos."What struck me about the Beardsleys is that one was (first) buried at Normandy overlooking Utah Beach and the other 12 miles from Germany," Hirsch said in a recent telephone interview. "There were 600 kilometers between them. Someone had gone to such work to bury them next to each other."That someone, she learned, was the Quartermaster Corps, a logistics branch of the U.S. Army that set about reducing 50 or 60 temporary graveyards throughout the European theater to less than a quarter of that. Roughly 60 percent of exhumed American soldiers were sent home - a process called "repatriation" - and the others were permanently laid to rest in overseas American military cemeteries that remain operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. At Margraten, some 3,000 German soldiers had to be exhumed in order to create exclusivity for the American soldiers."What a job," Hirsch said. "It started in 1947 (and lasted) until 1951. It's an amazing part of the war, if you think about it."An astute researcherAfter a quick check for photos with Bob Beardsley and another relative turned up empty, the search to find images of the Beardsley brothers continued. On April 11, Karen Smoley of the Twin Ports Genealogical Society surfaced with an email.Smoley is the research chairperson for the society, and this spring she has been updating the local library's obituary index. She logs names, dates, the name of the newspaper and which page number an obituary appeared on, so that people can swiftly access an obituary on microfilm rather than scrolling through one paper after another.She responded to a News Tribune inquiry about the brothers within 48 hours, producing their obits and their obituary photos - Joseph's in the Duluth Herald and Theodore's in the then-hyphenated Duluth News-Tribune.
"I just love looking through old newspapers," the 74-year-old Smoley said.Smoley spent three years in Germany earlier in her life as what she called "a dependent wife in the Army." She recalled that time, in the 1970s, as being an eye-opener for her. The Baader-Meinhof Gang - later known as the Red Army Faction - was terrorizing Germany, including American military installations. She was living in a big military housing area, and bombs had gone off in Frankfurt and Stuttgart."When the gang said they were going to plant a bomb (on the base), the concertina wire went up immediately around the housing area," she said. "It was really scary."While there, Smoley visited the concentration camp at Dachau. She was struck at the number of political prisoners who had been contained there - how neighbors could turn in neighbors who had not been sympathetic to the Nazi cause.It's different, she said, from anything we've experienced in the United States, which has yet to see a protracted invasion on its soil apart from the Revolutionary War.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2566110","attributes":{"alt":"Joseph Beardsley","class":"media-image","height":"300","title":"","width":"187"}}]]"We, Americans, we've never seen an open war in this country - like the things they've faced in Europe," she said. "The feeling in Europe is different."It's a feeling that resonates with a 23-year-old Dutch student by the name of Sebastiaan Vonk - a feeling he carries with him generations beyond World War II.As the precocious chairman of the Netherlands' United Supporters of American War Graves Foundation, he has made a pastime of learning all he can about Margraten's war dead."Everyone has his own interests, and what I do is not very common, I guess," he said in a telephone interview with the News Tribune. "But on our team we have about five or six people the same age as I am."Reverence for liberatorsVonk recalled adopting his first grave in Margraten at age 13 or 14 as what started out as a general interest in WWII.Vonk and Hirsch explained that all of the graves in Margraten are adopted by people from the Netherlands, with a waiting list of more than 300. The Dutch people started looking after the soldiers immediately after the war and have been doing so for the 71 years since it ended.Families, school classes, businesses and more have adopted the marble gravestones with the understanding that they will visit on occasion, supply fresh flowers and, when possible, provide additional research for the database. Some adopters correspond with their soldiers' families. Some people visit the gravesites as often as every day, saluting and bowing. The caretaking of the cemetery has been featured in a documentary short film and in the Washington Post. An event earlier this month that was tied to the database saw more than 25,000 visitors come to the cemetery to see the "Faces of Margraten" - in which Vonk and the other caretakers affixed as many photos of the soldiers next to their gravestones as possible.The Beardsleys photos were not secured in time to be a part of the event, but they were immediately posted onto the Fields of Honor online database and will be presented graveside at the next such event in 2018.Vonk has been to the United States to visit with families of two soldiers whose graves he has adopted. The pull to their history only gets stronger as he grows older - especially now that he is about the age many of the soldiers were when they died."You start to think about, 'What if I had lived during that time?' " he said. "I didn't have to be sent overseas to fight in places I'd never heard of. I'm fortunate and I don't take it for granted."Duluth's ties to MargratenA search by Terry Hirsch yielded 11 soldiers buried in Margraten who were born in Duluth; several of the men also had Duluth listed as their hometown. All the men can be researched in greater depth at the Fields of Honor database at fieldsofhonor-database.com. Joseph Beardsley, 23Theodore Beardsley, 25James Boget, 30John Davis, 20Robert Doyle, unknownMarvin Kayute, 23John McGillis, born 1921Thomas Merritt, 19Lloyd Peterson, born 1917Robert Stuart, born 1920Eldon Wallinder, 19 Eleven miles from the German border, in the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, sit the neighboring burial crosses that mark the graves belonging to brothers Theodore and Joseph Beardsley of Duluth.Killed in World War II roughly seven months apart, the two men never married or sired any children.A nephew, living in a small, patriotically decorated apartment housed in what once was the Gary-New Duluth Hotel, is one of the last remaining Beardsley relatives to know anything about the brothers.He sat among his cats earlier this month and recalled what he could of his uncles."My dad grieved all his life after he lost his two brothers," said Bob Beardsley, 69, talking about his father, Roy.Roy was the youngest of the three sons born to Leonard and Almeada Beardsley. The boys grew up on tiny Ramsey Street in West Duluth. They were close, and they saw it all - the Great Depression, the war."We served," said Bob Beardsley, who himself did three tours in the Vietnam War. "That's how we were raised as kids."Like Bob, the brothers were tall - all more than 6 feet. He recalled from his dad that Joe came home on leave for what would be his final visit several weeks before the historic invasion of Normandy in June 1944 that would take Theodore's life. Joe's ominous words during that visit home are part of family lore." 'Don't let them ship us home,' " Bob recalled, having heard the story from his late father.Though the brothers were disinterred before reaching their final resting places, they never left the European theater.Beardsley visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten several years ago, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled the visit as being among of the best days of his life, saying of the cemetery, "It's immaculate."Finding the BeardsleysThe first email to the News Tribune about the Beardsley brothers arrived March 7. It was from Terry Hirsch of Indianapolis. She wanted to know if the newspaper would be interested in writing about the brothers in hopes of securing their photos.Among the 8,301 Americans buried and 1,722 listed among the missing in action, only a portion of the soldiers featured photos in an elaborate Internet database called "Fields of Honor" that Dutch volunteers have created to identify and connect with their liberators."I know this may not be a typical story you would cover," Hirsch wrote. "But I think after hearing of the relationship between the Beardsley brothers and the Dutch people, your readers might be able to help."Hirsch signed the email, "Just a volunteer."With an interest in World War II history, Hirsch was smitten with both the pastoral beauty of the Margraten cemetery and the Dutch people's effort to investigate and learn about each and every soldier buried there.She took particular interest in the 40 sets of brothers buried at Margraten and set about researching the Internet for photos."What struck me about the Beardsleys is that one was (first) buried at Normandy overlooking Utah Beach and the other 12 miles from Germany," Hirsch said in a recent telephone interview. "There were 600 kilometers between them. Someone had gone to such work to bury them next to each other."That someone, she learned, was the Quartermaster Corps, a logistics branch of the U.S. Army that set about reducing 50 or 60 temporary graveyards throughout the European theater to less than a quarter of that. Roughly 60 percent of exhumed American soldiers were sent home - a process called "repatriation" - and the others were permanently laid to rest in overseas American military cemeteries that remain operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. At Margraten, some 3,000 German soldiers had to be exhumed in order to create exclusivity for the American soldiers."What a job," Hirsch said. "It started in 1947 (and lasted) until 1951. It's an amazing part of the war, if you think about it."An astute researcherAfter a quick check for photos with Bob Beardsley and another relative turned up empty, the search to find images of the Beardsley brothers continued. On April 11, Karen Smoley of the Twin Ports Genealogical Society surfaced with an email.Smoley is the research chairperson for the society, and this spring she has been updating the local library's obituary index. She logs names, dates, the name of the newspaper and which page number an obituary appeared on, so that people can swiftly access an obituary on microfilm rather than scrolling through one paper after another.She responded to a News Tribune inquiry about the brothers within 48 hours, producing their obits and their obituary photos - Joseph's in the Duluth Herald and Theodore's in the then-hyphenated Duluth News-Tribune.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2566109","attributes":{"alt":"Theodore Beardsley","class":"media-image","height":"300","title":"","width":"187"}}]]"I just love looking through old newspapers," the 74-year-old Smoley said.Smoley spent three years in Germany earlier in her life as what she called "a dependent wife in the Army." She recalled that time, in the 1970s, as being an eye-opener for her. The Baader-Meinhof Gang - later known as the Red Army Faction - was terrorizing Germany, including American military installations. She was living in a big military housing area, and bombs had gone off in Frankfurt and Stuttgart."When the gang said they were going to plant a bomb (on the base), the concertina wire went up immediately around the housing area," she said. "It was really scary."While there, Smoley visited the concentration camp at Dachau. She was struck at the number of political prisoners who had been contained there - how neighbors could turn in neighbors who had not been sympathetic to the Nazi cause.It's different, she said, from anything we've experienced in the United States, which has yet to see a protracted invasion on its soil apart from the Revolutionary War.
"We, Americans, we've never seen an open war in this country - like the things they've faced in Europe," she said. "The feeling in Europe is different."It's a feeling that resonates with a 23-year-old Dutch student by the name of Sebastiaan Vonk - a feeling he carries with him generations beyond World War II.As the precocious chairman of the Netherlands' United Supporters of American War Graves Foundation, he has made a pastime of learning all he can about Margraten's war dead."Everyone has his own interests, and what I do is not very common, I guess," he said in a telephone interview with the News Tribune. "But on our team we have about five or six people the same age as I am."Reverence for liberatorsVonk recalled adopting his first grave in Margraten at age 13 or 14 as what started out as a general interest in WWII.Vonk and Hirsch explained that all of the graves in Margraten are adopted by people from the Netherlands, with a waiting list of more than 300. The Dutch people started looking after the soldiers immediately after the war and have been doing so for the 71 years since it ended.Families, school classes, businesses and more have adopted the marble gravestones with the understanding that they will visit on occasion, supply fresh flowers and, when possible, provide additional research for the database. Some adopters correspond with their soldiers' families. Some people visit the gravesites as often as every day, saluting and bowing. The caretaking of the cemetery has been featured in a documentary short film and in the Washington Post. An event earlier this month that was tied to the database saw more than 25,000 visitors come to the cemetery to see the "Faces of Margraten" - in which Vonk and the other caretakers affixed as many photos of the soldiers next to their gravestones as possible.The Beardsleys photos were not secured in time to be a part of the event, but they were immediately posted onto the Fields of Honor online database and will be presented graveside at the next such event in 2018.Vonk has been to the United States to visit with families of two soldiers whose graves he has adopted. The pull to their history only gets stronger as he grows older - especially now that he is about the age many of the soldiers were when they died."You start to think about, 'What if I had lived during that time?' " he said. "I didn't have to be sent overseas to fight in places I'd never heard of. I'm fortunate and I don't take it for granted."Duluth's ties to MargratenA search by Terry Hirsch yielded 11 soldiers buried in Margraten who were born in Duluth; several of the men also had Duluth listed as their hometown. All the men can be researched in greater depth at the Fields of Honor database at fieldsofhonor-database.com. Joseph Beardsley, 23Theodore Beardsley, 25James Boget, 30John Davis, 20Robert Doyle, unknownMarvin Kayute, 23John McGillis, born 1921Thomas Merritt, 19Lloyd Peterson, born 1917Robert Stuart, born 1920Eldon Wallinder, 19

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