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Missing in action; soldier photos

By Staff | Feb 25, 2018

There is a beautiful piece of hallowed ground located near the small rural town of Margraten in the Netherlands.

And, it has an interesting connection to Faribault County. Please keep reading to find out what that connection is.

Nestled among the grain fields and orchards is a large U.S. military cemetery. Its official name is Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. There are 8,301 American servicemen buried there.

All these American soldiers and airmen were killed during air operations over Germany and Allied military campaigns in Europe starting in September, 1944, and continuing forward.

At one time there were over 16,000 servicemen brought to Margraten and buried in temporary graves. Many were brought home, but just over half of them still remain there.

And, from the moment the first American was buried there, the local Dutch people placed flowers on these graves of their liberators, an act which they have never stopped doing. The graves were adopted by local families and the honorable duty passed on from generation to generation.

Every single one of the 8,301 graves and 1,722 names of missing in action listed on a wall at the cemetery have been adopted.

The local Dutch citizens are not the only people who are making sure these soldier heroes are not forgotten.

Minnesota-based Medtronics operates the Bakken Research Center in Maastricht, just a few miles away from Margraten and the cemetery.

A few years back the employees of this Medtronics facility in the Netherlands volunteered to place Minnesota state flags on the graves of the 140 soldiers from Minnesota who are buried at the Margraten cemetery.

And, they have been doing it for every Memorial Day in May ever since. The flags came from the office of the governor of Minnesota.

Now there is a new initiative involving the cemetery at Margraten and Medtronics.

According to Joek Hulsmann, a manager at the Medtronics Bakken Research Center, the goal is to find a photo for every U.S. soldier resting at Margraten Military Cemetery. And currently they have found photos for about half of all those who are buried there, or are among the missing in action listed on the wall.

Hulsmann says they have joined with their colleagues in Minneapolis to find a photo for every one of the 140 soldiers from our state who are buried at Margraten.

Now for the connection to all of us. Four of those Minnesota soldiers whom they do not have photos for are from Faribault County.

Hulsmann wonders if we can help him get some type of photograph for each one of the four.

We said we would try to help.

The four include Rueben Bernhard Albert Burmeister. He was killed on May 17, 1945.

Burmeister is the only one of the four that Hulsmann has any background information on. The soldier was born in 1919 in Waseca and his father was August Gottlieb Erdman Burmeister and his mother was Alice Alma Tolzmann Burmeister. He was a Technician Fifth Class.

The other three don’t have that much information. All were private first class. There is Kenneth H. Madetzke, killed April 7, 1945; Ervin A. Sandness, killed on March 24, 1945; and James W. Scott, killed on May 17, 1945, the same day as Rueben Burmeister.

If you know who these men were, or are related to them, or know someone who is, let us know.

We will try and gather up photos of the four, scan them and send them off to the Netherlands to be included in this big project, which has been named “The Faces of Margraten 2018.”

There is a slight sense of urgency to this project.

The goal is to have a photo on every grave marker and next to every name on the wall during the Dutch Memorial Day.

That date is May 4, and the plan is to put up the photos every other year. Two years ago there were photos for nearly half of all the names of soldiers in the cemetery.

Last year no photos were put up, so this is the year to do it once again.

So, if you know anything about these four heroes from Faribault County who are buried in the Netherlands, the time to speak up is now.

Call (507) 526-7324 and ask for Chuck or email me at chunt@faribaultcountyregister.com.

And, of course, I will keep you all updated on any and all responses we get to this very intriguing request.