By Raymond Ward, The New 411
At The Netherlands-American Cemetery in Margraten, there are 8,301 graves and 1,722 names on the Wall of the Missing. Of those fallen soldiers, 172 were African Americans. Little is known about them and in many cases there is not even a photograph. Dutch Public Historian Mieke Kirkels says, “We can’t change the fact that their service was not widely acknowledged, but we can honor them by telling who they were before and during the war.”
Dutch people have never forgotten the American soldiers who liberated them, and every grave and every name on the “Wall of the Missing” is adopted by a Dutch family participating in the “Adopt a Grave Program.” Over the years, Dutch families have contacted the families of service members whose graves they have adopted, but information on the African- American soldiers is negligible.
Some of the African Americans buried at Margraten are identified as: “Negro Infantry Volunteers.” In December 1944, troop shortages forced the U.S. Army to open-up the infantry to African Americans. About 2,200 “Negro Volunteers” were selected for infantry training. Thirty-seven African-American infantry platoons were added to the existing infantry and armored divisions in 1945.
The popular image of American World War II soldiers is of a white soldier but 990,000 African Americans served in the U.S. Army duringWorld War II. The website, blackliberators.nl is working with the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress to find relatives of soldiers, mementos, letters, and photos to complete the picture of their lives.
The names and serial numbers of eight soldiers from Illinois, five from Cook County, are listed below and perhaps someone might recognize a name, have a photograph, remember a story or even know a family member.
Name, Rank, Serial Number, Date of Death
Black, Napoleon, PVT, 36172390, Aug. 29, 1946
Chaney, R.D., PVT, 36390974, May 14, 1945
Garcia, J.W., PVT, 36797841, April 8, 1945
Hale, Thomas, PVT, 36388730, May 1, 1945
Lawrence, J.A., PFC, 36792315, April 8, 1945
Pitts, J. L.Jr., PFC, 36791402, March 21, 1945
Taylor, Caswell, PFC, 36794674, April 9, 1945
Williams, George, SGT, 36020365, Dec. 23, 1944
If you have any information on any of the above listed African-American soldiers who are buried at Margraten American Military Cemetery in the Netherlands contact Raymond Ward at the DuSable Museum of African American History. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com