A downed plane, a Dutch village and the art of remembering

Opijnen, the Netherlands, OT

One community has kept alive the memory of eight American airmen for 75 years.
In the Dutch village of Opijnen (oh-PIE-nin), population 1200, little has changed over the last 75 years. There are no stores, one church with a small cemetery to the side. This is also the final resting place for eight of the B-17F bomber crew who died July 30, 1943.
From the crew of 10, only the pilot, 2nd Lt. Keene C. McCammon, and co-pilot 2nd Lt.John Bruce survived. Both had parachuted to safety just prior to the fatal crash.
"The graves are arranged in a line, neither alphabetically nor by rank. From left to right: George Richard Krueger; Mike Anthony Perrotta; Daniel Victor Ohman; Hermon Daines Poling; Harold Royce Sparks; Robert Urquhart Duggan; Douglas Victor Blackwood; and Americo Cianfichi. Reading their names and birthplaces — North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, California, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin — offers a glimpse at the ethnic and geographic breadth of the U.S. Army that fought together in World War II. Most piercing is their youth. Doing the math from their listed birthdays died, respectively, aged 25, 22, 25, 21, 21, 21, 24, 27."
Only through furious letter writing and petitioning the government from the slain airmen were the bodies of the eight men allowed to remain in Opijnen. Outside of one vast U.S. military cemetery farther south, the tiny churchyard in Opijnen is the only place in the Netherlands where American airmen who perished as a crew in that country during World War II are buried as they died — side by side.

(Credit to Richard Woodward. The Washington Post Magazine)

« Previous story
Next story »