Returning from a bombing raid of Germany’s Ruhr Valley in 1944, American pilot James M. Hansen’s fighter plane ran into trouble and crashed. James was killed instantly. The Allies, who buried him in the temporary American military cemetery in the village of Molenhoek near the Dutch city of Nijmegen, placed this wooden cross on his grave.
Then in 1947 a cemetery in the Dutch village of Margraten was designated as the permanent burial ground for fallen American soldiers.
The rest of the temporary American cemeteries were shut down. And just like thousands of other American soldiers, James M. Hansen’s body was reburied in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.
Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
The wooden cross stayed behind in Molenhoek, only to be discovered by chance in 1990. The ground of the Margraten cemetery was donated in perpetuity to the United States by the Dutch government, as an expression of reverence and gratitude.
Thank you Sir for sacrificing your life so I could live mine in freedom. RIP.