The Faces of Margraten: A Photo Project of WWII… our American Soldiers
I first learned of this project from genealogy blogger Heather Wilkinson Rojo as she shared a post on the Faces of Margraten project… asking her fellow bloggers for help in the search for missing photos… of those who gave their life during World War II.
Heathers’s ask for help grabbed at my heart as I lost my uncle, Leroy Edgar McKinley, on February 15, 1945 in Metze, Hesse, Germany. He was one of those boys… who never came home to his family… but at his mother’s request, his body was returned for a family burial… otherwise he would have been buried alongside these young men. Before his body was returned after the war, he had been interred on foreign soil… awaiting his final return home.
All those who died in WWII, gave their lives at a heavy price as they fought to liberate our allies. Many of those young boys were laid to rest in their final graves on foreign soil… never to return home. This project is to honor all with a photograph at gravestone, in the Netherlands American Cemetery Margraten… giving them all a face. On this 75th anniversary, they have already found over 6000 photographs through the years, but they are continuing their search for almost another 4000 faces… and asking for “your” help.
The American War Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten is the sole U.S. war cemetery in the Netherlands. It is the final resting place of 8,301 U.S. WWII soldiers, of whom many died during Operation Market Garden in September 1944 or during the Allied push into Nazi-Germany.
While there are many other projects and events going on as we commemorate this anniversary… it was Heather’s post on The Faces of Margraten which caught my interest to help in searching for a photo of the 7 Connecticut boys… and putting a face to their name!
7 Names without a face
As I live in Connecticut, I began searching for the 7 names I found on the map for my state. I googled, searched through Ancestry, and messaged the owners of trees I found him listed on… but came up empty handed, and frustrated. I discovered very little information on these young men… and “no” photographs! Even though I didn’t turn up a photo to submit… I discovered a bit of their life which I’m sharing in hopes that their names, might lead someone to find me.
- Warner Raymond Wheat was born Sept. 20, 1917 in Lempster, N.H. to parents George and Cecelia (Mansfield) Warner. At some point he, or the family, moved to Connecticut as that was where he registered for the Army.. he was then residing in Bethel, Fairfield Co., CT. Warner was killed on March 24, 1945 and buried in Eijsden-Margraten Municipality Limburg, Netherlands… Plot P, Row 10, Grave 6.
- Joseph R. Zilinsky was born in 1921 to parents Anthony and Amelia Zilinsky of Naugatuck, New Haven County, CT… with siblings of Mary, George and John. The Zilinsky family emigrated from Lithuania in 1905 and lived in towns of Waterbury and later Naugatuck… while working as a carpenter. Sargent Joseph Zilinsky was killed on Nov. 30, 1944 in Weiz, Kreis Duren, Nordrhein – Westfalen, Germany and buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten in Plot P, Row 8, Grave 3. He was attached to the 407th Inf., 102nd Div. and received the Purple Heart posthumously. Joseph was the first one I searched for and as I read how he was a redhead… I felt a connection to search him out even more because I have red headed granddaughters. Sadly I came up empty handed on my search.
- Anthony Stanley Sledzik was born on January 17, 1920 to parents Frank and Catherine (Petrous) Sledzik… with siblings of Mary, theresa and Stanley; he resided in Middletown, Middlesex Co., CT. Private Sledzik was killed on Aug. 25, 1945 and was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten in Plot H, Row 11, Grave 5.
- James O. Wilson was born Dec. 10, 1914 in New London, CT. to parents Arthur and Lila (O’Leary) Wilson. Private First Class registered for the draft on Oct. 16, 1940. Census search showed that James was the stepson of Arthur Wilson… only later taking his last name; in the 1920 census he and his brother were referred with the surname O’Leary, but by 1930 he was listed with Wilson as a last name. James was killed on Nov. 11, 1944 and awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters.
- Dwight K. Shurtleff was born in 1919 in Willimantic, Windham County, CT. to parents Dwight K. and Mary R. Shurtleff; before entering the service he married Wilma S. Inerson. Corporal Shurtleff was attached to the 833rd Bomber Squadron, 486th Bomber Group, Heavy. He was a waist gunner on “The Last Roundup”, where his plane was shot down on his first mission out. His name is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Margraten. Corporal Shurtleff, along with his entire squadron were all listed as MIA.
- Jack Urso was born on Nov. 15, 1916 to parents Joseph and Mary (DeFilippo) Urso of Hartford County, CT. He married Antoinette Orgento on Nov. 9, 1940. Private 1st Class Urso registered for the draft on Oct 29, 1943, and was killed on April 5, 1945. He is buried in Plot B, Row 2, Grave 8 in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten. Jack left behind siblings of Frank, Sebastian, Antonio and Thomas, and a daughter Jacqueline. (My first thought was… did he ever have the chance to meet his daughter?)
- William Zilinck Jr. was born in 1919, Fayette Co. Pa, to parents of William C. and Irene M. (Hraska) Zilinck… with siblings of Milan and Ralph. Private First Class Zilinck was attached to the 120th Infantry, 30th Div. He registered for the draft while living in Litchfield Co., CT. PFC Zilinck was killed on Nov. 28, 1944, and is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten in Plot F, Row 20, Grave 14… received posthumously the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
If you would like to join in on this quest… you can find a map here to discover soldiers in your community who do not yet have a photo.
If you would like to read more:
- The Faces of Margraten Project: https://www.thefacesofmargraten.com/
- Map of missing faces: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1NC1TYwN4hwupauFU-pHubB2I_r_tGX8X&fbclid=IwAR2pfMANJrieF60Tq5hxsabAKVP-wRc4kapLfqcn__l2UlZgl7kCxGAp8SU&ll=41.66178384484489%2C-106.02096868310753&z=4
- To Submit a Face: https://www.thefacesofmargraten.com/index.php/en-US/submit-photo/foxcontact
- American Battle Monuments Commission: https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/netherlands-american-cemetery (I remember looking at this page when I researched my uncle… as I had learned that his body was not immediately shipped home until much later after the war ended. If my grandparents had not requested his body to be shipped home, he would have buried in one of the battle cemeteries listed on this site.)
Thank You Heather Wilkinson Rojo for bringing this to my attention!
To read more WWII Stories… click HERE.
© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved