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Woman works to identify soldiers buried in distant Dutch cemetary

ST. PAUL (AP) — When it comes to war, it’s a small world.

What began as a search for the missing B-17 “Flying Fortress” co-pilot of an infamously ill-fated World War II bombing raid reunited distant family members from Minnesota and Germany.

Throw in a Dutch researcher who was determined to lay the small-town rumors of the airman’s mysterious fate to rest, and you had a tale titillating enough to garner some German media attention.

But the search’s tragic end — it’s believed the airman fell through a propeller as his plane broke apart and he plummeted to the ground — isn’t even the point anymore.

The search has driven the Minnesota daughter of one of the airman’s fellow crew members to search for what happened to other service members just like him — “faceless” soldiers and airmen, buried with oft-times little known about them other than the day they died and the county they lived in.

Including 17 “faceless” Minnesotans buried in a distant Dutch cemetery.

“I just have their counties, I don’t even have their town,” said Peggy Linrud of Edina, who’s been calling counties for months, trying to track them.

And that suits the Dutch just fine. In fact, memorial officials are hoping for more information about the 8,301 service members interred in their Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten. They want information — and more important, they want faces for the names, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

What you have to understand about the Dutch attitude toward those graves is how fought over they are.

A drive to get people to “adopt” the gravesites years ago met with wild success. They now have a hundreds-strong waiting list of citizens, schools and community groups wanting to care for at least one of them.

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