By SSG Dillon HeyligerDecember 8, 2017
FORT BRAGG, N.C., November 30, 2017 -- Each November, U.S. Soldiers and German military liaisons assigned to units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, remember eight foreign soldiers with a graveside wreath laying ceremony. This year, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command hosted the memorial, Nov. 30, 2017.
During World War II, Fort Bragg served as a prisoner of war camp housing between two and three-thousand foreign soldiers at the height of its activity, according to the North Carolina Museum of History. Although it originally opened in 1942, it was temporarily shut down then re-opened as a permanent camp in 1944. By the spring of 1946, most foreign prisoners of war were sent back to Europe and POW camps were closed.
Many prisoners worked on the installation helping to develop roads and local farmland. According to the U.S. National Archive lists recorded by the Office of the Quartermaster General, five POW's housed on Fort Bragg and three from other North Carolina military installations passed away, due to disease and work related accidents. They were laid to rest at the Fort Bragg Main Post Cemetery.
Their gravestones sit 10 feet offset from American markers as required by Army regulation. Six of the soldiers were of German decent, one of Austrian decent, and one of Yugoslavian decent.
Lt. Col. Markus Stobbe, USASOC German liaison officer, reflected on the post-war changes between Germany and America in the last seven decades.
"Times change and so former enemies became allies and friends," he said. "American and Germany soldiers fight together with many other allies side by side."
Stobbe noted that while these eight soldiers found themselves on the wrong side of the war, fighting for an unjust political purpose, they none-the-less offered their lives in service to their countries.
"As soldiers, whether on active duty or retired, we understand best that those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country should always be honored and never be forgotten."
This year marks the 16th such service to remember these fallen troops.
The ceremony date coincides with Germany's annual national memorial observances that honor not only fallen soldiers but also victims of war and those who lost their lives due to race, religion or political belief.