Former Dutch airman buried in Mississippi on Memorial Day

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More than a half century after training in Mississippi, a former Dutch military pilot was buried Monday near his comrades in Cedar Lawn Cemetery in near downtown Jackson.

Capt. Hermon Arens died on Oct. 22, 2005, and his family struggled to win approval to have his remains buried in the cemetery because he did not lose his life in combat.

“This is where he wanted to be,” his widow, Ans Arens of Morgantown, W.Va., said after participating in the interment of her husband and the annual Memorial Day ceremony honoring The Dutch Flyers of World War II.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

His ashes were buried with full military honors in the cemetery where 26 Dutch airmen and 14 other family members have been laid to rest.

Hermon Arens was among roughly 800 Dutch aviators and instructors who arrived in Jackson on May 27, 1942, as part of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School training at Hawkins Field in exile after the Germans overran Holland during WW II. The first of those airmen lost their lives in training exercises, and the city of Jackson deeded the plot in Cedar Lawn Cemetery to the Dutch government for their burial.

Several years ago, when Ans Arens and her husband were visiting the cemetery, she said Herman Arens looked down at the graves and told her, “I want to be buried here.”

Ans Arens faced challenges in trying to honor her husband’s request after he died.

She was turned down more than once by the Dutch embassy, which told her only those who died in combat could be buried there. Finally, their daughter, Dr. Gwen Emery of Morgantown, W.Va., contacted the superintendent of the cemetery. He referred her to retired Lt. Col. William Sanders of Jackson, who helped get approval for the burial.

Sanders has made it his mission to honor the memory of the foreign-born war veterans buried on U.S. soil. He is on the cemetery committee of the American Legion Post 1, which assumed the duty of looking after the burial plot for the Dutch pilots.