October 18, 2017

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Dutch American Friendship Day

On the picture Mr. Robert Kingman,  Acting USA Deputy Chief of Mission and  Mr. Jons van Dooren, President of SHAK.

By John Dunkelgrün.

Yearly on the 19th of April the U.S. Embassy jointly with OAR (Overseas Americans Remember) host a reception at the Residence to mark Dutch-American Friendship Day.

This special day was established in 1982 by a special law HJ 410 which was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Reagan. The initiative for this law was taken by “Americans Overseas Remember” and the law was drafted on the kitchen table of the indefatigable Roberta Enschede, who also initiated events like the “ Presidents Breakfast” in the Kurhaus, the Martin Luther King Dinner and the special Thanksgiving Service in the Pieterskerk, in Leiden.

Mrs Roberta Enschede, American Overseas Remember.

Why is there a Dutch-American Friendship Day? This was explained by Mrs. Enschede and by Mr. Robert Kingman,  Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, who stood in for Mr. Crowley, who was unwell. Warren, an ASH senior read the text of the law.

The Netherlands is not only the country with the longest diplomatic ties to The United States, but it was also the first one to recognise the new republic. John Adams was the first ambassador to The Dutch Republic in 1782 and the house he bought in The Hague was the very first Embassy the U.S. owned.

It is tradition that on this day the U.S. Embassy hands a certificate of appreciation to a person or organisation that has significantly promoted Dutch-American Friendship.

This year the honour went to the “Foundation of the Commemoration of the American Christmas 1944” (SHAK).

In the bitterly cold winter of 1944 American troops from various units of the 9th Army were bivouaced near the Southern city of Maastricht. Brothers of the Immaculate Conception Order wanted to make the men, who were mostly very young, feel at home.

The SHAK group.

They organised a Christmas Mass with coffee and doughnuts. In order to make the service safe and without interruptions by air raid alarms, the service was held in a deep cave, called the Schark.

After the service, the soldiers wrote their names in charcoal of the walls of this cave. Shortly thereafter most of them were sent to the Ardennes to join the Battle of the Bulge. Many never made it home.

Mr. Jons van Dooren, President of SHAK gave a moving speech in which he explained that the Foundation organises a yearly commemorative Christmas Mass and makes a major effort to locate and inform the families of the soldiers who were present in 1944. For more information you may go to www.shak.org

The reception was an animated affair with some 150 Dutch, American and Dutch-American participants.

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