Marstal Cemetery - Jack E. Wagner -  Marstal 2021                      På dansk                  Updated: 03 SEP 2021 

The burial, 11 July, 1944  

“People in Marstal did not really know when the perished airman was to be buried. When a grave was dug in the cemetery on Monday, there were indications that it was for the airman, so a number of citizens gathered as early as 4 a.m. (on 11 July, 1944) at the cemetery.

At about 5 a.m. the Germans arrived accompanied by the local police officer. Even if the Danish early risers split up in small groups when the Germans arrived, the Germans of course wondered why there were so many people in the cemetery so early in the day. The police officer answered that residents of Marstal were very fond of visiting the cemetery early in the morning.

When the Germans lowered the coffin into the grave, they discovered a Danish flag at the bottom of the grave, beautifully made of flowers.

The same day before noon the vicar held prayers at the grave, which during the day was covered with a sea of flowers in red, white and blue colours, so that a
Stars and Stripes” appeared.

Autumn 1944

During the autumn of 1944 an American newspaper brought a report that Mrs. Dorothy Wagner of
Selinsgrove (Pennsylvania) had received a letter from Denmark with information about her husband´s burial in Marstal Cemetery. The letter contained a typed and a handwritten message and a photo of the decorated grave. The photo of Dorothy Wagner, which Sgt Wagner always carried, was also enclosed.

The letter writer in Marstal was Mrs Nathalia Mortensen. She had seen a carrier return from the coast with something covered on his wagon, so she assumed that it was the body of the airman known from rumours. Mrs Mortensen then called Dr Fenger, as she knew that there was to be a medical inspection of the body. The doctor reached the chapel of rest before the Germans came and got hold of a photo of a young girl and her address.

After the burial Mrs Mortensen wrote a letter to the address the doctor found. With some detours it was sent to Sweden and from there to USA by Captain Folmer of the cable steamer Eduard Suensson.” (FAF) (See also information about Mrs. Carla Pedersen in Karlslunde, who tended Keith W. Rainford´s grave.)

Gravestone unveiled on 21 September, 1944

”Although the Germans were still lording it in Denmark at the time, a gravestone was unveiled on the 21st. of September, 1944, Wagner´s twentieth birthday. On the same occasion a service was held at the instigation of KFUM, which corresponds to YMCA  of which Jack was a member. Through illegal channels information about the burial and the memorial service was sent to America and reached his family shortly after his death had been officially announced.

Jack Wagner was the twenty-sixth soldier from Snyder county to give his life in the Second World War but, as has been written from his home town, he is “the only one from here who has been honoured so beautifully by the underground movement in an enslaved Europe”.” (From “They died for us” by Kai Michelsen, 1946, from Ove Hermansen)


From the newspaper “Sunday Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., July 8, 1984” from Helge W. Gram:

In 1980 a sister, Doris Woll, now of Willow Grove, visited her brother´s grave and met Nathalia and Niels Mortensen. Woll found out that this kind Danish woman and her husband had cared for Wagner´s grave since the day he was buried. The couple went there on Saturday mornings to tend the flowers. Wagner´s sister also learned about the difficulty in obtaining the small American flags which were placed on the grave on Christmas, the airman´s birthday anniversary and May 20 every year. On her return, she started supplying them with the small flags.

The newspaper story in 1984 written by Dick Sarge had a small headline “Couple tended U.S. gunner´s grave for 40 years” and a large headline “Selinsgrove to honor 2 Danes”. The Philadelphia Veterans´ Advisory Commission had found out about Wagner´s grave. The director wrote to the mayor of Selinsgrove, urging that recognition be given by the borough to the Danish couple and their village.

Mayor Kenneth F. Mease was young together with Jack Wagner and said, “Jack was a very pleasant and amiable young man. I don´t ever remember a scowl or an unhappy look on Jack´s face, nor do I recall ever hearing him utter an unkind word toward anyone. His leadership qualities, his high moral standards and his concern for others gave him a strength of character that would have, undoubtedly, helped him become one of our outstanding citizens had he survived the war and returned to Selinsgrove.”

Selingrove Mayor Kenneth F. Mease has issued a proclamation designating July 11 – the 40th anniversary of Wagner´s burial in the village cemetery – as “Mortensen Day” and “a day of honor, gratitude and remembrance”.

The story of the grave in Marstal reached President Ronald Reagan, who invited Nathalia and Niels Mortensen to a memorial day in Washington, but they declined the invitation due to their old age – 80 and 84 in 1984!


In 2008 Jack E. Wagner´s grave in Marstal is still kept by Marstal Cemetery in the same way as the couple did it. They died many years ago!

Marstal 2021  See details about a wreath-laying ceremony and more.