Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Gave Their All

View of American flag in recognition of Memorial Day.

Though Memorial Day is often highlighted by family gatherings and pre-summer barbecues, its purpose is to mark a day of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Flags will be placed around the U.S. in seas of green grass before the resting place of soldiers. Families will gather to honor their cherished loved ones. Communities will unite to recognize those who gave their all. This Memorial Day, we honor and remember fallen service members of the U.S. military and also reflect on moments when Holland America Line was called to serve.

The First World War

Though the Netherlands was neutral in World War I, there was no way to escape it. Passenger ships navigating the seas had to disguise their vessels to the best of their ability to reduce the risk of being spotted by U-boat commanders. Despite those efforts, some of the ships among Holland America Line’s fleet were directly impacted. Noorderdijk and Zaandijk sank after being torpedoed. Oosterdijk was involved in a collision and sank shortly after. Statendam, taken as a troopship by the British military, was torpedoed in 1918. Mines were also a threat. Noordam hit a mine twice while navigating the seas.

Throughout the war, Holland America Line lost six ships and 13 employees.

View of soldiers aboard Holland America Line ship used as a troopship during World War II.
Soldiers aboard Holland America Line ship that was converted to a troopship during World War II. 

The Second World War

During the first few months of World War II, the Netherlands hoped to stay neutral. However, on May 10, 1940, Germany invaded and brought heavy fighting to and around Rotterdam. Statendam, Veendam, and the Holland America Line cargo ship, Boschdvk, were irreparably damaged. The bustling harbor had become a devastating sight to gaze upon.

After the invasion, multiple Holland America Line passenger ships were converted to troopships. Noordam, which was designed for 125 passengers, began carrying nearly 2,300 troops. Nieuw Amsterdam carried almost 9,000. By the time World War II ended, Holland America Line had lost 264 team members and 16 ships.

Months later, Nieuw Amsterdam sailed back to Rotterdam to a crowd of 600,000 people waving, cheering and welcoming her with open arms. Though the marks of war were noticeable as people gazed upon the vessel, she was finally home.

It’s for their home and love of country that so many members of the U.S. military have made the ultimate sacrifice. To those who gave their all – and to their loving families – we remember and honor you today.


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