Arlington National Military Cemetery – Virginia, reserved for American servicemen of the United States of America, but there is a South African soldier buried in the cemetery. He was “discovered” in 1981.
For nearly 50 years World War II soldier Lieutenant Victor Potgieter lay unacknowledged in a common grave in the U.S, until his family learned of his whereabouts in 1981.
The fate of Lt. V. Potgieter, who grew up in Carolina, Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) and attended Wits University before volunteering for active service in 1940, what happened to him remained a mystery for half a century. He went missing in 1944 and his family in South Africa did not know his fate until 1981 when they read a newspaper article about an unknown soldier named Potgieter who lay unaccounted for in the United States; in their most revered military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
The lieutenant’s brother, Ben Potgieter of Arcadia, told the Pretoria News in 1993 that he believed his brother was involved in a clandestine operation when his plane was shot down and crashed in Greece.”Victor was home on leave from Egypt two months before his death,” Ben Potgieter was quoted as saying. “He told me he had volunteered for a mission and he would be photographing bridges there were to blow up.”When Victor Potgieter was first brought to the United States, all the authorities knew was his name. He was not registered as being on a mission in the area with any army. With no other leads, his headstone was marked as a British soldier.
Corrections have since been made to the headstone by the authorities at Arlington and Victor Potgieter is now correctly identified as a South African.
Rest in Peace Lt Potgieter, a part of Arlington will forever be South African.