Long Island National Cemetery is located in the community of Farmingdale on Long Island in Suffolk County, N.Y. Establishment of the cemetery in 1936 reflected one aspect of the rapid urbanization of American society in the post-World War I period. With nearly five million veterans of that conflict alone eligible for interment in a national cemetery, it was evident that existing facilities in the vicinity of large urban areas were insufficient. The situation was particularly critical in New York City and its environs. The only federal cemetery in the area, Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, established in 1862, had limited acreage available for burials. In response, in 1936 Congress authorized the Secretary of War to purchase suitable land to enlarge the existing cemetery. After considerable research and numerous site investigations, the War Department instead purchased 175 acres from Pinelawn Cemetery for the construction and development of a new national cemetery.
The lack of available gravesites in Cypress Hills National Cemetery made it necessary to develop the new facility rapidly, and the land was sufficiently cleared to permit the first burials in March 1937. Moreover, between March and November that year, a total of 426 interments were made. During its first eight years, Long Island National Cemetery held 10,167 interments.
The section of the cemetery containing World War II POWs includes the graves of 37 Germans and 54 Italians. The remains of the 36 unknown Italian POWs are interred in a single mass grave; they were among 1,800 prisoners onboard a British ship en route from northeast to northwest Algeria when a torpedo struck the ship. Many prisoners confined in the holds were injured, killed outright or drowned. The initial search of the ship failed to locate all casualties, and after the ship returned to the United States, remains of another 36 prisoners were recovered.
(Source: Long Island National Cemetery)