Operation Market Garden

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Jun 11, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Netherlands  , Gelderland,
Thursday, May 28, 2009

After the confusion at the airport in Brussels, we all hopped on a bus and headed to Nijmegen.  It was about a 2-3 hours bus ride.  The ride was pretty uneventful other than I sat next to a gentleman from F Co. 506th.  A very nice gentleman.

The countryside was not quite as I pictured.  It was very modern to me.  I guess I had in my mind that Europe would not be modern, but not sure why I felt that way.  We did see quite a few of the curved red slate rooftops though which was kind if cool.  We  arrived at the hotel and the buses were told to park in a place that I think was designed for a car the size of a Volkswagen--and they did.

Upon arrival we had the chance to check in to the rooms and relax for a few minutes before lunch.  Ron was not feeling very well, a headache from the cabin pressure on the plane, so he stayed in the room while we ate lunch.  It was very good, consisting of a vegetable soup and some meats and cheeses.  Seemed typical of a lunch similar to that in Guatemala (where I was last month).

After lunch we headed to a local elementary school.  The name of the school is Osterbeek which means "The Crossing".  The reason is that it is located within a mile or so of the Waal River Crossing Battlefield.  It was here that the 504th, primarily, used canvas boats to cross the Waal River to attack and hold the town of Nijmegen. The school was waiting for these veterans.  They had formed a long line on both sides of the entrance of the school and clapped and yelled at their arrival.  As we exited the bus, we all were welcomed with open arms.  I wheeled Len Keck into the the school in his wheelchair as he shook hands with all the children on his way in.  Other vets handed out gum and candy the children.  They really appreciated the arrival of these guys.  I was glad I was wearing sunglasses for it brought tears to my eyes.

They had a short presentation for the vets that included reading some poems they wrote, a play, and singing of both the US National Anthem and the Dutch National Anthem.  The vets responded with applause and much gratitude.  We then had some light refreshments and went on our way to the Memorial dedicated to the 82nd men that participated in the Waal River Crossing.  

The monument is located along a long dike that sits about 30 feet higher than any ground around it or along it.  We were told that the Germans used the dike as a place to man machine guns for it provided them a clear field of fire along the river when the crossing took place.  It was obvious to me and the others that it was like walking into hell for the troopers.

We listened to Frank Van Luntern as he talked about the battle and the importance of it.  We also crossed the bridge that was built by the Germans when they invaded Holland after the Dutch blew up the original bridge.  This bridge was the bridge that the British armour went across and was ordered to stay put and not proceed to Arnhem.  Such history here.  As I crossed the bridge on our bus I saw a man on a bicycle cross the bridge and I wondered if he knew what happened here and how many men lost their lives for this river crossing.

I snapped quite a few pictures of the bridge, the monument, the dike and the power station that General Gavin used to survey the situation along the Waal River.  More later.
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