Battlefield Tour and the Liberation Museum

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

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Where I stayed

Flag of Netherlands  , Gelderland,
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Today was a great day.  We spent the day touring the battlefield of Operation Market Garden.  After breakfast we headed out for tours of the battlefield.  To answer Bob's question on this site, there really is little damage from the war.  The town has really grown in size since then and there is quite a bit that is here now that was not here during the liberation.  But when you get outside of Nijmegen you begin to see the countryside that looks like what I envision Holland to look like.  Small homes with thatched roofs and that red slate roof that you see in pictures.  We spent the morning on the bus visiting different drop zones of the 508th, 505th and various bridges that were important during the battle.  After a short drive we visited the Liberation Museum.  It is a gorgeous small museum that explains what the Netherlands went through during the Nazi Occupation,  which lasted for 4 years, the liberation which began with the parachute landings in September of 1944 on through the end of the war and the rebuilding of the Netherlands after the war.  It included actual artifacts from prior occupation, occupation and liberation.  A number of items geared to the Airborne but also included a jeep.

I took quite a few photos and I will post pictures of the museum for all of you.  The last part of the museum was  the Hall of Honor.  It is a round room that includes the names of all that gave their life for the taking back of the Netherlands.  A pretty sombering place.

As I sat in that hall I struck up a conversation with Daryl Whitfield.  He was a 505 vet with the 82nd.  As we talked and he shared some stories about his time in the service, including telling me about him being in combat right here in Holland, a weird feeling came over me that many of the men I am with were right here, during combat and saw many of their friends killed and wounded right here where I am walking.  Wow!  Cannot get that opportunity with Civil War vets anymore.  And it made me realize why we need to hear their stories and we need to hear them now.

As I talked to Daryl, I realized that I am talking to a man with 4 jump stars on his wings.  Sicily,  Salerno, Normandy and Holland.  Imagine surviving 4 combat jumps.  And I am sitting here with this man.  Just hard to believe.  Hard to believe.

We left the museum for lunch in Groesbeek.  A very nice restaurant but we ate a weird meal.  It was a croquet filled with this weird meat.  It looked like a piece of poop but actually tasted pretty good.  Sorry about that, but true.

After lunch we headed out to see even more drop zones of the 504th   We stopped to visit the old city wall and tour the park that was there.  We walked through the park to a old building that was built in 1150 and part of it was still standing.  Part of it was recycled from an old Roman building and they  used an old Roman Column.  The City of Nijmegen was first started by the Romans and was part of the Roman Empire.  Over here, things are 1000's of years old as compared in the states, they are 100's of years old.  It is pretty incredible. 

When I returned to the bus, Daryl said to me that "I fought up this way through the town and when the battle ended I ended up in this park.  Over on this intersection was a German 88mm gun that kept us occupied until it was taken out."  Holy Cow!  He was here crawling through a slit trench ducking an 88mm.  Holy Cow!   Amazing.

After we left the park, we headed out of town to the Grave Bridge.  This bridge was used by Allied troops as a main way to get heavy armor into Nijmegen.  Mr. Howard Comstock, who was with us and jumped with the 504th, told us that he landed on the south side of the bridge, the side we were on and assaulted the bridge against  heavy machine gun fire.  The 504th took the bridge and held it.

I also saw the drop zones of the 504th and I have a picture of a home where a 504 vet went through the thatched roof and landed on the dinner table where the family was eating Sunday afternoon meal.  Daryl, the comic spoke up and asked how much food the trooper  got.  Always a comedian.

After leaving the bridge we stopped at a memorial to a temporary grave site of over 600 allied troops that had been buried in that spot but have since been removed.

By this time it was after 6pm and we needed to head to the hotel for dinner.  Another long day but very worthwhile.  

Tomorrow...............Belgium and Bastogne.
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