|I took this panorama picture at the Grave Bridge. On the left is the building of the Van Sasse pumping station, in the middle is the bridge at Grave and on the right is the Thompson monument.|
Saturday June 23rd, 2018 participated in the Battlefield Tour
Nijmegen with the Association Friends of the Airborne Museum (VVAM).
It concerned the share of the American 82nd Airborne Division in
Operation Market Garden, which took place from 17 to 26 September
1944. The bridge of Arnhem and the perimeter of Oosterbeek are known
for their operation. The British 1st Airborne Division fought for
the possession of the bridge at Arnhem, where General John Frost led
his men in the attack on the bridge. The British landings took place
at Wolfheze and at the Ginkelse Heide, from where they went to
The conquest of the bridge at Arnhem failed and the British 1st
Airborne was forced into defence in the perimeter around Oosterbeek
by the increasing German pressure from the 9th and 10th SS
Panzerdivisions. Finally, the British were evacuated on the Rhine on
26 September 1944.
During this tour we received an explanation from our expert guide Erik Jellema about the operations of the 82nd Airborne Division, drawing parallels with the British performance around Arnhem and the follow-up operation Varsity that took place in March 1945 at Hamminkeln in Germany. The paratroopers were dropped at Groesbeek, Overasselt and Grave. The goals were the bridge at Grave, Malden, Heumen, Hatert, Honinghutje and the ultimate goal the bridges over the Waal near Nijmegen. The road bridge near Nijmegen was conquered after four days of fighting on 20 September 1944 with the help of the British Guards Armored Division. In order to reach the bridge, the crossing of the parachutists of the 82nd Airborne Division took place over the river Waal under heavy enemy fire in daylight. One of the puzzles that was highlighted by our guide. Why was this operation performed during the day, resulting in heavy losses.
I found it remarkable that our guide had an extensive range of books from which he was initiating. It was clear to me that he had done thorough research in preparation for this tour and had great expertise. He also provided insight into personal considerations and decisions: the motives of commanders to make certain decisions, how their background had led to their way of thinking. Not all sub-commanders of 504, 505 and 506 Parachute Regiment participated in the importance that Major General Gavin attached to the traffic bridge over the Waal. As a result, the Americans had the chance to get hold of the bank of the bridge on Sunday evening, 17 September 1944.
It was not until Wednesday 20
September that the 3rd battalion of the 504 Parachute Infantry
Regiment was ordered to cross the river with 26 boats in daylight.
As with the British, who landed 12 kilometres from the main goal,
the American paratroopers came down to more than 10 kilometres from
their main goal: the road bridge near Nijmegen. And another
interesting aspect I found that General Gavin overestimated the
importance of Groesbeek Heights because of the expected German tank
threat from the Reichswald. A cautious conclusion might be that
Operation Market Garden failed not only because of the debacle at
the Arnhem bridge, but also because of the American performance in
Nijmegen. This new and remarkable information was supplemented by a
comparison of the degree of freedom of action and the scope for
initiative at the lower tactical levels (platoon and company level)
between the British on the one hand and the Americans on the other.
A fact that Erik Jellema was able to illustrate in a visual way by
the performance of American Lieutenant Thompson at the bridge of
Grave, who said that he jumped at a green light so that his unit,
unlike the other units, ended up in the right place, namely at the
bridge of Grave, which could then be conquered quickly. Since 2004,
Thompson has been honoured for giving the bridge its name: Thompson
We ended the tour at the new bridge at Nijmegen on the Waal, where the 3rd battalion of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment with boats crossed the river. This bridge has been given the name 'De Oversteek'.
It was an interesting tour with an expert guide who from a new perspective highlighed the operations in September 1944 by the American 82nd Airborne Division. And a nice group, where the personal experiences during the war that a 90 year old participant told me, gave a deeper dimension to this tour.
The discussion points during this battlefield tour
|Bridge at Grave|
|The 'prinses Irenebrigade' at the bridge over the river the Meuse at Grave in September 1944. You can see a German car that was destroyed by the paratroopers of Lieutenant Thompson during the conquest of the bridge on 17 September 1944.|
|We walked under the bridge at Grave and then I made this shot from the bridge.|
|Here we walk from the bridge at Grave to the 'Van Sassesluis'. where we pass the monument in memory of the 82nd Airborne Division.|
|Monument in honor of the 82nd Airborne division that landed here on 17 September 1944 to secure various bridges around Nijmegen.|
|Explanation of the events at the bridge at Grave by our guide Erik Jellema.|
|We are at the information panel at the level of the 'Van Sassegemaal'. Acher the camper is one of the two casemates at the bridge.|
|The small building of the Van Sasse pumping station at the Grave bridge has hardly changed. The pumping station dates from 1928.|
|I visited this casemate at the bridge of Grave after the discussion of the events at the bridge.|
Eureka was a beacon system in the Second
World War. The Eureka system was used to lead allied aircraft to a
drop zone (DZ). The Eureka beacon was on the ground and in the
airplane there was a receiver who indicated by means of a line on a
screen how the pilot had to fly.
|Our battlefield tour group at the liberation monument Overasselt, consisting of rusting parachutes, designed by Leo Gerritsen and Henk van Hout, The monument was founded on September 17, 1985. They recall the fact that these fields, designated 'O', were used as the DZs and LZs of the American 325e Glider Infantry (23 September 1944) and 504e PIR (17 September 1944) and later by one battalion of the first Polish independent brigades brigade of General Sosabowsi (23 September 1944).|
Our guide Erik Jellema explains the
battle at the lock complex Heumen. The lock complex Heumen is a lock
from the Meuse to the Meuse-Waal canal in the municipality of
Heumen. Bridges are of the utmost importance for the Allied advance.
The Molenhook Bridge, as the Americans call the old bridge at the
lock of Heumen, has to be taken undamaged on 17 September 1944
The German troops are stubbornly opposed and there are deaths and injuries. Nevertheless, bridge number 7 in the American plan of attack is taken completely intact. Small villages can suddenly become very important during a war. Sometimes it is an important hill, but at Heumen it was a bridge. When the Maas-Waal Canal was opened in 1927, various bridges were built over the canal for road and rail traffic. One of them was the lift over the lock at Heumen.
In In the days of May 1940 the Germans tried to take the bridge with the help of commandos and during the occupation the bridge was strengthened and set up for defense. When on September 17, 1944 American parachutists landed at Overasselt and Groesbeek, they were able to attack the bridge from two sides. The German defenders managed to hold out until the evening of September 17, but could not destroy the bridge. Because other bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal were destroyed or damaged, this bridge became the only bridge that could reach the heavy British material (tanks, trucks, etc.) Nijmegen.
|Restaurant De Diepen Milsbeek|
|Here we enjoyed a delicious lunch and we could talk about everything we were told this morning.|
I took this picture of the monument
along Little America that reminds the residents of Groesbeek
(municipality of Berg en Dal) of the landing of 2291 men of the
American 505th Para Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division
in the context of operation 'Market Garden'.
With this large-scale liberation offensive from 17 to 26 September 1944, the allied forces from Belgium wanted to force a push to Germany by securing bridges in Noord-Brabant and Gelderland with airborne troops in a lightning-fast attack. Three complete divisions were dropped: the 101st US Airborne Division at Eindhoven and Veghel, the 82nd US Airborne Division at Graven and the 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem and Oosterbeek.
The 2.291 American para's who landed on Klein Amerika ('dropzone N') were under the command of general James M. Gavin. That winter became the area in the frontline guarded by H. Crerars First Canadian Army. Under the command of John D. Frost the 2nd battalion of the 1st Parachute Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division managed to occupy the northern ramp of the old Rhine Bridge and keep this driveway under control during the ensuing battle for days. But the Rhine bridge near Arnhem proved to be a bridge too far. The English paratroopers were surprised by German armoured troops and had to withdraw under heavy losses in the Betuwe.
After the Battle of
Arnhem was lost, the attack was stopped. However, thanks to the
cooperation of American and British soldiers, part of Noord-Brabant
and Gelderland had ended up in allied hands. From this strip of free
territory from Eindhoven to Arnhem (called 'the Corridor') the rest
of Brabant was liberated in the following months.
|Here we are at the location where,
during Operation Market Garden, one of the largest airborne landings
ever took place. It was also here that the final of liberation
started: the Rhineland offensive. On 17 September 1944, countless
with war equipment landed in Groesbeek. Operation Market Garden had
begun. Many eyewitnesses remember the fierce battle. On Sunday
afternoon, September 17, 1944, a large part of the airborne landing
troops came down around Groesbeek. OOperation Market Garden had
begun. In a few days time, almost 8,000 American paratroopers were
dropped in the immediate vicinity of Groesbeek. In the first days
after 17 September, the surroundings of Groesbeek and Nijmegen
changed into a hellish front area. The bridges at Nijmegen were
conquered intact, but had to be defended against all German attacks
in the following days and weeks. The English paratroopers eventually
had to give up the Rijnbrug near Arnhem. Large parts of the area
south of Nijmegen were liberated. This was of great strategic
importance for the course of the war; from here the Rhineland
offensive, the attack on the German flank, could be launched.
|Gavin (left) and Bestebreurtje (second from right with British helmet) together on the picture, taken directly after the airborne landings at Groesbeek.|
|17 September 1944: American paratroopers jump out of a Dakota above Groesbeek|
|17 september 1944: American paratroopers along the Nieuweweg in Groesbeek.|
|Monument to the Wylerbaan in Groesbeek. The monument is a reminder of operation 'Veritable' (from 8 February to 10 March 1945), by means of which the Allies wanted to conquer the Rhine area.|
More than 300,000 British and Canadian
soldiers took part in this large-scale attack.
After an introductory bombardment with approximately 800 bombers on Kleve en Koch, operation Veritable started from the front line Mook-Groesbeek-Ooij. During this action, 1922 parachutists from the 508th Regiment landed on 'drop zone T' (north-east of Groesbeek, close to the German border). In addition, forty men from the 325thlider Infantry Regiment, 544 men from the 376th Veldartillerie battery, 52 tons of material and 12 howitzers came down. At the end of the landings 38 gliders descended at the Bruuk at Groesbeek. It was here that the headquarters of General Frederic 'Boy' Browning (including 105 staff) were established.
|For the first time in history, a complete police headquarters with radio equipment was transported by air and placed in the middle of the action area. After an hour and a half, the command post of Browning's First Allied Airborne Corps was operational.|
|Due to the fierce opposition of the occupying forces and bad weather conditions, the offensive became a war of exhaustion that would continue for more than a month. When the operation 'Veritable' was closed on 10 March 1945 (the Allied Army then stood in front of the Rhine), 15,600 British and Canadians had been killed.|
|American paratroopers on the Oranjesingel in Nijmegen on 20 September 1944. The city was already a front area for a few days.|
|On Tuesday 19 September the English Second Household Cavalry Regiment (the scouts) drove with their reinforced reconnaissance vehicles (Dingo's) onto the Willemsweg.|
|On 20 September 1944 The attack on the traffic bridge at Nijmegen over the Waal started from two directions. After a day of fierce fighting, the bridge fell undamaged into allied hands. The road to Arnhem seemed to have broken open.|
|Listen to the broadcast of Radio Oranje about the conquest of the road bridge near Nijmegen.|
|In the afternoon of 21 September 1944, British tanks rolled over the Waal bridge at Nijmegen towards Arnhem. However, the Germans, defeated by the bridge, would stop the advance north of the city for another two days.|
|After the famous Waalcrossing, the Waal bridge fell into allied hands, after which British army vehicles were able to set off for Arnhem, here on 21 September 1944.|
|Waal bridge with roadblock winter 1944 1945|
|I took this picture of the railway bridge and the large traffic bridge over the Waal near Nijmegen. So in September 1944, the road bridge was an important goal, because that was where the 30th Corps of Horrocks had to pull in the direction of Arnhem. It was indeed possible to get this road bridge into their hands undamaged. The Nijmegen resistance man Jan van Hoof is said to have played an important role in this, but that is certainly not the case. The fact is that the German explosives under this bridge did not explode.|
|Here we are under the new traffic bridge over the Waal near Nijmegen. The bridge is called 'The Crossing' because on 20 September 1944 the Waal crossing through the 82nd Airborne Division took place close to the bridge. The bank connection was opened in November 2013 and lies to the west of two already existing bridges in Nijmegen. Our guide determined us by the riddles about this Walloon crossing. One might ask why this happened during the day, which resulted in so many casualties. And why so far from the road bridge was the crossing made in rickety boats.|
|In 2007 I also took part in a battlefield tour Nijmegen. At that time the bridge 'De Oversteek' was not yet in place and everything still looked more or less like it did on 20 September 1944.|
|From the roof of the former PGEM (later NUON) building, which has now been demolished, I made a picture of the location of the crossing, realizing that it has now become unique. More of this battlefield tour Nijmegen in 2007 on ARS Website.|
|When I was in the liberation museum Groesbeek I made these recordings of the diorama of the crossing over the river Waal.|
|Books recommended by me|