Operation Market Garden 1944
In September 1944 the Allied forces which fought through France and Belgium arrived at the Dutch border. In order to gain ground and force German units back from Holland operation Market Garden was devised. It consisted of British (Armoured) ground forces combined with British, Polish and American Airborne forces.
The Airborne forces were to occupy the vital bridges while the ground forces made their way to reinforce them - needing the bridges to advance further into Holland until they reached the final British and Polish forces in Arnhem.
This operation failed. Although a great number of German troops were defeated and most bridges were taken their final goal (Arnhem) was not reached. Many allied troops were killed and taken prisoners.
Some famous allied units fought in these battles. Among them the US 82nd "All Americans" Airborne Division and the 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne Division. The 101st were to hold the area between Son and Uden (around Eindhoven. While the 82nd fought between Grave and the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area. Between them was the 'Hell's Highway' which had to be kept open to keep the 82nd connected and supplied. Fighting around this road was 24 hours a day for 27 days.
The bridge of Grave was the objective of E-company (504th Regiment). The largest part of E-company overshot the dropzone of the bridge. The only unit near the bridge was a 'stick' of 14 paratroopers led by lt. John S. Thompson.
After a fierce battle the bridge, defended by pillboxes, was taken by this platoon without any friendly losses. After the war this bridge was named "John S. Thompson bridge" in commemoration of lt. Thompson and his platoon.
Online i found the original typed combat reports of the platoons of 504th PIR E-company fighting at the bridge and Grave. I think their story can't be told any better as by reading their own report; click on the link to the left to read it!
Every year the Market Garden operation is commemorated in many towns and cities around the operations route. This is done by memorial services but also by world war 2 vehicle parades and military airborne droppings by aircraft and helicopters.
Of course i attended many of these, paying my respect to the casualties of the second world war. Sometimes talking with veterans but always making pictures to commemorate. It so happens that Grave, with the John S. Thompson bridge, is my birth town were i lived for 39 years. As a kid i played around the pillboxes near the bridge - were i found many bullets.
Below you can find links to photo reports of the memorials i attended:
Heteren Driel 2004 - 60 years Market Garden, Polish Airborne droppings
Grave John S. Thompson bridge commemorations 2009
Borkel Schaft 2014 starting zone 2014 commemorations
Veghel 2014 World War 2 Vehicles basecamp
Valkenswaard 2014 World War 2 tanks
Valkenswaard 2014 World War 2 wheeled vehicles, halftracks and others
Grave Elftweg spearhead British column
Grave city centre
Grave John S. Thompson bridge
Grave Spitfire and B25 Mitchell flyby's
Grave C47 Dakota's paradropping
Grave 2014 82nd Airborne Division assault by UH60 helicopters
Eindhoven Airbase 2016 Market Garden - take off airborne assault transport aircraft
Besides the memorials there are quite some books about Market Garden and all of the specific battles. There are some which are my personal favorites and which i use for information research:
"The All Americans in World War II"
82nd Airborne Division "All Americans" Photo book with some unique combat photographs - also from Grave and Nijmegen. Combat reports and maps are included.
Pocket book with a large number of very detailed combat reports of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles". Very interesting if you want to know the details (troop strength, places (down to roadnames and crossings), persons) of the fighting.
"More Then Courage"
The Combat History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in world War II. The samebook as 'Hell's Highway' but this book is about the 82nd Airborne Division - and in specific about the 504th PIR which fought at Grave. This book covers all of their European combat areas of operation.
"It Never Snows In September"
A very interesting book about the German forces during Market Garden. General information and unique German photographs are supplemented by personal German reports about the fighting. Some (small) battles mentioned in the other books are described by German soldiers - giving the opposite view of the battles.