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September 18, 2004

Operation Market-Garden (A Bridge Too Far)

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the airborne drops on Nijmegen, Eindhoven, and Arnhem, in Montgomery's attempt to turn the German flank on the Rhine and drive into the industrial heartland of the Third Reich. The 40th anniversary in 1984 fell in the midst of Exercise Atlantic Lion, which was the tactical exercise component of REFORGER (the big trans-Atlantic reinforcement exercises that practiced the US reinforcement of NATO. REturn of FORces to GERmany. REFORGER, possibly more than anything else, gave us the logistics base and planning experience that enabled us to pull off Desert Storm). I was a controller for that exercise, I believe it was the 1st Cavalry Division that was the deploying unit. The tactical assembly areas were in Holland, centered all around the Market-Garden area (not hard, really, since all of Holland was Market-Garden territory). I got to meet MG John Frost, on his bridge. Fascinating conversation about that, and about the Falklands, which he had just written his book about (2 Para Falklands).

This year the Dutch are going all out, apparently. I get the impression it is to be the last 'big official' commemoration, or something. All I know is I wish I was there to see it.

"For Us, They Are Heroes!"

I was reminded by this email I got today from a frequent European visitor to the Castle:

Hi John

Should have added this to the previous mail... you're
probably well aware that the 60th anniversary of
Market Garden is currently going on in Holland.

I was unfortunately unable to go this time, but my
husband is there and will likely take part in one of
the jumps. I was there 4 years ago and compared to
this year, it was probably a small affair.

At the time I was very new to the military. My future
husband was travelling there from the US and I was
meeting him there. But I must say, I was overwhelmed
by it all. I had never expected to see so many people,
Dutch people, gathered to watch the jumps and the
ceremony. I had never expected Oosterbeek to somehow
go back in time to 1944: jeeps in the streets, other
old cars, the old uniforms, even the Dutch people had
reverted to period clothes. It created a unique
atmosphere and you could really feel that the Dutch
have not forgotten what the Allies did for them. I
also had the great honour of meeting some British
veterans.

It was a unique, unforgettable experience. Even more
so because my father's family was at the time in
Holland and close to starving. My grandfather was not
allowed to work (he was of German origin but had left
Germany before the war) and my grandmother had to give
Russian lessons to enable the family to survive. My
father still talks about the tulip bulp soup they ate,
the coal he sometimes used to steal from the Germans
and the constant fear of the Nazis they lived with.
The last gift my grandfather made to my father was
Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge too far.

I am glad that my fellow Dutchmen have not forgotten.

Claudia

I asked for permission to use the note, and got this response (the city reference involves my 10 ten favorite European cities)

John

Sure..go ahead :) I would like people to know that not
all Europeans have forgotten. And I am upset that
Geneva doesn't figure on your top 10. Is it because
it's too close to France ?

Claudia


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