Michael's Dispatches

122 Comments

 

DAY ONE

Before the description of this incredible remembrance begins, it must be noted this was all paid for by the Market Garden Committee (MGC).  The hotel, buses, many of the meals, was all paid and arranged for by the Dutch.  Alex Omhof was the ringleader for the MGC and it can now be said with certainty that Mr. Omhof is a master coordinator.  Over the next nearly week, I was the only man who got lost from the group.  We seemed to drive all over Holland and didn’t lose a single veteran or soul, other than me.

Next morning we—the veterans and university students who were traveling with them—loaded into a bus and drove to Margraten Cemetery, the only U.S. military resting place in the Netherlands.  Margraten was immaculate and huge and the Dutch people were treating our veterans extremely well, and some were saying “Thank you for liberating us.”  (Over the next days, this must have been repeated thousands of times.)

Veterans arrived who were not with our group, including this gentleman whose accent was difficult to discern.  His accent didn’t sound American but his cap and words were 100% “Made in USA.”  He talked with other veterans about landing on D-Day.  When he finished, I asked, “Are you American?” and again he laughed, “Of course, son, look at dis hat!” and he tapped his hat.  “But your accent doesn’t sound American.”  He was from Georgia but after the war had married a Belgian girl.  He wanted to take her home to Georgia but she wanted to stay in Belgium.  He’s been married ever since.  In Belgium.  We must have talked for twenty minutes.  His story was so interesting that I didn’t even ask his name.

The caretaker of Margraten welcomed the veterans and gave a little speech and told some history.  He seemed proud of his important responsibility.

We walked out to the graves where 8,301 Americans are at rest.  Several Dutch would say that every single grave has been adopted by a Dutch family and they put flowers on the headstones at special times.

Robert G. Cole earned the Medal of Honor.

Homage.

An American who parachuted into combat at sixteen years of age.  He recounts the day that he and his sixteen-year-old buddy were crawling in a low space and a couple German soldiers threw in a grenade and blew off his buddy’s face, killing him.  But the Germans didn’t see this soldier, so he shot them and then killed two more.  Stress washed over his face as he recounted that day.

Maggie recounts how his buddy 1 LT Harry Busby had a premonition before crossing the Waal River, that he would be killed.  So Harry stripped off watch and other valuables and handed those to his buddies.  To try to understand why the Dutch so revere these men, and what Maggie was talking about when he, Harry and the others crossed the Waal River, it would be good to watch this trailer from A Bridge Too Far.

This clip depicts the Waal River Crossing.

After paying respects at Margraten we loaded on the bus to a village called Eerde.  The corn in Helmand, Afghanistan is taller now.  Firefights will be occurring today in cornfields in Afghanistan.

In Eerde were many dozens of World War II re-enactors who take their roles seriously, trying to accurately maintain or reproduce everything from the tiniest part of bootlaces to rifles, cannons and airplanes.  They were a sight.  They were living out there for some days, complete with World War II tents of all sizes, sleeping bags, jeeps and the works.

A re-enactor loads a rifle with blanks.  Usually blanks are not loud, but these were ear-splitting like the real McCoy.

Looks can fool: The most dangerous animal on the planet is a young infantryman.

Many or all of the re-enactors here seemed to be Dutch.  They brought an eerie realism, maybe because just yesterday I came in from Afghanistan.  This was like a big movie.  Two movies.  Afghanistan and now a World War II set.  It felt strangely like home.  I remember one mission in Iraq, when we were moving into ambush and soon would successfully kill some insurgents, when it felt so incredibly eerie, as if I had done this thousands of times over thousands of years.  With the birds and frogs and insects filling the night with sounds, and the firefights in the distance all around, and us moving in for the kill, it was like an eternal groundhog day, and then we killed them and went home.  The soldiers did the killing and I just watched and said good job and later went to bed as if we had only gone to the movies.

In addition to the World War II veterans and re-enactors, there were dozens of U.S. active duty soldiers from the 101st and 82nd.

Many of the re-enactors seemed better versed in the history than the veterans.  This would not be surprising; combat troops are so focused that they rarely have any idea of what’s happening outside of their gun sights.  After war, many of them spend decades trying to forget about it.  It’s not hard to find people who’ve done a couple hard tours in Iraq who don’t really know much about the bigger picture and don’t care to think about it for now.

Re-enactors.

All the gear is privately owned.

The re-enactors seemed to be having a ball.

Medic!

The local band.

When a U.S. soldier wears a patch on the right shoulder, it means a combat tour was done with that unit.  The 101st liberated Eerde and so the people put on a parade and there must have been a thousand thank yous.

During the speeches and ceremonies, Dutch kids read poems to the veterans, the band played music and people recounted the Nazi times.  One person said that the Nazis threatened to hang one man, one woman and one child if the train tracks were again sabotaged.  The story ended there.  The Dutch, who have been fighting well in Afghanistan, had adopted a stance of neutrality and pacifism in face of the Nazis and were gulped down.  Some people resisted while others collaborated.  The Dutch say that even today the scars caused by collaborators have not completely healed.  Imagine going through life knowing you had collaborated.  Better to be dead.

American paratroopers landed near the village.  During the ensuing battles, Americans, British and others, with help from the Dutch underground, routed the Nazis from Holland.

Say something here...
You are a guest ( Sign Up ? )
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark · 12 years ago
    Michael - Thanks for the superb piece - it seemed like I was there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott from TX · 12 years ago
    i always get sucked in to the photos and story that you put together. nothing like the adrenaline rush of being a westerner driving through Kandahar with a Corolla on the loose.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Johnathan Crawford · 12 years ago
    Thanks Michael,

    What a pleasant surprise this essay was. Your pictures are worth 1,000 words!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JC · 12 years ago
    Great report, not too far from the bridge this time then. I am following you on twitter too. We need people like you reporting from the heart of things, even if maybe you get too close but that compensate from those who do it from the terrace of the Hilton and you know what I mean.
    Take care.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austen · 12 years ago
    Brilliant - keep up the excellent work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Salgofnir · 12 years ago
    Another good report. Stay safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joseph Bays ICCSSS, · 12 years ago
    A great picture story. I never knew the Dutch remembered, although some of Europe seems to have forgotten.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nathaniel · 12 years ago
    great pics as always!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eddy · 12 years ago
    Thanks Michael, this was a great dispatch, and in no way too long. I appreciate you taking the time to detail all the cereomonies and events, it's hard to imagine us here in the United States putting up so much effort to honor our vets, much less those of another country. A grim reminder of how much we take for granted. And please stay safe in Afghanistan, the start of your dispatch scared the crap out of me, I don't know how I'd get my frontline news without you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robin · 12 years ago
    Whoa! It's really almost creepy, you were all over the place. In fact, you went to the place where I live and even the school I go to. Crazy!

    As always, you take pretty awesome photos.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pat · 12 years ago
    Thank you sir for what you are doing. Bringing to our homes what really happens out there and giving us the chance to see pictures and realize there are many out there who do appreciate our military and what America has done and continues to do in spreading freedom. Seeing the pictures of all the vets reminds me of my neighbor who was in the Air Force in both WWII and Korea. I always enjoy having conversations with him. I can only imagine how you felt being surrounded by all those incredible veterans and hearing their stories. It was also great that you got some pics of soldiers who were able to make it to the ceremonies as well. Keep up the great work sir!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Allen · 12 years ago
    Michael -

    Great, great, great dispatch. You're work is so refreshing. I get emotional just reading and remembering these vets.

    ~Allen
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JJT · 12 years ago
    Thank you for an excellent piece.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 12 years ago
    Outstanding work as usual, Michael!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Vincent · 12 years ago
    I have been "with you" since day one. I don't know what drives you but you are one brave, necessary reporter. Simply calling you a reporter seems so inadequate in the face of a monumental failure of war news dissemination by almost all News agencies. Stay well, Michael. We need you!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matthew · 12 years ago
    Thank you Michael! You always seem to make it to the most interesting places! I must make it to a Market-Garden event one day, before all of our old warriors are gone.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    winston · 12 years ago
    Excellent reporting. Beautiful photos... Good job!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    CJ · 12 years ago
    We can never forget, then as now, the incredible sacrifices of our armed men and women.

    God Bless them all, and thank you Michael for taking us along for the ride.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kiwi Chris · 12 years ago
    Thank you for this fantastic article - we never had coverage of this national tribute down here - What a fantastic honour for these fantastic soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lance McMillan · 12 years ago
    Nice bit of reporting. Thanks.

    Was a bit disappointed that there were so few indications of any recognition of the Polish commitment to Market-Garden (or to Afghanistan for that matter). Sosabowski's parachute brigade was dropped near Arnhem in an effort to help relieve the pressure on the British 1st Airborne and was decimated in the ensuing fighting, and yet I only saw one Polish flag in any of the many shots you took of the various memorials -- it's kind of sad how the service of the Polish exile troops is so consistently overlooked.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 12 years ago
    In 2000, I had the honor of visiting the American Cemetary there. It was on a weekday and I was surprised at the number of Dutch also visiting. They, perhaps more than any other Europeans, respect and appreciate the sacrifices our vets made. At dusk, there was a ceremonial lowering of our flag and as my friend, an Air Force officer and I stood at attention, so did all the Dutch visitors. An amazing sight. I love the Dutch.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom Reynolds · 12 years ago
    Beautiful!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Delaney · 12 years ago
    Splendid presentation again, Michael. Gen. P continues to bowl me over with his intellect, calm and integrity.

    Glad you're trekking into the Himalayas during your break in Nepal. You won't regret it. I and a buddy trekked to Mt. Kalipatar, overlooking Everest base camp, about 25 years ago. What a truly awesome experience. Standing alone atop Kalipatar and gazing into the daylight's black sky, only then did I realize how truly insignificant we each of us is in the universal scheme of things. At that moment I fully understood the meaning of "the silence was defeaning". Not a sound at all. Had never understood that phrase before. Utterly alone, just me, my friend and an overwhelming, almost menacing, eternity before us. It really put things into perspective for me. It was a very humbling and mind-jarring experience which will always be part of me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewat · 12 years ago
    Y'all probably know this already, but just in case..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Heart_Lane
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Paul · 12 years ago
    The goose bumps registered the quality of the report.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    wf · 12 years ago
    Wonderful dispatch Michael, thank you! It seems that Dutch children are well aware of this time in history, as they should. Why are our children not being taught any of this? We have veterans (from WWII to the present) in every city of the US and I would be willing to bet that not five of them have been asked by any school to talk to our children about what they did. We are missing the chance to show our children what honor and duty look like in person.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 12 years ago
    America has always been full of hero's willing to give for the greater good, to protect the weak or needy.
    A wonderful group of hero's along with some Dutch hero's as well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alastair · 12 years ago
    Michael. That was a superb article which I didn't pick up on the British media really covering. Stay safe on returning to Afghan
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert · 12 years ago
    Are so very awesome for remembering the troops that way! Would love it if more in our country understood that. When I was scanning the article I seen where some of the Dutch soldiers want to get back in the fight, I commend them for that. I wish I could go over there and serve as a soldier. However because of a mistake I made when I was younger I am not allowed to serve. So I am working on getting job that will put me there so I can serve that way!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Julie Harris · 12 years ago
    Wonderful piece Michael - it brought tears to my eyes. Keep up the good work! Will be praying for your safety. Sincerely and with gratitude, Julie Harris
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BravoBilly · 12 years ago
    I am rd Army brat and a Veteran, too. So when I saw all those veterans, I became proud. Thanks Michael...You are Florida at its finest.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandy · 12 years ago
    Michael....you've got a gift for really transporting us along with you...thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Randall Hannaway · 12 years ago
    Michael,

    Thank you for covering this event, truly, thank you. It was the next best thing to being there. These men gave so much, it's vital that what they did during those grave days never be forgotten. I can't imagine the emotions that you must have felt being able to share in such a historical event. We are grateful for all of your efforts both the more enjoyable stories like this one and of course the more difficult war coverage. Keep your head down and be well.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Papajimm · 12 years ago
    I have been so pummeled with anti American bashing/demonstrations around the world that this accounting is hard to wrap my emotions around. Do you thing the Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, et. al will every be grateful for the lives and ultimate sacrifices being made to secure their democracy and resulting freedoms? Unlikely. Not the way they roll. Stay safe Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gordon Duff · 12 years ago
    Great photos, great story and a great group of guys being honored.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara Johnson · 12 years ago
    There is nowhere else I have heard nor read of this event. This post is remarkable and I'll send link to all who care so deeply of our country, its defenders and the veteran liberators for freedom. God Bless You. Keep this up. Extraordinary dispatch. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David L. · 12 years ago
    My wife's father was Dutch. He worked for Shell in Java and went back into the army as a private as soon as the Japanese attacked. He was captured by the Japanese in Java in 1942, imprisoned there for several months and then sent to Japan by Hell Ship, where he remained imprisoned until the end of the war. He is dead now but a few years ago my wife and I visited some of his and her relatives in Holland. The only place they really insisted that we go was the battleground for Market Garden. A few of my wife's relatives had been children or even young women during WW II. The gratitude and respect for what was done to liberate them was deep and heartfelt. Yet all of her Dutch relatives--completely without exception--could not fathom why our country chose to fight in Iraq. Afghanistan was never mentioned. It was eclipsed by Iraq at the time.

    Thank you for your great reporting.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jarold · 12 years ago
    Whenever I meet someone who is interested in the fight, I tell them of you and your website. Thanks for all you do, and thanks to all our vets, US, Brits, Dutch, and all others on our side. We are in this together. Mike, you get the real truth out. God Bless and Protect You.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alan Johnson · 12 years ago
    Michael,
    As always thanks for the dispatch, and the update and pictures on the memorial services, I wish that people would realize that some people do remember the sacrifice that was made and is being made. Keep up the good work and enjoy the fresh air break.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    C. Renee Daigle · 12 years ago
    Thank you, Michael, for all that you do to keep us here at home informed.
    This post is wonderful. I was enrapt with the Dutch treatment of our veterans. They deserve all of it and more.
    Thanks again, God speed, and keep safe. You and all of our troops are in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karl Crankshaw · 12 years ago
    Michael,

    Excellent report and pictures, Words cannot express how moved I was at the courage of the Airborne Vets and the way the Dutch people remember and honour the sacrifices that were and continue to be made for freedom.
    Stay Safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas · 12 years ago
    But I will hit the tip jar first.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis Graham · 12 years ago
    Thank you Michael,
    Praise the Lord for the continueing gratitude of the Dutch people,even after all these years. Please stay safe. You are in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Philip Lewis · 12 years ago
    I'm not sure what struck me more..the vitality of the WWII veterans, the obvious affection and gratitude of the Dutch for their liberation, the odd contrast of the cornfields of Afghanistan with those of Eindhoven, the strong commitment of the Dutch to supporting foreign policy goals. Really a fine dispatch. You have a tremendous gift, both as a photographer and as a writer. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim S · 12 years ago
    Thank You.
    It was nice to read a story about Love for our Military.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MikeB · 12 years ago
    Amazing post, thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hester · 12 years ago
    Great dispatch! I just wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to thank the Dutch for this wonderful remembrance. It is so heartening to know there are people who have not forgotten the sacrifices of the allied soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    crosspatch · 12 years ago
    I don't know if they still do it but when I served in Europe in the late 1970's there was an annual 100 mile march that was sort of a remembrance of Market-Garden. I attended in 1978. The people were absolutely wonderful and it is an experience I will never forget. Sometimes I really miss that part of the world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lorenzo from Oz · 12 years ago
    Both moving and informative, thank you
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Colin Perry · 12 years ago
    It has all been said above. Brilliant....

Reader support is crucial to this mission. Weekly or monthly recurring ‘subscription’ based support is the best, though all are greatly appreciated.  Many methods are available to keep the work rolling. Click the image for a more info.

supp

supp

Quick Link to Paypal

Recurring Donation

QR Code

QR Code

Venmo1

To support using Venmo, send to:
@Yon-Michael

subscribe

My BitCoin QR Code

Use the QR code for BitCoin apps:

bc2020

Or click the link below to help support the next dispatch with bitcoins: