Friday, June 21, 2013

Operation Market Garden – Bill in Holland

Operation “MARKET” was the Airborne component of an ambitious Allied offensive known as “MARKET – GARDEN”, which in turn was part of the Rhineland Campaign. “GARDEN” refers to the ground forces used in the operation, primarily the British XXX (30) Corps. The objective was to bypass the heavily defended German “Wall” (which made up the Siegfried Line on the border of western Germany) and quickly strike at and seize Germany’s industrial heart – the Ruhr district – thus shortening the war perhaps ending it by December 1944. 

To achieve this, units of US, British, and Polish paratroopers were to land ahead of 30 Corps and capture bridges over the rivers and canals of Holland starting from Eindhoven in the south, then Nijmegen, and Arnhem in the furthermost north. It was planned that the British 30 Corps would advance from Allied held Belgium in the south and link up successively with first the US 101st Airborne  north of Eindhoven, then the US 82nd Airborne around Nijmegen, and finally the British and Polish paratroop units in Arnhem. From there the Allies planned to push southeast across Holland into Germany and then onto the Ruhr district. The plan called for the British 30 Corps to reach the 101st Airborne on September 17, the 82nd Airborne on September 18, and the British 1st Airborne and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade by September 2o at the latest.

However, the operation did not go according to plan. The Allies had underestimated both the German strength in the area and the German resolve to fight and organize themselves at this late stage of the war. Due to communication breakdowns and intensifying attacks by the Germans, the operation failed with 30 Corps never reaching the British and Polish paratroopers in Arnhem.  Heavy losses were incurred by the all the paratroop units – in the vicinity of 17,000 casualties. The Allies had to pull back to Nijmegen where the bridge over the Waal River stood intact and in Allied hands.

See Maps 3 and 4 (in the Maps Appendices at the end of this post) for the positions and movements of the units involved in the operation.

Establishing Bill’s Presence in Nijmegen

Bill’s Bronze Service Star for the Rhineland Campaign

As for Bill’s role in Operation Market, there are almost no accounts. Just as in Normandy, he wouldn’t talk about his involvement, except to say that he was part of the operation to capture the Maas River bridge and that he thought Montgomery was reckless by invading Holland.

Bill’s Honorable Discharge states under 33. Battles and Campaigns that he received a Bronze Service Star for the Rhineland Campaign and  the “Dutch Citation Lanyard”.

Photographic evidence was presented in the post Normandy Part 1: Establishing Bill’s Presence in the Invasion which demonstrated that his Honorable Discharge  accurately reflected the number of campaigns in which he had participated. Photo 1 of that post shows pinned to his breast an Arrowhead Device as well as one Silver Service Star, in lieu of five Bronze Stars, and one Bronze Service Star. The six campaigns were Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Normandy; Rhineland; Ardennes; and Central Europe. As was mentioned in that first post on Normandy, these are not Bronze Star Medals, which were awarded for valor in combat. They are Bronze Service Stars (sometimes referred to as Bronze Battle Stars). Each one indicates that Bill was physically present in the zone of combat during the time frames of the respective campaigns.

Together the Bronze Star for Rhineland and the Dutch Citation Lanyard are proof that Bill was physically present and participated in the fighting around Nijmegen, Holland. These medals cannot yield anything more. They provide tantalizing clues of an unsolved mystery surrounding his role in Operation Market.

Eligibility for the Rhineland Campaign Bronze Service Star

The facts about his Bronze Service Star can be verified by General Orders 40 War Department 1945 (AKA GO 40 WD45) reproduced below:

GO40P1 GO40P2

Page 1 & 2 of General Orders 40 War Department 1945 (AKA GO 40 WD45)

Source: “Maneuver Center of Excellence Libraries Donovan Research Library US Armor Research Library Historical General Orders/Special Orders Collection: General Orders 1945 copy 2” Retrieved from

Page 2  of GO 40 WD 45 state the conditions for receiving a Bronze Service Star for the Rhineland campaign:

11. RHINELAND. (name of campaign changed from "Germany" to Rhineland.)

a. Combat zone. – Those portions of France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and Germany east of the line: Franco-Belgian frontier to 4 degrees east longitude, thence south along that meridian to 47 degrees latitude, thence east along that parallel to 5 degrees east longitude, thence south along that meridian to the Mediterranean coast.

b. Time limitation. - 15 September 1944 to 21 March 1945

To be eligible for the Bronze Service Star for the RHINELAND Campaign , a soldier had to be present for duty in the combat zone of the areas of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, or Germany east of the line during the period from September 15, 1944 to March 21, 1945.  In other words to be eligible a soldier could not be present during this time period in a location behind the lines and receive the Bronze Service Star. (See Map 1 in the Map Appendices for more details of the locations of the front line six days before the beginning of the Rhineland Campaign and Map 2  for its locations on 15 December of 1944.)

Furthermore,  Army Regulation 600–8–22, Paragraph 5-13 c. (concerning Award of Bronze Service Stars to the EAME Campaign Medal in WWII) states that a Bronze Service Star is authorized when a soldier was assigned to a unit and present for duty with that unit at the time the unit participated in combat; he was under orders in the combat zone; and he was either awarded a combat decoration; or had a certificate from a commanding general that he participated in combat; or he served at a normal post of duty.

Basically, a soldier had to be assigned to a unit which was present in the location of the combat zone when the battle was still occurring to be eligible for the award. Presence in that location after it was liberated and the battle was over would make the soldier ineligible for the Bronze Service Star.

The combat zone in paragraph 11 a above included Holland and specifically for men serving in the 82nd Airborne it included the area around Nijmegen as shown in Map 4 in the Map Appendices at the end of this post.

Bill’s Dutch Citation Lanyard

The other piece of evidence that Bill was in Nijmegen, and specifically during Operation Market – Garden, is that his Discharge Record states that he earned the Dutch Citation Lanyard.

The Dutch Citation Lanyard is sometimes called the “Dutch Orange Lanyard” or “Netherlands Orange Lanyard”. The “Orange Lanyard of the Royal Netherlands Army” is the decoration’s formal title. It’s an orange colored cord worn over the right shoulder and was granted by the government of Holland.

Only the 82nd Airborne personnel who physically fought in Operation Market – Garden around Nijmegen from September 17 to October 4, 1944 are entitled to it. Other personnel from the Division were not granted the award and so are not entitled to wear the lanyard. The General Orders # 125 dated October 12, 1945 of Headquarters 82nd Airborne Division are very specific about this. In part they have been reproduced below:

“Ministerial Decree of the Netherlands Minister of War, dated 8 October 1945, granting the personnel of the 82nd Airborne Division, who participated in operations during the period of 17 September to 4 October 1944, authority to wear the ORANGE LANYARD of the Royal Netherlands Army is quoted:


The Minister of War considering, that the outstanding performance of duty of the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, during the airborne operations and the ensuing fighting actions in the central part of the NETHERLANDS in the period from September 17 to October 4, 1944, have induced HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN to decorate its Divisional Colours with the "MILITAIRE WILLEMS-ORDE" degree of Knight of the fourth class; CONSIDERING also, that it is desirable for each member of the Division, who took part in the afore-said operations, to possess a lasting memento of this glorious struggle;

DECREES: That each member of the personnel of the 82D AIRBORNE DIVISION, UNITED STATES ARMY, who took part in the operations in the area of NIJMEGEN in the period from September 17 to October 4, 1944, is allowed to wear the ORANGE LANYARD, as laid down in article 123g of the Clothing Regulations/1944, of the Royal Netherlands Army.

THE HAGUE, OCTOBER 8,1945 THE MINISTEROFWAR (Minister van Oorlog)”

As can be seen from these orders, the citation for the Dutch Orange Lanyard was part of a larger unit decoration bestowed upon the 82nd Airborne; namely the "MILITAIRE WILLEMS-ORDE" , (Military Order of William) “degree of Knight of the Fourth Class.” The Division was the first foreign military unit to receive it in WWII.

What was Bill’s Mission in Holland?

Now that Bill’s presence in Holland and specifically Nijmegen had been established, the question of how he came to be there and what he did there become more difficult to answer conclusively.

Was Bill on a Special Mission in Nijmegen?

Given his almost certain special operations background in Normandy, it is plausible to posit the hypothesis that Bill’s role in Holland may have been as a member of an as yet unknown special operation. It is known that special operations missions were executed in Holland. Jedburgh teams had been inserted into Nijmegen. In fact, Jedburgh Team Clarence parachuted into the Grave – Groesbeek area in General Gavin’s lead 505 PIR plane on September 17. Source: OSS Society Yahoo! Forum Postings dated August 29, 2008 thru February 17, 2011 Retrieved from

Furthermore, General Gavin ran a special operations tactical demolitions unit composed of 82nd troopers which he used in France, Holland and Germany. The group was associated with the OSS and reported directly to General Eisenhower, and General Gavin. This is more support to the assertion of the last post on ‘Off the Books’ Special Missions, that General Gavin did in fact recruit 82nd Airborne personnel for “other special missions”, and that they did have OSS connections. In turn, it provides more support to the account of Bill’s that he was assigned to a special operation in Normandy. It is interesting to note that General Gavin’s special demolitions group was further used in Holland and Germany. Since this is so, it is possible that other 82nd Airborne special operations groups performed similar missions in Holland and that Bill could have been a member of one such team. Source: OSS Society Yahoo! Forum Postings dated August 29, 2008 thru February 17, 2011 Retrieved from

Did Bill Jump in As a Rigger with the 505 PIR?

According to the History of the 82nd Parachute Maintenance Company, on September 10 – 12, 1944, 20 men from the company joined their respective regiments at the departure airfields for final preparations ahead of Operation Market. These included six men from the 505th, five from the 504th, and nine from the 508th PIRs. It is probable that Bill was one of these men. That would fit his statement that he was part of the operation to capture the Maas River bridge which involved Companies A, B and C of the 505th PIR. Source: Author Unknown, “82nd Airborne Division: 82nd Parachute Maintenance Company” Section 1 Unit History, p. 11. Date unknown.

This of course assumes that he was not present in some other capacity for the operation to capture the Maas River Bridge, such as, a member of a hypothetical special operations team. Or as a member of a glider serial carrying men of the 82nd Division Headquarters Company on D-Day September 17. Another possibility is that he flew in the glider serial which landed on D +1, September 18 carrying the 80th A/B antiaircraft Battalion, the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and the 307th Airborne Medical Company. Source: “A Graphic History of the 82nd Airborne Division: Operation ‘Market’”. Major General Gavin, J., Date Unknown, pp. 4 – 6

The History of the 82nd Airborne Maintenance Company only mentions the name of one of the 505 riggers, “McCan” (sic.), who died in the fighting around Nijmegen on September 19, 1944. His real name was Edward B. McCann, a parachute rigger of Service Company, 505 PIR and a Cliquesman. He had jumped into Normandy with Company H where he received his CIB and had been wounded. Subsequently, he spent time in hospital recovering. He had just been released only days before the jump into Holland “…but there was no holding him back from the mission.” Source: Author Unknown, “82nd Airborne Division: 82nd Parachute Maintenance Company” Section 1 Unit History, p. 12. Date unknown.

Edward McCann

Photo 1: Edward B. McCann, Rigger in the Service Company 505 . He jumped again into Holland on September 17, 1944 and died fighting on September 19, 1944

Source: National Archives

If Bill did jump into Holland as a rigger, the History of the 82nd Airborne Maintenance Company gives a good account of what happened from a rigger’s perspective:

“The 505 men jumped first, from one to four minutes past one o’clock just north of Grosbeck [sic.], called the Holland jump of the Rhineland Campaign. There wasn’t much flack or machine gun fire at this time and they landed in freshly plowed fields for a soft landing. However, the units coming in a little later had much more fire directed at them. They went right on with the line companies and didn’t have too stiff fighting for the first two days, but then the Germans really attacked our troops with vigor. The 505 held the bridge over the Waal River to let the English over. After this, the 505 riggers returned to their drop zone to salvage their chutes and equipment but the enemy had snipers nearby and heavier guns zeroed in, making it sure death to attempt any salvaging. Therefore the men went back to their regiment. The 508 riggers had similar experience and couldn’t salvage any chutes although the 504 which landed near Grave, was able to salvage their chutes and equipment immediately.”   Source: Author Unknown, “82nd Airborne Division: 82nd Parachute Maintenance Company” Section 1 Unit History, p. 11. Date unknown.

Edward McCann was killed while fighting along side his H Company brothers on September 19 two days after the jump, most likely during the first heavy attacks made by the Germans. But he was just one of the 3,042 82nd Airborne casualties of which General Gavin wrote ominously about before the first airborne lift took flight:

“Gavin wrote of the fatalism of some of his veterans on this jump, for few men expected their luck to hold forever. For some, this was their fourth combat jump. They had been through many difficult battles, and many of them had been wounded, some several times,’ he wrote. ‘I knew practically all of the survivors personally, and I knew what went on in their minds. They were well aware of our heavy combat losses in the past, and to ask them once again to jump into combat more than fifty miles behind the German lines in broad daylight was asking a great deal.’ There were no refusals recorded that afternoon; during the last hours before the drop, Gavin sought out his ‘old-timers’ in order to personally reassure them that it would all be O.K. They appreciated his gesture, but many of the troopers who had followed him into Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and now Holland would go no farther than the bridges and fields south west of Arnhem.” Source: “Paratrooper: The Life of General James M. Gavin” Booth, T. M & Spencer, D. 1994, p. 217.

One Surviving Souvenir of Bill’s Participation in Nijmegen – His Issue of Paraglide from October 17, 1944

The issue of “Paraglide” that Bill mailed home on December 15, 1944 provides the a very good account of what the the units of the 82nd Airborne achieved in Nijmegen and in the nearby villages. Part 2 of the Paraglide below reports on the historic feats of the 504 and 505. For their historic Waal River water crossing the 504 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. So costly was this crossing, it has earned the informal title of  the “Little Omaha”. For their actions in capturing the Nijmegen bridge over the Waal river, the 505’s 2nd Battalion was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.



Part 1 - “The ‘All American’ Paraglide: Souvenir Brochure Nederland”, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Tuesday, Oct. 17 1944

(Click on the picture to view it in higher resolution)

Source: Author’s Collection


Part 2 - “The ‘All American’ Paraglide: Souvenir Brochure Nederland”, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Tuesday, Oct. 17 1944

(Click on the picture to view it in higher resolution)

Source: Author’s Collection 

LetterDated_Dec15 1944

Part 3- Bill mailed home his copy of “The ‘All American’ Paraglide: Souvenir Brochure Nederland” on Dec. 15, 1944

Source: Author’s Collection

Bill’s Other Souvenir of Nijmegen – A Child’s Doll… 

…painting a picture of his Holland experience

When Bill returned from the war he went through a process of giving away the souvenirs he had collected. All he wanted to do was to leave the war behind and move on with his life as quickly as possible. It was part of his conscious attempt to rid himself of the horrors he had endured. He thought nothing of gifting valuable watches, silverware, and important items such as medals and 82nd Airborne insignia to almost anyone.  One of the things he gave away was a child’s doll made of pink and purple woolen yarn, which he gave to his younger sister, Doris. He told her that when he was in Holland he had received it as a gift.  Source: Interview with Doris Orr March 26, 2006

The men of the 82nd were never stationed in Holland again during the war, so the time they fought in Nijmegen was the only time that Bill had the opportunity to receive Dutch dolls.

Perhaps the doll was a gift from a little Dutch girl in appreciation for her liberation. But why would Bill want to keep a child’s doll as a souvenir? Of what significance to him could this home-spun trinket have had? It’s not the typical “war booty” that returning soldiers brought home; such as Nazi flags, Lugar pistols, wristwatches, German helmets, 88mm shell casings, fine silverware bearing Nazi symbols, and so on. Bill must have had a reason for keeping such a thing. It must have meant a great deal to him at the time and in some way had touched him. Otherwise he would have eventually discarded it – long before his homecoming of more than a year later – in favor of items of greater value and significance that overstuffed his Army issue duffle bag.

Here’s a picture of the doll:

Yarn Doll Holland

Photo 2: Woolen Yarn Doll – A souvenir from Holland which Bill gave to his sister after the war in November, 1945

Source: Author’s Collection

Why Keep a Child’s Doll?

As stated earlier, years after the war Bill mentioned that the 505th PIR jumped into Nijmegen and that his outfit had been assigned a role in capturing a bridge over the Maas river.  There were only three companies of the 505th engaged in the Maas river bridges objective and they were Companies A, B and C of the 1st Battalion, 505th PIR. The other 505 companies fought to seize the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal river which was a few miles farther to the north.

If, as a rigger, Bill  had been assigned to either Companies A or B, he could have been among the men who fought to secure the road leading to the Maas river bridges which went through the town of Mook.  Or if assigned to Company C, then among those fighting to secure the town of Reithorst, just south of Mook.  (see Map 4 for the relative position of Mook and Reithorst in relation to the bridges on the Mass river).

In either case, what the men who fought there experienced can be used to paint a somber contextual picture for why a soldier like Bill would want to keep the simple gift of a child’s doll.

The battles of 1st Battalion in Holland are described  in great detail in Phil Nordyke's book “All American All the Way” as are all of the units of the 82nd airborne. Of the battles that 1st Battalion fought, one of the worst was in the town of Mook, where the men bore witness to unbelievable abject horror.

In the afternoon of September 20, at two road blocks to the north and south of Mook, two platoons of Company B were attacked from the southwest by an entire German parachute infantry battalion reinforced with artillery. In the face of the massive assault one platoon was pushed out of Mook into the surrounding area, while the other was able to climb into the buildings in the town and fight on. All of the fighting  consisted of ferocious house to house small arms fire and hand to hand combat using knives. Mook was overrun, but neither the Germans, nor the Americans fully controlled it. If the Germans gained full control, the bridge over the Maas River would be in imminent danger.

The situation was so bad that General Gavin showed what some would call insubordination when he left a strategic battle meeting with General Ridgeway without approval to try and save Company B at Mook. Gavin had to choose between the towns of Mook and Beek (a 508th PIR objective in the north) as both were being overrun. Gavin chose Mook because the situation there seemed to him to be the more precarious of the two. When he arrived Gavin took up position at the front line with the Company B troopers who had been pushed out of Mook and accurately fired his M1 Garand on the enemy. His presence on the front line quickly steadied the troopers who, following his example, halted the German advance and forced them to take cover back into the town.

Two platoons of Company A were then sent to attack the German positions in Mook and  to try and force them out. They were in part successful in that they pushed the enemy out of the town, but then both companies became surrounded. The Germans relentlessly shelled the town, in the process setting  it on fire to try and rout the Americans. The Dutch residents took shelter in their basements, but afraid of the raging battle outside, they stayed too long and became trapped by the fire until sometime during the night it forced them out of their burning homes. The Americans saw them walking slowly like undead people up the main road of the town. Many of them were aflame, holding their children in their arms, screaming and wailing in agony, and begging for help. For their part, the Americans were completely exhausted and had sustained many casualties. They had little or no ammunition, and being shelled and surrounded, could do nothing for them. 

Just imagine the feelings these men must have endured in not being able to help the townsfolk. During the battle, the people of Mook had taken the paratroopers in. They had given them whatever meager aid they could. According to reports, witnessing the civilians’ suffering had seriously affected the surviving troopers. If Bill was indeed assigned to Company A or B, he might have been in a position to witness this scene as several men were in plain site of it.

During the battle for Mook, did a little Dutch girl shelter behind Bill and his comrades while they fought the German paratroopers from the basement of her family’s ruined home? Did she give Bill one of her woolen yarn dolls after the battle was over as a gift to him for his gift to her of liberation? If so, it would have been precious to him. Precious enough to keep it and want bring it home. Especially so if he had indeed seen her or members of her family wailing in agony as they emerged from their shattered home to burn on the main street of Mook.

The fight in Mook is an example of the scores of similar house to house battles involving civilians that raged around Nijmegen during Operation Market - Garden. Whether or not Bill fought in Mook, or in some other place, the battle there paints a contextual picture of the reasons why he would want to keep the doll especially given the copious amount and diverse variety of tempting artifacts he was yet to take over the next year as he moved with the 82nd Airborne through Belgium, France, Germany and then Berlin. It also explains why he would want to give it away when he got home in an effort to forget what he had endured and move on with his life.


Photo 3: Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal River looking north from the burned out ruins of Nijmegen September 28, 1944

Photo 3 provides an idea of the conditions in which the men fought in the battle for Mook and other towns.

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Map 1: Front line on September 11, 1944, six days before Operation Market Garden


(Click on Map 1 to view it in higher resolution)

Map 1 Source: United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: The Siegfried Line Campaign MacDonald, C. 1963, p. 4. Retrieved from

Map 2: Front line on December 15, 1944. The 82nd Airborne Division were relieved by Canadians on November 10, 1944


(Click on Map 2 to view it in higher resolution)

Map 2 Source: United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: The Siegfried Line Campaign MacDonald, C. 1963, p. 130. retrieved from

Map 3: Operation MARKET GARDEN showing the drive of British 30 Corps from Belgium to the 101st Airborne’s position in Eindhoven on September 18, 1944 (top left of map)


(Click on Map 3 to view it in higher resolution)

Source: United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: The Siegfried Line Campaign MacDonald, C. 1963, p. 130. Retrieved from

Map 4: Operation MARKET GARDEN showing the where the 504th , 505th & 50th PIRs fought around Nijmegen, Holland


(Click on Map 4 to view it in higher resolution)

Map 4 Source: United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: The Siegfried Line Campaign MacDonald, C. 1963, p. 130. retrieved from

  © Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2013 All Rights Reserved.

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