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September 1944
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September 1944

Sunday September 17
th 1944 
 

It was a beautiful sunny day in the German occupied Netherlands. Like every Sunday, the people of Eerde were together in the church, praying for better times. Because of the news that had come from Belgium and France, they knew that the liberators weren't far away. And when Father Willenborg announced from his pulpit that "something" was about to happen, the parishioners immediately knew what he was pointing at. The church-organ softly played the first notes of our national hymn...........



Departure from England


Landing paratroopers

At that moment the paratroopers of the American 101st Airborne Division were already on their way to Eerde. General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Montgomery had chosen the surroundings of Eerde to be the dropzone for the 2nd and 3rd battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Together with the 1st battalion, which landed north of Veghel, they had to conquer the corridor between Sint Oedenrode and Uden and keep it open for the advance of the Brittish 30th Army. Important parts of that corridor were the bridges in Veghel, that crossed the Zuid Willemsvaart canal and the River Aa.
All of this was part of the operation Market Garden.

In the afternoon the first Dakota was seen, approaching from the south. They had come by Belgium, which was already liberated. On board of the airplane were 14 pathfinders, who were the first to jump near Eerde. They had to mark the landing place for the oncoming serials. Some minutes later the sky was filled with hundreds of  parachutes, providing the liberators and their equipment a soft landing on Dutch soil.
Because there were no Germans in Eerde at that time, the Americans had the village under control within an hour and had set up roadblocks to prevent a German attack on Veghel.
Many of the paratroopers were young men of about 20 years old who hadn't been abroad before, apart from their stay in England. They had experienced mortal fear on their way to the Netherlands, because of the shooting of German anti-aircraft defense. When they recovered firm ground and they enjoyed the warm welcome in Eerde, the war didn't seem all that bad.
But those who had joined the invasion in Normandy in June, knew that there was a lot of trouble ahead..........

Sergeant Jacob H. Wingard
Monday September 18th 1944
The Americans had taken Eerde, but not the sanddunes west of the village. Therefore the Germans were able to attack the village the next day from the sanddunes. At the same time German troops advanced from Schijndel to Veghel along the railroad. There were heavy fights near the windmill and the railway station. In the first instance the paratroopers were able to resist the attacks, partly because the mill was an excellent observation post.
Sergeant Jacob Wingard, who guided the morter fire from up in the windmill, got a bullet in the chest and died in the windmill.
Eventually it proved to be impossible for the paratroopers, who only carried light arms, to hold out and they retreated to Veghel.

Bridge over the Willemsvaart canal
(photo: Johan van Eerd)
Tuesday September 19th 1944
In the course of the morning the first British tanks arrived at the bridge over the Zuid Willemsvaart canal in Veghel. The corridor was open but the Germans, who had taken possession of Eerde again, were only a bare kilometer away. Colonel Johnson didn't like this at all and he directed the 3rd battalion to Eerde.

Eerde September 1944
Wednesday September 20th 1944
Heavy fights were fought to recapture Eerde. Some Sherman tanks of the British 30th Army were assigned to the 3rd battalion of the 501st Regiment. One of these tanks was destroyed the same day, right under the eyes of Ltc. Ewell. All of the crew lost their lives.
At the end of the day Eerde was in Allied hands again.
Thursday September 21st 1944
The Dutch resistance had information that the Germans in Schijndel planned to attack the corridor. Instead of waiting for this attack, Colonel Johnson decided to surprise the Germans. The 1st battalion, lead by Colonel Kinnard, were in Heeswijk at the time, ready to attack Schijndel from the North. Shortly after midnight they reached Schijndel.
The advance of the 3rd battalion, which had left from Eerde at 22.00 hours, was not that prosperous. Several times they were shot at and they lost much time clearing the farms they passed from German soldiers. Some paratroopers were captured by the Germans.


Sherman tanks in Veghel
(photo: Johan van Eerd)
Fryday September 22nd 1944
By dawn the 3rd battalion reached Schijndel. They were assisted by 12 British tank who had waited for daylight in Eerde.
The conquest of Schijndel advanced prosperously, but in the afternoon came the message that the operation had to be stopped, because Veghel was under German attack. As the Americans were on their way to Schijndel, German troops that came from Wijbosch had taken Eerde again and were threatening the corridor. And the 2nd battalion in Veghel was busy parrying another German attack from the east.
The 1st battalion went to Eerde along the railroad, while the 3rd battalion returned to the village by way of hamlet the Coevering. Again there were severe fights before the Germans in Eerde surrendered.


WACO glider with Jeep
Saturday September 23rd 1944
In Veghel German troops still tried to take the bridges. The 2nd battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment got some help of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment. These units had landed in WACO gliders, in which they had brought jeeps and anti-tank guns. The German assault was stopped.
Eerde had a more or less quiet day. A camp for the German prisoners was set up on a field where now the Petrus and Paulus School is.


Gilbert L. Astin
Sunday September 24th 1944
Because the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment had taken over the positions in Veghel, the 2nd battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment went to Eerde. They did so by following the railroad. At the railroad bridge over the canal they were shot at by German 88 mm canons. Many men were killed or got wounded.
The 907th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, who had landed the day before with their gliders, came to support the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Eerde with their 105 mm howitzers. They were just in time, because on that very day the Germans attacked the corridor on several places. The Fallschirm Regiment of Von der Heydte attacked Eerde from the sanddunes with 200 men and a number of tanks.
The moment they were noticed by the Americans, the fight began. Bullets and grenades came flying into the village. The church and the windmill were heavily damaged. A truck with ammunition got a direct hit from a grenade and the explosion costed the lifes of many American soldiers.
Three British tanks had arrived in Eerde. Even before they could take position, they were destroyed by German grenade fire and most of the crew came to a terrible end. 
Click here and read about the life of Gilbert L. Astin, the tankdriver who got killed at the windmill.
The British commander refused to risk more of his tanks if the Germans would not be chased away from the sanddunes.
After heavy fights, in which the Americans showed heroic courage, the dunes were cleared.
While the Regiment of Von der Heydte was attacking the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Eerde, the battalion of Major Jungwirth more to the west was heading for the corridor. The Germans succeeded in cutting off the traffic-artery. They took positions near hamlet Logtenburg.  After all previous delays, this action was disastrous for Operation Market Garden. 
Monday September 25th 1944
To delay the advance of the allied forces even more, the Germans tried to destroy the canal bridge near Veghel. But that didn't come to much, because American and British soldiers attacked them from all sides. All day there was fighting at Logtenburg. Towards evening the corridor was recaptured, but the Germans were still there.
Since they were surrounded the Germans could do nothing but try to escape. They managed to do so in the night and they were able to take their 88 mm canons with them to Schijndel.
Tuesday September 26th 1944
The allied forces were pretty sick of the German assaults and decided to eliminate them for good.
The Germans had dug in in the area between Schijndel, Eerde and Sint-Oedenrode. They had suffered many losses and were easily overpowered by the Americans and the British. The small group who managed to escape to Schijndel could do little harm and the corridor was open permanently.
     Sources:
-    Brabant Bevrijd                          Diddens, Swarts
-    Diegenen uit de Eerde                R. Verberk - Gloudemans, A. v.d. Burgt
-    Molen in de frontlinie                  E. Janssen
-    Oral stories