Gilbert Leslie Astin was born in Manchester, England, on December 26, 1922. His father was a dentist, his mother was a former dancer with the famous Tiller Girls.
When Gilbert was 5 years old, the family moved to the village of Marple, where he spent his further childhood. When he was 19 years old, he joined the army and became a tank driver. Gilbert fought in Egypt and Italy, before taking part in the Normandy invasion in June 1944.
His tank regiment advanced rapidly through France and Belgium. During Operation Market Garden the 44th tank regiment was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.
On September 24, 1944, during the heaviest fighting Eerde has known, Gilbert's Sherman tank stood between the windmill and the miller's house. It got a direct hit from a German tank. Gilbert died in his driver's seat, aged 21. He is buried in the cemetery in Eerde along with his comrades in arms James Hardy, Jasper Jones, Roy Hooper and Frank Stacey.
In 2006, a booklet about Gilbert Astin's life was released.
Carl Dean Beck grew up in Avondale, Missouri where he was born on November 21, 1925.
Carl was a machine gunner in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He participated in the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944 where his regiment was dropped behind enemy lines. After a month the regiment returned to England to strengthen and make up for losses.
On September 17th, 1944 he landed by parachute on the Vlagheide near Eerde. In the following weeks, Carl fought fiercely in and around the village. Then his unit moved on to the Betuwe, the Ardennes and through Germany to Austria. When he finally returned home in 1945, he found it difficult to get used to civilian life, and in 1950 he rejoined the United States Army. He served in Korea and the Middle East. In 1963 he left the army permanently.
Carl has often returned to Eerde, where a visit to the primary school was never missed. He was an engaging storyteller with a lot of humor, although he could also express very seriously what a soldier is exposed to at the front line. Carl lived to be 89 years old and has worked in the library of Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia until his last days. He passed away on September 13, 2015 after falling badly in his house.
His farewell greeting will always stay with us: "Blue Skies!!".
Ray Nagell grew up in Minneapolis as third of nine children.
His father had told him horific stories about his service in the first World War, so he wasn't very enthousiastic about joining the Army. However, he was drafted and ended up in the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division. He barely survived the Normandy invasion, being on a sinking ship that had hit a mine. After 30 days of pushing the Germans back in Normandy, Ray's unit went back to England to await their next mission. This would be Operation Market Garden. Again Ray and his comrades escaped an early death. While in their glider, they saw their towing rope being crossed with the rope of another glider. Just in time, the pilots of the towing C-47s saw what was going on and moved away form each other. Ray was involved in many actions along the corridor to Arnhem as well as at Bastogne and later on in Germany and Austria.
When he returned home from the war, Ray worked in machine shops and as a plumbing inspector. After his retirement, he found time to visit Europe again. For many years his wife Helen and Ray came over in September. Eerde was their favorite place, they used to say and a visit to the school children was never skipped. Ray passed away in 2016.
John was born in 1924 in North Cambridge, Massachusetts, Which is now a part of the city of Boston. When the Japanese had attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, he couldn't wait to get into the Army. But John had to wait until July of 1943 before he cold enlist. He volunteered to be a paratrooper and became a member of the wire section of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. His job was to set up and maintain telephone communication between the Regimental Head Quarters and the units at the frontline. It was a dangerous job. Many times John had to repair broken wires while German bullets were flying around.
The moment John landed on Dutch soil on September 17th, 1944, he passed out from illness and was covered by his parachute. When he regained consciousness, his unit had already left for Veghel. John was found by a Dutch farmer who took him to the farm house where he was living with his sister. She gave him a glass of milk which settled his stomach. John was ready to head for Veghel, which was a five mile walk.
The first time that John returned to Holland was in 1986. He managed to find the farm house and it appeared that the woman who gave him the glass of milk was still living there. This was the beginning of a extraordinary friendship which ended when Tonia died in October 2000. John immediately booked a plane and attended her funeral.
John came over to the Netherlands more than 25 times. He loved visiting Eerde and tell his stories to the school children. In 2011 he opened the restored windmill in Eerde, together with Bobby Hunter.
John Primerano passed away in 2019. You can read John's biography in "Down To The Wire" by Cailin Casey.