Touring with a Band of Brothers
Ted Moon's Journal
Entry 4 - Holland
Finishing up our second full day in Holland. Operation Market Garden is now fully underway as yesterday, we "captured" the Wilhemina Canal bridge at Zon and the city of Eindhoven. Following Easy and the rest of the 101st's path, we then get moved over to "The Island." The Island is actually not an island but a dyke/canal-ful of land inbetween the Rhine and the Waal rivers. The American part of Market Garden was a success in that the two airborne divisions captured all their objectives allowing for the British armoured units to race towards the ultimate goal of linking up with the British paras up in Arnhem, the last bridge being the one over the Rhine.
However, there was only one main road leading up between Eindhoven (101st), Nijmegen (US 82nd) and Arnhem (British 1st). It was narrow and long and hard to keep open b/c the Germans kept trying to cut off the road. This road is "Hell's Highway" and we drove up this road in the a.m. It is a major road now but one can see that to rush 60 miles up this road with the Germans counterattacking it could be very ambitious.
Going up Hell's Highway was where Paul Rogers was wounded in 1944. He was hit in the arm and his duff and gave him a ticket back to a hospital where he had clean sheets and hot food - something Earl kids him about even today.
We then went to Arnhem for the Airborne Museum there where we were once again greeted by re-enactors, this time Dutch ones. They were all waiting for Paul, Earl, and Jack and one couple (both reenactors) asked Earl to perform their engagement ceremony even though Earl is not a minister! Re-enactors are like the jersey-wearing, face-painting equivalent to military history. By the way, we were all issued replica jump jackets for this trip and people have been wearing them (so as to show that we were tourists if there was any doubt) but quite frankly, I'm the only one in the group to not where mine. Also, the weather has been cloudy, dark, and often rainy the entire time we have been on this tour - very representative of the weather during these campaigns.
The re-enactors however were very nice and they gave some of us who wanted to a ride on their vintage vehicles like jeeps, trucks, and command cars. Some of us went on the truck and one of the re-enactors started singing "Blood on the Ripcords" which was the 101st's and I was impressed he knew all 4 verses of it. The first two are done by Easy in the miniseries as they are headed to Germany.
We then went to the Island itself after overlooking the German position over the it - they could observe every movement and moving around (even to go to the head as Jack puts it) was dangerous. However, on October 5, 1944, Lt. Winters led a platoon from Easy (including Earl) on a mission that knocked out two companies of Germans from the 363rd Volksgrenadier Division at a crossroads - shown in episode 5 of Band of Brothers. Again, after seeing the actual ground, I can piece together the action much better than having read the book and then seen the movie.
We also went to the 506th's HQ and recreated a famous photo of Lt. Winters. One of the great parts of the trip has been watching the appropriate episode either before or after going to the site. Also, it has been even better watching it with Earl and Paul and seeing them commenting (in the movie) or now as we watch it. One of their beefs is that the miniseries focused mostly on the 1st and 2nd platoons of Easy - not their 3rd platoon. Also, although they agreed that most of the actors did a good job portraying the soldiers, they point to Damian Lewis (Winters), Donnie Wahlberg (Carwood Lipton), and Ron Livingston (Lewis Nixon) as some of the standouts. But the consensus among the guys with us now, as well as Buck Compton, Don Malarkey and Forrest Guth (who I met last November in DC), is that Frank John Hughes' portrayal of "Wild Bill" Guarnere was easily the best.
Oh, I forgot yesterday that we went to a small farmhouse which had been Colonel Robert Sink's ("Bourbon Bob") headquarters in the drop zone near Best. The resident there, an older guy who was a boy back then, brought out an original parachute that he collected - totally intact. I was able to verify that the scarf I bought in France was an original. Paratroopers, after they landed, tore off a piece of the parachute to make into a scarf and/or touriquet.
We'll be leaving Holland tomorrow and if it was up to me, I'd just as well stay here the rest of the trip. It's a great country. It is pretty and the people are so nice and it is very clean. Holland is brought to us by canals and the letter "V", since every word it seems has the letter V in it.
Quick note on Earl who I sat with for lunch today. He's another character. Part Indian, he said that his role was always that of a lead scout. His vast outdoors experience made him the perfect fit. He also was one of the few Easy members who escaped the entire campaign without a scratch. He's also known as one of the best shots in the company, competing with only Francis "Shifty" Powers for that distinction.
Also, he told me one piece that I was shocked at. Those who read the book or saw the movie know that Lt. Dykes, who will command Easy after Winters gets promoted and Fred "Moose" Heyliger gets wounded, was a terrible leader. Earl wanted to get rid of him if you know what I mean but only Carwood Lipton prevented it. Dykes got many Easy troopers killed later by his inability to make quick decisions.
He was funny today saying that he spent almost entire $300 that he received when he was discharged in December, 1945 at the beer stand. When Paul said that he wasn't smart enough to get into college, one of the other tourists said "oh, I'm sure that wasn't the case", Earl broke in and said, "no, that's been the only true thing Paul has said all trip!" They banter like they were still 18 and 24, respectively - it is very fun to watch.
Anyway, that is it for today. Have a great Memorial
Day weekend everyone! take care, Ted
ps - no college lacrosse scores, please!
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