The picture below is dated September 17th 1944 at approximately. 13.00h. It captures one of the actions of 501PIR.
At first view it looks like one of the hundreds taken during that day but this picture has several questions in it.
Enough questions to research.
1. which dropzone are we talking about?
2. why are there two serials in cross direction?
3. how/why is this picture taken from a higher altitude?
On September 17th operation Market Garden was launched. A combined operation with land and air forces. Many objectives had to been taken by air assault troops to clear the road for infantry and armoured forces on there way to Arnhem.
At approximately 10.00h on September the 17th several Troop Carrier Wings started taking of from a dozen airfields in England. According to a navigation plan (pict.1) they had to assemble at certain points to continue there way to Holland.
In planning stage there were two main routes developed to approach Holland. The Southern route assigned to 101 AB and the Northern assigned to 82AB and British Airborne troops. To transport 101AB in total 424 plains were sent to Holland carrying a total of 6695 troops. Approaching the Belgium coast the plains were escorted by 6 groups of P-51’s to give area cover.
As to the frontline in Belgium the flight went smooth due to good visibility that day.
The Dakota’s would fly into Belgium and than make a left hand turn to cross the frontline just beyond the Belgian town Geel.
In planning stage several DZ’s where assigned to 101AB. DZ-A and DZ-A1 would be the landing area for 501PIR while DZ-B would be the area for 502PIR and DZ-B for 506PIR. The objectives for 501PIR where two bridges over the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, laying in between the two DZ’s crossed by the canal.
This kind of operations were preceded by the pathfinder groups. The main task of the pathfinders is to mark the dropzone for the advancing paratroopers. These special trained troops only have a short period of time to install a radio beacon, signal panels and other radio equipment as well as to lay smoke signals as a visual beacon when the advancing serial was in sight. By this reason they are flying ahead of the main body.
At 10.25h. two pairs of pathfinder aircrafts took off from England. One pair (2x C47) was assigned for DZ-A and the other pair for DZ-B and DZ-C. While the second pair had to wait for its time interval at the Belgian coast the lead pair (serial A-2A/DZ-A) flew straight on to the, with orange smoke marked, frontline. Near Geel, flying at a speed of approximately 180 mph, they took heavy fire from the Germans and one, of the only two planes for DZ-A, was hit in his left wing. This plain crashed near the town Retie (pict.2).
The only plane left continued his flight to DZ-A close to the town Veghel. It picked up the sight of the railway which bounded the DZ and used it as a lead to approach the DZ. At 12.47h. it was able to drop the pathfinders in standard procedure i.e. low altitude and minimum speed.
Because of encountering no resistance in combination with months of training they were able to put the Eureka radio beacon up in operation within five minutes and lay out the signal panels in 2.5 minutes. As they first had trouble with the beacon antenna it was operating well at approximately 12.52h.
The green smoke signals were not set off till the main serials
were in sight.
During that time serial A-4, A-6 and A8 were continuing there way to The Netherlands. (The letter A stands for flown by American crew).
These serials where loaded as follow and carried approximately 2050 troops;
A4 45xC47 DZ-A1 1-501pir 3rd Pltn A-326 AEB
A6 45xC47 DZ-A 2-501pir,HQ-501pir
A8 45xC47 DZ-A 3-501pir 3rd Pltn B-326 AEB
The paratroopers of 1-501 had 2 main objectives. These were objective “T” which would be the traffic bridge in Veghel,and objective “R” to be the railway bridge at Veghel.
As the serials were approaching the town Oirschot they got under intense German flak fire. The lead serial A4, carrying Lt.Col. Harry Kinnard, swerved west of its true course to avoid this flak (pict.3). This flak was situated approximately 12 miles from the planned DZ.
Recalculated in flight time this would approximately 5.2 minutes to the DZ. Continuing their flight on the new course they saw the canal approaching but didn’t recognize the planned DZ. When the green light given Kinnard had just little time for
orientation when he said “wrong field again”. They landed close to Heeswijk Castle at a wrong location approximately 5 miles north-west of the planned DZ-A1.
A-4 dropped 42 sticks at 13.01h.They suffered a complete miss drop.
In the meantime A-6 and A-8 where on there way to DZ-A.At 13.06h. A-6 dropped the 2nd battalion and at 13.11h. A-8 dropped the 3rd battalion and remaining paratroops.
A-6 and A-8 dropped just less than a mile off from the planned DZ-A.
Inhabitants of the town Schijndel stated that they have seen planes coming along north-west (A-4) and south east (A-6 and A8) of the town.
Question: Which dropzone are we talking about?
The first picture in this article is from Serial A4, Lt.Col.Harry Kinnards battalion. It captures the miss drop at Heeswijk Castle. It is taken to south-west direction. In the middle, across the picture, we see the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal.Below this canal we find Heeswijk Castle dated from the 12th century.
Although we are talking about a miss drop the final results were within the expected as Klondike HQ reported;
As we look closer to the picture we not only see some C47’s coming in but we also see some paratroopers hanging under their parachute. We can also discover several colours of the chutes to mark the supplies. These supplies are often dropped form underneath the C47, attached to the body during the flight.
In this picture we count twelve C47 planes from the total of 45 that were in the serial. Some plains are ahead of the camera but some are missing as next story explains.
DZ-A pathfinder, T5 Henri Billings, had a security task on his mission. He had to secure the pathfinder DZ to enable others to install the equipment. After all troops had landed at DZ-A Henri Billings saw paratroopers from 1-501 walking around in Eerde. As 1-501 made a miss drop at Heeswijk castle the troopers he saw could not have been in Eerde. This can only be explained by the fact that a few C47’s made a last moment diversion towards DZ-A as they recognized to be in the wrong direction. This all has to do with PPN1-A radio beacon that the pathfinders carried with them. This subject will be researched in another project.
Question: why are there two serials in cross direction?
As we go back to pict.1 we see that 82nd was supposed to fly along the Northern route to avoid collision with the serials of 101AB.
This was also meant for serial A7 carrying 1-505 from 82nd. In this serial Brigade General James Gavin was one of the paratroopers.
Serial A-7 from the 82nd was number 3 serial in a total of 11 but the lead serial that left from Cottemore airfield.
For unknown reasons A-7 swerved slightly south of its course (pict.2) causing it to drift into 101AB operational area.
G-3, John Norton stated; We had been flying for some time totally unaware of where we were, when suddenly below our flight appeared a group of ships flying at an angel from our right rear to our left front (pict.4).
At that moment John sighted serial A-4 from 101AB at DZ-A1, first thinking this might be German ships. Just underneath them parachutes started falling from the sky which was clearly from an American formation. A few minutes later they discovered a landmark and found that they had drifted south of the planned flight route.
Continuing there flight they also must have seen serial A-6 coming in at DZ-A. The mentioned landmark would probably have been the town Veghel situated at the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal with a typical dead end canal ending in the harbour.
In the first picture, taken at DZ-A1, we can recognize 37 C47’s from 1-505 of a total of 45.
In this case they were all lucky to fly on a different height as 1-501 was flying at approximately 500 foot (average drop altitude) and 1-505 at appr. 1500 foot.
Question: how/why is this picture taken from a higher altitude?
As part of a publicity plan, a special B-17 bomber was made
available for photographers and reporters from the services and the Press War Pool. With this they were able to cover this huge air operation. On board there were people from the IX TCC, Stars and Stripes, Reuters, United Press and Acme/Planet. There were also
some high rank officers on board, like General Brereton who was
in charge of all Airborne Forces in this operation.
Many pictures published after operation Market Garden are from this B-17 flight. Because the B-17 had a higher cruise speed (211 mph) than a C47 (140 mph) it enabled them to overtake several serials to take pictures. Pictures were taken from lower and higher altitude, from serials, droppings and DZ’s .They used every possible position in the plain, even from the gun positions which gave some beautiful results.
They created in fact the base for our research project.
This research article is written by Klondikes member “Carvey”.
More details can be found in “Operation Market Garden then and now” ISBN: 1 870067 39 8