American artillery soldier John Nasea Jr. of the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion (101st Airborne Division)
is rushed towards the town of Son, Holland in an original US Army Ambulance of World War Two vintage.

Back to Holland after almost 68 years
This was June 13th 2012.
Today was John Nasea's 90th Birthday and the first time he sat foot on Dutch soil since 1944; almost 68 years ago.
Fortunately, John is riding shotgun with the 'meat wagon' driver; as he calls it.
The driver is Guido Wilmes from Eindhoven, The Netherlands, a member of the Battle Wheels World War Two Vehicle Restoration Club.

Tragic start of Operation "Market Garden"
On September 19th, 1944, John Nasea, a veteran of the Normandy campaign at the time, was not so lucky.
He was flown into Holland on the third day of Operation "Market Garden" in Holland in 1944 and was seriously wounded while still in mid air in the CG4A glider that would take him into battle.
Because of blood loss from a gunshot wound in his legs, John lost consciousness while his buddies in the same glider were descending on Landing Zone "W".

He was placed on a makeshift stretcher and put on a jeep trailer carrying 75 millimeter howitzer shells.
Although he was given a morphine injection, the bumpy ride across Dutch pastures hurt John tremendously.
Suddenly he was surprised to see a clean white gurney in the back yard of a Dutch farmhouse.
His wounded body was lifted onto it.
From then on his memory is like a kaleidoscope of impressions.
John was in at least five different Allied aid stations and hospitals before flown from Brussels, Belgium, to England.
He was eventually flown to the US, where he spent another three months in a hospital.
After a total of six months as a guest of the US Army Medical Department, John was discharged from the hospital in the spring of 1945.

Where was I?
In the fall of 2011 John sent us an e-mail with the big question "Where was I?"
He elaborated as much as possible on what he remembered and drew up a diagram:
 

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John went on to explain that it was his wish to spend his 90th birthday on June 13th 2012 on the spot where he was laid on the gurney on September 19th, 1944.


From Mr. Gary Detorre, the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion's World War Two historian, we received valuable information about the deployment of this unit during Market Garden.
We found out that John had been put on the flight manifest of a CG4A combat glider with chalk # 20 at a last minute's notice on the third day of the operation.

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Flight Manifest of Glider Chalk # 20 of the D+2 lift
Operation "Market Garden", September 19, 1944
Source: Mr. Gary Detorre

We also learned that it was nearly impossible to tell where exactly this glider must have landed.
For example, glider pilots of the second lift, September 18th 1944, had been asked to mark the location on Landing Zone "W" where they thought they had landed. This created the following image:

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Source: Mr. Gary Detorre

Based on John's recollections, the information provided by Mr. Detorre and from our own knowledge of the operation, we theorized that John was taken to the Helena Hoeve Farm for emergency treatment after his eventful entering into the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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1) Positions of "A", "B" and Headquarters Batteries of the 321st GFAB in the evening of September 19th, 1944 according to coordinates in unit after action report, plotted on a US Army map of 1943. Source: Mr. Gary Detorre.
2) Positions of the same batteries on September 19th, 1944,  plotted on a contemporary satellite image.

3) Our hypothesis plotted on an areal photograph of September 17th, 1944.

Helena Hoeve Aid Station
We knew that from the beginning of the parachute drops on September 17th to the early hours of September 19th,1944, the Helena Hoeve Farm outside of Son, Holland, owned at the time by the Roefs Family, had been in use as a jump and drop casualty collection point.
it may very well be possible that medical equipment, such as a gurney, was still present at the farm when the 321st GAB landed on the 19th.

During Dutch Museum Weekend in April 2011 we helped Guido Wilmes set up a period medical display in a nearby barn.

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 Photo credits: Battleatbest.com

Finally on the eve of John's 90th birthday we met at the Holiday Inn restaurant in Eindhoven, Holland, several miles south of the Landing Zone at Son.
Together with John's daughter Melissa, we had dinner and discussed the plans for the days to come.


Wednesday June 13, 2012
The next morning we first visited the American Cemetery in Margraten.
We were welcomed by an employee of the American Battle Monuments Committee who acted as a guide for the cemetery.

We first made a stop at the grave of Private First Class Pervey S. Robinson of John's battalion.
Robinson was Killed in Action on The Island, the area in Holland where the 101st had been deployed after the first week of Operation "Market Garden".
The engravings on Robinson's grave marker were filled with sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy, France to make for a better contrast in photographs.

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We also made a stop at Lt-Col Robert G. Cole (3/502; MOH)'s grave.


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We made stops at the Wall of the Missing.
A small hole has been drilled in front of the name of PFC Kight of the 504th PIR for a bronze rosette to be installed by his family this year September.
Kight's remains were found and identified last year.


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Where John Nasea Jr. (most likely) was on September 19th, 1944
We then drove to the Helena Hoeve Farm in the middle of LZ "W" where the 321st GFAB had landed on D+2 of "Market Garden" and where he was presumably given first aid.
En route, we made stops at the Airborne monument behind the Zonhove care center and at the location where Lt-Col. Robert G. Cole hd been Killed in Action.

At exactly 4 PM we arrived at Helena Hoeve and we were welcomed by Berta Roefs, 97 years old, who had lived on the farm in 1944.
Also, Guido Wilmes had set up his World War Two vintage US Army ambulance with several charts pasted on it explaining about Helena Hoeve as an aid station.


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John was then taken to Paulus Hoeve, a farm down to road to the town of Son propper. He got to ride next to the driver. At Paulus Hoeve, farmer Van Overveld showed numerous items found on the drop- and landing zones over the past six decades.

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John clearly became exhausted by the strain of this day and the jet-lag.
Time for rest.
On the way back to the hotel we made a short stop at the Willem Hikspoors Bridge in Eindhoven, featured in our Battle Study # 13.

Thursday, June 14th 2012
The following day we attended the handing-over ceremony of the Geronimo Monument of the adoption class of the elementary school in Eerde.
En route, we visited several locations related to Operation "Market Garden" and the actions of Johnís unit.

We stopped at the monument to PFC Joe. E Mann (H/502; MOH) in Best and at the Old Lake near Son on the location where John's Battery of the 321st GFAB dug in on September 19th, 1944.
Found with help of the map references provided by Gary Detorre.


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Eerde
At about 1 PM we were in Eerde, in time for John to be a special guest in the educational program about the history of the battles of the 501st Parachute Infantry to liberate these kids' hometown, Eerde.
Erwin Jansen, whom we'd appointed the Mayor of Eerde for this day, explained all about the Nazi Occupation of Eerde and the battles to liberate the town.
The school children interviewed John Nasea afterwards.

John took some time reenacting the paratroopers in the mural painted on the inside of the windmill.
And reenacting a reenactor...

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New adoption class for Eerde Airborne Monument

After the future 8th Grade accepted the adoption of the 501st Monument, John and his daughter Melissa Nasea pinned on the Dutch Freedom Torch pin on every new adoption alass student.

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WWII US Army Base Camp

When the ceremony was over, John visited the World War Two camp which the men and women of the Battle Wheels Vehicle Group had created.
Originally intended for the school children of Eerde, they kept it open for veteran John Nasea to see.
John was able to bring back many memories from his 6 months in field and general hospitals when he was seated inside Guido Wilmes (yesterday's meat wagon driver)'s field surgery tent.

Inside the Eerde field surgery tent John held a hemostat with a .30 slug; the type which 'clipped' (John's words) him on September 19, 1944 and he had some morbid fun with an amputation saw (luckily it was not used on him in 1944).
Before we had to leave, the Eerde Airborne Committee and the War Wheels Club presented John with a souvenir picture frame of the Eerde Monument.
 

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John told me on the way back to the hotel that he wasn't tired after all of this.
"How could I, with all the adrenaline?"
We had supper at the Holiday Innís diner and said good bye.
We had a wonderful time showing John and his daughter around.

EXHIBITS:


Private John Nasea Jr.
of the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion, Now & Then


WWII Mascot of the 321st Artillery Battalion


 

June 30th 2012 UPDATE: John sent us the following report and added "thought I'd set the record straight":
 

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November 2012 UPDATE: During John Nasea's visit to the Netherlands it became evident that he was never issued the Royal Netherlands Orange Lanyard decoration issued to all troops in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the IXth Army Air Corps Troop Carrier Command. Modest as John is, he said: "I was wounded and put out of action before I hit the ground. I never took part in Operation "Market Garden".

We studied the Order of the Minister of War dated 20 SEP 1946 (Sec. P. 203), by which permission was granted to the personnel of the 101st Airborne Division to wear the Orange Lanyard and the 101st Airborne Divisional Head Quarters General Order on this subject.
The Orange Lanyard (Oranje Erekoord in the Dutch language) was awarded to the Divisional Colors of the 101st Airborne Division and all individual members who served in the Arnhem operations in the period from 17 September to 28 November 1944.

We found no exceptions for soldiers who were Seriously Wounded in Action in mid-air during their glider ride into The Netherlands and concluded John is entitled to wear this decoration.

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John's medal case includes the Glider Qualification badge,
European Theater of Operation Medal, Purple Heart Medal,
Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal
and an Honorable Discharge pin.
But no Royal Netherlands Orange Lanyard.

On Sunday 28 OCT 2012 we looked John up in his retirement community in Michigan. We had taken away most of the element of surprise because we'd already called him in September about the Orange lanyard.
John had asked: "Can you get it to me in time for me to wear on Veterans Day?

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John, and the other residents who served in America's wars, are honored in the lobby of the retirement home.
 
After citing the Dutch Order of the Minister of War of 1946 about the wear of the Orange Lanyard, we properly placed the lanyard on John's shirt.

After this, John took us out to dine at Ruby Tuesday's.

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