Battle Study # 15       

 

File No.: Battle Study # 15

Title: Icon Market Garden photo's are staged by military photographers
Investigation made at: Veghel,
Oosterbeek, Municipality of Renkum,
Elst, Municipality of Overbetuwe and
Dodewaard, Municipality of Neder-Betuwe,The Netherlands.

Period Covered: September - November 1944
Date: August, 2008
Case Classification: Three photographs, two being taken by members of the US Army Signal Corps and one by Sergeant Lewis of the British Army Film and Photographic Unit have become icons of the Battle of Arnhem but are, in all likelihood, staged by the photographers.
Status of Case: Active

 

(click on the thumbnails for original sizes of covers)

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION:
While researching documents and analyzing of photographs of Operation Market Garden, it came to this agency's attention that three specific photographs are featured in almost every publication. Each of these images is action packed and captures many of the circumstances, so characteristic of the campaign. These images are also staged, simulated, reenacted for the camera. Operation Market Garden was thought of as the last big battle before Allied forces could drive into Germany and force the Nazis into defeat. Moreover, planners were confident that the operation would be a success. It was therefore considered wise to have photo and film cameramen as well as reporters of all kinds of military and civilian news media, embedded in the various units that made up First Allied Airborne Army in the invasion of The Netherlands. Market Garden therefore was an operation that was extremely well covered by the press. This Battle Study describes the origins of the three best known Market Garden photographs.
 

SYNOPSIS:
Photo # 1:

 

"US paratroopers fight in Veghel to keep Hell's Highway open."
 

Description:
This photograph is evidently intended to depict the struggle of the American airborne troops to keep the Corridor, which they dubbed 'Hell's Highway', open.
The photograph shows four soldiers of the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion moving forward on Hoog Straat in Veghel. They pass a burned-out American GMC truck of quartermasters of the 101st Airborne Division. This truck had brought gasoline in jerry cans and had come to Veghel in the division's so-called 'seaborne tail'; meaning not transported by air but driving from the Belgian border up the corridor. The truck was hit by a German Jagdpanther attacking Veghel in an attempt to cut the corridor .
Date: September 23rd 1944
Location: The Netherlands, Veghel, Hoog Straat,
Cameraman: Unknown cameraman, the credits for this photograph are always for the US Army Signal Corps.
Details about staging: These airborne engineers appear to move forward cautiously but the cameraman is in front of them with his back to the 'enemy'. Also, the fighting on the 23rd of September in the Veghel area took place on the countryside, South of the town.
Details about location: This location is also featured on our Now&Then Holland (1)-page:
 

(click on the image for a full size comparison)

 



Photo # 2:



"British glider pilots fighting in the perimeter around the Hartenstein hotel in Oosterbeek."
 

Description:

This photograph appears in almost every book about the Battle of Arnhem. Captions under this photo all refer to the heroic battle of every soldier in the British 1st Airborne Division, even of the ones bringing them to the battlefield. Although their uniforms do not give clues to their specific units, these men are almost always identified as glider pilots. British army regulations prescribed that glider pilots, after landing their aircraft, would serve as infantry soldiers. Because all glider pilots carried the rank of Sergeant, units made up of glider pilots were referred to as the 'Army of Sergeants'.
Date: September 1944 23rd 1944
Location: The Netherlands, Oosterbeek, Utrechtse Weg
Cameraman: Sergeant Mike Lewis of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU). Lewis was part of a group of photographers, movie cameramen and news reporters who were embedded in the 1st British Airborne Division.



Sgt. Lewis
 

When this division's mission to capture the bridge at Arnhem failed, all elements of the division west of Arnhem fought a defensive battle against numerically superior German forces. Center of the defensive perimeter was General Urquhart's headquarters in the Hartenstein hotel. In a later stage of the battle, the AFPU-members moved from their initial location on the western edge of the perimeter to this HQ.
Details about staging: It has never been much of a debate that the troopers in the photograph posed for the camera. Again, the cameraman is with his back toward the enemy. One soldier even looks into the camera.
Details about location: It has long been a mystery where this photograph, frame 7 on the 4th roll of film that Lewis shot during Operation Market Garden, was taken. Many accounts describe the construction material apparently stored in the building. It was sometimes suggested that somebody had been hiding the hardware during the German occupation, intended for postwar use. Few people, however, noticed the black-ringed entrance hole in the back wall of what appears to be an armor piercing shell. Also of interest is the upper part of a hand-cranked water pump, visible at knee-height of the soldier second from the right. This item is supporting evidence of the discovery made by  Dutch historian Robert Voskuil, of the Friends of The Airborne Museum.
A thorough investigation made by Mr. Voskuil  revealed that the destroyed house is in fact a winter garden that stood East of the stable block of the Hartenstein hotel. The building was used to let potted plants 'hibernate' inside it during the winter. Unfortunately there are no good photographs of the building as it was. After the war it was demolished and never rebuilt. Aerial photographs, taken in 1945, show the roofless building. From an enlargement, the L-shaped wall in the back of the 'combat-' picture can be seen.


Voskuil's findings were published in the December 2004 issue of the Museum's Newsletter.

(click here for a translation of the article)

 

Stables and winter garden of Hartenstein Hotel, 1945

 


Restaurant Kleyn Hartensteyn, today   
 

Battldetective.com went to this location and found the plot where once the winter garden was:

 

(click on the images for the full size photographs)
  

 

We took this comparison photograph from the same spot where Lewis stood:

 

(click on the image for a full size comparison)

 

Possible legible symbols on wall in picture
While studying a large print of the complete image on the film frame battle detectives noticed a number of white dots, visible in the upper right corner of the photograph. At a first look, these dots look like letters and figures forming a text of some sort. Detectives Tom and Ivo were under the impression of seeing a text resembling 'telefoon' and 'weg' (Telephone, Road) and the numbers "64" or "54".
Careful examination of the print with a normal magnifying lens gave an enlargement of the 'symbols' but did not reveal a legible text.

 

Since the British Imperial War Museum is to be credited for Lewis' photograph, we have requested a photograph from the negative there, as only a direct print could enhance the resolution of the picture and the white dots we have discovered.
The high resolution scan came from the Imperial War Museum into our office on the 26th of August, 2008.

Unfortunately their version revealed  no further clue:

 


We will bear this text hypothesis in mind until we find a technique to enhance the alleged symbols.


Photo # 3:

 


"American paratroopers cross a field under German artillery fire."

 

Description: Two soldiers cross a field while one of them stands approximately three feet away from an explosion that kicks up a fountain of dirt. This US Army Signal Photograph is often used to illustrate combat by US paratroopers in The Netherlands in general. Hardly ever is any reference made to a specific unit, location or date. Sometimes captions under this photograph mention that the explosion is caused by a German 88 millimeter gun.
Date: October 1944
Location: Betuwe Region, The Netherlands

Cameraman: Unknown cameraman, the credits for this photograph are always for the US Army Signal Corps.
Details about staging: On page 205 of Mark Bando's Vanguard of the Crusade we read:

"Life at Dodewaard
Southeast of Opheusden, elements of the 502nd held the southwest flank of the division line near Dodewaard. Action in the area was mostly limited to patrolling, and many men were killed or wounded by the thousands of German land mines planted in the area.
A press photographer visited this sector during October and told Schuyler Jackson that he wanted to get a great action photo. At a loss for what to do, the men decided to "stage" a picture. They planted some C-2 explosive rigged with a remote detonator in a nice pile of mud and positioned one trooper to the rear of it. The trooper struck a pose with his weapon at the ready and at a given signal, the charge was detonated. The photographer snapped a still photo of the explosion and the photo was later published in many books, newspapers, and magazines. The caption said the pictures showed an American paratrooper near Arnhem, advancing under 88mm fire. It was hailed as one of the great action shots of WWII."


Common practice to use army resources for media photographs
On page 408 of George Koskimaki's book 'Hell's Highway' we read that during the 502nd Regiment's deployment in the Dodewaard area it was not uncommon at all to make use of army property and personnel in order to help news media to get war photographs:

"During the same afternoon [October 16th, 1944], a team of photographers and writers from Life Magazine appeared on the scene. They wanted to photograph the capturing of prisoners.
The diary of S/Sgt. Earl Cox of "F" Company had this notation for the 16th of October: At 1435, a combat patrol sent out to houses at our immediate front supported by tanks and artillery. Captured two prisoners. Mission successful. Artillery from enemy had direct on CP. No casualties. Moved CP next door. Patrol action was photographed.
"I remember an incident that took place up on the Island," wrote Sgt. Howard Matthews. Lt. Col. Allen Ginder came up to the front lines of 'F' Company with three reporters from Life Magazine. They wanted pictures of Germans being taken prisoner. A squad from 3rd Platoon went out with them across a field and into a woods in the German lines.
'When they left, we took a machine gun and moved to the left of a field and down a drainage ditch of the field the 3rd Platoon squad crossed. We spotted a German squad moving down the ditch trying to cut off the 3rd Platoon squad. We opened fire on them killing several and two of them raised their hands and surrendered and came down the ditch to us. Meanwhile, the German troops in the woods opened fire on Ginder and the squad. Ginder was wounded in the hip and leg. He was carried back with other men from the squad. The Life Magazine people were unhappy because they were not used to being shot at. LTC Ginder was unhappy because he got shot. But then the Life Magazine people were happy when I gave them two Germans to take back with them."


Details about location: The location of the staged photograph in Mark Bando's account is near Dodewaard. The 502nd was in fact in Dodewaard toward the end of the Division's deployment on the Island. Historian Peter Hendrikx, however, remembers this:

"Near the end of the 1980's, I was on The Island together with Sky Jackson, Colonel Robert Jones and also with Joe Ludwig if I recall correctly. On that occasion Sky [...] said that the specific photograph was taken in front of the former post and telegraph office. In that building were their headquarters and as a member of "HQ"- Company it is likely that he was around when the British correspondent asked them for an action photograph. This old post office building was still there during the end of the 1980's, but in the meantime the whole surrounding area had been built up. A comparison photograph is therefore difficult to make. I think I recall that it was in the center of the town of Elst, in the main shopping street. [...] By the way, after publication of the photograph, the English press immediately expressed its doubts with respect to the authenticity of this action photograph. Sky had a newspaper clipping with the caption: "Is this photo too good to be true?" I do not remember what paper and what date it was, probably October or November 1944."


Schuyler "Sky" Jackson


Research in Spaarnestad Photographic Archive in Haarlem, The Netherlands

Since the photograph is apparently taken in The Netherlands, battle detectives Ivo and Tom visited the Spaarnestad Photographic Archive in Haarlem on the 20th of August 2008. The Spaarnestad archive keeps millions of photographs on file and is the largest in The Netherlands.
Remarkably, prints of this photograph are filed in two separate folders; "Arnhem" and "Normandy". Also, they are of different dimensions and show slightly different images. We assume that one of the prints shows the complete exposed film frame.
Also of interest are the stamps, captions, and notes on the back of the photographs.

Photograph from "Normandy" folder:
On the back of this print a caption, typed on a slip of paper, was glued, reading:

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

"THE YANKS IN THE ETO"
82. "And the krauts threw everything in the book
at us, including the mud from under our feet. "This
show didn't come off too well at all, at all."
U.S. Signal Corps Photo EA 42236
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY U.S. FIELD CENSOR
"

Similar slips with captions, apparently from the same series of "The Yanks in the ETO" were found in other folders with World War Two photographs in the Spaarnestad archive. This print seems to display the complete image on the exposed film frame.

Photograph from "Arnhem" folder:
The familiar transparent Signal Corps seal is printed on this photograph. On the back of the print are an official Signal Corps stamp and a caption, printed in purple ink, reading:

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

"SC 194840-S(A)
American paratroopers dash through field in
assault on Arnhem, amid bursting German 88's.
Holland, 10/9/44.
"

This print seems to display a slightly cropped version of the image on the exposed film frame.

Remarkably, these photographs have two different Signal Corps photo numbers; EA 42236 and SC 194840-S(A).
The photographs in the archive do not reveal clues as to the exact location. Because of the mentioned date, October 9th 1944, and the visible helmet stencils and shoulder patches in the photographs, it can be concluded that the depicted soldiers are members of the 101st and that the photograph was therefore taken in the general area known as 'The Island'. The towns of Dodewaard and Elst are located in that area.

Elst as possible location of the photograph
+ The only clue in support of this location is Peter Hendrikx's account.
- Speaking against this town as the location, is the fact that the 502nd was not stationed in Elst.
- And although there is photographic evidence that there were telephone poles in the street of the town hall and the post office and this same evidence shows that these buildings were in the center of town, surrounded by other buildings, not muddy pastures.

 

   
(click on the images to enlarge)


Today, like Peter Hendrikx stated, the old post office building has been demolished to create space for the town hall's modern annex. The building next to the old post office was the Roman Catholic Society's building named 'Het Centrum' (The Center).  During the German occupation it was requisitioned by the Germans and used as 'Ortskommandatur' (Town Commandant's Headquarters). Today it houses a dispensary drugstore named 'De Batauwe' (old spelling for the Betuwe Region).
This is a photograph that we took recently, showing the gap between the town hall and the next building, were the post office used to be:
 

 

Standing in front of the town hall and the plot were the post office used to be (like in Peter Hendikx's recollection of what Sky Jackson said), this is what the Signal Corps cameraman would see today:
 

(click on the images to enlarge)

        

    view from town hall         view from post office site

 

Two features in today's view from the post office plot, lead us to believe that our action photograph was not taken in across the street from this building:


Location of recent SS atrocities to inhabitants of Elst
In a straight line from the building (behind the (c) symbol in the above 'Today photograph') is a monument to three civilians from Elst, who were murdered by SS troops on the 14th of September 1944. These men, two school teachers and a civil servant where killed just three days before the start of Operation Market Garden. The reason remains a mystery today, but it is believed that the Germans wanted to punish the people of Elst for the destruction of a military vehicles by randomly picking some towns people. The monument was erected shortly after the end of the war, but it is likely that a makeshift marker was made already when the 101st was deployed on 'The Island'. The marker might either have showed in the action photograph. Also, the story has it that the three victims were lined up against a wall and where shot. There is no wall in the action Photo. And finally, a marker, or knowledge of what happened on this spot would prevent demolition men to use this area as a backdrop for the photo.


Building in modern Elst was there in 1944

Judging from the architecture of the building across the street, it must have been there in 1944.Today,diners are welcomed in it, as it houses the 'Hartelust'  ('Heart's Content) pancake restaurant. Battledetective.com conducted an enquiry by telephone and talked to restaurant staff and management. One of the waitresses went outside for us and read the text on an engraved gable marker out loud. It reads (translated from Dutch):


"Monument Stone to

Josje Jaspers
July 1939"

 

The manager explained us that the building dates back from the 1930's and that until 1999 it was used as the practice of a local medical doctors family named Jaspers. It became a pancake restaurant in 2000.
As this building would become the backdrop for a photograph taken across the street, we consider it even less likely that 'our'  photograph was taken inside the built-up area of Elst.

 

Dodewaard as possible location of the photograph
Positive indications that the photograph was taken in Dodewaard are:
+ the 502nd was stationed in and near that town.
+ a comparable incident with photographers being assisted in the creation of a spectacular picture occurred in Dodewaard.

There still are leads to be developed such as researching the building were the demolition team of the 502nd's "HQ"-Co. was quartered and what the immediate (rural) surroundings of it looked like at the time. In the mean time, given the pro's and con's, we have the working hypothesis that this photograph was taken in or near Dodewaard.
Battledetective.com visited Dodewaard and found the building that used to be the town hall:



 

Until today, we are not certain if this was the Regimental Headquarters of the 502nd, nor if "HQ"-Company Demolition team was billeted here. This building is within the built-up area of Dodewaard surrounded by buildings from an time before 1944.

For our comparison we therefore went to "The Island" area, picked a random pasture along the road from Elst to Dodewaard and took this photograph:


(click on the image for a full size comparison)


 

Our educated guess and random choice turned out not to be that far-fetched!
Shortly after our visit to The Island and taking the photograph of the 'random pasture', we discovered this photograph, taken shortly after all the fighting on The Island had ended:
 


 

It shows a knocked out German tank, 'turned turtle' on the exact same stretch of road as where we took our photograph!
This is an impression of this same T-intersection of Valburgse Weg and the road to the hamlet named Homoet, today:

 

(click on the images to enlarge)
        

 

 

Note that the same electrical power relay station is still there, be it with a new flat roof. The period picture shows the same 'Letter A- telephone wire poles' as in the right hand corner of the Signal Corps 'action photograph' discussed here!


Another possible clue

The complete exposure of the negative shows an object in its left corner, which in most publications is cut from the print.

 

    

    'extra exposed                                                                  section that is usually published
        section'


It appears to be a set of two long objects, like poles, but in our opinion, they are slimmer than telephone wire poles:
 

 

Also, for a 'Letter-A' configuration, the pole on the right is spaced too far from the vertical pole and the cross-bar would be missing. This new feature may be of help in our still active research to the photo location.

CONCLUSIONS:

We have established that in World War Two it was not uncommon that the military provided news media with action photo opportunities. We do not believe that there is any doubt that the action, depicted in the three Market Garden photographs featured in this Battle Study, was simulated.
We have been able to recreate the first two pictures (Veghel and Oosterbeek) with great certainty. The location of the third photograph has not been established without some margin for further speculation. This file remains active until we find conclusive evidence for the location of the third photograph.

EXHIBITS:
To conclude this Battle Study, we have added some photographs that we took in the middle of the plot were the Hartenstein winter garden in Oosterbeek once stood.
12

 

1 The winter garden does seem to have had a good purpose in the past and its absence appears to be felt. These are plants and pots, dumped on the plot. They apparently did not survive the winter of 2007-'08 in the open.

2 Today, the exact location of a photograph portraying combat in towns, reminds more of warfare in a jungle environment.

 

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