Study Title: Paratroopers improvise transportation

Subject: Airborne troops, by definition, are lightly equipped. Therefore any locally obtained means of transportation was added to the Table of Equipment.

Date: September 18th, 1944

Location: Eindhoven, Veghel, Eerde, "The Island" (Betuwe region) Holland

 

Introduction: When the German Army retreated from Belgium and Northern France in late August and early September, many soldiers passed through Eindhoven. In commandeered vehicles, on foot or on stolen bicycles, they hurried to the Heimat.
This is a still picture from a film made secretly on Hoog Straat in Eindhoven:

(click on images to enlarge)

Eindhoven, early September 1944

German soldiers in a Belgian or French farm cart en route to the Fatherland. Note the bicycles in the back.

 

The use of farm carts by the once victorious Wehrmacht was seen by the Dutch as a symbol of the decay of the Third Reich. However, when paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division used all sorts of transportation, it was explained as a symbol of "American Ingenuity".
Eindhoven, September 18th 1944

Paratroopers on Keizers Gracht, using a pram to move their equipment.

 

Requisitioning transportation was part of the overall task of airborne troops. These are the experiences of (Supply) Sergeant Robert R. Webb, of "HQ" Co., 3rd Bn./506th in his book Freedom Found, page 81-82, after landing on the Drop Zone in Son, Holland:
"Now I had a mission to perform. I had to get all the bundles into some kind of conveyance and get them off the DZ and down the road to the bridge at the Wilhelmina Canal. I found the only farmhouse was just off the DZ. I headed for it at once. I went to the barn and found a horse and wagon. Just what we needed! I started to harness the horse and a little Dutchman came out of the house and protested my taking his horse. He was a wonderful little fellow and was about seventy-five years old. He was going to whip my ass right there if I insisted on taking his horse and wagon. I tried to explain why we had to have his horse and wagon for a while but he would not hear of it. His daughter came out and could speak a little English.
I explained to her how urgent it was for us to get these supplies up to the Canal and she told her father. He looked at me and smiled and told her to tell me that his horse and wagon were fully at my disposal and he would drive the wagon anywhere we wanted to go. I said "God bless you sir" and we became friends at once. I helped him to harness the horse and then got up on the wagon seat with him and off we went. He stayed with us for three days. He showed us what the Dutch people were made of. We picked up all the bundles we could find that had ammunition and medical supplies in them. We found a bunch. I took everything out of the bundles and it took up less room in the wagon.
"
 

Here is an account of a Dutch point of view of this type of requisitioning:

Jo van der Linden in Jan van Hout's collection of "Memories of September 1944".
Jo was with his family at the farm on the Northern outskirts of Eindhoven, watching as paratroopers advanced towards Eindhoven on September 18th 1944.
[...]
A while later a second group came into our yard. With the aid of a special booklet, their commander asked my father if the horse that walked in pasture out back belonged to him. After an affirmative answer he asked to tie the horse in front of the cart which stood on the yard. My father agreed, under the condition that one of us could go with them. Apparently he was thinking about the future and didn't want to loose the horse and cart. Of course I, a 16 year old, was jumping to go along. But that did not happen. One of the farm workers went with them.
[...]
Later that day I went to the kindergarten school next to the Vlokhoven church and there I saw 15 to 20 dead Germans lying piled up, criss-cross on top of each other. That was one of the things that they used our horse and cart for. I remember very well that it did not affect me at all. I had more of a feeling like 'serves them well'. This in a bitter contrast to the American Captain (Killey) (sic) who was also lying there with a lethal gunshot wound under his left jaw. He was killed in action that morning across from the windmill in Vlokhoven. On the square stood a halftrack which was presumably used to pull canons. Later, these canons were put out of action and stood on the T-junction of Klooster Dreef, Woenselse Straat and Frankrijk Straat.
[...]
The horse and cart, and the farm worker who was sent along with it, were probably separated during the bombing of Eindhoven by the Germans. The combination of horse and cart later ended up with a horse trader. He aid to have been given the horse and cart. But from whom remained unclear. Anyway my father had to go through a lot of trouble to get the horse and cart he borrowed to the Americans back. But with the help of the police he finally did it."
 

Use of farm carts by paratroopers:

See also Battle Study # 5 for photographs of farm carts at the Woenselse Rail Road Crossing and Battle Study # 7 for pictures of carts bringing the equipment of paratroopers on the Museum Lawn.


(click on images to enlarge)

Farmers Eykemans and Vervoort from Son talk to Dutch army liaison Bothe
(with Corporal stripes on uniform) at the edge of the Drop Zone in Son.
Farmer Jan van Asseldonk from Eerde helps haul equipment for paratroopers of Colonel Johnson's 501st Regiment.
 
Paratroopers of the 501st move through Niew Straat in Veghel, pushing a farm car for their heavy equipment.
The  best example of improvised transportation: a German halftrack with markings of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment!
A BBA-bus load of armed paratroopers of the 501st Parachute Infantry regiment patrols the streets of Veghel. BBA does not stand for "Battle Bus Authority" but for "Brabantsche Buurtspoorwegen en Automobieldiensten"; Dutch for "Province of North-Brabant Regional Railway and Automobile Services".
German officers drove this car to the Sint Lambertus Church in Veghel to observe the parachute landings nearby on September 17th, 1944. Local resistance people sabotaged their vehicle while they were inside the church steeple. When the Germans came downstairs they were the first POW's in Veghel. Us paratroopers have tied a air-recognition scarf to the spare wheel at the back of the car and made good use of it.
This picture, taken on September 19th, 1944 in Veghel, shows an Opel Olympia towed behind a Jeep. The day Veghel was liberated by the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, the regimental commander, Colonel Howard R. Johnson watched this car driving into town. He ordered his men to shoot the driver in the head and not damage the car.


In the Dutch city of Eindhoven, paratroopers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division  captured a German flatbed truck on the 18th of September 1944. At least ten photographs have been taken of this vehicle when several units of the 506th made use of the "Umbauwagen" as the Germans called this car.
It was seen all over the city.

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On Boschdijk.
On Parallel Weg along the railway line near the Woenselsche Overweg crossing.
On Kronehoef Straat and Kooster Dreef.
On Kruis Straat.
On Market Square near the Binnenziekenhuis Hospital.
Note partying nurses.
The Umbauwagen at the junction of Ten Hage Straat and Vestdijk.
Note local resistance fighter with American paratrooper lemet and M1 .30 calibre carbine at left.
Paratroopers from "E" Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regimen and their battalion's intelligence officer, CPT Lewis Nixon, discuss German positions in Eindhoven with resistance people and an officer of the Eindhoven Police Department.
On Nachtegaal Laan.
At the Eindhoven harbor on the junction of Bleek Straat, Kanaal Straat and Nachtegaal Laan

 

 

On Kanaalstraat
At the Saint Martinus Church on 't Hofke.

 

At another location in Eindhoven; presumably on Grote Berg.
In the town of Geldrop a few miles East of Eindhoven, during a combat patrol on September 19th, 1944

 

 

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