Case File # 10             

Case Title: Booby trapped Outhouse

Subject: Public toilet in  park explodes after US paratrooper pulls plunger

Date: September 18th, 1944

Location: Eindhoven, Holland

 

Introduction: Page 161 of Mark Bando's book "Vanguard of the Crusade" reads: "Members of H/506th entered a park within Eindhoven and encountered an outhouse. Luther Myers entered for some privacy, but the Germans had booby-trapped the toilet. When Myers pulled the handle to flush the toilet, the outhouse exploded, miraculously leaving him seated on the throne, unharmed. DiCarlo recalled seeing him holding the handle with his pants around his ankles, surrounded by smoke."

 

Investigation
This remarkable story was reason for Battledetective.com to start an investigation. What struck us as odd was the fact that apparently a public toilet facility was prepared with an explosive device that would set off when the plunger was pulled. The motive for such an act is clear: to hurt the user of the outhouse. The question is who would do such a thing?

Suspects
Three possible categories of 'suspects' can be distinguished: German soldiers, Dutch Resistance workers and US troops. Although each of these categories had access to explosives, they all lacked a clear motive.

US Troops
The Americans even lacked the opportunity. Myers and DiCarlo are said to have entered a park and, at the sight of the outhouse Myers decided to make use of it. Then the toilet allegedly blew up. We think it is safe to assume that the toilet was already booby-trapped before the first Americans entered the park.

German Soldiers
In the story it is suggested that the Germans had booby-trapped the toilet. The German garrison in Eindhoven did do a lot of sabotage in the days prior to Operation Market Garden, but only to their own installations. They blew up most of their structures and depots at the Welschap air base and the Eindhoven rail road station just before the 17th of September airborne landings. In the Eindhoven Regional Archive we have found a Fire Report (Report # 143) of the Eindhoven Fire Department dating September 17th 1944. Fire trucks rushed to a fire on Dommel Street. The Germans had set fire to their Reichs Post Office. Members of the Sichterheits Dienst (SD, or Security Forces) ordered the firemen to let it burn. They were allowed to hose adjacent premises down with water, though. This is an indication that the Germans' destructive behavior was not covert, as the installation of a booby-trap usually is. Moreover, the Germans were not aware of the exact date of the start of an Allied offensive. Therefore it was unknown to them when their garrison in Eindhoven might come to an end. If the Germans would have booby-trapped an outhouse in a public park, they would have created a dangerous situation that could hit any random user of the outhouse. This could very well hurt or kill their own comrades.

Dutch Resistance Workers
If the organized Dutch resistance had a motive to booby-trap the outhouse at all, it would be to target Germans. For this category of 'suspects' the random chance of hurting Dutch citizens or comrades in the resistance is equally valid.

Effectiveness of the explosive device
Furthermore, the explosion did not even hurt Meyer. It is therefore questionable if someone indeed tampered with the toilet with the intention to hurt the user. It may also indicate that the outhouse was of a rather flimsy construction.

Victimology
The Pulles Rosters list Myers and DiCarlo as follows: Corporal Luther H. Myers; wounded in Bastogne on January 14th 1945 and Private 1st Class Mario "Hank" DiCarlo; wounded in Normandy and Bastogne. Both were in "H" Co./506th. The 506th was in Eindhoven on the 18th, 19th and some time on the 20th of September 1944.

Location of the park
The account does not tell in which park this incident would have occurred. There are several parks in Eindhoven. To determine which one would be the most likely, we have analyzed photographic evidence which shows the deployment of paratroopers of 3rd Battalion on the 18th of September. The most likely parks for them to be in would be the City Park on Alberdingk Thijm Laan or the park along Eden Street; named the Anne Frank Plantsoen after the war. We have also tried to locate photographs of Eindhoven parks with outhouses.

So far, on the website of The Old Home Town (Eindhoven in Beeld) we've found this picture of public restrooms in the city park of Eindhoven (click on the image for a larger picture):


(click to enlarge):

  

 

This photograph, of a band named The Jerseys from Eindhoven, was taken in 1968 and the restrooms are no longer there. It may have been the toilet facility referred to in this case.

 

Emergency Services Records
Although the destruction of a public toilet may seem trivial in the turmoil of events on that 18th of September 1944, there is a possibility that the incident found its way into the records of the Eindhoven Police Department, Fire Department, Air Protection Organization or any other City Departments.
 

Police Department Records
The Eindhoven regional archive does contain various collections of documents from the Municipal Police Department and the later Regional Police Department, with Eindhoven as a district. None of these collections, however, have incident reports on file from the May 1940 to September 1944 era. The oldest collection of Monthly Summaries of police day reports dates back to 1945. We have consulted our source with the Eindhoven Police who is now retired from the department. He shares a mutual interest in the actions of the 101st Airborne Division in World War Two and hosts a website which in general, describes the visits of veterans of "E"-Co./506th to post-war European battlefields. He could tell us that what was left of the department's historical records was handed to the regional archive in 1994; the year of the so called regionalization of the police. He had also been looking for information about the Eindhoven police in World War Two, but had found nothing. Further, Battle Detective Tom's grandfather, Chief Inspector Matla, wrote a book at the occasion of his 25th year with the Eindhoven police, describing the period between the late 1920's to the end of World war Two. Unfortunately, there is hardly any reference to the period of the German occupation of the city.

Fire Department Records
Fire Reports
The regional archive owns a very detailed collection of Fire Reports from the Fire Department. We obtained all reports for the month of September 1944. These reports show a very interesting sequence of events such as the destruction of the Reichs Post Office, mentioned earlier, and the sabotage of a power station by German soldiers on the 17th. There are reports of the 18th of fires in barns and stables in the Northern suburbs of Eindhoven, which could not be reached by the fire engines, because they were in the combat zone of the advancing paratroopers. There is only one Fire Report for the 19th of September 1944. This report, however, refers to the individual reports made by each engine chief of the fires caused by the Luftwaffe bombing raid on the night of the 19th. There is no report of the toilet incident in this case file.

Watch Commander's Log
We have also obtained a copy of the Fire Department watch commander's log book of the 18th and the 19th of September. In it are the entries of all the fires that have been registered in the Fire Reports and also the dispatches of every fire truck and other logistical details. An example of the latter is the report of decreased water pressure in the city on the 18th. In light of this investigation, however, there is no reference to an exploding toilet in any Eindhoven public park or recreational area.

Eindhoven Air Protection Organization Records
Battledetective.com also obtained the report by the city's Air Protection Organization of the events on the 19th of September 1944, when the city was bombed by German fighter-bombers, killing approximately 200. The regional archive had no records by this organization of incidents occurring on the 18th of September on file, though.
 

Department of City Development & Maintenance
After the war had ended in Holland, all damage caused by combat, artillery and bombing raids had to be repaired. Before the liberation and the subsequent bombing of the city, Eindhoven had lived through several raids by the Royal Air Force, mostly on installations of the Philips Electrical Company. Many cities and towns in Holland were hit much harder than Eindhoven. In May 1940 the Germans bombed the entire downtown area of the port city of Rotterdam and threatened to bomb other major cities. This terror bombing forced the Dutch military into submission. After Operation Market Garden Allied troops had to fight hard for every yard of Dutch soil. It took until the late 1950's to repair or replace all the damaged houses, buildings and infrastructure. The city of Eindhoven has on file all repair bills and financial allowances and restitutions from the Dutch national Ministry of Redevelopment and People's Housing of damage done in World War Two.


Among these bills and restitutions we have not found a single entry of an exploded or otherwise damaged public toilet facility. We did find damage reports and restitutions for the landscaping and fences in parks. These were mostly damaged after the liberation of Eindhoven by British troops stationed in the city. We also found a notice of restitution for damage to a cafe in the City Park caused by the bombing raid on the 19th of September 1944: 

 

The only structure that has a remote connection to Myers' booby-trapped toilet is mentioned in a restitution notice for a urinal. This urinal however, was damaged by "acts of war on the 19th of September 1944" and was located on the municipal parking lot behind the Hotel Royal.

This hotel was the location of the German Ortskommandantur during the occupation.

 

(click on the images to enlarge)

 

 

Hypotheses: Two Scenarios
Battledetective.com has developed two working hypotheses taking into account the fact that it is very unlikely that a public restroom would have been booby-trapped in an Eindhoven park on the 18th or the 19th of September 1944. Another fact is that paratroopers in those days literally festooned themselves with hand grenades. Myers may have unbuttoned his M43 uniform trousers and taken off his web gear before relieving himself and, while doing so, incidentally removed the safety pin of a hand grenade. The grenade may have fallen into the crapper and exploded. Myers may have come up with the booby-trap story to save himself the embarrassment of his fellow troopers finding out about this clumsiness.

Another scenario may be that Myers, a young paratrooper and despite being in the lead battalion that entered Eindhoven, felt that he had not seen enough action yet. As a joke he may have pulled the pin from one of his grenades and thrown it into the crapper in lieu of flushing it. Immediately after this immature but dangerous stunt he may have considered the possible consequences; being chewed out by his first sergeant for wasting US taxpayers money to destroy Dutch property. That may have been the moment he came up with the story of a booby-trap.

CONCLUSION
Considering the available evidence, or rather the lack of it, combined with the lack of a motive to install an explosive device in a public toilet, we consider this story unlikely to have happened as described in the introduction. Until convincing evidence of the contrary can be produced, it will remain an exaggerated war story to us.
 

January 2012 UPDATE:
On the website of The Old Home Town (Eindhoven in Beeld) we've again asked the question where this toilet might have been. And again, we were informed that it must have been near the City Park pavilion. In January 2012 we talked to the previous owners of the pavilion and they drew the following sketch:

July 2012 UPDATE:
In the Spring of 2012, British author and Historian Ian Gardner's 2nd book about the history of 3rd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment titled "Deliver Us From Darkness" was released.
We were instrumental in the research for this publication and were given access to some of Ian's findings.
Ian got information on, among much more, the Case of the Booby Trapped Outhouse.
We could not disclose this information for this Case File until the release of Ian's book but we can now with a high level of certainty tell what had happened during paratrooper Myers' visit to an Eindhoven restroom.

On pages 133 & 134 of Deliver Us From Darkness we read:
 
" After receiving fresh orders to widen the Regiment’s defenses, 3rd BN was sent to the small town of WINTELRE, six miles west of EINDHOVEN.
At the same time 2nd BN moved east through TONGELRE to protect NUENEN and HELMOND from the enemy’s VON MALTZAHN Brigade.

Hank DICARLO and his friends were standing around talking in the grounds of Sint Joris College when PFC Luther MYERS ambled over to see what was going on:

“We told him that the battalion was now on a ‘warning order’ for a rapid movement to WINTELRE,” recalls DICARLO.

“MYERS told us that he needed to find a latrine before we left and Harry CLAWSON pointed towards an old outhouse about 30 yards away.”

As the men were resuming their conversation, the door of the outhouse flew open and MYERS launched himself, pants around ankles, onto the ground.

“A split second later, the toilet exploded,” recalled DICARLO.
It would seem that as Luther MYERS sat down he unwittingly dislodged the pin from a hand grenade hanging from one of his equipment straps."
 


(click to enlarge)


"Sint Joris College Grounds" in Eindhoven

(NEW) CONCLUSION
This new information confirms what we had already hypothesized in our first most likely scenario in which Myers had unbuttoned his trousers and taken off his web gear before relieving himself and incidentally removed the safety pin of a hand grenade.

Back to Case Files

 
 
 
 
 
 
(c) 2007-Present Day Battledetective.com. Email: tom@battledetective.com. all rights reserved.