As September closes and October is ushered in, people’s thoughts turn to the holiday season, especially that of Halloween. Considering this holiday, I felt it was appropriate to write about a plane in what is known as “The Ghost Squadron”. This “Ghost Squadron” or Commemorative Air Force is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of future generations about the World War 2 generation and inspire them to do great things. At the heart of who they are is to honor the Greatest Generation for giving everything for our freedom. One of the main ways the “Ghost Squadron” accomplishes this is by maintaining and flying the aircraft that our airmen flew. Hence, “Ghost Squadron” as they allow the past to visit the present at every hangar, museum, and tour stop.
One of their most recent additions to the Squadron is the aircraft known as “That’s All Brother” a C-47 that led the main paratrooper drop over Normandy in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. Once the war was over, That’s All Brother returned to the states and was used in the civilian world before being sold for scrap and abandoned in an airplane boneyard in Wisconsin. Thanks to some keen observation work on the part of the Air Force, this
historic aircraft was rediscovered and acquired by the Commemorative Air Force. Through a lengthy process of restoration, That’s All Brother is now the exact image of his former self in 1944. Because of the significance of his history, the C-47 returned to Normandy for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day to honor the sacrifices of the men of D-Day. However, while this aircraft is famous for its participation in Normandy invasion, it was actually in many other conflicts during the latter stages of the Second World War, including one that occurred around this time seventy-six years ago-Operation Market Garden.
Operation Market Garden (September 17, 1944-September 26, 1944) was an airborne assault devised by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. It was supposed to be a relatively simple attack against the German forces in the Netherlands. The goal was to capture eight key bridges over the Maas/Meuse, Waal, and the Rhine to flank the German defenses on the Siegfried Line. Theoretically, if the Allies captured these bridges and demolished the Nazi forces protecting the Rhine, then the war would be over by Christmas. September 17, 1944 the largest airborne operation of World War 2 commenced.
The 101st Airborne Division dropped into the Netherlands and proceeded to capture the bridges over Sint-Oedenrode and over the Wilhelmina Canal at Best and Son. All parties met with fierce enemy resistance, but despite this, the 506th Infantry Regiment was able to fight their way toward one of the bridges and destroy it at least achieving one measure of victory. Sadly, the entirety of Market Garden was like this first encounter. But, despite enemy resistance on the ground and in the skies, the Allies did manage to destroy all the bridges but one in Arnhem. By the end of the Operation, the Allies had lost roughly 17,000 men-killed, wounded, or captured. It was a military blunder that set our forces back, but it was one of the very few. This “blunder” only solidified the determination of the Allies to push through to absolute victory. And, they did achieve it because these men fought “Not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people” (Roosevelt, 1944).
So, when you are setting out your fall decorations and preparing goody bags for trick or treaters, please remember the men of Operation Market Garden who gave their all so that we could have the freedom to celebrate this Halloween season. And, while you are at it, think of the aircraft in the “Ghost Squadron” that helped these men achieve that freedom.