The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market-Garden

The crash landing of Dakota 43-48400 in Oisterwijk

On Saturday September 23 of 1944, while in day six of operation Market-Garden, an American C-47B Skytrain/Dakota tug aircraft was hit by German Anti-Aircraft fire over the Dutch province of North-Brabant.

As a result of the damage sustained by this attack this C-47B with registration number 43-48400 made a controlled crash landing  on a heather just outside Oisterwijk village at 16.07 hours.

The aircraft was the tug of a Waco glider carrying remnants of the 82nd Airborne Division, most presumably men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.

The aircraft was hit just before reaching its initial point south-west of the town of Schijndel.

After reaching this initial point the aircraft should have taken course to its objective, a Landing-Zone near Nijmegen.

 

The aircraft, carrying nose code 6Z, was attached to the 440th Troop Carrier Group, 96th Troop Carrier Squadron.

It took part in the 3rd airlift that had to bring over the 82nd Airborne Division over to Holland for operation Market-Garden.

This Dakota, as the British and Dutch referred to it, was based at airfield Exeter in Devon in England, better known as USAAF Station 463.

 

The 440 TCG was commanded by Group Commander, Lt Col. Frank X. Kreds.

The 96th Troop Carrier Squadron was commanded by Major William Cooper.

 

 

 

 

D. PLUS 6, September 23, 1944.

 

On this date another airlift took place for operation Market-Garden.

That day American thug and glider aircraft took off from six airfields in the Greptham/Cottesmore/Langer area in England.

During this airlift the gliders carried supplies and troops from the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 80th Anti Aircraft Battalion minus batteries A and B, Company A-307th AEB and elements of special forces.

Most of these gliders landed on or close to their Landing-Zone near Overasselt in Holland designated LZ ‘O’.

During the lift two gliders were forced to land prematurely in England and 43 gliders where cast off between the coast and the Landing-Zone.

Of all these gliders ten are still considered missing today.

Directly after the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment would land the men had to assemble themselves in the woods west of Groesbeek in preperation to take over positions in sectors along the front.

 

The mission of Dakota 43-48400 and her crew was called Mission Combat Market A-91 and consisted in a glider tow to Landing-Zone ‘O’ at Overasselt.

Their ETA was set for 16.15 hrs and after crossing the channel their route to Overasselt would lead them passing south along Antwerp (Belgium) and past Eindhoven (Holland) to the west onto the Landing-Zone.

 

 

The crew members were:

 

Pilot Major, William R. Cooper,.......................0-520488, Santa ana-California

Co-Pilot, 2nd LT. Lawrence L. Altermatt,........0-705208, Joplin-Missouri

Navigator, 1st  LT. Harvey I. Wardell,.............0-809464, Longbeach-New jersey

Engineer, S/SGT. Gilbert A. Scherer,..............17121526, Saint Joplin-Missouri

Radio Operator, S/SGT. Jerauld I Cutts,.........19136125, Lebanan-Oregon

 

 

The crew apart from S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts had already successfully flown previous missions.

On June 6 1944 they had flown a mission for operation Overlord (D-DAY) transporting 101st Airborne troopers from the 3/506th PIR and 326th AEB.

After D-Day they also flew missions to Southern France and Holland.

Radio operator S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts was added to the Cooper crew for Market-Garden and he also came from the ranks of the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron.

During operation Overlord S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts was onboard aircraft 43-15067, Chalk 84 belonging to “A” Flight (3).

 

 

On 23 September Major Cooper flew his C-47B as lead plane of the formation to Holland.

After reaching the area near the Initial Point west of Schijndel Major Cooper flew trough intense German ground fire and got a direct hit under the left wing.

Immediately a heavy black trail of smoke and oil was emitted from his left engine.

The Waco-glider that he was towing was immediately cast off and the aircraft was seen going down behind enemy lines.

The fate of this glider and its occupants is still not known today.

After the plane got hit Major Cooper made a down and out left turn under control and decent was being made at last sight heading in to direction of Belgium.

Bailing out was out off the question because the plane was to low and loosing altitude fast so Major Cooper decided to make a controlled crash landing.

 

 

During the ground fire by Flak Radio Operator S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts was severely injured to his head while being in the navigator compartment, the rest of the crew seemed okay and all braised themselves for the crash landing.

After flying past the town of Boxtel and low over natural reserve the Kampina, Major Cooper headed into the direction of the Belgium border slowly loosing altitude.

He subsequently flew very low over a hamlet near Oisterwijk called ‘de Logt’ while the towrope still attached to the rear of the aircraft was dragging over de ground.

Major Cooper could not prevent a controlled crash landing and he successfully preformed a landing on a patch of heath called, ‘the small Oisterwijk heath’ (kleine Oisterwijkse heide) close to the Oirschotsebaan (street name) just outside Oisterwijk, about 15 miles West of Eindhoven.

 

 

During the rough belly landing the already severe injured S/SGT Cutts sustained more injuries, while in the rear crew chief/engineer S/SGT Gilbert A. Scherer suffered a head wound.

The navigator in the baggage compartment and the pilot and the co-pilot seated in the cockpit all suffered minor wounds.

After the aircraft came to a stop on the heather a couple of farmers and their family members directly came running up the heath.

They had witnessed the aircraft flying low over their farms and eventually crash landing on the heath.

They came to the aircraft out of curiosity and to see if they could provide assistance to the crew that was just leaving the aircraft at that moment.

While Farmer Willem van Baast from farmhouse ‘De Logt’, together with farmer van de Sande and farmer Broers ran towards the aircraft, other family members stayed safely behind on the road a few hundred meters from the landing site.

Farmer van Baast, a person already helpful to the underground for their resistance activities wanted to help the crew.

His farm, already a place for people who were hiding for the Germans for all sorts of reasons, could be a very good temporary shelter for these airman, he must have been thinking.

Now that he was eye to eye with these men he considered it his duty to help them and provide them with a safe place to hide.

 

 

While the farmers were at the aircraft helping the crew a group of German Wehrmacht soldiers was seen approaching the landing site from the direction of the village Spoordonk.

Immediately there was panic and the crew and farmers van de Sande and Broers tried to run away from the aircraft.

The Germans directly reacted and started shooting into the direction of the farmers and aircrew, hereby hitting S/SGT Cutts while he was still on the ground beside the aircraft.

While the Germans approached the aircraft fast the crew and the farmers made for their escape, not able to help and take with them their wounded radio operator.

There was nothing they could do for the severely wounded S/SGT Cutts and they had no other choice than to leave him behind.

The airmen were quickly led away by farmer Baast and together they fled into the direction of the nearby farms of hamlet the Logt.

 

 

Only a few hundred meters away from the aircraft the men ran straight in to a group of Germans Wehrmacht soldiers that approached the area from a different direction.

The airmen and the farmers had no other choice than to surrender, but farmer Willem van Baast ran away.

Knowing the danger he was in, Van Baast jumped across a ditch into a field nearby the farm of farmer H. Schoones with the intention to flee.  

While crossing the ditch a well aimed German shot severely wounded van Baast and he dropped down in agony.

The airmen were taken prisoner and transported to Oisterwijk not knowing the condition of their wounded crew member S/SGT Cutts.

He sadly died besides the aircraft after a fatal German shot and would be buried besides the aircraft in a so-called field grave.

The unharmed farmers Van de Sande and Broers were also both taken prisoner.

They were accused off helping the enemy and transported to Spoordonk for questioning.

Luckily they were released in the evening and returned home to their farms and family without a scratch.

 

 

The crew, meanwhile prisoners in Oisterwijk, were told that S/SGT Cutts died from his head injury, that he was killed by a fatal German shot was not mentioned to them.

Later on the crew was told that Cutts was removed to the nearest hospital in Oisterwijk and buried with deceased hospital patients after he had pasted away from wounds sustained during the crash landing.

Crew chief A. Schrerer was treated for his head injury in the same German hospital in Oisterwijk.

The severely wounded farmer Willem van Baast was bleeding heavily while he was transported to Spoordonk on a wooden cart.

He would not make it and past away that same day, the Germans did not allow a doctor to treat van Baast’s wounds.

 

 

A few day’s after the crash landing some Dutch placed a pine wooden cross and an American helmed on S/SGT Cutts field grave.

After some time the remains off Cutts were removed by the German authorities and  buried on the graveyard of the St Petrus Banden in Oisterwijk.

Already four American were buried on this graveyard and also the Germans buried there own dead here.

The four Americans were all occupants of a Jeep carrying Waco glider called ‘Queen-City’.

This glider was shot down over Oisterwijk and crashed in the village on September 18, the second day of operation Market-Garden.

 

The names of these four men were:

 

McCann, Noel Clarence.    Pilot, F/O  Nr.T122016   

Hiltunen, Ray J.               1st.Lt.      Nr.01103214   
Le may,  Robert J.           Tec./5       Nr.36239073   
Carson, Raymond L.          Driver/Pvt. Nr.36176352   

 

 

 

The crew of the C-47B ended up in Barth, Germany in Stalag Luft 1, a prison camp for Allied airmen and they would all survive the war.

Radio Operator S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts was awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart.

In 1946 the five Americans burried on the Oisterwijk graveyard behind the church were relocated to the American cemetery in Margraten, Holland.

 

The C-47B 43-48400 still remained on the heath for quit some time and of course the Germans took the time to investigate the aircraft in the day’s that followed the crashlanding.

Witnesses later told that the Germans left behind some demolished radio equipment on the wing coming from an opened radio panel.

Also some bushes of straw and wooden clumps were found lying beside the aircraft.

The inside of the aircraft was a big mess after the Germans had left it, but still an American helmet and fire extinguisher were found and taken home as a souvenir.

One eyewitness remembered clearly the impression he got when he laid his eye’s on the pilots instrument panel and gages after entering the cockpit, it was a sight he would never forget.

He also remembered clearly that one could wobble the aircraft by jumping up and down the wingtip.

He even took a piece of the fuselage, just where the white star was painted near the rear exit door.

It was ripped away from the side of the aircraft by using a pair of pincers.

 

 

The C-47B 43-48400 was on the heath for quit some time after the war and shortly after the liberation, during the spring of 1945, another aircraft, a British Tempest, also had made a successful crash landing on that same heath.

When a young Oisterwijk boy went up to the heath to get a look at the American aircraft he was surprised to see another one lying in the vicinity.

This aircraft crash landed about a 100 yards from the C-47B without lots of damage and it was guarded by British Military Police.

When they noticed he was carrying a little camera the boy was questioned and ordered to hand over the camera.

He was told that when no photo’s of the aircraft where found on his film they would return him his camera.

After a few weeks his camera was indeed returned by the MP’s, together with his developed film.

What happened to the pilot of the Tempest or his plane is not known precisely.

The American C-47B was taken apart on the site that same year and removed to an unknown destination.

 

After the war farmer Willem van Baast was posthumously thanked by the American President Truman for giving aid to American service men and his help in their escape.

His name was engraved on a local memorial plaque that was placed in a little chapel dedicated to the Holy Marie near hamlet de Logt.

On this plaque are the names of all the civilians and Allied soldiers that died during the German occupation and as a result of the liberation of Oisterwijk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The American C-47B 43-48400 on the Kleine Oisterwijkse Heide.
The grave of Radio Operator S/SGT Jerauld I. Cutts on the American military cemetery in Margraten.

The first operational mission of the 440th TCG was an airdrop of American Airborne troops from 45 C-47 troopships.

In the early morning of June 6 1944 the Airborne troops parachuted behind the beaches of Normandy in France code named Omaha and Utah beach.

The men from the 440th TCG also took part in the airdrops above occupied Holland (operation Market-Garden), Southern France and Germany, and they also took part in the supply drops for the 101 Airborne Division when they where surrounded in Bastogne in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

The aircraft of the 440th TCG also carried fuel and supplies for General George S. Patton’s 3rd army during his campaign trough France into Germany during 1944/45.

A C-47 from the 440th TCG and a Waco-glider in the background.
De noodlanding van Dakota, 43-48400 in Oisterwijk