The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market Garden

The glider crash

On the second day of Market Garden the huge Allied armada followed the Northern route to Holland. After the aircraft again had passed Schouwen-Duiveland and Breda they soon came over Oisterwijk. Here the Germans were ready to give them hell after they had quickly installed more Anti-Aircraft guns in and around the village. Besides the Anti-Aircraft gun on the Nevelo sporting grounds the Germans had installed Flak (Flug-Flieger Abwehr Kanone) along the rail track at street Udenhoutseweg, behind a few houses at udenhoutseweg near the Oisterwijk windmill, near street hoogheukelom and at street kerkhovensestraat in the area named Kerkhoven. With sights on the approaching aircraft the guns swung in to action, and while the aircraft passed over into the east, the German gun crews fiercely fired their guns. A 37mm Flak gun (Flug-Flieger Abwehr Kanone) installed along kerkhovensestraat aimed his sights on a tug and glider that flew right over their position and after riddling the tug it zeroed on the glider. The gun shot big holes in de left wing hereby disintegrating the wing which than completely broke away and immediately the glider dove nose down to the ground. The pilot of the C-47 Skytrain tug immediately casted off the tow rope and the glider went down in a spin from an altitude off some 700 feet. Witnessing the spectacle from a distance the German officer in charge off the Flak gun near the windmill was seen cheering with his hands in the air while the glider went down and then disappeared beyond his sight. While first hitting some trees, the glider came down in a ditch alongside kerkhovensestraat, a few hundred yards from a Flak gun that was positioned at the farmhouse owned by the van der Sterren family. The cockpit was totally crushed on impact and the pilot and his co-pilot were killed instantly when the Jeep smached right on top of them. The nylon tow rope was left hanging in a tree alongside the opposite side of the road.


At the moment of the glider crash a local farmer driving a horse and cart was just passing on the same road. The violence of the guns and the crashing glider made the horse run wild and both the farmer and his horse and the cart ended up in the same ditch. It did not take long for some residents of the kerkhovensestraat appeared on the crash site to take a closer look at the crushed remains of the glider. Amongst them was also the secretary of the local Red Cross of which a small post was located in Oisterwijk. He had witnessed the whole spectacle from a fare distance and immediately had taken his bicycle and had cycled to the location to see if he could give aid to any of the wounded crewmembers. When he arrived at the crash location, he soon found that none of the occupants of the glider had survived the violent crash. The only thing he could do was to chase away a civilian that was busy looting one of the deceased crewmembers that was in the cockpit.


With nothing to be able to do for the occupants who evidently had all perished he decided to return to his post instead of waiting for the German Wehrmacht who of course would soon be arriving. On his way back to his post met the Oisterwijk Doctor Dr. Frans Desain accompanied by one of his daughters. This doctor, who was also the head of the Red Cross in the area, and his daughter as one of his assistances, had also been watching all the aircraft coming overhead and flying to the east. The secretary immediately told the doctor what he had witnessed earlier and he told him of the glider crash in kerkhovensestraat and that he had been to the crash site where he had found no survivors. Without hesitation the doctor decided to immediately go to have a look on the crash site himself and called on his daughter to assist him.




A CG-4A Waco glider. A glider like this crashed in Oisterwijk.

The right picture shows a German mobile 37mm Flak gun.

When the doctor and his daughter arrived on the crash site they immediately checked inside the crushed remains of the glider. The glider had first crashed on top of a couple of popular trees and a big oak before hitting the ground. The top in the oak tree had broken off when the glider came on top of it. This had broken its fall and then the glider had ended up nose first in the ditch with its tail pointing east under a 45-degree angle. The tail section was in a reasonable state considering the violent crash and only the canvas fabric that covered the fuselage was ripped open. The Willys Jeep that the glider caried was now clearly visible and it appeared that driver, soldier Raymond Carson was still in it. The Jeep had been firmly attached to the floor but had come lose during in the crash and had crashed through the cockpit crushing both the pilot and co-pilot. A part of the landing gear was found on the other side of the road against a wall of a small shed belonging to a farmhouse. One of the other occupants, soldier Robert Le May, was found in the middle of the road a few yards from the glider, his face was blackened by the explosions of the anti-aircraft shells and he had a large open head wound. In his hand he had a little pray book, and his helmet covered in blood was found near his body.


Doctor Desain immediately began searching for materials that could identify the men before any Germans would be arriving, in an attempt to hide and secure their identities. He knew that documents and maps where sometimes carried under the soldier’s helmets, so he decided to search for those first. He assigned his daughter with task to remove the crushed helmets from the soldiers in the cockpit. The doctor removed everything that could give away the mission these soldiers had been on and he also removed some rings and dog tags. Everything was quickly hidden underneath their clots and could be handed over to the red cross secretary in a later stage. This secretary would then have to hide everything until it could be handed over to the proper authorities in case they would be liberated. Any documents that the doctor would find could be burned later in his fireplace.


While the doctor and his daughter were busy searching the glider the German Wehrmacht soldiers appeared on the crash site. While just being able to hide what they had found they were ordered to immediately step out of the glider while rifles were pointed at them. While doing so the Germans soldiers also ordered the few civilians that where present to leave the site and go home. While they held the doctor and his daughter under gun point, they took the time to inspect the glider themselves and collect everything that what was of their interest. They took away the soldier’s army boots, some of their clothing and gear, some ration boxes, radio equipment and also a big piece of the tow rope. The Germans then ordered Desain and his Red Cross to collect the remains of the Americans. By spreading out a big white bed sheet they prevented any spectators to witness the way the bodies were removed from the glider. The dead American Jeep driver that was still in his driver’s seat between the twisted glider frame and his steering wheel. His body and that of the men in the cockpit could only be removed after the local butcher was ordered on the site together with his butchers saw. After the bodies were removed from the glider the Germans ordered the local furniture craftsman of Oisterwijk to the location. The four dead Americans were placed on his large flat trolley and were then transported to the local cemetery located behind the St. Petrusbanden church in the village. The next day they were buried in the presence of Pastor van Kemenade and Doctor de Sain after grave digger Mr. Van Eindhoven had dug their graves.


The night after the crash local residents had come to the crash site in search for souvenirs. The Germans had left the glider without any guards so there was enough time to snoop around. Amongst the visitors were tree young farm boys, brothers who lived in a farmhouse further down the road. They had been allowed by their parents to go to the crash site during the day and here had secretly decided to return to the wreckage of the glider after dark, when no Germans would be around. The boy’s entered what was left of the glider and opened the hood of the Willys Jeep. They then removed some of the motor parts, which they then took home in a wheel barrow. Apparently, these parts were of great importance because the next day Doctor Desain came to their farm accompanied by a few men to collect the part again. That same day the Germans had come back and after they had removed the Willys Jeep from the glider they had discovered that parts were missing. Presumably someone had tipped the doctor or the Germans about the boys being there that night. This had made the Doctor to visit the boys and collect what they had taken in the hope that this would prevent them from being harmed by the Germans.


Considering the violent crash, the Willys Jeep appeared to be in rather good condition and it was examined with great interest by the enemy. The reason the Willys Jeep was reasonably unharmed could have been because the occupants in the cockpit presumably had cushioned the Jeep from serious damage. After a while the Germans allowed locals nearer again and even allowed a little boy to climb in to the Willys Jeep. It soon started to become a real spectacle. Then the Germans had enough of it and decided to take the Jeep in their possession. They had the white star on the hood of the Jeep painted over and when the motor was fixed after the parts had been placed back they started using the vehicle as their own staff car. A few days later the Jeep was seen in use by the German officer commanding the Flak gun located near the windmill.


Then the Germans lost interest for the wreckage of the glider and when they had left civilians were soon wondering around on the crash site again. Some of them took whatever was to be considered as a souvenir or could be used in or around their homes. One of the civilians was able to reach out in the cockpit to get his hands on a piece of the wooden steering wheel that he found lying on the cockpit floor in front of the glider pilot’s seat. He was also able to take a piece of the glider pilots steering pedal that was still only just attached. During his effort to reach out to these objects he held on firmly to the steel cockpit frame and in doing so got his hand covered in bloody. When he tried to rub his hands clean over the grass, he came to notice that it was human tissue on his hands. A crushed helmet he saw lying on the cockpit floor he didn’t bother to try and get to. Exactly this helmet, together with tree other helmets, were placed on the wooden crosses on the graves of the four Americans that were buried in the Oisterwijk cemetery.


Another part of the glider that was collected from the crash site was the outboard end of the rear section of the aileron, a piece of wood covered with canvas fabric. After the war this piece would be painted over by a Oisterwijk resident as remembrance to operation Market-Garden. Also big ribbons of fuselage canvas fabric were cut away and also the landing gear that was found on the opposite side of the crash location was taken home by someone. This part would later be used to in the build of a small trolley. A part of the nylon tow rope was taken by a farmer who lived in the street, and a small wooden triangle glider door covered with canvas fabric with a small plexiglass port window was taken by a local farmer. This little glider door was later used to build a rabbit cage.


Pastoor van Kemenade during a ceremony at military graves at the cemetery in Oisterwijk.
A Willys Jeep during the Second World War. In this case a Willys jeep belonging to the US Signal Corp.
Flag Oisterwijk
Weapon Oisterwijk
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