Friday, April 20, 2012

The MOST AMAZING DAY........

Wednesday morning came a little early, with a 6 a.m. wake up by Dad.  It's our big day--the reason for the whole trip!

Today we are off to The National Liberation Museum in Groesbeek, Holland.  My Dad's brother, Roy M. Tuttle was in the 82nd Airborne during WWII, and was killed in action near Groesbeek, Holland on October 9, 1944.

The National Liberation Museum shows the history of the liberation of The Netherlands and Europe during the period of 1944-1945.  The museum includes a section called "The Remembrance Dome" which honors the 150,00 Allied Forces killed during Operation Market Garden, a major offensive that took place from September 17, 1944 until Liberation in May of 1945.  The 82nd Airborne Division played a key roll in this operation and liberation, and is specially honored with a display of panels with names of the  676  82nd Airborne soldiers killed in action.  Roy Tuttle's name is among those listed.  Roy would have been 100 years old on April 9th of this year.

It was quite a journey to Groesbeek; we took a taxi to Amsterdam Central Train Station, then a train to Nijmegen, and finally a bus to the area near the museum.

It was a nice train ride through the pretty Dutch countryside, here's some of the scenery along the way:

(Photos taken from the train window--they're a little blurry)

Big canals, little canals--all busy:

Pretty fields with sheep:

Picturesque towns dot the landscape along the way:

At the train station in Nijmegen, where we catch the bus to Groesbeek:

There was a pretty flower shop right in the station in Nijmegen.  Here's Mom:

We had time to kill before catching the bus to Groesbeek.  The museum doesn't open until 10 a.m., and we don't want to stand out in the cold.  Of course we want to wait someplace warm, so we have a nice HOT cup of coffee and a pastry at Starbucks:

I loved this sign at Starbucks--I think it says "We make just the perfect latte for you".  For some odd reason, the Dutch language tickles my funny bone! Lot's of hoppins and floopins and steinens!


After a bit of exploring, we found the right bus to Groesbeek and hopped on board.  I carefully checked with the driver that this is the bus to The Liberation Museum, he assures me it is,  he'll let us know when to get off.   We sit right in front, the driver has many questions, and is delightfully friendly and interested in why we are visiting the museum.  We enjoyed chatting with him, and when our stop came up he kindly showed us just where to turn to get to the museum.

Here's Mom and Dad on the bus, Dad is really looking forward to this visit!


The bus ride is about 15 -20 minutes from Nijmegen to Groesbeek, and it winds throughout some beautiful, hilly country. These are the only hills in Holland, and the Dutch actually call them mountains.  Ha!!

A pretty country road:

Here's Mom and Dad on our short walk to the Museum.  We are very excited for our visit.  Notice how pretty is is here--rolling, green hills and farmland:

The street side of the museum:

Flags flying at the front entrance.  It was heartwarming to see OUR flag!

We walked into the main entrance hall and were immediately greeted by a very friendly lady who spoke excellent English.  We paid a small entrance fee for Mom and I,  Dad's entrance fee was waived, as he is a WW II veteran.  I'd like to think he paid his entrance fee by his service!

We explained why we were here--that Dad's brother Roy M. Tuttle who was in the 82nd Airborne Division, had been killed in action near here.  The nice lady took us under her wing, and we were given a personalized tour from the beginning.  (Little did we know that the best and most amazing surprise was yet to come!)  First she escorted us to a small auditorium, and showed us a 20 minute movie about the beginning of Operation Market Garden.  This was quite interesting, as it included much actual footage shot by reporters at the scene.  The photo below is of the actual landing of the 82nd Airborne Division on September 17, 1944, filmed by a reporter.
It's amazing to think that my uncle Roy M. Tuttle is probably in this film clip!

After that very interesting and informative movie, she explained how the museum was set up, and showed us to the start of the exhibits.  The museum is divided into 3 sections,  part one, the red section, shows the years between the WW I and the German Occupation, 1918-1944

The very first wall of the red section features a picture of Adolph Hitler, evil personified (my words, not theirs)

Mom and Dad viewing some of the many exhibits:

In the red section there was a small room dedicated to Anne Frank, and I appreciate the fact that they did not place this lovely, heartwarming picture of her on a red wall:


An actual yellow star that the Nazi's required all Jews to wear:


From the red section we moved on to the second and largest area of the museum, the blue section--The Liberation Years.  This section was the most interesting, it was all about Operation Market Garden from D Day of September 17th, 1944 thru liberation in May of 1945.

Here are Mom and Dad at the beginning of that section:

We slowly made our way through the first part of the blue area, and came to a large room featuring a huge "diorama" of the area covered by "Operation Market Garden" There was an accompanying 20 minute soundtrack, and each phase of the operation was described in great detail.  There were lights in the floor of the diorama that lit up indicating exactly which area was being discussed.  This was a great "birds-eye view" and really helped put it in perspective.

Here's a view across the diorama, Mom and Dad are listening attentively:

Just as the soundtrack was finishing, that nice lady returned to introduce us to Mr. Maarten Dekkers, a long-time volunteer at the museum.  She explained that Mr. Dekkers would be taking over for her, as he knew much more detail about the 82nd Airborne. Maarten has lived most of his life right in this area near Groesbeek, specifically in the small town of Mook.  He was a child during the German occupation of this area, and during our time with him he shared stories of his childhood.  He charmingly called these memories "souvenirs of my mind".  His many stories made this sad time "come to life" for us.

Maarten is an absolute expert on Operation Market Garden, and could answer every question we had, and then some!  It was fascinating to listen to him as he explained in great detail each of the museum exhibits, and most often there was a personal story to go along with all those details.

Here are a just a few of the exhibits in the Liberation area of the museum.
 This is an actual radio used by Allied Forces:

Bicycles used by military messengers:

Maarten explained that many local girls fell in love and married soldiers of the Allied Forces.  During the very lean war years, fabric for wedding gowns was scarce to non existent, and many brides used parachute material to make their wedding dresses.  These very pretty wedding and flower girl dresses were both made from parachute material:

After we had spent a long time in the blue area of the museum, Maarten then showed us to the Remembrance Dome, and showed us where to find Roy's name on the "Roll of Honor".  

This is the inscription above the panel containing Roy's name:



Here is the name of my Dad's brother.  The D + 22 means he was killed on the 22nd day after "D-Day", the start of Operation Market Garden.



And Dad in front of the panel:

After we'd spent a few minutes in the Remembrance Dome, Maarten returned, explaining that he would like to give us a tour of the surrounding battlefield area.  He'd drive his car, and show us the most important spots.  But first he'd like a cup of coffee, he said, and surely we would, too!  He led us to the Museum Cafe, and absolutely insisted on buying our coffee.  It was his pleasure, he said.  While we sipped our coffee, he asked many questions of Dad, including the names of the  5 Tuttle brothers who served in World War II, and one who served in the Korean War.  Maarten very carefully wrote this information down.  He asked for as much detail as Dad could remember about Roy's time in the military, and we gave him the pages of information we had printed out at home.  He left us for a quick minute to speak with the Museum researcher,  and came back with a little more information.  He said it will take a few days, possibly; but he will email all information their research department can find.  This was not done at our request, but was generously offered by the museum and Maarten.

Here's the pretty view from the big windows in the cafe, looking out over beautiful green rolling hills.  This is such a lovely scene, it's hard to imagine war and killing here.



Maarten and Dad, in front of the flags at the Museum entrance:



Maarten kindly insisted on bringing his car around to the front, and soon we were on our way in his very comfortable car.  He gave us a running history of the area, pointing out interesting sights along our route.  His knowledge of that time in history is astounding!

Within a few minutes we were at our first destination.  This green field is the "parachute drop zone" where many thousand 82nd Airborne soldiers landed on September 17th, 1944.  Maarten remembers, as a young boy, watching the paratroopers float to earth on that day.  One of these paratroopers was Roy M. Tuttle:


Along the way to our next stop we drove through a small town, and passed this windmill.  Maarten patiently stopped so I could take a picture, and then told us the very interesting history of this exact windmill.  During the time of German Occupation in Nijmegen, Groesbeek and Molenhoek, there were many Dutch Underground Resistance fighters.  The local citizens were helpful and glad to hide them when the Germans came through on raids.  To signal the Resistance fighters that there were German patrols in the area, the owner of this windmill would place the vanes of the windmill in a specific position to alert them.  Maarten also explained that there is a special vane position that is used after a death in the family.  Interesting information!

We drove along this pretty tree covered road, and Maarten explained to us that this road has a very ancient history dating back to Roman times.  Many Roman artifacts have been found in the area.  This road was also significant in Operation Market Garden, as it was the demarcation line between the German and Allied Forces.  These forested areas are, to this day, filled will fox-holes.


As we were driving down this road, Maarten suddenly asked us if we'd like to go to Germany today.  We weren't quite sure what he meant!  Being the geography genius that I am (ha!) I didn't realize that we were VERY close to the German border.  And so----Maartin took us to Germany!  A couple of short miles down the road, and a quick right hand turn, and there we were--in Germany.  I actually got out of the car--I have officially been to Germany now!

Maarten turned the car around, and we headed back in the direction of Molenhoek.  Along the way, we passed a pretty building, and he saw a friend in the garden.  He stopped and spoke to him for a few minutes, then turned into the long driveway.  This was actually a very old restaurant,  't Zwaantje.  Maarten had decided that we must be hungry!  He said he was hungry, so we must be, too, and lunch was in order,

Here's Maarten and Dad, chatting and walking into the 't Zwaantje:



He knew everyone in the restaurant, and explained (as best I could tell--he was speaking Dutch) why we were there.  He asked if we'd tried any traditional Dutch food, and we said no.  He asked permission to order for us, and we gladly agreed.  The menu was in Dutch, and was Greek to us!

This is our delicious lunch (after I had taken a few bites--I was hungry!) The salad and bread were very good, but the traditional Dutch croquettes were delicious!  We all ate almost every bite.  We chatted while we enjoyed our lunch, and Maartin told us stories of coming to this very same restaurant when he was a child.  He remembers getting lemonade!  These days Maartin and his wife often walk to the restaurant from  their home in Mook.  't Zwaantje has been in the same family for over 100 years, and has a Royal Seal bestowed by Queen Beatrice.


As hard as we tried, Maarten simply would NOT hear of us buying lunch.  Again--"it is my pleasure".

Here is Mom, Dad and Maarten, chatting in the garden area of the restaurant after lunch.


Back to the car (a nice, sleek BMW sedan) and we were off to our next stop.  Again, along the drive he points out so many interesting sights, and tells even more interesting stories!

This photo below is a Memorial Marker at the area of the Temporary American Cemetery in Mook.  This is where our soldiers killed in action were buried temporarily, until they were moved to permanent graves in another area nearby, or sent back to be buried at home.  There is no longer a cemetery remaining in this area, it is now used as farm fields.


The inscription reads:

HERE RESTED THE REMAINS OF 637 GALLANT
SOLDIERS AND AIRMAN OF THE UNITED STATES
AND BRITISH ARMED FORCES.  IN THE FALL 
AND WINTER OF 1944 THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES
TO FREE THE NETHERLANDS OF NAZI TYRANNY




And here lay Roy M. Tuttle, on October 10, 1944


At this Memorial Maarten turned down a very narrow country road, and stopped by this fence.  This is the exact area where Roy. M Tuttle was buried the day after he was shot by a German sniper while defending a rail line in the Molenhoek area.  He was then returned to South Dakota and buried in the family plot in 1945.


This was the last stop on our personalized battlefield tour.  We had seen so much more than we ever thought we would, as our plan had been just a visit the museum.

Oh, but that lovely gentleman was not finished!  He informed us that it was too cold, and much too complicated for us to return to Nijmegen by bus.  He would take us directly to the train station!  He insisted..........

But first he gave us a tour of the small, pretty city of Nijmegen, with accompanying history lesson.  This very bad picture (taken from the moving car) is all that is left of the original old town portion of Nijmegen.  During Operation Market Garden, this central area was bombed in error--by American forces.  He said it is never discussed, and wasn't discussed much at the time.  There was no anger, the residents understood that it was an accident, and harbored absolutely no ill will.  They viewed the Allied Forces as their liberators and heroes, and still do to this day.


He thought we should also see the Rhine River--here it is.  Of course, there is a fascinating war story that takes place right at this spot.  Nothing like bringing history to life!


This is the original rail bridge over the Rhine River.  The Germans didn't get this one, Allied Forces protected and saved it!

After our tour of Nijmegen, it was time for us to catch the train back to Amsterdam.  Maarten cheerfully dropped us off right in front of the station.  Here's Mom, thanking Maarten Dekkers:


Our day had been perfect, more than any of us could have ever wished for.  How lucky we are to have met Maarten Dekkers and had the privilege of a battlefield tour with such a lovely gentleman.  He had spent the entire day with us, giving us the tour of a lifetime, and insisted it was nothing; that it was his honor and privilege.  Dad told Maarten, and has repeated several times already:  "This is a day I will never forget".

I couldn't find words adequate enough to thank him.  I appreciate our day with Maarten more than I could say.


  Words on a small sign post at the National Liberation Museum in Groesbeek, Holland:


Thank you, thank you Maarten Dekkers.

6 comments:

  1. Overwhelmed.........while reading this blog post. I am so pleased that your dad and mom were
    able to have this day. It was a bit emotional just reading this. Had to stop and dry my eyes more than once. Where to start? The country side is very nice. I expected a lot of history would be covered but never would have expected you to have two personal tour guides. Mr. Maarten Dekkers.....so far above and beyond what anyone would expect. To see where Roy was buried, to see his name, Very cool. I can'd quite imagin how your dad feels, but I will never forget this story you told Di. It will always be with me.
    Thank you and thanks to Marrten Dekkers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was waiting for this blog as you said it would be wonderful...and it surely was. Marrten Dekkers is and was a blessing to you and your family. Amazing facts, pictures and information Diana. I loved it. To know that you were with your Dad when he said...this is a day I will never forget. What a memory to last a lifetime. Amazing day!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My heart is full. What a wonderful day that you have shared. Maarten Dekkers is a man of honor and grace and thank you Di for sharing this lovely story. I can't imagine how your dad must have felt.... pride, I'm sure. I was overwhelmed by how the Dutch Underground Resistance Fighters figured out a way to warn the local citizens by the angle of the windmill vanes. Where there is a will, there is a way! Di - you are an amazing lady and a wonderful daughter. Hugs from Boise.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Incredible, incredible journey guided by an angel on earth. What a treasure to share this day with your daddy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH.....and it started again today with Mr. Dekkers. It was meant to be that he would be your personal tour guide and have the honor of each others company for the day...I can only imagine how "touching" this has been for all of you but especially for your Dad. You did a wonderful visual and written recap and I am so glad you all were able to be there and then to share this unforgettable experience with us. Amazing day!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Di for sharing this incredible day, your story and photos brought it to life for me. What a gift to have Mr. Dekkers as your personal guide. The memories that have been made for you and your parents are priceless and I'm sure will always be cherished. Truly an unforgettable time of rememberance and honor of your Uncle Roy and his service. Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete