Joe Crilley

The Beginning

The Wounding of Charlie Wilber

I remember late at night sneaking past my Dad as he sat in his wheelchair. I was using a commercial break to grab a couple of beers out in the garage and maybe have a quick smoke. A few minutes later I would pass him again as he stared out at a blank TV. I knew by the look on his face that he was thinking of the war and most likely he was thinking of the day he was hit, October 5, 1944.

My Dad was a glider man in the 101st Airborne Division-the "Screaming Eagles", first platoon, Baker Company in the 326th Combat Engineers. On September 18, 1944 he crashed landed by glider behind German lines in a CG-4A Waco at Landing Zone W near Zon, Holland in the opening phase of Operation Market-Garden, an operation some historians would label as the most momentous error of World War II. He was 28 years old when he was sent with the rest of the division to "the Island", an area just south of Arnhem, Holland (the main objective of Market-Garden). There they relieved English troops who had expanded their control south of the Lower Rhine, mainly to rescue troopers of the 1st Airborne Division who survived the debacle.

In early October, B Company/326th Engineers was attached to Kidnap Blue, the unit codeword for the third battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and bivouacked just east of Opheusden, a small village on the Neder Rhine. After most of the English troops were relieved by the 101st, the Germans who held the higher ground to the north, launched a counterattack coming from the west to drive the allies off the island.

Early on the morning of October 5th the German 363rd Volksgrenadier Division augmented by tanks, artillery and a battalion of engineers, crossed the Neder Rhine and attacked Opheusden with the purpose of driving the Allies from the Island. The third battalion of the 506th, particularly Companies George and How borne the blunt of the attack. Because of this, Baker Company /326th, with permission from Divisional Headquarters, was converted to infantrymen and ordered west to determine the extent of the German drive.

My Dad was led by Lt. Col. Robert Sink to the outskirts of Opheuseden and told to advance forward. The 1st platoon attacked under heavy fire and crossed the bridge leading to the small village. After passing the railroad station and several houses, they came upon an open field and used a ditch to cross open ground at a right angle to the advancing Germans……..

A Letter From England

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