Joe Crilley

Reply to Bernard

Schenectady, NY August 26,2003

Dear Bernhard Florissen,
Thank you for the letter and pictures of Wim and Dir van den Bosch. I was very happy to hear that they survived the war for the longest time I feared that they may have been discovered and murdered by the Nazis for helping my Dad.

I thought I should tell you alittle bit about my parents. Both my Mom, Dorothy and Dad, Charles were born in Schenectady, New York. My Dad on June 16, 1916 and my Mom on October 16, 1919. Schenectady, located 155 miles north of New York City, was founded by the Dutch in 1661. On the night of February 8 & 9, 1690, it was attacked and burned to the ground by French and Indians.Click for larger image Sixty residents were killed and 27 were taken captive. Two Indians also died and the French commanding General was seriously wounded. This was considered by some historians as the opening battle of the French and Indian Wars that lasted 75 years.

My Dad joined the Army in June, 1943 and was shipped overseas to England in October of that year. A month later he became a member of the 101 st Airborne Division, at first in the Headquarters & Supply and then Baker Company of the 326th Combat Engineers.

In early June, 1944 he set sail for France in the D-Day invasion. Because military intelligence feared heavy causalities, some as high as 80%, the majority of the Screaming Eagles landed not by parachute or gliders but by sea. My Father's vessel, the Susan B. Anthony, struck a mine off of Omaha Beach on June 7th and sank. All 2,689 personnel were safety rescued which to this day (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) is the greatest shipwreck in history in which no one was killed. He landed on Utah beach and was the first one off the landing craft. He stepped off in water over his head and got his leg trapped by the landing craft's door. Fortunately another soldier saw this and was able to pull him free. The fact he had no weapon or equipment, that went down with the Susan B. Anthony, greatly helped him.

He fought in Normandy for 33 days and in July the Division was pulled out and returned to England. The 101st was awarded a Presidental Unit Citation for their job they did there. In England they trained more and got ready for their next assignment.

On September 18, 1944, D+ 1, my Dad crashed landed behind German lines in a glider at Landing Zone W near Zon, Holland as part of Operation Market-Garden. After fighting in that area- "Hell's Highway", for two weeks, B Company/326th was attached to Kidnap Blue ,the unit codeword for 3rd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and stationed just east of Opheusden on the area the airborne soldiers would soon call "The Island".

On the morning of October 5th the Germans launched a massive attack to drive the Allies off the Island. I have enclosed the After Action Report for that date in which Captain Donald H. Froemke, commanding officer of B Co., was killed by a German 88mm artillery shell crossing open ground to aid a wounded man. That wounded man was my father. He had been hit in the left back just below the shoulder blade with the bullet exiting his right side. The bullet did pierce his lung but fortunately not too seriously. While going back he was hit again this time thru the right leg above the ankle. It was here that Wim and Dir van den Bosch helped him and he stayed in their home for three hours under heavy artillery fire. After removing his wet uniform and wrapping him in blankets, they had placed him under a table and had given him a small Dutch Bible. He later told me that the strain of the events caused him to have an anxiety attack that knocked me out cold. He awoke with a priest giving him last rites only inches from his face. The priest shot back in horror with eyes large as sauces as the dead man came alive again.

He was taken by jeep, ambulance, and then truck to a hospital in Belgium and later by plane to England. He was hospitalized for the next ten weeks and was returning to his unit when Hitler launched his winter offensive. He just missed the last truck going to Bastogne. The fact he still had trouble breathing it was lucky for him that he didn't go there for I don't know if he could have survived the harshness of the Battle of the Bulge. He rejoined his outfit in early 1945 and suffered no further injuries from the war.

After the Japanese surrendered, many of his letters talk about how the men dreaded going to fight in Japan, he was released from the Army in December, 1945Click for larger image and he married my Mom soon after on February 16th. My brother David was born in 1947, myself I was born in 1949 and my sister Sue was born in 1953. They bought a house in the suburb of Rotterdam, NY in 1949 and today I own this house.

My brother today lives in Burlington, Vermont with his wife of 30 years, Carol. They had no children and are both retired but just recently returned to work for 6 months. My sister Sue who has worked as an Administrator is divorced, and she has two daughters, Megan 25 years old and Elizabeth, a college graduate in photography, who will turn 21 next week.They just moved to Las Vegas, Nevada from Rotterdam recently and are looking for work out there. Myself, I am also divorced and have two children, Margaret who is 20 and Erin who is 19. Margaret goes to college on scholarship because of her acting and singing talents at Marymount Manhatten in New York City. She also works for Girls Inc. and did three television commercials for them. Erin, works in a restaurant in Schenectady but spends most of her time as a singer/songwriter and uses Erin Quillinan (her mother's maiden name) as her stage name. She has produced a couple of CDs and was recently interviewed on a local radio station.

Click for larger imageMy Dad worked in the post office in Schenectady, NY and retired in 1975. My Mother worked for New York State and retired in 1982. This allowed them to travel quite a bit and see many parts of the world. Unfortunately my Dad had Peripheral Vascular Disease and after numerous operations finally lost his leg and was confined to wheelchair much of the time. He died on May 23, 2000 just a few weeks shy of his 84th birthday. My Mom never recovered from her loss and died January 11,2003, also at the age of 83. My brother remarked that we never saw her smile or laugh after my father's death. They are buried together in a cemetery nearby.
Sincerly yours,
Doug Wilber

Journey to Holland

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