Greetings from the Netherlands. I am writing this near banks the river Waal looking out at the Nijmegen Bridge. This is one of my favorite spots on the European continent.
This bridge was one of the three bridges that the WWII Allies attempted to take during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. They were successful taking the bridges between Eindhoven and this bridge in Nijmegen. The last bridge the allies needed to take at Arnhem was “The Bridge Too Far”.
The train that brought me to Nijmegen today stopped in Arnhem. I took a picture of the platform sign for no other reason but to remember that nearly 2,000 allied forces were killed or went missing during the battle for this Arnhem bridge.
I haven’t been to Nijmegen in about 6 years. Last time I stayed at the Mercur Hotel here in town, there was a reunion of British soldiers who fought presumably under Montgomery. It was bizzarre to have the elevators open and see a little old man in his dress uniform being steadied by his wife. Without a word I knew his connection to this area. Imagine his orders:
“See that bridge with the explosives wired to it and the Germans all over it? Go take it and no matter what, do not let the Germans blow it up or our guys up the road are dead!“
That’s bravery for you. That’s a hero. A few years later I came a poem by Robert Hedin called the Old Liberators. Those were the men that were walking around that hotel that day. You know that line from Henry V, “And gentlemen in England now abed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” That was how I felt staying in that hotel that night and at breakfast the next morning. I stood among frail giant men.
God bless those Old Liberators.