Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Market Garden/Margraten

This is the latest dispatch from independent war correspondent, Michael Yon.  I've only included a portion of it here and have, instead, given you a link that goes back to his website where the result of the document and the more than 100 photographs of the events he has participated in.  He starts out in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, where there was a kidnap attempt on he and his driver.  It's a dangerous world and it's good that Yon and his driver remained flexible enough to avert this type of threat.

The then moves to Napal and from there on to the Margraten (Market Garden) Memorial Day Observance at Nijmegen, The Netherlands.  The Memorial Day Observance is the 65th anniversary of the allied liberation from Nazi occupation and they honor the British and American Soldiers as their liberators.  Referred to as the Liberation of Eindhoven - 1944-2009, and held near the Margraten Cemetery, which is the only U.S. military resting place in the Netherlands.

The Liberation of Eindhoven was a part of what was known as Operation Market Garden (September 17-25, 1944) and an Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in World War II.  It was the largest airborne operation of all time.  It required the seizure of bridges across the Maas and two arms of the Rhine as well as several smaller canals and tributaries.  Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to outflank the Siegfried Lane and encircle the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland.  It made large-scale use of airborne forces whose tactical objectives were to secure a series of bridges over the main rivers of the German-occupied Netherlands and allow a rapid advance by armoured units into Northern Germany.

Many veterans travel there to take part in the observance and the day is filled with parades and other activities.  Even some of the original members of the invasion force parachute in as a part of the day (you'll get to see one of the two veterans who parachuted into Overasselt.  One is 90 years old, the other is close to the same age but unfortunately suffered a severe concussion and a broken shoulder.

Some of the celebrities included Queen Beatrice of The Netherlands, England's Prince Phillip and our own General Petraeus.  Michael Yon asked General Petraeus about his dad, and the General said his dad was a Dutch ship captain and was at sea when the Germans invaded Holland.  And so he sailed to New York and there eventually met his American mom.  (Touchdown for the United States.)  His dad joined the Merchant Marines, who suffered more casualties per capita than any other service during the war. 

Also, as part of the celebration, a contingent from the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division were there.  General Petraeus had long-commanded the 101st, including in combat in Iraq, and had briefly been acting commander of the 82nd (the All American), the two principal divisions being honored today.  The 101st (the Screaming Eagles) liberated Eerde and so the people put on a parade and there must have been a thousand thank yous.  Veterans of the 82nd and 101st whose forerunners had helped liberate the land.

General Petraeus mentioned during the talk that the Washington Post had just released the classified message from McChrystal to the White House.  The memo has since set Washington ablaze, yet the McChrystal document delivered news so old and parched that Indiana Jones might find it more useful for finding hidden treasures.  That Washington finds the ideas new or shocking only shows that Washington is shot full of painkillers and can’t feel a thing.  The report should have been submitted by the Commanding General in Afghanistan in 2006.

Be sure to note in Michael's dispatch that “Roadside bombs” are nothing new to warfare.  The Iraqis did not invent IEDs.  Similar bombs were used during World War II.

Fallen But Not Forgotten - A website that tells the life stories they have collected of each of the fallen service personnel buried at Netherlands american Cemetery and Memorial.


David Axelrod - please petition to get us out of Afghanistan/Pakistan and bring our military home.

Thank you,


* * * * *

Market Garden/Margraten


Am in Nepal on research for Afghanistan.  While here will walk back up to Everest for a quick workout and some fresh air, then fly back to Afghanistan to embed with Stryker Brigade and others.

A new dispatch is up.  More than a hundred photos...this is a big one! 

Your writer,


* * * * *

Market Garden

A Remembrance During Time of War

Published: 12 October 2009 from Nargarkot, Nepal

Published: 12 October 2009 from Nargarkot, Nepal

Kandahar City, Afghanistan

Slowly, surely, the city is being strangled.  Signaling the depth of our commitment, security forces are thinner in Kandahar than the Himalayan air.  During the days and evenings, there were the sounds of occasional bombs—some caused by suicide attackers, and others by firefights.  The windows in my room had been blown out recently and now were replaced.  We came here to kill our enemies, but today we want to make a country from scratch.

A world away from Afghanistan, over in Holland, was approaching the 65th anniversary of the allied liberation from Nazi occupation, and I had been invited to attend by James “Maggie” Megellas.  Maggie, who had fought his way through Holland and is today remembered there as a hero, is said to be the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division.  Now 92, Maggie has recently spent about two months tooling around the battlefields of Afghanistan, and though it would be an honor to finally meet him, there was the matter of extracting myself from Kandahar City and getting through about forty minutes of dangerous territory to the military base at Kandahar Airfield.


And so a friend and I donned local garb and loaded into the car.

Criminals and Taliban were on the lookout for westerners to kidnap, and unknown to us an intelligence report had just been issued that men in a stolen Toyota Corolla were on the prowl in Kandahar City.

The camera was mostly kept down but occasionally I lifted for quick shots.  Kandahar City, like other main Afghan cities, belies the fact that most Afghans will never have one minute of electricity, nor will they ever see a westerner.

Afghan police love to jet around at high speeds in their trucks, often with powerful machine guns mounted on back.

Shortly after this photo was taken, my friend, who had been a South African cop for 16 years, spotted two men in a white Toyota Corolla who had locked onto us.  They drove swiftly by for a look-see, then hit a Y intersection ahead on the right.  They tried to get back in, but traffic slowed them by about ten seconds.  I was watching over my shoulder when they dangerously bolted back into the traffic a couple hundred meters behind us.  The camera was on the floorboard.  I had picked up a pistol and rested it on my right thigh.  My friend rolled down his window and I rolled down mine.  They were moving in.  In less than a minute, someone probably would die.  The car was speeding closer when per chance a green Afghan police pickup rocketed by the pursuers.  The green police truck was mounted with a machine gun, and a long belt of ammo was dangling, while a policeman kept his hands on the gun.  I hid the pistol.  The pursuers slowed.  We continued at about 40mph as the police swooshed by.  The police pulled off the road a few hundred meters ahead of us and the white car fell back more, until it passed the police and began to speed up, but that was it.  The pursuers were caught behind too many trucks and fell away.  I put down the pistol and picked up the camera.

None of the paved roads in Afghanistan were built by Afghan vision with Afghan resources.  If not for the many foreign invaders, this land would be road-and runway-free.

An American convoy of MRAPs approached from the front and a soldier in the lead vehicle shot a pen-flare, causing everyone to pull off the road.  The convoys are more menacing from the outside and in fact I kept the camera down and this is exactly why Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is concerned about adding too many troops.  Can’t argue with his reasoning; convoys and troops truly are menacing despite that U.S. and British soldiers are very disciplined.  It must look far worse to Afghans.  Most Afghans never talk with foreign soldiers and those who do normally only see us in passing.  In fact, most soldiers never leave base.  Our forces at KAF (Kandahar Airfield) have a base so large that this commercial jet is about to land there after flying dangerously over this unsecured road.

After arriving at Kandahar Airfield, the Dutch Air Force took me, and long after midnight we boarded a Canadian C-130 and flew to Dubai.

From Dubai, the Dutch soldiers got onto a chartered flight to Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Over the Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, skirting Iraq.

Finally into Holland, we landed at the Dutch Air Force Base at Eindhoven, where families and others were waiting for Dutch soldiers.  Someone shoved a rose and a gift into my hand and I smiled, protesting that I am only a writer, and tried unsuccessfully to return the rose and the gift.

There was a short taxi ride to the hotel.

And right there in the lobby was a throng of World War II veterans whose first trips to Europe had been either under parachute into combat, or by gliders into combat.  (As would be revealed over the next five days.)  So I sat down with Guadelupe Flores because he was sitting alone while people crowded around other vets.  His grandson Matt came over.  I hadn’t even fully checked in yet.  Guadelupe said he was from Texas originally but now lived in Ohio, and he’d just arrived.  “Did you parachute in this time?” I asked.  Guadelupe only chuckled, “Not this time,” and chuckled some more.  Please have a look at Guadelupe’s left eye.  This is the last picture before he got the black eye, which is a funny story.  (Guadelupe was on the Army boxing team, he would later say.)

Maggie Megellas was there along with a large group of American university students who had broken off with small groups of veterans.  A man said that General Petraeus’ staff was here and General Petraeus was coming to stay at the same hotel.

Finally I got to the room and there was an email from Afghanistan:

I've heard we had to be on the lookout for a group of kidnappers, targeting expats in Kandahar. Apparently they are using a stolen white Toyota Corolla station wagon and a red Toyota Surf. Wonder if we “met” them yesterday?

Actually there had been two suspected vehicles that seemed like they might be working together, but I didn’t mention the second vehicle.  Every day in the war is a close call.

The Market Garden remembrance was to begin in the morning.


A Bridge Too Far - Trailer

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A Bridge Too Far - Taking Nijmegen

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As always, this dispatch has been reprinted with permission from the author, Michael Yon.

Please support this mission by making a direct contribution. Without your support, the mission will end. Thank you for helping me tell the full story of the struggle for Iraq and Afghanistan.

To read more on Michael Yon, or more information regarding the military, please go to the Michael Yon Dispatches Gather Group

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