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The Bridge over the Maas at Grave; Grave, September 17, 2014

The Market Garden Memorial, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The conquest of the John S. Thompson Bridge at Grave was during the Second World War conducted by the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army. The conquest was conducted during the famous Operation Market Garden in 1944. The 82nd is nowadays still one of the largest airborne divisions in the United States.

The American 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne division of the United States Army. The 82nd Airborne Division is a unit of American airmobile infantry. The unit was established in 1917 as the 82nd Division. In 1918 the unit was renamed to as the 82nd Infantry Division and took part in the First World War. In 1942, the division was the first airmobile unit of the US Army and was named the 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd Airborne Division has participated in many important operations such as the Normandy landings, the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden. These airborne forces existed during the Second World War mainly out of paratroopers. Soldiers of the 82nd wear the letters AA on their shoulder which represents the nickname All-American. Another nickname for the division is America's Guard of Honor. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, and January 1945, the 82nd helped to stop the German offensive. After the capitulation of Germany, the division took part in the occupation of Berlin. The unit has received a number of awards such as the Military Order of William in the Netherlands and the Military Cross in Belgium. The division is currently stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina USA. In 1965, the unit participated in the American attack on the Dominican Republic. During the Vietnam War, the unit was active from 1968 to 1969 and took part in the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, the unit made for the first time structural use of helicopters to transport troops.

In 1990, the 82nd was one of the first American units in Saudi Arabia after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the beginning of the first Gulf War. During the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 the 82nd led small parachutes attacks in western Afghanistan. The 82nd took part in the Second Gulf War in 2003 and the unit was retired from Iraq in 2005. The 82nd is today a major division of the US Army. Today, the 82nd Airborne Division consists of five brigades. The first brigade is the 1st Brigade Combat Team which consists of several airborne infantry and engineering regiments. The second

brigade is the 2nd Brigade Combat Team which has the same composition as the 1st Brigade. This composition is also the same for the third brigade which is designated as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The fourth brigade of the 82nd is the 18th Fires Brigade. This brigade is the artillery unit within the 82nd. The fifth brigade is the Combat Aviation Brigade. This brigade is equipped with several helicopters of the type AH-64D Longbow and UH-60M Blackhawk. To honor the crossing of the Waal during the Second World War to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 307th Engineer Battalion, recruits must annually paddle to the other side of the beadles McKellars Lake near Fort Bragg. During this tradition a league takes place between units who first gets across the lake. The winner gets an oar that symbolizes the soldiers during Market Garden which used their weapons during paddling across the lake like the troops did in the Second World War.

The most famous operation where the 82nd Airborne Division was involved was Operation Market Garden. Market Garden consisted of a massive airborne operation (Market) and a ground offensive from Belgium (Garden). British, Polish and American airborne troops would occupy important bridges over the Dutch rivers, and ground troops could penetrate through these bridges quickly into the IJsselmeer. With this operation, the German troops in the west of the Netherlands were cut off and there was also the opportunity to advance to the east. In the east the road to the Ruhr would lay open which is the heart of the industrial heart of Germany. Less known is that Operation Market Garden had to encircle the harbor of Antwerp and the area where the battle for the Schelde River would be fought. In general, the outcome of Market Garden is seen as a failure. Eisenhower called it actually a partially successful operation. The less well-known purpose of securing the Antwerp sector had been reached. Also cutting off the German forces in the west of the Netherlands was successful, but breaking through into the Ruhr had failed. In September 1944, they introduced paratroopers and glider landings as part of Operation Market Garden. Here the 82nd was tasked to capture the bridges at Grave and Nijmegen as well as one of the four bridges over the Maas-Waal Chanel.

The John S. Thompson Bridge was until 2004 known as the bridge of Grave or the Grave Bridge. The bridge was built between 1927 and 1929 over the Meuse River between Grave in North Brabant and Nederasselt in Gelderland. This bridge has a lock and dam complex as well. The Dutch Bridge, lock and dam complexes are owned by Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Maritime Department) and are for the biggest part been built in the municipality of Heumen Gelderland. The bridge is painted in the colors of the rainbow since 1999. The color of the nine arches of the bridge proceeds gradually from red to green from the Brabant side to the Gelderland side. The bridge was during Operation Market Garden conquered by Lieutenant John S. Thompson. The name of this lieutenant was by his widow officially revealed during the commemoration of September 2004. Thompson was platoon commander of the 82nd US Airborne Division. He landed with 16 men in the Martian and Wythpolder only 700 meters away from the bridge on September 17, 1944. He first went to the consort of Sasse and from there he went through the water to the embankment between the pumping station and the highway. The platoon was able to occupy the southern ramp of the bridge after several battles with the Germans. Later that day, the Americans were able to occupy the northern part of the bridge from Nederasselt. Operation Market Garden seemed to succeed on September 19. Ground forces had repaired the bridge at Son, the canal bridge at Veghel and Grave were captured and the link was made with the 82nd Airborne Division.




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