Friday, May 23, 2014

The Bridge at Arnhem--Let us Remember the Fallen

"I was terrified during the fighting. After the battle I heard a bird sing again for the first time. It was as if I'd risen from the dead. It was only then I realized I'd survived."
                  --British soldier from Arnhem Battle

Our River cruise boat stopped at Arnhem on the Rhine River. We were told that we had docked almost near a famous bridge which had great meaning in World War II. Cornelius Ryan would tell the battle story in his best selling book called, A Bridge Too Far. A film was made from the book by Richard Attenborough.

On this Memorial Day my memory goes back to that Bridge. In 1944 the Germans had moved into Holland and all the citizens of Arnhem had been evacuated. General Bernard Montgomery of England believed if the Allied forces could take this bridge and two others at Arnhem they could end the war.

The Battle plan was called Operation Market Garden. The largest Airborne operation in history happened there. 35,000 paratroopers were dropped in 3 separate areas. If they could take this bridge, defeat the Germans they could then move into the Netherlands. It would be the end of the war.

The Battle at Arnhem lasted for ten long days in September of 1944. Despite fighting as hard as they could the Allied troops were defeated. When the dust had settled 1,485 servicemen had been killed and 6,525 had been wounded or reported missing. 453 citizens on Arnhem died in those days.

I had heard little of this battle. But I visited the Cemetery where so many of these troops were buried. And I was reminded that on this special day we should pause to remember all those who fallen in all the wars.

There are more than a few unknown soldiers. There are millions scattered in cemeteries and unknown graves around the world. We never knew their names, their hopes, their dreams or their shattered families. Yet—they gave their lives for the cause of freedom on a great many occasions.

The Bridge at Arnhem was destroyed in that battle despite the defeat of the Allied troops. Yet when I saw the bridge I was amazed at how it has been rebuilt. Four months after that battle the war really did end and the troops from so many countries found their way home.

But on this Memorial weekend let us remember all the fallen. Let us pray that wars can end and peace might just come. Not all battles are won. Many have been lost. But flowers grow in Arnhem after these terrible years.

We must take the long view of history. That is hard in a crazed media age where every headline is a crisis. And yet when we look a long way back—we might just know that even after enormous losses and defeat and pain—the flowers still grow. Let us remember the fallen.

Roger Lovette /

1 comment:

  1. My father-in-law was in that battle. He was one of the wounded; the Allies were not able to immediately remove the bodies, or the wounded, so they covered them with leaves and left them there overnight. During the night the Germans came through and stabbed the ground with their bayonets. My FIL had to lie there, silently, not knowing if he would live another minute. He was in his 20's and had a pregnant wife back home.

    We have no idea of the atrocious our soldiers faced. Praise be to God that they prevailed.