435th Troop Carrier Group
435th Glider pilot Company Command Post
Battle of Burp Gun Corner
March 1945 Operation Varsity
Research to find the location of the CP
On 24 March 1945, the largest single day airborne operation in history was executed. The goal was the cross the Rhine River. This was the second Allied attempt to cross this with the aid of airborne troops. The first attempt was in September 1944, which resulted in the Battle of Arnhem.
One result of that operation was a discussion by higher command about the role of the US glider pilots. Although these pilots were trained in the USA for ground warfare, they were not trained to be infantry units. And their primary mission after landing was to get back to their home base, as there might be a follow up mission. It is known for the Normandy invasion that glider pilot who flew in on the 6th of June, were flying another mission at about a week later to Normandy.
So during Operation Market Garden, hundredths of glider pilots were in the Groesbeek or in the Son area, waiting to be able to return to England (through the corridor south, and then via Brussels). They made themselves as useful as possible. Collecting supplies, guarding prisoners, doing patrols. And they were even put into frontline duties. The frontline duty in the Groesbeek-Mook area is well known (apparently almost all glider pilots in that area were used to fill the gap) as it lasted for a couple of days. In the Son area glider pilots were directed to the east side of the village, an open front. Luckily for the glider pilots, none of these lines were attacked.
Nevertheless, the airborne commanders talked about the glider pilots as they roamed around in the area and consumed some time and energy from the commanders.
Further north, British glider pilots formed into infantry units after landing, or merged with the troops they had flown in. Here was a big difference in the tasks of the glider pilots.
The Americans kept to their philosophy of the tasks of the glider pilots. But they did gave their glider pilots a new infantry course in the fall of 1944. This was conducted by the 17th Airborne Division in England.
At the time of planning for Operation Varsity, the 17th Airborne had stopped the infantry course for the glider pilots to see battle in the Bulge. With substantial losses, there rose a problem in the plan for Varsity. Almost all tasks could be handles by the Airborne division, but it needed just a little bit more manpower to fill in a gap in their back. That gap was the route German troops could take to flea for the attack from across the Rhine River. It was decided to use the glider pilots who flew in the airborne troops to fill in this gap, facing west.
The 435th Troop Carrier Group volunteered for this task (although it seems that the 436th and 437th TCG glider pilots were given a similar task). The Squadrons were re-named into Platoons, and the full unit was designated 435th Glider Pilot Company. This unit was under command of Captain Charles O. Gordon.
And thus, after landing on LZ-S, the glider pilots of the 435th Troop Carrier Group assembled near Haus Duden. The platoons headed to their designated objectives to form roadblocks.
During the research for the book “Battle of Burp Gun Corner” (published 2014, Walka Publishing) I received a photo from a house and it looked like to be in Germany. The photo was provided by the son of Capt. Gordon. The photo was odd, out of place.
During the research I learned some more, read stories and got in touch with the daughter of F/O Elmer Whitmire, Patricia Overman. She was looking for information regarding her father’s WW2 days. I was able to help her and provided her a copy of her father’s report on the mission over the Rhine with the 435th Troop Carrier Group. One of the parts in that report that was of interest was that her father ended up near the Command Post. This was clearly referring to Capt. Gordon’s CP. A few other writings mentioned the CP as well. F/O Faris wrote about his experiences some years after the war. He acted as runner for Capt. Gordon. He wrote that he was in the CP when a German night fighter crashed about 200 meters away from the CP.
With those little clues, a search started. A German friend did not recognize the house in the photo. And the whole area had been built over with new houses. A search for the house did not deliver, even though the crash location of the German plane was known.
In 2010, when Patricia and her husband Bruce were in Germany, we, together with Christian Dijkhuizen, did another search. We walked from the hotel (194th GIR CP area) to the crossroad that is known as Burp Gun Corner. We failed to find the house. So we headed back. And then…we spotted a house that looked very much alike the one in the old photo. Could it be? We started checking the details. Some parts were changed, no doubt about that. But the house looked very alike the one in the old photo and the changes could be recognized.
From two different collections I had photos of someone sitting on some steps of a doorway. And I had the impression that those pics were taken at the same location, the believed CP. So we asked the owner of the house (which was on sale back then) if he recognized those steps. He told that the back of the house had some steps. So we checked it out. Indeed…although changed through the years, there were the steps.
And that was when we were pretty sure to have found the CP used by Capt. Gordon and his party during the Battle of Burp Gun Corner. It was only 200 meters from the crossroad.
The house had seen some changes, it wasn’t a farm anymore, which it would have been back in 1945. But a piece of history has been recovered.
The research resulted in a book titled “Battle of Burp Gun Corner” and was published in 2014 and first presented to Mr. George Theis and Mr. Lynus Ryan at the Glider Pilot/Troop Carrier reunion at Bloomington MN. Mr. Theis, National Treasurer of the National World War II Glider Pilots Association Inc. and a veteran glider pilot who flew the Rhine mission with the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron, 440th Troop Carrier Group. Mr. Lynus Ryan is Deputy Commander North of the National World War II Glider Pilots Association Inc. He is a glider pilot veteran who flew missions to Normandy, Holland and the Rhine.
The book is available in the USA through the Silent Wings Museum at Lubbock TX (call them (806) 775-3049)
And in Europe through the author (and this webmaster). Drop an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for a cover of the book.
The unknown house showed up in a film clip taken during the operation. (Ch. Gordon/Webmaster collection)
Left: The house as it was in 1945. Pictured by Capt. Gordon, the Glider Pilot Operations Officer of the 435th Troop Carrier Group. A photo like this always makes one wonder why the pic was taken. The conclusion was that it meant something to Capt. Gordon. (Ch. Gordon collection)
Right: The house found back in 2010. A few changes have occured. A chimney is gone and replaced by a sky-light. Most of the structure looks the same as back in 1945. Even the garage box in the back of the house. (B. Overman photo)
Left: An unknown glider pilot prepares his meal on the steps of the CP. Another photo at the same spot showing Capt. Gordon was the seed to think that this was at the CP as well. (H. Parks collection)
Right: When we visited and found the spot, we talked with the owner of the house. The house was for sale, but we were allowed to check out the back side of the house. We wanted to find the small steps visible in the 1945 photo.
The area has changed a lot and the farms of 1945 have turned into living houses. And although the original steps are gone, the steps that replaced the old ones seem to be a nice comparison for the same location. (B. Overman photo)