On 17 September 1944 operation Market Garden started. From Ramsbury Airfield, England, the 437th Troop Carrier Group towed gliders to Landing Zone W, just north of the village of Son. This was the operation area for the 101st Airborne Division. Their goald was to capture bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son and Best, bridges over the Dommel river at Sint Oedenrode and Eindhoven City.
After paratroopers had been dropped on the dropzone, the same fields were used for the gliders. The 437th Troop Carrier Group flew two serials, each with 35 tow planes and gliders. These were Serials A-29 and A-30.
Flight Officer James Larkin flew glider # 43-39784. In the serial, he was flying on position number 27. This would have made the chalk number of his glider number 62.
His glider was towed by C-47 # 42-100805 which was crewed by:
1st Lt. Melvin B. Fredette (P)
2nd Lt. Darrah L. Roberts (CP)
S/Sgt. Bernard J. Mock (CC)
S/Sgt. Edward J. Whalen (RO)
Mr. James Larkin told about is experiences after the war:
We didn’t have enough pilots for Holland, it was going to be a big deal. Because we didn't have enough glider pilots to handle the whole caboodle.
So, what they did - the 101st Airborne by the way is what we took in to Holland - the 101st paratroopers jumped in ahead of us, then the 101st glider contingent came in. Our glider with a jeep and three 101st Airborne guys and a bunch of other stuff - land mines, ammunition, boxes of stuff that was, you know, in there, material.
A sergeant sat in the copilots seat, and we flew single-tow down across Belgium, headed north in Belgium and crossed over the line where the fighting was going on. I let the sergeant manipulate the wheel, turn it back-and-forth, see what the rudder would do in case I got wiped out he would have a half-way decent chance in getting that thing down. That was the best I could do, and we had a lot of fun talking about it.
The English were all poised right there ready to roll and as soon as we got over the Belgian border, over the front, why of course all hell broke loose as far as flak was concerned. And Holland was a real ‘flak’ mission. There, everybody was shooting at us. We were low, 500 feet above the trees, and so it was crazy. And, a number of gliders did not get through of course, but my glider did. As a matter of fact, my whole flight got through.
When we got to the landing zone there were a number of German tanks on the landing zone and some of our fighter bombers were taking those out at the time, so, that was a little bit of excitement, and they did take them out finally.
Well, you know what happened. We landed at the southern end - there were some bridges to be captured.
Ok, so we land, get out of the glider, and as always, we knocked our window out, pilot and co-pilot, we had plastic windows on the side. Before we took off we always knocked those out. It made a lot of noise in the cockpit but it worked OK. And then when we landed we didn’t have to climb back over that jeep, we could just go out that window, that hole where that window was, and it was big enough we could get out of there in one leap. And then, after things settle down, go back to your glider and get the stuff you needed out of it.
We got out of our glider, it was in a plowed field - you saw the field when we were visiting Holland years ago - at that time it was a plowed field and the furrows ran a certain direction and the furrows ran up to where a German tank was. And there were four, P-51s that were circling that tank. And they would go around it and as they would come in it they would shoot it with their machine gun and whatever else ordnance they had and then had a time - those guys were really good - when a German would have his gun up and shot at him but he couldn’t do it, and then here comes another guy from the side shooting at the tank’s undercarriage from here and here, and those airplanes buzzing around that tank, and they finally got it, knocked it out.
But in the mean time, we were lined up with that tank and those airplanes and as the pilot pulled up the machine gun would still be on you know ... they would be diving down at that tank with the machine gun on and as they pulled up there were still a few bullets and they went whizzing by us. As a matter of fact, there were two or three occasions when the bullets were just a few inches of us hitting that black dirt but none of us got hit ... there were three of us. They hit the glider with the machine gun, but it didn’t matter.
When that tank was taken out - somebody else had taken out the other tanks there - and then about an hour or hour-and-a-half things calmed down except for the artillery. The Germans had now dragged their artillery out of the landing zone and were sending shells in, which they did more or less continuously, and so that was that.
Another pilot from my outfit, my outfit was altogether there, but another guy from my outfit named Murphy, was flying a glider next to me, and we palled up and went over to Sweere’s house, to the farm, and kind of introduced ourselves and made friends with them, gave them some cigarettes and the girls a bar of soap, and all that stuff that was kind of standard by then.
Well, anyway, that night we stayed in that farm house, in Sweere’s house. They had a room upstairs where I stayed, and Johnny Murphy stayed somewhere else, downstairs they had a room. And then the next day, here come some more gliders in, and the landing zone was starting to get cluttered up with gliders which would come in every which way ... some of them shot up, and some of them, you know, pilots panicked and the glider was tipped upside down or whatever.
On the second day, Colonel Sink, who was in command of the 101st Airborne unit that was there - by the way he is featured in that Band of Brothers, Colonel Sink was a mustached, good looking guy - he came by in a jeep and saw that we were glider pilots and he said, “hey, what are you guys doing.” We said, “well sir, we were just waiting for the British come up and get over that bridge, we going back to Brussels.” He said, “we got six lifts coming in here”, and he knew that we knew there were a total of six days, and he said, “ I need you guys to stay here and keep some landing lanes open.” He said gliders were scattered from Hell to breakfast out there and I am going to send you over one of the Airborne bulldozers, and a jeep, and four of my fellows, four of my infantry men over. And he said then between the six of you and the jeep and the tractor you can pull the gliders out of the way or you can push them out of way, keep landing lanes open. And he said after a lift comes in, you guys get back out there and keep this whole area, it was about a mile or so, keep it open, keep some landing lanes open so that the new gliders would have a place to go and turn off if they wanted to. So, we did that.