2. Freedom falls from the skies
In September 1944, after four years of relative peace, the villages of Overasselt and Nederasselt became the site of the largest airborne landings of all time. Operation Market Garden had begun. For Thé, Herman and Jan Tünnissen, it seemed like an exciting boy's thriller had come to life in their back garden.
On Sunday September 17 1944, one of the biggest airborne landing operations of all time took place above Overasselt and Nederasselt. The American 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment landed in the meadows to the north of the two villages.
This regiment formed part of the 82nd Airborne Division, which was dropped on that day between Eindhoven and Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden. General James M. Gavin and his men had the task of occupying the high ground near Groesbeek, thus protecting the bridges over the rivers Maas and Waal, and the Maas-Waal canal.
In the days after September 17, many Waco gliders landed in and around Overasselt and Nederasselt, as well as near Groesbeek, because thousands of troops had to be provided with material and supplies.
The Allied advance was hard-fought in this area, which for several weeks was in the front line. Once the tanks of the British 30th Corps finally crossed the River maas and drove through the streets of Nederasselt and Overasselt, many locals were confident theat the Liberation of the Netherlands was finally at hand. No-one yet realised, however, that the population to the north of the great rivers would still face a long, hard Hunger Winter.
Schoonenburgseweg, between Overasselt and Nederasselt. At the Airborne monument. GPS code: 51˚46’06.43”N 5˚46’13.18”E