Friday, June 9, 2017

WW II Operation Market Garden Mission

The invasion of Holland mission  begin on 17 September 1944. Flight Officer Chuck Skidmore flew the D Day mission in a CG-4A as pilot, departing from Balderton Airdrome. He said later that the mission was strange from the very beginning and almost humorous.

The day of the mission he was driven out to his glider in a jeep. During his preflight check he
noted that his load was a ¼ ton jeep trailer that was covered with a tarpaulin. Skidmore asked the
loadmaster what was in the trailer and he told him 800 pounds of land mines. He was told not to worry because it would take the weight of a sizeable vehicle to detonate them. Small consolation, Chuck mused. Three gliders troopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were also included in his load.
Chuck waited outside of his glider for some time for his copilot who never appeared. When he
queried the crew chief he smiled and said that the Colonel Young had decided against using two glider pilots on this mission.

 Just prior to his glider being pulled into position for hookup a fourth soldier suddenly showed up at the glider. He wore full combat dress and was carrying a Thompson submachine gun. He climbed over the jeep trailer and sat down in the copilot’s seat. Chuck was surprised to see that it was Warrant Officer Walter F. Domanski, the assistant engineering officer of the 91st TC Squadron. After a brief conversation Chuck learned that he was an unofficial passenger, in essence, a stowaway.

The four hour flight to Holland was boring and tiring, Chuck admitted later that it was a pretty
hairy flight after passing over the Dutch coast. A tow plane just ahead of him went down in flames
after being hit by ground fire. He watched for parachutes but saw none as the plane plummeted to
earth. He felt his heart racing, he said, and he began sweating so profusely that beads of water were
showing inside his watch crystal. Near the end of the 90 mile overland portion of the flight his glider
began to take ground fire from a windmill but fortunately no one was hit. Moments later he received
the green light from his tow plane and released his glider. Turning to the left he quickly spotted his
landing zone. As he circled towards the field below more ground fire was directed at his glider. As he
made his approach he saw another tow plane go down trailing fire. In an effort to evade the enemy fire coming up at him he dove towards the ground, quickly picking up speed. One of the glider troopers 8 aboard sensed that he was exceeding the usual rate of descent and decided to take action. He climbed over the trailer, rapped on Chuck’s steel helmet and shouted, “Slow this S.O.B. down!”
Not knowing quite how to fly the glider and defend himself at the same time, Chuck did the
best he could under the circumstance… he flew the glider. The trooper suddenly shoved him in the
back which caused the glider to begin descending even faster. Fortunately, W/O Domanski came to his rescue. He shoved his Tommy gun into the soldier‘s shoulder and said, “Get back in your seat or I’ll sit you down permanently.” Since the trooper had left his weapon in the back of the glider, and probably because he sensed that discretion was the better part of valor, he beat a hasty retreat to his seat in the back of the CG-4A. Chuck landed the glider on the proper landing zone, but it didn’t fair too well. The giant beets growing on the landing zone pretty much destroyed the bottom of the glider. Chuck helped unload his glider and moments later a jeep arrived to tow the trailer.

Within several days he was back in France. In October, November and December 1944, Chuck flew resupply missions to Holland as copilot aboard the squadron’s C-47s. On 4 December 1944, he was awarded an oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal and the Distinguished Unit Badge for his participation in Operation “Market.” He was also awarded the orange lanyard by the Dutch, and belatedly was also awarded the Willemsorde, the Netherlands highest award.

Flight Officer Charles E. Skidmore Jr. 91st Sqdn 439th TCG

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