don Island

At the so called Island (a small piece of land between the Waal River and the Lower Rhine) Bill Guarnere got injured in a motorcycle accident and he broke his leg. He was evacuated back to England around the end of September and didn't return to the company until November. As a result of Bill's misfortune, Don became acting platoon sergeant for the 2nd Platoon.
During the first week of October, they took up new positions just south of Arnhem on the Island. The position sat between the Lower Rhine and Waal rivers and was below sea level. The Germans held the north and east sectors of the area, and they controlled the southern and western portions.

Don was on an outpost with the rest of 2nd Platoon. They were in an area that was referred to as Hell's Corner. This was where the railroad that ran from Nijmegen to Arnhem intersected with a dike that had a road running down the middle of it. The Germans were on one side of the railroad, and we were on the other. In such close proximity to the enemy they maintained the position by outposting it one platoon at a time. Men were put along the left flank of the regiment's position and all along the road that ran on top of the dike. They had so few men to guard such a large area that we had 1.500-to 2500-yard gaps between outposts.

To prevent the Germans from moving through the gaps in the line they,
twice a night, we would send a two-or-three-man patrol out to check on things. You would walk along to the various contact points. These patrols could tell if any Germans had passed through our lines.

One night Captain Winters came to see Don when his platoon was on watch. He told him that out in front of the farmhouse that they occupied as their

crossroads don

headquarters there was a patch of woods, a farm lot patch of timber. The trees were as dense as what they would later experience at Bastogne. It wasn't extensive, but it was probably, from one side to the other, going toward the railroad dike, approximately 100 yards long by 40 yards wide. Captain Winters came down to their headquarters and said he wanted Don, Rod Bain and Eugene Jackson to go out in those woods that night as a listening post. Winters wanted to find out what they could hear about any activity that was going on along the railroad with the Germans up there. From the edge of the woods to the railroad dike was a distance of about 20 yards. They had to walk into that area on wood planks to get into the trees because of the water ditches throughout the area. The foxholes were also full of water, but some had been lined with wood so that you could actually get into them.
They weren't out there more than 10 minutes when all hell broke loose. They had reached the listening post when mortar rounds came flying at them from all over the place, and they were being hit by tree bursts fired from all angles.
Captain Winters had a direct phone line to them. Rod Bain was also carrying a radio. Winters could hear what was going on. He got on the phone and asked: "What's going on out there?" Don replied that he didn't know, but that there was all sorts of enemy fire raining down on them. Winters told them to get out of there. He was concerned that they were going to get nailed by tree bursts.
They went running back out of the woods and were able to get back to their platoon headquarters without any of that stuff hitting them. They concluded that the Germans had a lot of sophisticated electronic equipment. Now, so many years later, Don thinks that they might have had a listening device hanging in that group of trees that allowed them to detect their presence. As soon as they entered the woods, despite the cover of darkness and their quiet approach, the Germans knew someone was there. Don recalls: "Thank God they were firing mortars. If it had been 88s, it would have been a lot worse." Don went back and revisited that area in 1984 with his wife Irene. Back than he remembered everything vividly. Now, 2006, he did not. He could not find the right spot again.

londen irene en dochters

Don was very upset about that. It's possible that it was because his dear wife Irene passed away so recently (April 4, 2006) It was the first time being on a journey on his own since he married her.

Above: a wedding photo from Irene - during their visit of London in 1984 and Irene with their daughters fltr: Sharon-Irene-Martha and Marianne

tuin1 tuin2
September 2006: Don was my guest. After a long flight resting in my garden (right)
bridge son 2
bridge son 1
We also visited the Son bridge. Don remembers vividly that the bridge was blown almost in their face when Easy Company went toward Eindhoven after being dropped at the Son dropzones.
ysselstein 2
Above: Photos made during our visit to the German cemetery in Ysselstein (Holland) where almost 32000 German soldiers are buried.
Don visited the cemetery together with James Megellas ( 82ste ABD.) who spoke these words: "Every glorifying of War would be a disrespect to those who are resting here."

Left: in museum Liberating Wings at Best.

Right: Together with Barbara Gavin, daughter of Gen. Gavin, next to his monument in the village of Grave.

Don is intending to write his memoirs about his time in Easy Company. He wants to rectify some stories that in his opinion were not told right in the series or in the published books about E-Co.
As an example he told me about what is written on page 237 of the book BOB about Grant being a platoon sergeant. He was a replacement who took over for a short time while Don was not present. Don at that moment was acting platoon sergeant because Bill Guarenere was injured in the motorcycle accident.

Also the story about the 'tension' between Speirs and Floyd Talbert was not true, according to Don. They both were hand and glove.

When Don had to pick two men to go into a war with he definitely would choose Joe Toye and Bill Guarnere. Both were very loyal to their buddies. Don: "An Irish man had two choices. Whether a became a policeman (Joe was to young) or a miner, which he did. Joe was the strongest man in E-Co."
Don said the series has brought up a lot of memories for him that he had buried pretty deep.

Don: "You know, in combat it is very hard when you see your friends go down, and you have to suck in your gut and keep going. It is hard watching that again, but hopefully the show will make the public more appreciative of what we did. I am extremely proud of my time with Company E. It was the most important thing in my life. I often think that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler I never would have had the opportunity to know all of the great people I served with."

See also YouTube

Schoonderlogt. former headquarter from Dick Winters on the Island. Left with webmaster.


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