Operation Market Garden 2009

Operation Market Garden 2009 was an non-commercial operation but an official exchange in between Airborne units.

65th anniversary of one of the largest Airborne operation ever!

After having the honour to jump in 2001 on the British WWII 2 DZ Merville Guns in Normandy to celebrate Operation Overlord and in 2004 on the historical Egyptian DZ El Alamain - we wrote history again!

As most of you know, the largest ever Airborne Operation “OPERATION MARKET GARDEN” in Arnhem/ Holland, celebrated its 65th anniversary during the weekend September, 17th – 20th 2009. This year was the first time ever that German Paratroopers have been invited to join this famous operation. Thus, 62 German Paratroopers participated and my 2nd IC and I were members of the official German delegation.

Host unit and main organiser was the 11th (NL) Airmobile Brigade. After our arrival on Friday afternoon at the barracks of the 11th (NL) Airmobile Brigade close to Arnhem we were welcomed and accommodated in tents, where many other nations were hosted already. An hour later we were driven by buses to Eindhoven.

Seven C-130J Hercules (3 British and 4 US) and 1 DC-47 Dakota were lined up on the airfield of the Royal Dutch Air Force. Hundreds of main and reserve parachutes were available. Some 600 jumpers from the UK, Poland, Canada, USA, the Netherlands as well as Germany were load organised in different waves and lifts. Four different parachute systems were introduced to be used during the jump:
- British LLP (made by GQ, Low Level Parachute, non steerable round-canopy allowing to jump below 200feet),
- US MC1-1D (US manufactured steerable parachute made by zero porosity material),
- Dutch TPA 696 (French parachute system, breakable by 4 tackles but not steerable),
- German T-10 (similar to the US parachute system, non steerable round-canopy with a fast descend speed).

On the way back we visited the centre of Arnhem and shared a pint of lager with some good fellows.

Early on Saturday morning (at 4am) we drove to back to the airfield in Eindhoven. There was the special Airborne atmosphere palpable on the airfield already. Commands were shouted, parachutes were rigged up and friendly advises exchanged. All seven aircraft were lined up and wave after wave entered the jumpships to be dispatched over Ginkle Heath. The lifts were mixed by jumpers of different nations and all jumpers were truly excited.

Then the Airborne Operation started: Some 600 paratroopers were dispatched over the holy British WWII DZ Ginkle Heath. Jumpmasters from the UK dispatched groups of all participating nations while the 4 US birds where used by US, Dutch and German jumpmasters. In accordance with relevant NATO regulations national parachute wings (from UK, NL, USA and Germany) were awarded on the DZ.

My friend and I jumped in the 3rd wave from an US C-130. Standing with a big grin as first jumper in the door, the famous DZ surrounded by some 65.000 viewers approached too fast – the perspective from above was unbelievable! I got the GO and jumped out of the aircraft. Counting to 4000 and checking canopy was followed by the breathtaking view of hundreds of fellow jumpers in the air. After less than a minute the holy DZ approached too fast. Weather was perfect and therefore the DZ was heated. The thermal lift provided a very slow decent speed. After turning my MC1-1D parachute against the wind I performed accidentally a stand-up landing!

Wave after wave with more paratroopers descending and the sky filled with green parachutes - you got a feeling how it would have been in 1944. We field-rigged our parachutes and returned them to the waiting personnel.

Warm welcomed by many viewer and the few still living veterans we were told that it is well done that finally we Germans were finally back here to join the anniversary of Operation Market Garden together with the allied nations. No negative word was said about us as the former enemy in WWII.

The delegation gathered at the monument and some pictures were taken. Late on Saturday afternoon we departed tired but very happy and full of great memories!

We were very honoured and happy to be part of this memorable anniversary. Before our departure, Theo, our liaison from the host unit, told us that he would like to host us again in 2010. Thank you Theo for all your friendship and efforts to make this happen and your perfect hospitality! Of course we will we return!

Airborne all the way!

Stefan Eicker

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