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18 September 1944 The crash of a C-47 in Schijndel during Market Garden

As a young boy I was fascinated by the impressive war story’s of my grandfather and father. One of these stories was about the liberation when the sky was full of cargo-planes with gliders and brave paratroopers that came to free us from the Germans. During this operation, called MarketGarden, one of the transports was hit by German anti-aircraft-fire, and crash-landed only 500 metres from my parents’house. In 1990, when I was twelve, my father and I went to the site for an investigation, because I wanted to know more about what happened. You could still see by the different lengths of the trees where the plane crashed. With a metal detector that my ingenious father had built using a fishing-rod and an old frisbee (it actually worked) we managed to find pieces of an airplane exactly on the spot described to us by some people who had witnessed the crash. My father assured me that the first item we found, a metal screw, was from an airplane for sure, because it had a hole in it to attach a safety wire, quite unique for airplane construction. This was the start of an ungoing research. I managed to interview most of the people who witnessed the crash and found out all the details of the plane and its crew. Mr Harry Habraken, the land-owner, also gave me some parts from the plane he had kept ever since he removed them from the wreck during the war; a seat belt, the front-door handle and some pieces of fuselage. These where all kept, till in september 2009 when I was contacted by mr Jan van Rooij, who himself was contacted by the brother of the only crewmember to perish in the crash, navigator 1st Lt Manuel Flores JR. This brother, Noe Flores, was about to visit Schijndel next week, so I quickly gathered my materials in preparation for his visit, and wrote this summary of my past decades’research.

The wreck of C-47 43-15641 in 1944. Left wing in foreground, behind it in the centre the remains of the engine. The fuselage centre section can be clearly seen, the tail and cockpit are torn off in the crash. (picture Documentation Group Volkel)

Exactly the same spot in september 2008. Near the trees and in the field some small fragments where found by Thijs Hellings in 1990.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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What happened?
On september the 18th 1944, forty C-47’s and two C-53’s of the 316th Troop Carrier Group, took of from Cottersmore airfield towing 42 Waco CG-4A assault gliders. Together they where named Serial A-42 and their objective was to deliver troops, ammo and equipment for the 82nd Airborne Division on dropzone T near Groesbeek. One of the tow planes, C-47A of the 45th Troop Carrier Squadron with serial 43-15641, was piloted by 1ST Lt John S. Melvin and co-pilot 2nd Lt Edward Glen Welsh. The navigator was 1st Lt Manuel Flores JR, a veteran who did a tour on B-24 bombers from Libya, and also was present with a C-47 over the Normandy beaches, and the Sicily and Salerno operations. The crew chief was T/Sgt Thomas C. Glaze, and radio operator Sgt Michael J. Malanick was manning the radio. Flying from Boxtel over Schijndel towards the drop zone, suddenly the left engine is struck by Flak, probably a 88mm round from one of the many guns that where deployed in and around the town. Both the pilots and two other crewmembers are wounded by shrapnel, the engine is burning, the left proppellor is off, and as Lt John Melvin later states ‘all the controls of my plane where completely shut out, I was forced to crash land’. The situation seems desperate and Lt Melvin passes the order to bail out to the navigator, Manuel Flores. The crew, the wounded pilots not included, gather in the rear of the plane in order to bail out, but they notice they are too low to jump safely and decide to stay in the plane bracing for impact…

The location of the crashsite in 2009 .

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Impact.
Fellow squadron pilot and eyewitness of the last seconds of C-47 43-15641, 2nd Lt William C. Jones reported: I saw (the) plane piloted by 1st Lt John S.Melvin and 2nd Lt Edward G. Welsh, hit by burst of flak in left engine. The glider immediatly cut loose while (the) plane started gradual descent and turn to the right. It stayed in a flat glide all the way down until approximately two hundred feet off the ground when it went to a bank to the left which was gradually steepened. Finally the left wing went through a row of trees and hedges causing left wing tip to hit first then nose. Left wing rolled of in flames but as far as I could ascertain the rest of the ship was not on fire. The approximate time was 15.30. 2nd Lt Frederick H Lynk reported : After beeing hit it appeared to be under control and went into a flat glide to right of course. It then made a gradual left circle turning away from a town. The ship kept increasing its bank and the left wing seemed to pass through a row of tall trees. The ship crashed near a long row of low bushes and the last I saw of it was what appeared to be two-thirds of a wing section which came through the bushes. Then there appeared a large cloud of dust…

A piece with a Douglas inspection stamp. Dug up in 1990 on site.

The front-door handle kept as a souvenir by mr Habraken

This item is a part of the throttle quadrant, it was the plate for the fuel mixture. Readable are the texts emergency, auto rich, auto lean and idle cut-off. It was found 30 metres from the road, indicating the cockpit came to rest quite far from the fuselage.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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On the ground, many Dutch spectators watch the C-47 go down, trailing smoke and losing height. They see it clipping the tops of some trees on ‘Heuvel’road, the Zomers family watch in horror as the plane comes directly towards them and their farm. At the last instant the plane banks sharply to the left and slams against the ground with its left wing tip first, a short distance before ‘Bogaard’ road. The left wing is torn off. Skidding across the fields, the C-47 slams into the trees and bushes on the Bogaard, the left wing is pinned against the trees, engulfed in flames. The fuselage brakes down in three sections and comes to rest in the acre on the other side of the road, one of the severed engines continues far into the field.

Survivors
After the plane comes to rest, there is some fire, but thankfully for the occupants, not in the fuselage or cockpit. The pilot, 1st Lt J Melvin is thrown clear of the wreck, suffering a broken hip. Co-pilot Welsh is stunned, has broken bones and shrapnell wounds. Navigator Manuel Flores JR is killed when he is thrown from the back of the plane into the radio compartment during the crash, and suffers a broken neck, fractured skull and broken back. The only one not seriously wounded besides a piece of shrapnel in his leg is radio operator Malanick: I got out, then went back and looked at the navigator, who was dead, then carried the crew chief into the back of the ship, cut off his chute, and got him out. I did the same for the co-pilot, who was stunned. The glider that cut loose safely from its tow-craft before the C-47 crashed, CG-4A 43-41675 with chalk number 65, makes a succesfull landing a few hundred metres away, near the Vossenstraat, however the crew being wounded. Many from the Dutch spectators on the ground hurry to the scene, to see if they can be of any help. Among them are Toon van der Mee, Marinus en Anna v.d. Boogaard, Lambert van Rooij and his brother and sister. Eyewitness Lambert van Rooij relates in 2009: I saw the aircraft coming and it was clear it was in big trouble. It seemed to me that it had to make a forced landing not far from our home. My sister and I hurried into the direction the aircraft disappeared because you never known we could score some sigarettes or so. Not far away, half a mile or so, we reached the aircraft. It had touched with a wing a big tree and that´s why it had turned 180 degrees. The upper part of the cabin was badly damaged and was ripped off. You could look into the cabin. Beside the aircraft there was a crewmember but his hands were wounded, his fingers where in a strange position, and in the aircraft there was another crewmember. That man, lying on his belly, was hit by a tree or a big branch. That tree or branch was lying in his neck and at first he could not be removed out of the aircraft. But the wounded crewman gave a big knife to my brother and with that knife an older man and my brother cut a hole in the floor of the aircraft and after that they could free the flyer and remove him outside the aircraft. It appeared to me this crewmember was allready deceased when we found him.
Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Just after that german soldiers came running toward the aircraft firing their guns. My brother and sister were fleeing away and were forced to dive away in a trench because two fighters were encircling the spot and one of the fighters dropped a tank what looked as a bomb to my brother. As Lamber relates, a German officer and four soldiers, are quickly on the scene to capture the airmen, all of them are brought to a nearby farm. The wounded receive first aid from the Dutch, Germans and from Sgt Michael Malanick. With a horse drawn car that was owned by Piet de Laat, the captured are brought to Lidwina hospital which is nearby in Schijndel. The group consisted of the four wounded crewmembers of the C-47; John S.Melvin,Glen Welsh, M. Malanick, and Thomas Glaze, their deceased comrade Manuel Flores, and two other wounded: S/sgt C.G. Mustoe and Bernard Crabtree. These last two were occupants from the glider. One of them was captured in the chicken scoop of Janus Speeks where he had hidden himself.

Navigator Manuel Flores JR was killed during the crashlanding, aged 24.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Lidwina
At first the survivors are guarded by the Germans, two of the five Germans remain with the wounded, the other return to the battlefield. One of them gets killed the next day, and the other two return to Lidwina. They declare they want to surrender themselves together with the other two in the hospital. As Lidwina played a big role in the resistance, they had contact with the allied liberation force, so the German deserters are taken in, hidden on the attic, and contact is made with the 101 Airborne division. On 24Th of september they are collected, the wounded Americans are told an ambulance will pick them up shortly, but this does not happen because of renewed fighting in the area. Radio operator Sgt Michael J. Malanick declares in his escape and evasion report about his stay in Lidwina: The German guards were quite friendly – one Pvt (private) in particular. He came from the SW of Germany. He helped us to get better food and prevented the German SS men from moving us. Later he was captured by the 101st AB Div. It was a Dutch Catholic hospital. We were given two rooms and were treated well. The nuns were all friendly but afraid to do anything to help us escape. Anyway, except for myself, none of us could have walked out. After 7 days units of 101st AB Div. arrived. We thought the place was liberated. A jeep came to the hospital and took away our german guards as prisoners, and we were told an ambulance would be sent for us. However, the Germans came back in force that night and our troops retired. The germans set up a CP (command post) in the hospital. They wanted to move us out but the nuns put up a sign that we were serious TB (tuberculose) cases, and they left us in peace. There were two generals there at first and there were entrenchments and 88’s around the building, though it had Red Crosses on it. Food for the civilians and for us was very short during this time. The Germans were confident they were going to retake Belgium any day, and even told a nun that they planned to be in the U.S. by Christmas. Their counterattack of 30 September failed, though, and the generals moved out and left a colonel in charge. After that the shelling and fighting died down. We stayed there quietly until 23 October when the British moved up after a terrific bombardment. We were sent to a Field Hospital at Veghel. The pilot went away seperately with a war correspondent, but the rest of us went to Liege, released and sent to 134th Replacement Bn.(Aviaton). 1

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Airborne soldiers and most likely the C-47 crew as they where liberated by the Highland and dessert Rat divisions on 23 oktober 1944 after being hidden in Lidwina.

After the liberation, the nurses of the hospital where shown a map by the allied troops, on which the Hospital was marked in red as a place that had to be spared at all costs, probably because it was known that there was a large group of Americans hiding there. During the heavy fighting in the frontline, large parts of Schijndel got almost completely destroyed. Many, if not all civillians took refuge in places like Lidwina, at a certain point there where 700 people living there compared to the ususal 100. in spite of the heavy shelling, only three grenades impacted Lidwina, without casualties.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Manuel Flores JR
1st Lt Manuel Flores JR service number 0-443641 was buried at the Boschweg cemetry in september 1944, and later brought to Margaraten in preparation for reburial in the United States. On 28 april 1949 he was reburied at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery near San Antonio, Texas on location R-56H.

The Flores family, in the foreground left is the grave of Manuel, right that of his brother Henry who fell in Korea. In the centre behind his parents is Noe, who would visit Schijndel in 2009.

A picture Manuel took in Libya from his B-24 in which he did a tour and was awarded the Air Medal.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Surviving artefacts of C-47 43-15641 in Thijs Hellings collection Donated parts

Parts removed from the wreck in the war period.

The seat belt kept as a souvenir by mr Habraken.

Dug up parts (1990-1994)

The collection of parts dug up during many hours in the field in the early nineties. On the top a piece of fuselage/wing rib, lower left corner a piece of a hinge.
Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Part of wing from the field where the C-47 impacted first.

Part of navigation light (right), shown next to a more intact identical example installed on an P-51 rudder.

The first plane piece we found, a screw. Unidentified part with red paint; cockpit?

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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18 September 2009 - 65 years later - the visit of Noe Flores
At the house of Jan van Rooij, my father Bert Hellings and I, eyewitness Lambert van Rooij and Jeanne Van Rooij met Noe Flores and his wife. After an introduction Noe told us how the family had received the message that Manuel was missing, later on a telegram came stating he was killed in action in Holland. Efforts of the family to receive more information where in vain, and it was only recently that he discovered more about the circumstances of his death in the book ‘Valor without arms’. After that Noe started a search, and due to a lot of coincidence via an Belgian researcher, the ‘Heemkunde-kring Schijndel’ (local History group) and Jan van Rooij’s efforts we all got together in the same room. In this living room in Schijndel Lambert tells him his story, how he saw the plane crash and found Manuel, and the van Rooij family present him a book, with all the information they collected. Then I tell him my story, and present him the information I gathered. Alltogether it was a great reward for all of us to be able to present this so greatly appreciated collection of information after all these years. After that Noe shows us some pictures, and we depart for a visit to the crash site, to Lidwina hospital where the survivors where treated, and finally the Boschweg cemetry. Due to another case of coincidence there is a man at the cemetry who remembers the exact location where Manuel was buried, the final question that had not been answered.

Presentation of the research to Noe

Some parts of the plane are presented.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Me explaining where and how the plane came Noe at the exact spot where his brother died. In the background the trees on Boogaard and Heuvel roads that where on the final flight path of the C-47. to rest.

Lambert (right) on the spot can provide some additional details, like how the left elevator had lost all of the fabric skin, leaving a metal frame. I suggested that this maybe was caused by the left engine that was burning in the air.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Boschweg cemetry, the exact spot where the grave used to be was indicated by an visitor that remembered.

Manuel Flores JR was called ‘Kino’by friends and family.

At the left entrance of Lidwina, compare this to the picture on page 7.
Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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Sources and special thanks:
Valor Without Arms – A history of the 316 TCG by Michael Ingrisano Hans den Brok- Jan and Lambert van Rooij - Benny Ceulaers Planehunters Recovery Team Erwin Verhagen- Harry Habraken- Dhr S van Berkum-fam Zomers-Toon van der Mee. Documentation Group Volkel: Henk Talen, Antoon Verbakel, Piet Truren, Ruud Wildenkamp, Toon van de Wetering.

Research by Thijs Hellings Schijndel-Arendonk September 2009.

Author: Thijs Hellings - Documentatie Groep Volkel – Planehunters Recovery Team Belgium september 2009 Mail: Thijs_Hellings@hotmail.com. www.planehunter.spaces.live.com

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