Mapping the American Century


WWII commemoration in Groesbeek

During the Second World War, Operation Market Garden resulted in the liberation of Nijmegen and other villages that were under German occupation. One of these villages was the village of Groesbeek, located close to Nijmegen and the German border. Many nations and military divisions took part in Operation Market Garden and helped free Groesbeek, one of these divisions was the American 82nd Airborne Division under the command of General James M. Gavin. This general was known for his active contribution and support for his group during battle and he participated in the jumps which landed in Groesbeek and resulted in the liberation of this area.

General Gavin in groesbeek

Partly because of his bravery and partly because of the quality of his troops, General Gavin and the people under his command made a lasting impression on commanders of other nations, as well as the people he liberated. From stories in various personal diaries, it becomes clear that most of the inhabitants of Groesbeek were impressed by their liberators and their actions during Operation Market Garden. One of the diary entries observes how the soldiers and their command are excellent in combat as well as diplomatic relations. The inhabitants of Groesbeek were not only impressed by these actions during the early days of the Operation in Groesbeek. After the operation had ended the soldiers and Gavin remained in the Groesbeek area to defend and shield it from the Germans, for which many inhabitants were thankful. During his time spent in the Groesbeek area, General Gavin and his troops laid the foundation for a long relationship with the leaders and inhabitants of Groesbeek. After the war, General Gavin and war veterans continued to visit Groesbeek as they looked after the connections they made there during the war. Throughout the years, the relationship between the veterans and the village of Groesbeek kept developing with the Americans not only influencing events and information in Groesbeek, but with the city of Groesbeek keeping the memory of the liberation alive as well.                                                                            

The first image shows when and how General Gavin attended the commemoration of Operation Market Garden in Groesbeek. During this visit in September of 1982, General Gavin not only kept the memory of the war alive in Groesbeek by attending and speaking at this commemoration, he also attended meetings concerning the establishment of the Museum of Liberty (Vrijheidsmuseum) in Groesbeek. During this meeting, the general was asked to advise on certain subjects regarding the museum. General Gavin’s relationship with the village and its commemoration determination was, therefore so well established that he was able to influence the commemoration of an event that took place almost forty years prior.

A picture of Gerrie G. Driessen (author of Groesbeek 1935-1945 Crisis en Oorlog) and James Gavin (General of the 82nd Airborne Division during WWII) in Groesbeek on 16 September 1982. The General visited Groesbeek for the commemoration of Operation Market Garden and he was asked to advise on the plans for the development of the Liberty Museum. “De bevrijding van Groesbeek nader bekeken.” Erfgoednet Berg en Dal online.     64b354199a79.

The Liberty museum

The second image shows another visit of General Gavin to Groesbeek, which was during a commemoration of Operation Market Garden. This memorial was held during the 40th anniversary of the operation in 1984, two years later. This image shows that Groesbeek kept maintaining the relationship it already had with the war veterans, but it also shows how the Americans continued to influence the narrative of the war in Groesbeek and its commemorations. This is the case because once again, General James and other war veterans were asked to attend. During this commemoration General Gavin not only attended the event, but he also spoke with the speaker of the event Pastor Thuring, who was a considerable influence in the commemoration of the war in Groesbeek. Thuring was actively involved with the creation of the Museum of Liberty and the Groesbeek Airborne foundation and it is believed that during the commemoration in 1984, Thuring asked the war veterans advice on the subject of commemoration specifically.                                                                                  

The combination of these images not only shows that a relationship was maintained, but also how it was preserved and improved over the course of multiple years and commemorations. In the images, we see personal and professional relationships growing and influencing each other. It shows the continued influence that the participants of Operation Market Garden and the Second World War had on each other, on this side of the ocean, but also on the way the liberators were remembered throughout the entire narrative of the Second World War. For multiple years, the commemoration of Operation Market Garden in Groesbeek has kept a relationship between American war veterans and a small village in the east of the Netherlands alive while fore fronting new information and honoring the legacy of the Second World War.

Pastor G. Thuring (founder of Groesbeek Airborne Vrienden foundation dedicated to the commemoration of WWII in Groesbeek and surrounding areas) with James M. Gavin in the background in Groesbeek 17 September 1984. This image was taken during the 40-year anniversary commemoration of Operation Market Garden. “De bevrijding van Groesbeek nader bekeken.” Erfgoednet Berg en Dal online.  64b354199a79.


Henneman ed., Dr. A. J. Verslag over de Oorlogsgebeurtenissen (1947); Thuring, G. Dagboek van Pastoor Hoek. Gennep/Groesbeek: Grafisch Bedrijf H. W. Janssen B.V., 1976. D’Este, Carlo. “Jim Gavin: The General Who Jumped First.” the-general-who-jumped-first.htm; Driessen, G. G. Groesbeek 1935-1945 Crisis en Oorlog (Thoben Offset Nijmegen, 1981); Driessen, G. G. Groesbeek 1945-1950 Het Dorp Der Verwoesting Herrijst (Thoben Offset Nijmegen, 1982); “Pastor Thuring uit Breedeweg overladen.” Henk Baron: Nieuws uit de Ooijpolder e.o.      online. July 14, 2012.     overleden/.