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17 September 1944: Pathfinder Dakota crash Kortijnen / Retie (Belgium)

Wikipedia entry, freely translated from Dutch to English by webmaster.
Photos copied from Wikipedia entry, unless marked otherwise.

Situated on a lovely country lane in the hamlet of Kortijnen, near Retie (Belgium), stands a war memorial dedicated to the crew and passengers of C47, or Dakota, 42-100981.
The location of the monument is near the crash site of the airplane, an event that occurred on 17 September 1944 during World War Two at the beginning of Operation Market Garden.

 

OPERATION MARKET GARDEN - short summary

The unexpected success of Operation Overlord in Normandy (France), led to the general belief that it was feasible to end the war before Christmas 1944.

British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and American General Omar Bradley each had their own plan to issue one final blow to the German armed forces.

The American commander in chief, General Dwight Eisenhower was impressed by the daring but carefully detailed Montgomery plan and issued the order to execute this offensive as quickly as possible.

The plan was codenamed Operation Market Garden and consisted of two main parts: an aerial offensive (Market) combined with a ground offensive (Garden).

The main plan for Operation Market Garden (photo copied from Wikipedia)
 

The airborne operations of Market consisted of three airborne divisions (US 101st en 82nd Airborne Divisions and the British 1st Airborne Division) to be dropped far behind the front line into enemy territory. All bridges from Neerpelt (Belgium) up to and including those in Arnhem (The Netherlands) were to be captured, thus creating a 'corridor' for British XXX Corps (the ground troops in Garden) to move in quickly.

Operation Garden was to ensure British XXX Corps to advance in three days from the Belgium border to Arnhem through the area taken by the allied airborne divisions. This would close off the German troops in the western part of The Netherlands and enable the allies to advance to the heart of the industrial German war machine, the Ruhr area.

Pathfinders - US 101 Airborne Division

Pathfinders were used to mark drop and landingzones for the main invasion force.

The specially trained pathfinders were tasked with the quick installation of a radio beacon (the Eureka system) and signal panelling on the drop and landingzones in order to guide the airplanes of the main invastion force.

After visual contact with the formations of the main invasion force, the pathfinders would light smoke grenades for visual location purposes.

The four pathfinder teams for the US 101 Airborne Division were to indicate and safeguard the drop and landingzones near Veghel, Sint-Oedenrode and Son in The Netherlands.

Pathfinder plane 42-100981 with pilot 2Lt Eugene P. SHAUVIN, was part of 9th Troop Carrier Command Pathfinder Group.

It had taken off from air base Chalgrove in England in the early afternoon of 17 September 1944 together with three other Dakotas carrying pathfinder crews of the US 101st Airborne Division. The pathfinders in plane 42-100981 were under the command of 1Lt Charles M. FAITH. Their task was to mark and guard landing zone A1 west of Veghel between the river Aa and the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal.

This map shows the aerial routes for Operation Market Garden (Wikipedia).
 

The four pathfinder planes followed the southern route across The Channel, over Knokke (Belgium) with a turning point at Geel (Belgium) where the front line was marked with orange smoke ('initial point').

The route then turned north to prepare for the final run over enemy territory in the direction of Retie (Belgium) and finally The Netherlands.

Flak units north of the Kempisch canal immediately engaged the low flying airplanes. The left engine of plane 42-100981 was hit and then the fuel tank in the left wing caught fire. The airplane crashed in a ball of fire in Kortijnen near Retie (Belgium) in which the farm owned by Jan Adriaensen and Peer Franken's barn burnt to the ground.

The five man crew and four of the ten pathfinders aboard did not survive the crash. Six pathfinders were able to jump out of the burning plane. Five of them were taken prisoner of war.

Lt FAITH was able to escape through the fields and ended up with the Vos family who hid him in the cellar until the liberation one week later.

Because of the crash, first battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, assigned to landing zone A1 were misdropped some 8 kms to the west over Heeswijk Dinther in The Netherlands, suffering heavy losses. The Army Air Forces reported the last known circumstances of plane 42-100981 and its crew in Missing Air Crew Report 10716.

CREW - 9th Troop Carrier Command Pathfinder Group

 

Pilot - 2nd Lt Eugene P. Shauvin, Missing in Action

Co pilot - 2nd Lt Walter I. Green, Killed in Action

Navigator - 2nd Lt John F. Richards, Killed in Action

Radio operator - Staff Sergeant Matthew Bloomfield, Killed in Action

Crew Chieff - Staff Sergeant Stanley A. Fischer, Killed in Action

Pathfinder stick: photo taken prior to D-Day Normandy (Wikipedia)

Back row, standing, from left to right: 1st Lt. Charles M. Faith, Pvt. George L. Sarlas, Pfc. Ernest A. Robinson, Pvt. Spencer E. Everly, Pvt. Michael Rofar, Pvt. Alvin Haux, 2nd Lt. Walter I. Green, Pvt. Roy L. Stephens

Front row, kneeling, from left to right: SSgt. Quinn (NOT in plane 42-100981 on 17 September 1944), Pvt. Lester R. Hunt, Cpl. Delbert S. Brazzle, T/5 Richard H. Beaver, Pvt. Rocka (NOT in plane on 17 September 1944) and Pvt. Cary (NOT in plane on 17 September 1944)

PATHFINDER stick - 101st Airborne Division

Leader - 1st Lt Charles M. Faith, 501 PIRegiment, evaded
Pvt Lester R. Hunt, 501 PIRegiment, POW
Tech 5 Richard H. Beaver, 501 PIRegiment, POW
Pvt Spencer E. Everly, 501 PIRegiment, POW
Pvt Alvin Haux, 501 PIRegiment, POW
Pfc Ernest A. Robinson. 501 PIRegiment, POW
Cpl Delbert S. Brazzle, 501 PIR, KIA
Pvt Michael Rofar, 501 PIR, KIA
Pvt George L. Sarlas, 501 PIRegiment, KIA
Pvt Roy L. Stephens, 502 PIR, KIA

 
2001: Kevin Deering, nephew of Pvt George L. Sarlas, in front of the memorial

Early 2000, Kevin Deering was searching for information related to his uncle George L. Sarlas when he met Petra Wenstedt-Pulles from Eindhoven, The Netherlands through an internet forum. Petra was continuing her father's work, researching the fate of members of the 101st Airborne Division in World War Two. Petra succeeded in giving Kevin the information he needed in order to acknowledge his uncle's war exploits.

Moreover, Petra discovered that the crash site was not located in The Netherlands as the family had come to believe, but in Kortijnen, a hamlet near Retie (Belgium).

In May 2000, Petra visited the crash site. She took pictures, talked to eye witnesses and met with Chris and Lydie Nuyts, great grandchildren of Jan Adriaensen, the farmer whose property was devastated in the crash.

Through Petra's correspondence Kevin and Chris also got in contact with each other.

In the meantime, Linda Shauvin, pilot Eugene P. Shauvin's daughter, was on a quest for information about her still missing father. Through another internet forum Linda got in touch with Dave Berry, a history buff from Ohio (US). They discovered that Kevin Deering was on the same quest so information was exchanged. Back in Belgium, Lydie and Chris had started collecting information from eye witnesses through the cooperation with another amateur historian Chris Van Kerckhoven.

Chris and Lydie had informed Retie council of the American interest in the event dating back to 17 September 1944 in Kortijnen.

The council, aware of the emotional and historical value of both event and location decided to erect a memorial near the crash site at the address Kortijnen 12.

Chris and her husband Karel who inhabit the house which was built at the exact spot of the destroyed farmhouse, kindly donated the land for the memorial. On completion of the memorial, a large dedication ceremony was planned.

Photo left: Petra Wenstedt-Pulles and Karel Nuyts (courtesy Screaming Eagles of WWII Foundation)

The memorial's dedication ceremony took place on 8 September 2001.

Among the attending family members were Linda and Phyllis Shauvin (daughter and widow of pilot Eugene P. Shauvin), and Jim Faith (son of Charles M. Faith).

In addition to Belgian officals, the military attaché of the American embassy in Brussels was present as well as an Honor Guard, a Royal British Legion delegation as well as a delegation of Normandy Veterans.

After the folding of the American flag by the Honor Guard, it was presented to the missing pilot's widow.

  Oxygen tank recovered by Screaming Eagles of WWII Foundation. The tank had been launched on impact.

Exhumation effort

The remains of pilot Eugene P. Shauvin's body were never found.

The combined research of Dave Berry, and Chris and Lydie Nuyts led to the theory that the remains were still inside the cockpit of the airplane.

The CILHI (Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaï)* was convinced to start an exhumation effort in Kortijnen. In August and September 2003 the CILHI team, consisting of eleven team members, came to Kortijnen to research the crash site.

Unfortunately, the status of Eugene P. Shauvin remains 'MIA/BNR' (missing in action / body not recovered), even after this professional and complete research.

*Late 2003 the CILHI was renamed JPAC: Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

REST IN PEACE pathfinders

and

THANK YOU FOR OUR FREEDOM

This item is the result of sorting out the late P.M. Pulles' archive consisting of years of correspondence with WWII veterans and fellow researchers.

By posting the information on our website, we hope to be a channel for family members and researchers to find additional information.

We will always mention the source of the information. In case you find a source is missing or you know the data is incorrect or incomplete, we invite you to drop us a line.

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