A Time to Remember William H Ritchie – Redux

I did not expect this when Serge Ritchie wrote me about a message he got on Ancestry.

He thought it would be important to transfer it.

Salut.! Pierre

Sujet:
Sgt William H. Ritchie….je pense bien que c’est le fils de Frank
Ritchie & Odna Lagasse…..

Un message sur Ancestry, je trouvais cela important que je te transfère
ce message, parce que tu es celui qui a fait un travail remarquable, en
plus je ne parle pas vraiment anglais, cet honneur te revient, tu pourras
peut-être communiquer avec eux….

Bonne journée.! Pierre….

Si tu peux, tu m`en donneras des nouvelles….

Serge

If you can read French then you can feel how Serge was excited about all this.

Ditto…

Original post

One of William H Ritchie’s nephew had sent a picture of Robert J Ritchie to a memorial site about SS-332 Bullhead.

Robert J Ritchie

His name was beside the picture.

I wanted to get in touch so I could get a picture of William who died in Holland on September 22, 1944, and be able to pay homage to Robert’s brother. 

With this piece of information I went ahead and used Facebook to look for him.

Piece of cake…

I found him on the first try. It was easy because he had some Ritchies as friends.

So I sent him a message…

Paul replied and he invited me as a friend.

Paul did not know at that time that I was his second cousin once removed. I broke the news.

He is just getting to know me. I told him I knew quite a lot about his mother’s ancestors who once lived in Quebec back in 1800s.

While browsing a little on his Facebook page, I came across this…

William or Bill is on the left and Robert is on the right.

Now I can pay homage to William just like I did for Robert who is on eternal patrol.

A site has already done this. Click here.

William H Ritchie died in Holland on September 22, 1944.

If you want to learn more about Sergeant William H Ritchie, U.S. Army Service, # 31271954, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, you can visit this site about Operation Market Garden.

This site pays homage to all those who participated in that operation.

Sergeant William Ritchie was in a glider regiment. He was in Company G.

You can go from there.

You have a lot to learn about Operation Market Garden.

As a footnote, I found these pictures on the Internet.

We see members of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment. Both were taken in Eindhoven.

This other photo struck me.

I think I recognize William Ritchie on the right…

But I could be wrong just like I could be wrong with this picture that started all this…

Odna Lagasse?

Does it really matter?

No it doesn’t.

As a footnote, these notes taken on this Website

Operation Market Garden
MARKET-GARDEN was planned as a two phase operation. Operation MARKET was the airborne phase of the assault, with Operation GARDEN being the ground attack. The paratroopers of First Allied Airborne Army were to jump into the Netherlands and secure a corridor from Eindhoven north to Arnhem, through which the ground forces of the British 30 Corps could advance and push on to the IJesselmer (Zuider Zee). The eventual goal was to cross the Rhine River and breach the German West Wall defenses. The Dutch countryside, criss-crossed by innumerable dikes, drainage ditches, rivers, and canals, however, would prove difficult to traverse if the ground troops could not advance by road. For the plan to be a success the paratroopers had to keep the roadway open and the bridges along the route intact and secure.

D-Day was set for 17 September 1944, and the 101st, along with the 82d Airborne Division, the British 1st Airborne Division and 52d Lowland Division (Airportable), and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade were set to jump. Unlike the Normandy jumps, this operation, by order of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, (picture right) commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, was to be carried out in daylight. Shortages in transport planes, however, prevented the three divisions from dropping all their troops on D-Day, and the commanders had to decide which units would go in first. The 101st Airborne Division was to anchor the British Airborne Corps’ southern-most flank and secure a 15-mile sector between Eindhoven and Veghel. Taking this into consideration, General Taylor decided that the three parachute infantry regiments would jump on the 17 September. The 327th Glider Infantry was to arrive on D+1, and the artillery units were scheduled for D+2, the 19th.

The planes carrying the 101st encountered heavy antiaircraft fire as they approached their targets, but the pilots were able to hold formation, and the paratroopers, for the most part, were delivered to the correct drop zones. These were located to the west of the main highway and in the center of the division’s sector, near the villages of Zon, St. Oedenrode, and Best. The 506th Parachute Infantry dropped near Zon, with the mission of securing the highway bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal, south of the village. Once the bridge was secure the regiment was to advance further south and seize Eindhoven. The 502d’s zone was north of the 506th, and its mission was to guard both regiments’ drop zones for later use by the gliders. It was also to capture the road bridge over the Dommel River at St. Oedenrode. Additionally, General Taylor ordered the regiment to dispatch a company to the south of Best to capture the bridges there that crossed the Wilhelmina Canal. The 501st Parachute Infantry jumped north of the 502d, near the town of Veghel. Elements of the regiment were to gain control of the rail and road bridges over the Willems Canal and the Aa River.

The 501st accomplished its mission, capturing Veghel and the surrounding bridges against only limited enemy resistance. The 502d also completed its main assignment of securing St. Oedenrode and the bridge over the Dommel River. The company that had moved south of Best, however, had great difficulty and could not take the bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal. The 2d and 3d Battalions, 506th PIR, methodically cleared Zon, while the 1st Battalion, accompanied by General Taylor, moved around the village to the south to seize the bridge crossing the Wilhelmina Canal. The progress of the battalions in the village was slow, but enemy fire stopped the 1st Battalion completely as it approached the bridge. When the two battalions emerged from Zon and the 1st Battalion also appeared to advance, the Germans blew the bridge.

Elements of the 506th managed to cross the river, neutralizing the enemy force that had destroyed the bridge, and a footbridge was improvised to allow the remainder of the 506th to cross. The following day the regiment liberated Eindhoven, clearing the enemy from the town. The local citizens were ecstatic, and that evening when the Guards Armoured Division, the spearhead of the British 30 Corps’ Operation GARDEN, passed through the town, it was like a carnival. British engineers replaced the blown bridge over the canal, and the ground forces continued north. With the exception of the bridges south of Best, the division had achieved all its D-Day objectives. The next mission was to hold what it had taken and keep Hell’s Highway, as the road north became known, open despite German counterattacks.

In the days following the link between the airborne and ground forces the 101st, now in defensive positions, faced enemy counterattacks as the Germans attempted to cut the road and stop the flow of Allied forces north. General Taylor received information that the Germans were planning a large scale offensive, coming from both the east and west sides of the road in the vicinity of Veghel and Uden, to the northeast. Ordered to Uden on 22 September, elements of the 506th arrived to defend the village moments ahead of the Germans, but the main assault came at Veghel.

Taylor dispatched the 327th Glider Infantry to reinforce the 2d Battalion, 501st PIR, at Veghel when he received intelligence about the attack. As luck would have it, General McAuliffe was also in Veghel on the 22d. He had been searching for a new division command post when the word came, and General Taylor gave his artillery commander responsibility for the defense of the town.

The SCREAMING EAGLES turned back the first attack on Veghel, which came from the village of Erp to the east. The Germans, however, swung to the northwest and cut the highway between Veghel and Uden, then turning south, the enemy force attacked. As the German armored column approached Veghel, McAuliffe ordered an antitank gun brought up, and although there is debate over which unit fired, the American defenders knocked out the lead tank, and the enemy column turned back. Additional battalions of the 327th arrived, as did other elements of the 506th, along with British tank squadrons. The enemy continued attacking Veghel through the afternoon, including several heavy artillery bombardments, but McAuliffe and his forces held. The next important step was to reopen the highway; men and equipment badly needed further north were backing up on the closed road.

The British 30 Corps commander Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks, agreed to send the 32d Guards Brigade back south on 23 September to help reopen the road. At the same McAuliffe sent two battalions of the 506th north to confront the enemy position on the highway. When the American soldiers arrived they found that most of the Germans had withdrawn. The 101st soldiers cleared the remaining opposition and proceeded northeast towards Uden, where they met the British tankers. Hell’s Highway was open for business once again.

The Germans continued their attack on Veghel the following day, but to no avail. They did, however, cut the road once again, this time near the village of Koevering, between Veghel and St. Oedenrode. On 25 September elements of the 506th, ordered south from Uden, the 1st Battalion, 502d PIR, and units of the British 50th Division, moving north from St. Oedenrode, enveloped the enemy position on the road. During the night, after mining the road, the Germans withdrew. The following day Allied engineers were called in to clear the road of mines, and the highway was open once again. While the enemy continued to harass the SCREAMING EAGLES along their sector of Hell’s Highway, the division’s positions remained intact and kept the road open. Allied operations had forced the Germans to spend precious resources on the defense of the Netherlands. Although MARKET-GARDEN did not achieve its original goals, successes in Holland provided the Allies with a foothold from which to launch future drives.

In early October the British moved their 8 and 12 Corps into position along the highway, and it was thought the 101st could be better used elsewhere. On 5 October the division moved north to take up defensive positions in the British line, in an area known as the island. This area, a narrow strip of land north of Nijmegen, situated between the lower Rhine and Waal Rivers, was subjected to numerous German attacks. The division suffered heavy casualties in defense of this “island”. Shortly after the 101st assumed its positions in the line, the British Corps returned, without either of its American divisions, to England. The 82d joined the 101st on the island later in October. It was not until November that the two divisions were released to prepare for the next airborne mission. The 101st, in late November, moved back to Mourmelon, France, for a well-deserved rest. There the men of the 101st received replacement equipment and new clothes and trained for the next jump. Events in the Ardennes forest, however, interrupted their rest, and the next jump never came.

For a good overview of Operation Market Garden…

 

End of the original post

Dear Pierre,

Thank you very much for your email.
I checked out you blog and I was stunned bye the research you did on those 2 heroes.
You did a great job. We would love to use some of the information and pictures on our database.
As you can see on our database, we dont have a lot of information on Ritchie, William H,  so everything you would like to share, will be a wondeful contribution for his memorial page.
We look forward to hear from you again,
Sincerely,
Jasper van Haren

Fields of Honor – Database
www.fieldsofhonor-database.com

Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven / Foundation United Adopters American War Graves
www.adoptiegraven.nl

6 thoughts on “A Time to Remember William H Ritchie – Redux

  1. Good morning. Not sure who was writing all of the above, but if you remember, I am Odna (not Edna) Lagasse’s grand daughter and Billy and Bobby Ritchie were my uncles. I do not believe the picture pointing out the man on the right as Bill is correct. The face is too round. Could who ever is editing Ancestry.com correct the listing to show Odna and not Edna? Appreciate it. If you need more info regarding Odna and Frank Ritchie’s family, let me know. Be more than happy to help if I can.

    • Hi Donna,

      I can’t figure out which picture you are talking about.
      Is it the montage with the other paratroopers?

      I wrote I was not sure in 2011. Now I am sure he was not William.

      About Serge, he was the one who had all these old pictures of the Ritchie clan. He does not speak English that much.
      Serge is a great guy.

    • As a footnote

      The name Edna was first found in Dennis Lagasse’s obituary written in 1922.
      This was the obituary that sent me looking for his descendants. I then found Odna’s obituary and then Donna wrote a comment about how wrong I was about her grandmother. I met Odna’s granddaughter in person in 2013.

      Such a wonderful meeting!

      Quite ironic…

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