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CURT BROWN, Star Tribune [Heroic drop into history

Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN , October 16, 2009]

The Netherlands will honor seven area U.S. Army veterans today for helping liberate part of southern Holland 65 years ago in a dangerous mission involving more than 20,000 paratroopers.

It was 65 years, one month and one day ago, but 86-year-olds Harold Roy and Henry Langevin remember it vividly. "It was bright and sun shiny, a beautiful day," Roy said. "It was just like a training jump."

Except the Nazis were firing away as Staff Sgts. Roy, Langevin and more than 20,000 U.S., British and Polish troops parachuted or floated into southern Holland via gliders on Sept. 17, 1944. Their mission, known as Operation Market Garden, was aimed at securing a series of Dutch bridges to help Allied tanks get across the Rhine and into Germany near the end of World War II.

Today, the Dutch consul general will present Roy, Langevin and five other members of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army with honorary Orange Lanyards for helping liberate the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands from German control. The 11 a.m. ceremony in the State Capitol rotunda was delayed because the old soldiers' military records had been destroyed in a fire in St. Louis decades ago.

Langevin, a retired lithographer from Roseville, said he was a "handcuffed volunteer" when he descended into Holland on a glider after being towed in from England behind a C-47 plane.

"They let us go, and we were wide open up there, and the landing was rough," he said. "We came down into some trees and, of course, the Germans had us zeroed in."

He said he got lucky and dug in, avoiding artillery fire, "but some of my buddies got shot down out of the sky."

The massive and daring mid-day jump caught some of the Nazi Panzer tank divisions by surprise. But hundreds of Allied troops were killed during the next few weeks.

Langevin grew up in St. Paul's Midway area and landed in Casablanca via troop ship as the battles in Africa wound down. He later parachuted into Sicily at night and still later fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

"I'd seen it all over there, but the Battle of the Bulge was the worst and the coldest," he said. "I earned enough points that when the war ended, they flew me home while the rest of my division had to take a troop ship." He'll be joined by many of his nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren at today's ceremony. "When you get up to my age," Langevin said, "you never really think about it anymore, not until this thing came up."

Besides Roy and Langevin, the other five veterans who will be honored today are:

Albert Larson, 87, of Fridley.
Northam Stolp, 85, of Appleton, Wis.
Lyle Sande, 86, of Willmar.
Emmett Yanez, 89, of Woodbury.
David Oldemeyer, 89, of Pipestone.

Health problems and long drives are expected to keep Stolp, Sande and Oldemeyer from attending today's ceremony, but some will be represented by family members.

"Most all of us who jumped that day are dead," said Roy, who lives in Farmington. "But it's a nice honor and nice to be remembered."

Curt Brown 651-673-4767


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