In the summer of 2016, we had to move my father from his home to a nursing home. My father is almost 91 years old, and his ability to take care of himself decreased over time. He could remember less and less over time, and is therefore diagnosed with a form of dementia. After my father moved to his new home, a new job awaited. Cleaning up his place he called home for 90 years, an old farm in Groesbeek.
For years my father told a lot about the second world war. Especially about the period between September 17, 1944 (the beginning of operation Market Garden) and February 1945. My father together with his family and his fellow residents of “De Horst”, have experienced a lot. The descend of the paratroopers of the 82th Airborne Division, the battles, the shooting, the grenade explosions, the surviving, his evacuation to the ‘Achterhoek’ and after that returning home to a house in ruins.
An unimaginable experience were at that time he had to be dealt with. The intensity of that period was made clear from all the stories and collectables my father had. Granates, a German helmet, an American ammunition box, the remains of a parachute, and a bayonet of an American soldier.
During the clean-up of his house we came across all of these items. The question we asked our self was keeping the stuff or throwing it away. A lot of war souvenirs I took with we, because this period interests me and it makes me curious. This comes from all the stories my father told when I was young.
The bayonet was one of the items with directly got my interest, this was due to the name that was carved in the metal. This name made me even more curious. After the summer, I started searching the internet to find information about the men behind the name in the metal.
After a while I figured out where the solder had served; the 508th regiment of the 82th Airborn Division. Also, I could find that the solder had not died during the war, I wanted to know if the men was still alive, and where he lives.
Due a busy time at home and at work the investigation stopped for a while. However, I continued my search, partly due to a colleague who asked me about the status of the search. Unfortunately, I had to answer that I did not find anything, yet. If I still wanted to do something with it, I had to do it now! The solder will be at age. After digging a bit deeper on the internet, I figured out where he was currently living, what his profession used to be, what his hobbies are and in which city he is living.
A digital phonebook of that city provided me with some names and phone numbers.
I thought, and now I must make the call, Sunday afternoon 4 PM, in America Sunday morning, so a suitable time to make the call. At the first call and old man picked up the phone. After I explained everything to the man, I got the answer “yes, that’s me”.
The name on the bayonet became a real person, a soldier who has been near my fathers’ house, perhaps he has fought there and thereby contributed to mine and our freedom. The man was very delighted, unfortunately his hearing is not what it used to be and therefore asked me if I could send him an email. I wrote him an email, together with some pictures of the bayonet.
A few days later he answered the following:
I was delighted to receive your e-mail. I cannot remember why my bayonet wound up in your father's house, but the handwriting on it is mine.
I have many things to communicate to you and will do that in the days ahead, including sending you a little memoir I recently published that includes my jump into Holland.
Bear with me. I am 94 and slow to respond.
How great is this?
I found him, and am curious about his stories. Stories of a soldier who fought for the freedom of us all, stories about the war which took place around my fathers’ home.
His name is Nelson Bryant and lives on the island ‘Marta’s Vineyard’.
Back then he was 21 years old, now 94.
Hopefully, to be continued.
[Jumpmaster Note: On October 20, 2017, the 75th anniversary of the activation of the 508th, Andre will personally present this bayonet to Nelson Bryant at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The bayonet and its rightful owner will be reunited after 73 years.