The Netherlands / Story

John Nasea's birthday




The liberation of the Netherlands began in September 1944 with the start of Operation Market Garden. Numerous paratroopers and aircraft with military equipment landed in the area around Son and Best.

Berta Roefs and her family lived in the Helena Hoeve, a farmhouse right in the middle of the landing area. On 17 September Berta and her mother fled into the air raid shelter. They could hear the planes and anti-aircraft fire from their hiding place and they could see the coloured parachutes.

After many anxious moments in the shelter they found three wounded soldiers in the barn. “We didn’t really understand what was going on but from one moment to the next the war was all around us”.

The Americans quickly set up an improvised field hospital at the farmhouse. Berta and her family decided to help them in any way they could. Wounded soldiers were received and dispatched. More than 65 years later Berta commented: “It was unbelievable to us how they all remained calm and were so friendly, but it was a pity that we couldn’t talk to them.”  After all, they couldn’t speak English. “We still regret that we didn’t write down any names of the ones who stayed with us for longer or shorter periods. I hope the men who survived the war had a good life!”

In 2011 Battle detective Tom from Eindhoven, specialised in Operation Market Garden, received a letter from the veteran John Nasea Jr., then aged 89. He was seriously injured when he landed in Best in 1944 and after a hellish ride was taken to a field hospital at a Brabant farmhouse. He kept falling in and out of consciousness. After staying in various allied hospitals he finally made it safely back to the United States. John Nasea has spent his entire life wondering where it was that his life was saved. It was his wish to celebrate his 90th birthday in that very place.

Battle detective Tom got down to work and quickly came to the conclusion that John was almost certainly treated in the Helena Hoeve farmhouse. In 2012 and accompanied by his daughter, John Nasea Jr. travelled from America to the Netherlands. On 13 June, his 90th birthday, he visited various remembrance locations of Operation Market Garden. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon he arrived at Helena Hoeve. He was welcomed there by Berta Roefs, then 98 years old. On his birthday John gave her an orange handkerchief on which was written: September 19th 1944 June 13th 2012.

So after almost 68 years the paths in the lives of John and Berta crossed once again. After many years Berta received an explanation as to what happened to the wounded soldier and John finally could picture where he had been rescued, and by whom.

John was never decorated for his contribution to Operation Market garden. In October 2012 Battle detective Tom travelled to America to pin the Oranje Erekoord (Orange Lanyard) on John Nasea Jr. in commemoration of his contribution to the liberation of the Netherlands.

Son en Breugel