The Netherlands / Museum
During the battles in and around the village of Eerde, between 18 and 25 September 1944, both the mill and the church held important positions because of the height of these buildings and their function as observation points.
On 24 September 1944, during Operation Market Garden, the Mill of St. Anthony was heavily damaged during the fighting in the sand dunes near Eerde. Eerde was a strategically important location, situated on the ‘’German line’’ (Boxtel-Wesel railway line) and the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal. The Americans used the village as a buffer for the bridges in Veghel, whereas German commanders acknowledged the importance of the village for assembling their troops and launching coordinated attacks on the bridges. The battle for the village was harsh and resulted in many casualties. There is a plaque on the mill with the names of the allied soldiers who lost their lives in Eerde, including parachutist Carman Ladner.
Carman Ladner's personal story
Carman Ladner enlisted in the paratroopers, a new elite unit within the American army of which he really wanted to be a part. Elaine Smith, his fiancé, was dead against it out of fear that her Carman would be killed in action. They had a row during his last leave, just before he would take off for Europe. Yet Carman left for New York to embark. After he left, Elaine regretted what she had said and travelled from Maine towards New York to look for him. Against all expectations, she found Carman amidst the thousands of men preparing for the big crossing. They patched up their quarrel and promised to write to each other often.
However, one day the flow of letters from Carman stopped. Elaine anxiously waited and tried to get in touch with Carman's parents, who lived in the countryside with no electricity or telephone. One day, she found three letters addressed to her in her letterbox. They were her own letters which she had sent to Carman. The word “DECEASED” was stamped on the letters. At that moment, Elaine was confronted with the bitter truth that the love of her life was no more. Her life fell apart. Because they weren't married, the official notification of him being killed in action was sent to his parents who did not know how to get in touch with Elaine. At a later stage, she received the message that he was MIA – Missing in Action. But the hope that he would return soon faded. Elaine found out the full facts of his death in 2006, during a visit to Eerde.
The letters of Carman and Elaine, including the three “DECEASED” letters, are on display at the Geronimo Museum in the mill, as are several other personal items relating to this story.
A passage from one of the letters written by Carman to Elaine: “I love the paratroops, although we know that if we ever…and we will…go over, chances are that 90% of us will never come back. We know that, but it doesn't bother us. We are trained just for special missions, and we know even though we may get “knocked off”, maybe we saved a few hundred lives. That is why we are Paratroopers. "
For more personal stories, please visit the Brabant Remembers website: "Here my phoenix rose from its ashes"