This C47, 42-100801, “Picadilly Filly,” and crew were assigned to
the 83rd Squadron of the 437th Troop Carrier Group. On September 17, 1944 the C-47 was towing a glider
during Operation Market Garden enroute to Eindhoven. Near Bladel, Holland the number 2 engine was hit by flak. The glider
was released and the C-47 crashed out of control killing the four crewmembers (MACR 9903). On December 22, 1948, three crewmembers
were buried at Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery Section E13-14.
Charles W Pilot
Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
William F Radio Operator Zachary
Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Robert V Copilot Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Engineer Netherlands American Cemetery
This C47, 42-108884, and crew were assigned to the 86th Squadron of
the 437th Troop Carrier Group. On December 22, 1948, two members were buried at Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Lt Col Ralph Lehr Commander
Captain Philip Uhlenbrock
Edward J Jr Copilot Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Sgt Rice, James B
Radio Operator Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Benko Engineer Survived
The fully packed Douglas Skytrains took off from the British
airfield Ramsbury, towing Gliders behind them. They set course for the rendezvous with other squadrons to fly to the landing-
and dropping zones in The Netherlands. The Skytrain (serial No 42-100801) under command of Pilot Charles Gilmore, flew as
No12 in the formation. It had been designated to the 437th TCG (Troop Carrier Group) in Squadron 83. The rest of the crew
consisted of the 2nd Pilot Robert V.H. Thomas, Flight Engineer Guy Difalco and radio operator William Golden.
The flight to the landing zone went without any problems worth mentioning until passing the Dutch coastline
when we encountered heavy Flak. Some planes in the formation sustained hits with only minor damage. But when eventually the
target came in view, Pilot Gilmore's plane was heavily hit by Flak.
Lieutenant John Sneed, who flew directly behind Lt.
Gilmore, told what happened:
His plane sustained a direct hit by a Flak grenade in the right engine and the right hand side of the cockpit. The plane continued
on course for a few seconds then started to slowly climb, turned to the right and released the glider. This all happened about
seven minutes prior to reaching our target. The plane then made a ¼ turn dropping with the wing pointing down and dived straight
into the ground. I lost sight of it then.
It was a great tragedy, the plane crashed with great speed into the ground near Bladel and Netersel. The crew never had a
chance to get out. The '801' called 'Piccadilly Filly' changed instantly into a heap of mangled aluminum trapping the bodies
of the crew, who were subsequently buried in a mass grave.
A second Skytrain also crashed near the '801'.
It was the 42-108884, also from 437th TCG, but the 86th squadron. Lt. Colonel Ralph Lehr the pilot of this plane was to take
a glider to the landing-zone. The rest of the crew were, Captain Philip Uhlenbrock, Lt. Edward Peterson, Sergt Bela Benko
and Sergt. James Rice. Sergt. Benko was the only survivor.
Above enemy territory, our plane was hit several times by canon fire in the right wing, perhaps ten to twenty
times. About ten minutes later, I stood with my back turned to the cockpit when there was a terrific explosion. I believe
we were hit by a Flak grenade on the right side of the plane. I immediately went to the cockpit and radio hut, but when I
opened the door, I was met by a sea of flames. Behind me, someone sang out "Let's go!" Our radio operator Rice jumped out
of his seat and raced for the door that separated the radio hut from the cockpit. I tried to pull him back but he was fighting
desperately to open the door. The heat was unbearable and I had to retreat, but I saw Rice entering the cockpit. I looked
for my parachute shouldered it and went for the load door, where I buckled up in the parachute. That moment I felt that the
plane went out of control and increased in speed. It was then I saw Rice again who brought along Lt. Peterson, Both of them
were severely burnt and barely recognizable with their burnt clothes and faces. I helped them to get into their parachutes
and we went to the tail end of the plane. Meanwhile the fuselage had filled with a foul-smelling smoke and flames. Finishing
off fastening my parachute, I noticed a body lying on the floor with his head about ½m from the load-door. I thought it was
Capt. Uhlenbrock whose hair was completely burned off. Suddenly he moved and yelled for me to get out. I went to the door
kneeled down and bending my head forward let go.
A few seconds later, my parachute opened. I saw our plane diving straight down and in the midst of flames
crashed into the ground. I don't think Lt. Col. Lehr managed to get out of the cockpit.
I repeat that I only saw three men after the plane was hit. Despite a partially fastened parachute I landed
safely although rather heavily. The last I saw of the plane was a mass of flames. The remains of the bodies were buried in
the mass grave in Bladel.
For ten days Sgt Benko had to hide from the Naxis. His son went over to Bladel in the summer of 2003 and again about 10 years
Another plane above Bladel got into trouble, this
time from the 436th TCG, 82nd Squadron, serial No 42-100672. Painted on the nose in large lettering 'Skytrain' followed by
the word 'Dakota'. This plane did not tow a Glider but carried 18 Para-troopers of the 101st Airborne Division. The pilot
was 1st Lieutenant Guido Brassesco, rest of the crew were, Joseph Andrews, Barry Tinkom and Joseph Curreri. This plane also
sustained a hit from the Flak killing 6 Para-troopers; Thomas Seibel, Joseph Findley, Ralph Dominic, Joseph Cervo, Harvey
White and Forrest Snelling. The rest of the troopers and the crew managed to leave the plane and reached the ground unhurt.
They observed how the, out of control, plane with the bodies of the killed Para's crashed into the ground not far from the
burning wrecks of the '801' and the '884'.
The remains of the bodies of the unfortunate Para-troopers were located in the wreck and buried in the mass
grave. Two of the bodies who could not be identified were also found, one of whom wore a ring by which he could be identified
as Jo Cervo. It can be reasonably assumed the other body was of John Burke. He was 2nd Pilot of Skytrain 43-15302 which had
as commander William Williams. John Burke jumped out of the plane with no chance of survival, as it was already too close
to the ground. He crashed to the ground and was maimed beyond recognition. The '302' crashed burning to the ground, with three
of the crew still aboard, just north from Eerssel. Witnesses say they the remains of the plane kept glowing up to four days
later. The three crewmembers are still listed as missing and are assumed to have been buried somewhere, unknown.
Harvey Tappe was a crewmember of a glider, which came to grief in the area of the crashed Skytrain. He
was later also buried in the mass grave to come to rest with the rest of the fallen crewmembers. Short after the Battle of
Arnhem a simple monument was placed in Bladel a small Township in Brabant, in memory of the Allied airmen.