Ninety two year old veteran returns to Sint Oedenrode
Paratrooper Forrest J. "Jay" Nichols from Lakeland, Fla., veteran of
"B" Company of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, was the guest
of honor during the ceremonial re-opening of the old city hall building in Sint Oedenrode, Holland on Friday January 27th 2012.

Both the Stars and Stripes and the Dutch national red-white-and-blue
flew during the opening of two real estate agencies as tenants in this historical building on Markt (Market).

The Eastern outside wall of the old town hall of Sint Oedenrode, a relatively small community of 17 thousand but chartered as a city in the year 1231, is donned with several stone plaques.
Two of them had been presented by Dutch Army Hussar (Cavalry) units thanking the city for its hospitality during the mobilization in both World Wars.

In 1985 another plaque was unveiled by members of "B" Company of the 502nd honoring their fallen comrades in Sint Oedenrode in September 1944.

Twenty seven year old autograph
Battle Detective Tom was 15 year old in 1985 and rode his bicycle the 16 miles to Sint Oedenrode to attend the unveiling ceremony on September 17th that year.
He got Forrest Nichols' autograph then, among others.
And again 27 years later.
On this January day Nichols was the last of the men who had dedicated the plaque in 1985.

 (click to enlarge)
(Photo credits: Jurgen Swinkels)  

Re-opening ceremony
The plaque, unveiled and funded by members of Nichols' Company, had suffered from weather influences but had, together with the whole building, been fully restored.
On this sunny January day Mayor Maas of Sint Oedenrode explained in his speech that he was happy that the old town hall would remain intact.
Forrest Nichols also made a speech and told about how he had left the Drop Zone after his combat jump on September 17th 1944 and had been guided by Dutchman Joop Oosterwijk.
Jay ended by telling that he considers Holland as his second home.
This is a photo impression:

click to enlarge:

History of the old town hall of Sint Oedenrode
The brown plaque seen behind Nichols on the wall explains the rich history of the site and the building of the old town hall.
For instance, in 1919 a crowd gathered around the steps of the town hall for a whole other reason.
Here policemen can be seen bringing in the arrested robber / killer of the director of the local butter factory:

(Photo credit: FotoRooi)

Or, even worse, Nazi occupying troops in front of the town hall, April 20th 1941:

(Photo credit: FotoRooi)

Something to consider when looking at today's images of the Dutch and American flags and the Screaming Eagle draped on the town hall's balcony!

Forrest Nichols' "B" Company Brothers in Arms
The stone wall plaque in Sint Oedenrode lists eleven "Brave Paratroopers of B Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division [who] gave their lives for the liberation and defense of Sint Oedenrode in September 1944."
This is what we can tell about these paratroopers:

Henry F. Bilodeau (Army Service Number or ASN 11039891) was a 23 year old Technician Grade 5 from New Hampshire who entered military service on May 29 1942. He was killed in action on September 22nd 1944. Henry is buried in the American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Bilodeau's grave:
(click to enlarge)

Michael P. Cherub (ASN 11064739) was a Private First Class from Connecticut. He was attached to Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion of the 502nd and was also killed on September 22nd 1944 at age 27.
John C. Craine (ASN 33131281) was a 25 years old Sergeant from Pennsylvania who was killed on September 21st 1944. He is buried in Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
Private Luther W. Davis (ASN 20407653) was 23 when he was killed on the 25th of September 1944. He is buried in Georgia, his home state.
Orin F. Keyes Jr. (ASN 6146355) was a 26 years old Private First Class from Massachusetts who entered military service more than 3 years before the start of World War II for the United States. Orin was killed on September 21st 1944 and is buried in the American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Keyes's grave:
(click to enlarge)

Private First Class William J. Heather (ASN 35626775) from Ohio died on October 3rd 1944 from wounds sustained in "The Island" area in Holland. He is buried in England on the Cambridge American Cemetery.
Cecil F. Miller (ASN 14067526) from Georgia was killed in action on the 21st of September 1944 and is buried in the American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Miller's grave:
(click to enlarge)

Sergeant Louis C. See (ASN 38071197) was a Texan who died of wounds on January 5th 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium at the age of 31. Louis is buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio in his home state.
Ralph J. Zerbe (ASN 13053596) from Pennsylvania was killed in action on the 23rd of September 1944 and is buried in the American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Zerbe's grave:
(click to enlarge)

Twenty seven year old Private Ivie A. Ward (ASN 34176473) from North Caroline was killed on D+1 of Operation “Market Garden”: September 18th 1944. He is also buried in the American Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Ward's grave:
(click to enlarge)

Redmond D. Wells Jr., (ASN 6379958), a 29 year old Private from North Carolina was killed in action on the 22nd of September 1944. Ironically his father, Redmond D. Wells Sr., died that same year at the age of 57. There is a footstone commemorating Private Wells in the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Elm City, North Carolina but his body is laid to rest in Margraten, American Cemetery in The Netherlands.

This is a photograph of Wells' grave:
(click to enlarge)

After Forrest's visit to Holland he continued his European tour to visit his battlefields in the Belgian Ardennes and the French region of Normandy.
It was an honor to meet this warrior again.

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