Wings of Liberation Museum
Situated where units of the 101st Airborne Division landed on 17 September 1944, as part of Operation Market-Garden, the WINGS OF LIBERATION MUSEUM park is a series of buildings, each with its own theme. The green airborne glider landing fields are right next door to the museum and a photograph of Waco gliders in these fields is on display in the museum. Using a map provided by the museum staff, visitors can explore the buildings. Americans are very welcome here by the Dutch World War II buffs who hang out in the museum’s café. The museum also has a collection of WWII military vehicles.
The entry building where you get tickets has a comprehensive photograph exhibition with detailed reader boards on the general history of WWII. There’s also an audio-visual presentation of Operation Market-Garden visitors can watch while sitting in old airliner seats. The second hall on your tour tells of the liberation of South Limburg. Starting with a photographic display of the German occupation of the Southern Netherlands, it proceeds to dioramas showing the liberation of the area, including a slide show of the Liberation of the Netherlands. A diorama features an American soldier standing by a jeep, and a German soldier next to a Kettenkrad tracked vehicle.
The history of Operation Market-Garden is depicted with large wall paintings that provide a realistic backdrop to dioramas of 501st PIR airborne troops bailing out near Veghel, and drop zone scenes at other sites including Best and Son. Airborne trooper models sit in the foreground, parachutes draped around them. Another diorama shows an airborne trooper talking to liberated civilians in front of a farmhouse, while another features a paratrooper exchanging cigarettes for eggs. Model soldiers of the British XXX Army Corps guard a realistic painting of the Bailey bridge over the Wilhemina Canal in Son.
An excellent series of displays in the Operation Barbarossa Hall shows the Russian contribution to WWII. A German Jagdpanzer Hetzer with model German crew on top is staged near a Russian Katyusha rocket launcher, nicknamed the “Stalin Organ.” A Russian T34 tank dominates the room. Interestingly, a series of exhibits extends into the post WWII-era with a display of the Berlin Wall and some DDR soldiers.
The Scottish Hall pays tribute to the 51st Highland Division who attacked towards Schijndel as part of Operation Pheasant on 20 October 1944. Scottish officers standing on a platform receiving a march past salute are displayed in original uniforms. The Scottish soldier’s camp is shown in another diorama.
For aviation buffs, the next two halls are exciting. An RAF Spitfire and RAF pilot sitting in a life raft, the engine and propeller of a German ME BF-109, a mobile control tower and a U.S. Piper Grasshopper observation plane are featured in Aviation Hall I. A scale model of a German V-1 flying bomb and partial frame of a Waco glider are among the exhibits in Aviation Hall II. The Waco exhibit is a reminder of how fragile these gliders really were.
The final hall features several military vehicles including an American Mobile Command Post and a Dodge Command Car. Spread out around the grounds are a Sherman tank, U.S. radar set, a U.S. halftrack, U.S. GMC 2½-ton trucks and a DUKW American amphibious vehicle.
The best airborne display, however, stands toward the end of your tour: two well-restored Douglas Dakota C-47s. Painted U.S. military green with white invasion stripes around the fuselage and wings, these two beauties are lined up next to each other, presenting an awesome sight.
WINGS OF LIBERATION MUSEUM (Museumpark Bevrijdende Vleugels, Sonseweg 39, 5681 BH Best, The Netherlands; phone 0499-329722, www.wingsofliberation.nl) is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday through March 31, 2010 (check the website for seasonal changes). Adult admission is €7.50, children 6-12, €4 and children under 6 are free. WWII veterans are also admitted free of charge.
Allow two to three hours for your visit.