Rheinbach · Two Cologne men traveled from Rheinbach to the Netherlands to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, making the journey in a vintage Hotchkiss Jeep. Their aim is to keep the memory alive.
The two Cologne men Frank Oster and Guido Waberski were immediately noticed in traffic on the B 266 near Odendorf on Wednesday because of their unusual vehicle and appearance. 57 -year- old Waberski sat at the wheel of a real eye-catcher - a Hotchkiss Jeep, which is identical in construction to the famous "Willys Jeep" of the US Army and which the French Army had manufactured under license from original US parts after 1945, explains Waberski. The 57-year-old and his 46-year-old friend Frank Oster were sitting in their military vintage jeep in reproduced English paratrooper uniforms from 1944. The two were on their way to a special anniversary in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
In Arhem and other cities in the Netherlands - the 75th anniversary of the world war battle was celebrated on the weekend - the allied airborne Operation Market Garden (17 to 27 September 1944). The military operation was intended to help end the war faster, but ended in a fiasco. "We are keeping this memory alive, especially with a view to the veterans and their descendants," Waberski and Oster say, prompting them to be on hand in Arnhem.
About 500 historical vehicles and 1,000 parachutists were expected in honor of the air landing 75 years ago with about 13,000 paratroopers who had jumped in the Arnhem region alone. From Rheinbach, where the Hotchkiss Jeep is parked in a garage, the two set off on a four-hour journey to Arnhem, some 200 kilometers away.
Waberski has owned the jeep for about six years - and he often uses it in his spare time. Oster regularly commemorates famous battles, most recently D-Day, the landing in Normandy 75 years ago. He is always welcome with the legendary jeep.
Between 1942 and 1945, the US Army had around 370,000 of the all-wheel drive military vehicles built. The jeep was highly regarded for its off-road capability and robustness. One of these vehicles also produced the 60 hp engine, built in 1944, in Waberski's Jeep, which the French army used after 1945 in its licensed replica called "Hotchkiss".
Strictly speaking, Frank Oster and Guido Waberski are friends of "Reenactment", i.e. the reenactment of historical events, such as battles - using original costumes and equipment. They are especially interested in the famous battle of Waterloo in 1815. The fact that the Second World War has now also been added is explained by their interest in history.
And this interest can bring some intense encounters, especially during the commemoration days in Arnhem. "When we were here two years ago, tears welled up in the eyes of an English veteran when he saw us in uniforms," recalls Waberski, a marketing expert by profession. "He was incredibly grateful to us," adds Frank Oster, who has a career in insurance. Above all, it is important for many descendants of former soldiers that the events are not forgotten. For Frank Oster and Guido Wabersk, "remembering Arnhem is the most important thing, not recreating the battle".
Oster and Waberski put a lot of effort into outfitting and equipment and attach great importance to originals. Their jeep is outfitted with a parachute on the hood, a canister and a former ammunition box: The parachute played an important role in the TV movie "The Bridge of Arnhem". It belonged to the equipment of a British soldier who - equipped with a parachute - fought against the German SS troops on the Arnhem Bridge.
Above all, the men both took great care with their uniforms. Waberski, for example, wears a replica of a British paratrooper from the 21st Independent Parachute Company, which was one of the first units to jump off during the air landing in 1944. Why did Guido Waberski as a German choose a uniform of this unit? "At the time, 25 Germans also served in the 21st Independent Parachute Company, including Jews."
(Orig. text: Axel Vogel; Translation: ck)