Radio operator 85th Troop Carrier Squadron
Don was a radio operator in the 85th TCS which was part of the 437th Troop Carrier Group. The 437th had arrived in England in october 1943.
Operation Market Garden would not be the first time Don would be flying through enemy anti aircraft fire. Don had dropped paratroopers in the night prior to D-day, the Normandy invasion. Operation Market Garden would be a completely different experience for him.Don Bolce describes one of his missions over Holland:
"We towed a CG-4A glider from Ramsbury Airfield in England to a LZ near Eindhoven. On the 17th, we flew the southern route to the LZ.
When we started flying over Holland, I was surprised to see the vast areas of flooding deliberately caused by the Germans. They had simply broken the dikes. I knew this would be a long flight, but I wished that we could get to the LZ soon in order to drop our glider and head for home. Shortly after leaving the flooded area, we had begun to encounter tremendous flack. I climbed up into the astro dome where I could see all of our C-47s towing their CG-4A gliders. Suddenly, from directly behind our plane, I could see a bright glow from one of our C-47's. Immediately the glider cut loose and headed down into enemy territory. I kept my eyes focussed on the burning aircraft as the fire raged, but still no parachutes. I could not recognize which 85th squadron aircraft this one was and I found myself silently screaming, 'Get out of there!'"The C-47, now almost completely engulfed by flames, started down toward the ground. Still no chutes! 'Get out of there! Get out of there!' I screamed at the stricken plane. The plane slammed into the ground with a tremendous explosion with orange flames and black smoke that seemed to have risen hundreds of feet almost instantly. This sight horribly shook me. I felt total sorrow and anguish for the poor men who were now dead though I had no idea who they were. But our mission to deliver our glider was still ahead of us. Since I was the only one to witness the burning aircraft go down, I notified the crew and put my earphones back on. I could then hear the pilots up ahead of us breaking radio silence and yelling to the other planes that so and so had been hit and is going down or that heavy flack was dead ahead! There was plenty of ground fire as we approached the LZ, but we had made it and were not hit! We could see numerous C-47's on the ground burning with only the vertical stabilizer showing through the flames and the ashes. We cut our glider loose and dropped our tow rope as we headed back to Ramsbury, England.
We encountered extremely heavy, accurate anti-aircraft fire. I believe that we had 23 C-47s shot down that day. On the 2nd glider tow on September 18, we flew the northern route, and the anti-aircraft fire was much less and our losses were much lighter."Bolce concludes, "Market Garden had left its mark on all of us, whether aircrews, glider crews, paratroopers, or glider infantry. We will never forget our baptism of fear!"
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