Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dram: From Floor To Ceiling

Floorceiling1 Floorceiling2

Of all the amazing things I've seen this past week while touring WWII sites in Belgium and the Netherlands, one of the most interesting is the sight you see above left. While gathering some information at the tourist office in Eindhoven, the helpful woman behind the counter said, "If you go to the train station and look up, you will see some Bailey Bridge material you Yanks kindly left behind that we used in our rebuilding." Sure enough, the orange trusses you see are definitely examples of the famous Bailey Bridging shown above right that played such an important part in WWII.

Now, I don't know for sure that it was the Yanks who left this material behind or whether, in fact, it really was left behind at all. For all I know, it could have been custom made for the new train station in homage to the city's war experience and its being "left behind" simply became part of the city's lore. But if it was left behind and used by the people of Eindhoven to rebuild their train station, I'm glad to hear it. When you realize how demolished much of these two countries were during the war, you have to figure they deserved to use whatever they could get their hands on for their rebuilding effort.

Judging by the thousands of photos and videos I have seen this past week, it is clear that the Red Ball Express from Normandy -- an epic story itself -- transported vast mountains of every conceivable kind of materiel to the fronts across Europe. I'm not sure, but I think it is a good bet they didn't pack a lot of it up and ship it back after the war was over. The amount of scrap metal alone -- everything from thousands of blown up Sherman Tanks to millions of discarded gas cans -- must have been immense.

The people here had endured years of destruction and hardship, often as collateral damage from friendly fire that I've never heard a word of resentment about. If a little "left behind" Bailey Bridging helped rebuild the train station in Eindhoven -- or even if it is just a metaphor for the use of other "left behind" supplies -- it seems only fair and I'm glad to have heard the story.

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