© WW2 Market Garden -
Bernard Tecumseh Woodland was born in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States of America. He lived in a poor suburb of Baltimore, in a (then) so called “black neighbourhood” with his father, morther and younger brother Donald. Bernard was a very smart kid and absolutely loved science. Being a young black man in segregated America at that time in history, Bernard needed to visit a ‘black school’, because colored people weren’t allowed to attend a ‘regular’ school. Being a poor but smart kid, Bernard didn’t have the luxury to attend a ‘regular’ university and eventually ended up on Coppin Teachers College. A school where Bernard was able to become a teacher. Not his first choice, but sadly, with no money to travel to another college, his only choice.
This didn’t make Bernard stop. He attended Coppins Teachers College and was fairly succesfull. He was a great student, good with kids and in a most cases smarter than his teachers. Bernard was able to explain the most difficult topics in a way that anyone who’d listen would understand. On Coppins Teachers College he experienced a new limitation. In his final year of College, he got a negative and binding advice from the school board. During a classroom visit earlier that year, Bernard outsmarted the school’s super intendant. The school’s super intendant was a white man and was known for his hate for black people. Bernard getting a negative school advice might have something to do with his experience with the super intendant…
Bernard Woodland together with Charles Mason (right), his boyhood friend. Together they attended Coppin Teachers College.
With Bernard not being able to become a teacher after his final year of college, he makes a drastic decision; he volunteers for the army. Barney aimed high, he wanted to be with the best of the best. He wanted to get an active role in a fighting unit and show everyone what he was worth. Knowing that black people in the army were treated inferior to white people and were assigned to the worst jobs in the army, he forged his documents. Bernard changed his birth certificate, transcripts and resume, chaning himself from a young black man into a young white man. Bernard volunteers for the paratroops, is trained at Fort Benning and earns his wings. Bernard becomes a paratrooper and is assigned to the 307 Airborne Engineers Battalion.
The 82nd Airborne Division sets sail for North Africa and disembarks in Casablanca. The division is moved from place to place and ends up in Tunisia where the men of the division train for their next assignment. Bernard doesn’t like Africa or as he would say; “What a dump! What a dirty hole! I wouldn’t trade all of Africa for one town in the states.”
Bernard probably missed the invasion Italy, which started by landing on Sicily. But Bernard would participate in Operation Avalanche, the allied landings of mainland Italy at Salerno. Bernard made his first combat jump and together with the men of his regiment protected the Anzio beachhead. At some point during the regiment’s actions in Italy, Bernard is wounded and ends up in hospital where he stays for a couple of weeks. When the regiment is taken of the line, Bernard relaxes with his buddies in Italy and he eventually ends up in Naples. Somewhere during his time in Italy, Bernard is transferred from the 307th to Company C of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
In the beginning of 1944 the 82nd Airborne Division is shipped to the United Kingdom to prepare for a mission in Western-
On 17 September 1944 Bernard’s regiment is swung into action again. After a lot of R&R, the regiment will now be put into action during Operation Market Garden, a large scale airborne assault which takes place in the Netherlands. Bernard’s regiments will fly from England to Overasselt where they will jump from an airplane onto dropzone O (Obo) and conquer bridges over the Maas and Maas-
On September 19 the 504 PIR met XXX-
On September 20 the 504 PIR was ready to cross the river Waal. After a couple of postponements the river crossing was a ‘GO’ and the mission started at 1500 hours (3 p.m.). Bernard and his buddies from Company C were in the third wave of the Waal crossing. We know that Bernard survived the Waal crossing, but he was wounded on September 21 while defending the bridgehead from enemy attacks. Bernard was taken of the line and sent to a hospital in Belgium where he died of his wounds on September 24. A Red Cross nurse, who was a friend of Bernard, informed Bernard’s brother with a letter. She had promised Bernard to inform his brother if anything bad happened to him. She kept her promise.
Newspaper: this news clippping was taken from a Baltimore newspaper. Notice how Bernard is described being a member of a ‘White unit’.
Photo: The inscription of Bernard’s name on the Waal crossing monument in Nijmegen.
Photo: Bernard’s grave at Henri-