© WW2 Market Garden -
Garland Woodrow Collier was born on November 3, 1918, in Novice, Texas, a small community near the larger ‘small town’ of Coleman, Texas. His parents were Abner Belcher Collier and Abbie Morris Ralph Collier. They had come to the Coleman area in the early 1900’s, moving from the piney woods of East Texas out to the plains farther west. Garland was the youngest of seven surviving siblings, all of whom loved and treasured him as the youngest child in the family.
Our Collier family line can be traced back to its beginnings in France. Subsequent family generations indicate the family moves on to England. Later descendants eventually immigrated to the colonies prior to America’s establishing its independence. Garland’s family had a history of ‘service.’ Many of his ancestors on both sides served in the American Revolutionary War, the fight for Texas’ independence prior to its becoming a state, the Civil War, and World War I, among other conflicts. Garland’s “Collier” ancestors moved from Virginia to Georgia and ultimately settled in east Texas in the 1850’s, where Garland’s father Abner Collier was born in 1858. After his marriage to Abbie and their subsequent move west to Coleman, Garland’s father worked mostly as a tenant farmer during his remaining years there. Among Garland’s family on his mother’s side, the Ralph family, was his grandfather Henry Ralph, who was a Texas state legislator, a merchant, a justice-
Garland’s siblings included three older sisters (Ina, Nannie Lee, and Era) and three older brothers (Ralph, Grady, and Dee). Garland attended schools in the Coleman area, the early ones mostly small rural community schools. High school records show that he was an average student, with interests in athletics (football, basketball, track) and other school clubs. Quite the athlete in high school, he enjoyed playing football later in life with his fellow Army buddies in the 3/506 while in training both in the States and in England. Later stories told by others report that he was also quite the boxer in ‘competitions’ held in his unit.
Today, Garland’s surviving nieces and nephews who remember being around him at that time in their early lives say that Garland had a great personality, was positive and outgoing, and was quite the ladies’ man! He was well-
After Garland’s parents’ deaths, he lived for a brief time with his older sister Ina in California; however, he returned to Texas, finished high school in Coleman, and graduated in 1938.
While living with his older sister Era and her family, he worked on the farm and at the dairy owned by his brother-
Both of Garland’s older brothers enlisted prior to him. Grady enlisted in the Army May, 1941, ASN 38031674, and became a M/SGT with the 834th Aviation Engineer Battalion in the 9th Air Force, serving in Europe in France and Belgium, and also later in Korea. His unit received battle commendations for its efforts in D-
Following the footsteps of his two older brothers and wanting especially to join the elite new group of “paratroopers” being formed, Garland enlisted on September 1, 1942, in Phoenix just shy of age 24. Although he was born and bred in Texas, because he enlisted in Phoenix, in the state of Arizona, to this day, his Army service records and the memorial at the American Military Cemetery and Memorial in The Netherlands indicate that he was from Arizona. Unfortunately, Garland was the brother who not only didn’t survive the war, but never ‘returned home.’
GARLAND’S HISTORY OF SERVICE IN WWII -
Garland and the 506th PIR jumped into the area of Son, Holland, behind enemy lines on September 17, 1944, as part of the Operation Market-
Fellow LMG buddies from his unit, PVT Darvin Lee and CPL Andrew T. Bryan Jr., were next to Garland when he took mortar fire, and they witnessed his death. They helped to prepare his body for graves registration officers who were to follow behind them. They retrieved a Luger pistol, a war ‘souvenir’ that Garland had on his person, prior to leaving him, hoping to be able to turn it over to a member of Garland’s family at some point in the future. Amazingly, Garland’s older brother, M-
In researching Garland’s service during the past few years, I have been privileged to establish correspondence with then-
Shortly after Garland’s death on the battlefield, it was reported that Baptist services were conducted in his honor prior to his burial in an American military cemetery, This information was based on correspondence sent to Garland’s family from Col Robert F. Sink, Commanding Officer, 506th PIR, and on specific details in his U.S. Army IDPF (“Individual Deceased Personnel File”). However, Garland’s actual gravesite or resting place was obviously never properly identified. Thus, there was never an opportunity for his remains to be returned to his family in Texas. There is much speculation as to what actually happened to Garland’s remains, but as of this date, the truth remains a mystery. His brother Grady initiated Army investigations into efforts to locate his remains after the war’s end, but official Army correspondence based on their accumulated records, reports and subsequent investigations ultimately deemed Garland’s remains as “non-
Garland is memorialized on the “Tablets of the Missing” in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, The Netherlands. A family memorial was erected in his honor in the White Chapel Community Cemetery, Coleman, Texas, between the graves of his parents. He is memorialized at the World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. He is also honored on a memorial placque, erected in 1999, in Opheusden, in The Netherlands.
British author and former paratrooper Ian Gardner, whose help has been immeasurable, has been kind enough to include brief mention of Garland in his and Roger Day’s first book, Tonight We Die as Men, the story of the 3rd BN 506th PIR. More of Garland’s experience in Operation Market Garden is recounted in Ian’s recently published sequel Deliver Us from Darkness. I appreciate Ian’s friendship and encouragement. The association with Dutch friends who have provided such loving care and tributes to Garland the past few years is treasured. Our family remains grateful to the vigilant efforts of Ronald Stassen, Thijs Van Der List, and others, as well as to former Marine Mark Chernek, for their respect and dedication in watching over Garland at his Margraten memorial.
Story written by Judy Gamble, great niece of Garland Collier, June 2012
All photographs on these pages are provided, courtesy of the Collier/Gamble family.
Photo: The inscription on the “wall of the missing” at Margraten war cemetery the Netherlands.