Case File # 1              

Case Title: Shoot-out on Vlokhovensche Weg

Subject: Location of German sniper who killed CAPT Kiley

Date: September 18th, 1944

Location: Eindhoven, Holland

 

Introduction:

The way Captain John W Kiley of the S3 (Operations) Section of 3rd Battalion of the 506th was killed on September 18th 1944, has been the subject of a flaming debate since that date. Fact is that Kiley was killed on Vlokhovense Weg on that day but even urban myths were born from the incident. Like the story that the sniper who killed Kiley was killed with a bazooka. This, and other stories surrounding the combat on Vlokhovense Weg on D plus 1 of Operation Market Garden, where proven wrong. Thorough investigation shed new light on what happened that day.

 

The Case:

An article in the Eindhovens Dagblad (Eindhoven Daily) as recent as September 18th 2004 still added to the myth:

 

"Vlokhoven Church under fire.
Actually without a fight, the city of Eindhoven itself fell into American hands on Monday September 18 1944. Nevertheless, here and there in the Northern parts of the city, there are still traces of the battles the American paratroopers fought. When on Monday morning before the crack of dawn the Americans of the 101st Airborne

Division advanced towards Eindhoven from the landing zones in Son, they soon got the hamlet of Vlokhoven with its blunt church tower in their sights. Immediately an American intelligence officer who went ahead to reconnoiter the street, was fatally hit. Something moved in the church tower of Vlokhoven and, under the assumption that the sniper was hiding there, the Americans opened fire with a bazooka, among other weapons. But in the church tower there wasn’t a sniper at all. Allegedly it was Father Odemaere who was wondering what kept the liberators. If the story about the priest is accurate, is not agreed on but that this spot is full of history is certain. The American 506th regiment established its temporary command post in the former school next to the church. That Monday September 18th the British were held up at Aalst first, but scouts had driven around Eindhoven in a wide curve and on Vlokhovense Weg they were shaking hands with their American allies.

What occurred around the church only real and old ‘Vlokhovians‘ know and they keep getting fewer. The old school now is a community center and nobody there knows that it was an American command post once. But when the

church was renovated in the early nineties, the church board had decided beforehand that, in memory of September 18th, the strike marks in the tower would remain untouched."
 

Official Reports and history books

An official After Action Report of the 506th (presumably of one of the battalions of the regiment) even speaks of a bazooka which silenced the sniper:

 

 

And on page 302 of Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood's  Rendezvous With Destiny, the 101st Airborne Division's historical "Bible", we read:
"Capt. John W.Kiley, battalion S-2, exposing himself, was killed by a sniper in the Woensel church tower. Someone got off a bazooka round, hit the tower and silenced the sniper."

 

Captain W. Derwood Cann, Jr's description of the operation of an "Airborne Infantry Battalion in an Airborne Invasion" for the Advanced Infantry Officers Course in Fort Benning, GA, 1948-1949, has this on the circumstances around Captain Kiley's death, starting on page 18:


"The Third Battalion was scheduled to move out at 0800 hours. The attack formation was two companies forward and one back. H Company was on the battalion left. I Company on the right, followed by G Company. Headquarters company was about six hundred yards to the center rear of the battalion. The S-2 was ordered to precede the battalion with a patrol by about fifteen minutes. Our mission was to locate any enemy positions on or near the highway leading into Eindhoven. The patrol consisted of the S-2, four enlisted men and one SCR 300 radio operator. We departed from the battalion area at 0745 hours, crossed the field at Bokt, and headed south down the open highway. (60)

(Map E):

(not included in the issue of Cann's description that we own, but we've created this map:)

The patrol had moved down the highway for several hundred yards and then noticed the leading companies of the battalion moving into position. H and I companies were in the fields on either side of the highway. (61)

The patrol continued on for a few more hundred yards then were fired upon from hedgerows on either side of the highway. One member of the patrol was wounded. We quickly took cover in the nearby ditches and sent a radio message to the battalion commander. It was assumed that the fire had come from an enemy platoon armed with machine guns and rifles. (Map E)

The battalion continued to advance, thus causing the enemy to slowly withdraw toward the center of Eindhoven. As the unit reached the outskirts of the city, the enemy fire increased. The assault companies deployed their platoons and made ready for more action. The enemy had now ceased withdrawing and wanted to stand their ground. (62)

The German machine gun, mortar, and direct fires from two 88-mm gun positions caused the battalion to cease advancing. H Company, on the left, was located in a deep and long ditch. To their front was a wide and open field bordered by a row of brick houses. The Germans had occupied these houses and were firing directly into the face of H Company. (63) (Map E)

(59), (60), (61), (62), (63) Personal knowledge.

Page 19

On the battalion right was I Company; it was also receiving heavy fire from occupied houses to its front and they could not move forward. G Company in the reserve position, was committed on the immediate right flank of I Company. After reaching this position, they were involved in the same enemy fire which was holding down I Company. The entire battalion was on line and could go no further forward. (64) (Map E)

At the Battalion Command Post, the S-3, Captain Kiley, was preparing to call the regiment for assistance. The battalion commander could not be located, he had been last seen in the G Company front lines. While Captain Kiley and I were talking at the command post, a clear message came over the battalion radio. The message stated, “All the officers in H Company have been killed. We are pinned down and cannot move; send an officer to take command of the company.” (65)


Upon arriving at H Company, I found the entire unit stretched out in a deep ditch. The ditch contained many wounded and dead soldiers lying about. It was found that the company officers had not been killed, just the company commander and one platoon leader had been seriously wounded. The platoon leaders were contacted and a plan was made to continue the attack.

[...]
(64), (65) Personal knowledge
 

This report may explain why battalion officers were so close to the forward positions in contact with the enemy.

 

First, we will investigate what is true, and what not, in this story; the 'Bazooka-story'. Then we will review the various accounts and statements and check them with existing reports, photographic and other evidence.  We will visit the Combat Scene and finally present the most likely scenario.

 

"The Bazooka story"

By simple reasoning, it can be concluded that the story of paratroopers who shot at the tower with a bazooka killing Father Odemaere, is not true.

Father Odemaere

 

In the first place, Father Odemaere, definitely did not die a violent death on the 18th of September 1944. He survived the war and was present when one of the church bells, which the German occupiers had confiscated with the intention to melt it into ammunition, was returned to Vlokhoven in 1945. Fortunately the bell had been clearly marked as still can be seen today:

 

 

In fact, Fater Odemare remained the parish priest of Vlokhoven until November 12th 1967. He died in 1969.

 

Father Odemaere's gravestone

 

Also, it is very unlikely that a bazooka rocket was fired at the church tower.

 

 

The exterior of the church today

 

It would have left far more and extensive damage to the tower than what can still be seen today. After the war, the tower was never repaired or rebuilt.

 

It is our theory that the rumor of a bazooka round fired at the church, found its way in the after action report and was erroneously repeated as a fact from then on. The mere two sentences in Rendezvous With Destiny contain two more errors: Kiley was not battalion S2 (Intelligence) but S3 (Operations) and he was killed in the vicinity of the Vlokhoven Tower. The Woensel church is more than a mile South of that location.

 

 

Sniper's location

Now that we have established that the "Bazooka-story" is an urban legend, let us focus on the location of the German who shot and killed Kiley.

 

In the following analysis, the main emphasis is on witness statements. Usually, in older cases, less documentation and fewer silent witnesses are available to the investigators. The Bazooka Story showed us that the information in the  unit after action reports and the history books is mostly copied from a single, original source. Even now there are still witnesses who are either alive or their recollections have been recorded.

Also there are silent witnesses. For example, there are still traces of bullets striking both the inside and the outside of the church. Even forensic ballistic evidence is available. But we will discuss that later.

 

Witness statements

The most important witness to the incident is World War Two veteran of the 101st Airborne Division William (Bill) P. Galbraith. He was right across Vlokhovense Weg from Kiley when he got killed.

 

Sgt. William P.  Galbraith

In Koskimaki's Hell's Highway we read:

"Private William P. Galbraith was serving as runner for Captain Kiley in Holland. Recalling the actions of the 18th, Galbraith wrote: “I moved up to join Captain Kiley in the advance into Eindhoven. ‘I’ Company was on our right and ‘H’ Company was on our left. There was some small arms fire but not a lot. We got up to about fifty yards from a Catholic church. [...] Kiley was standing behind a burned out German truck and next to a small cottage with a little courtyard in front. I was lying down on the left side of the road. I told Kiley he better get down. He said, ‘If I get down, so will everyone else.’ He no more than got the words out when a bullet him in the throat, killing him instantly. I shot at the openings in the church tower as I thought that was where the shot came from – also at some windows up the street on the right in front of the captain. I then ran across the street to see if there was anything I could do for the captain. There wasn’t. [...] I then went back across the street and put three or four shots from my .45 automatic into the latch of the church door and then hit it with my shoulder in order to get inside the church. I landed on my fanny in the street. The door didn’t give a damn bit."

 

Historian John Klein interviewed Bill in 2004 and wrote: "At that point Bill realized the Captain was exposing himself too much as he was standing up behind the burning German truck on the right side of the road, a very dangerous thing to do. Bill quickly yelled to Captain Kiley to get down or he would get himself shot. Captain Kiley turned towards Bill and yelled back "Bill if I get down, so will everyone else". Just as the Captain finished this sentence, a shot rang out and he was struck in the throat. Without concern for his own safety, Bill ran across to Captain Kiley’s aid. It was too late, the Captain had died instantly. Bill then made a visual search of the surrounding area for a sign of the sniper. He didn’t see anyone, but there were a few windows facing him and the sniper could have been hiding in the shadows behind any one of them. So Bill took aim with his M1 Garand rifle and put a few rounds in each of them (he didn't like the shorter and less powerful M1 carbine, so he had traded it for the Garand before the Holland invasion). The furthest windows he saw that might be a possible hiding spot for a sniper were in the bell tower of the church a few hundred yards ahead. He carefully put a couple well placed rounds in those windows too. After firing, Bill ran forward to see if he could find the enemy. He even tried to get in the door of the church so he could look in the tower, but the door would not open."

 

This is his own handwritten narrative of his recollections of the shooting:

 

 

"Vlokhovians"

Battledetective.com located several 'old Vlokhovians' and recorded their version of what happened.

 

Wim Klerkx

Wim was 17 years old on September 18th 1944 and lived right across the girls school. He stated, as far as significant in this context, that during the shooting, he was inside the wine cellar of Father Odemaere, hiding with other churchgoers. After the shooting ended he saw Capt. Kiley's body under a blanket just a few yards away from his house. He was told by people in his neighborhood that the sniper who killed Kiley, took his shot while hiding behind a wall next to a shelter on the play ground of the girls  school.

 

Albert Roxs

Albert was 15 years old at the time and he stated seeing the body of Capt. Kiley in one of the hallways of the girls' school. He stated that the most likely position was not in the bell tower of the church. The sniper who killed Kiley, would  have taken his shot while hiding in some bean plants in the front yard of the Kluijtmans family next to the windmill on Vlokhovense Weg.

 

Jo van der Linden

Jo was 16 years old at the time and lived on a farm South East of the Vlokhoven church. He also stated that he was at the girls school after the shooting had ended and had seen Kiley's body. Jo remembered seeing the Captain with a gunshot wound below his left jaw.

 

Frans van Erp

Battledetective.com located Frans in New-Zealand and asked him several questions through e-mail. Frans was a 12 year old altar boy in September 1944 and he gave us some important details about the church.

 

The witness statements altogether speak of three possible locations of the sniper who killed Capt. Kiley. We will

discuss the likelihood of each position.

 

Three possible sniper positions

Position # 1:  Between the bean plants in the Kluijtmans front yard

Validity of this information: The witness who brought this possible position to our attention, Albert Roxs, received this information as hearsay. He was not present when it happened as he moved from his home further South on Woenselse Straat to Vlokhovense Weg after the fighting was over. The fact that he described seeing Capt. Kiley inside the girls school, puts him on the scene on a later time. Later than, for example, Wim Klerks, who claims to have seen Kiley under a blanket in front of his house on the Vlokhoven Square in between the halftrack carcass and his house. Roxs was told by other people of this possible position. During an interview in his garage Roxs showed us the house of the Kluijtmans Family and told us that he heard the theory of a sniper, hiding between the bean plants in that front yard. In the book Stadgenoten, by Martin H.G. Op Den Buijs, the fact that the Kluijtmans Family lived in this particular house, is confirmed.

Likelihood of this position: 1) It is certain that there were no bean plants in the front yards of any of the houses next to the windmill. Photographic evidence confirms this. Below are two pictures, taken on that same day, September 18th 1944, when elements of the British Second Army advanced in Northern direction and passed by the windmill. There are certainly no bean plants to be seen. In the second picture is an example of what bean plants would have looked like. The picture with the children was taken earlier in the 1940's. It is not sure if the stakes were put up there again in 1944 and therefore leaves open the fact if the bean plants in this picture were meant. Witness Van Der Linden, when asked his opinion about this theory, said that in the 1940's it was not done to put bean plants in one's front yard.

The front yard of the Kluijtmans Family and two photographs taken by Allied photographers on the 18th of September 1944 (the Dutch windmill had to be in the picture). No sign of any bean plants in the front yard of the Kluijtmans residence.

The miller's children photographed while sitting on top of an old grinding stone, taken in the early 1940's. In the back ground is an example of what bean plants with their characteristic stakes look like. Also the altar part of the Vlokhoven church can be seen.

2) In the event that the shooter who killed Capt. Kiley would have been in this front yard, he would have been very close to the route of advance of the US paratroopers. He would have no way to get out of the yard. To kill Capt. Kiley he should have let him, Private Galbraith and probably many other paratroopers walk by, very close to his 'lair' before choosing his target and shooting. After his shot he would be very exposed to his enemies. See this diagram on an aerial photograph: 

(click on image to enlarge)

 

 

If a shooter in this position would have fled, the natural direction to flee in would be away from his enemies. This means in Eastern direction. In this scenario he would surely have been seen by the advancing paratroopers because there is only open terrain in that direction. The two pictures below, taken in the 1940's, show this. The winter picture shows the South wall of the Kluijtmans house and the crucifix. The picture with the close up of the crucifix is taken in summertime judging from the poppies surrounding the statue. Note the backside of the small traffic sign as a reference point in both of the pictures. This second picture proves that a sniper escaping away from the Kluijtmans house would be seen against the backdrop of the pastures.

 

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

  

 

3) From this position, a bullet fired at Kiley to the position were he was hit, would have shot him through the neck or make a combined entry and exit wound in either the back of the neck or the front of the throat of the Captain. Not a wound at the left side of the neck as indicated by Jo Van Der Linden. Battledetective.com talked to Jo Van Der Linden on May 25th 2007. He indicated Kiley's wounds in a medical diagram as follows: 

 

 

This wound pattern shows a combined entry and exit wound below the left jaw. This indicates a frontal shot fired from the direction of what Captain Kiley was facing on the moment of the impact. If he was talking to Bill ("If I take cover, everybody else will") the bullet would have come form the girls' school. If the Captain was looking in the direction of the planned advance, the bullet came from the direction of the church. Also, Private Galbraith would most likely have heard a shot coming from his rear. Galbraith never stated anything like this.

 

In our working hypothesis, we exclude position # 1.

 

Position # 2: Behind the wall next to the girls' school.

Validity of this information: The witness who brought this possible position to our attention, Wim Klerkx, also received this information as hearsay. Although he was on the scene earlier than Roxs, Klerkx also was told of this possible position by other people. During the incident, Klerkx, 17 years old at the time, was hiding in the wine cellar of Father Odemaere, next to the church.

 

We investigated the area around the school and found the shelter on the playground. It was intended to let school children hide under it when it rained during playtime. It has seen reconstruction over the years. Part of the wall had been cut and new walls were constructed to convert the shelter into a shed. We also found the fundaments of the old wall. This is an impression of the area around wall behind the school. The red circle in the last photograph indicates position # 2:

This is a photograph of Colonel Sink saluting General Taylor on the school playground.

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

 

In the back, it shows the South perimeter wall around the Girls' School. We assume that an identical wall was placed next to the shelter on the Northern edge of the school ground. The alleged sniper position would have been behind that particular wall.
 

August, 2008 Update:
NEW PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE!

From Mrs. Petra Wenstedt-Pulles (president of the Screaming Eagles of World War Two-foundation) we received two
photographs which, to our knowledge, have never been published before. These pictures were taken in the playground, slash garden, behind the Vlokhoven Girls' School and show troopers of Headquarters Company of the 506th. In the left photograph we see troopers digging in, the windmill of Nard Vogels, the playground shelter and the concrete wall. The picture on the right shows the same concrete wall and paratroopers with a SCR-694 / BC-1306 radio and a GN-58 hand cranked power generator. Note both the M1 .30 caliber carbine with full stock and the M1A1 variation with folding stock, designed for paratroopers, leaning against the concrete wall.

These images confirm our assumption that there was a concrete wall surrounding the school property on all sides, and the testimony of Wim Klerkx about the shelter being open on the side facing the school playground.

 

(click on the pictures for high resolution versions)
  

 

Likelihood of this position: In this position, as in position # 1, the shooter would be very exposed to his enemies after taking the shot. He would, however, have more opportunities to flee in, for instance, the open fields in Eastern direction. This is significant because not one account says that the sniper was seen. Either wounded, killed or captured. But, because this position is even closer to were Private Galbraith stood, it is even more likely that he would have noticed.


Because of this circumstance we also exclude position # 2.

 

Position # 3: The Belfry of the Church Tower

Validity of this information: Until recently, we considered this position as very unlikely. Because the door of the church was locked during the incident, we assumed that the sniper could have never entered the church. This circumstance was confirmed by Private Galbraith who tried to break down the door but fell on his behind while trying. Also, Wim Klerkx, stated that Father Odemaere locked the door of the church before he let his parish people hide in his wine cellar. Battledetective.com was allowed inside the belfry. We discovered that a comparison photograph can not be made anymore because the sounding holes in the belfry are now shut:

 

 

This was the view from the belfry on September 18th 1944:

 

 

We have indicated the different lines of fire from all three positions in thin orange lines.

 

Inside the church, we noticed that the door to the stairs, leading to the belfry was locked and had to be opened for us by the church janitor. This circumstance led us to believe that a sniper could not have had access to the belfry.
We contacted Frans van Erp, however, who was a 12 year old altar boy in 1944. He stated that:
"The door was always open. [...] us children often went up those stairs. The staircase was very narrow, I mean not wide, it made you dizzy because it winded so much." This statement makes it more likely that a sniper took his position in the belfry.

Likelihood of this position: The most valuable evidence is Private Galbraith's statement. He witnessed Captain Kiley get hit. His first reaction was to shoot at the church tower. The fact that he shot at the church can be considered most likely.

Together with historian John Klein from California, Bill Galbraith visited the Vlokhoven Church in 2004.

 

Bill Galbraith entering the belfry. Note bullet holes in door

 

Inside the belfry, bullet marks can still be seen.

With the aid of a pair of pliers John was able to extract a bullet from one of the bricks in the tower and handed it to Bill Galbraith. This is the bullet:

 

 

When we were in the tower, we took this photograph. Drawing a line between the bullet hole in the door and the scrape mark in the concrete we have established the bullet's trajectory. Because of the low angle we have concluded that this bullet was fired from a position about 300 yards North of the belfry, at approximately where Private Galbraith said he was at the time:

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

 

CONCLUSION:

Considering the available evidence, we consider the position of the sniper in the belfry as 'most likely'.

This, however, can not be considered as a fact.

There remains only one fact; Captain John W. Kiley's death on Vlokhovense Weg on the 18th of September 1944:

 

(click on the image to enlarge)

 

 

March, 2008 Update:

NEW EVIDENCE!

 

Diary of the Parish of Our Dear Lady of Lourdes, Vlokhoven and Eckart

In the Eindhoven Regional Archives, we found the official Diary of the Parish of Our Dear Lady of Lourdes, Vlokhoven and Eckart. It is a journal which was started by Priest Habraken, the first priest of the parish, which was founded in 1919. He died in September 1940 and in October Priest Odemaere was made priest of the parish. He would remain the parish priest of Vlokhoven until 1968. See also our paragraph "The Bazooka Story", earlier in this Case File.

 

     (click to enlarge)

In the Diary details are written about the Bishop's decision to establish a new parish in the Eindhoven Northern suburb of Woensel, forging the former hamlets Vlokhoven and Eckart into one parish.

The Diary tells of the death of Priest Habraken who suffered a stroke while he was preparing for the church service on Sunday, September 22nd, 1940. He died in the hospital at 9 P.M. later that day. Further on, on the 28th of August 1942, Priest Odemaere writes about the crash of an Allied fighter-bomber into the parish main street, Woensleschestraat. Four people where killed and numerous houses were damaged. In the Diary there are registrations of donations made to the church by parish people who will have their names mentioned in church services in years to come.

 

The Vlokhoven Parish Diary

 

Dairy entry for September 18th, 1944

Priest Odemaere's entry for the day Eindhoven was captured is a remarkable discovery. This is the part in which the entering of American paratroopers, the killing of an American Captain and the shooting at the church is described:

   

(click to enlarge)

 

The Dutch language used in this Diary is somewhat old-fashioned but translates best as:
 

"The Americans from Son had pressed forward and driven the Germans to the city.
Across the Mill an American captain was hit mortally, shooting came from the base of the Tower. Thus it happened that the Tower was taken under fire during 10 minutes. There Father Chrysostomus discovered that they were Americans who were entering. We rushed to the street and immediately the shooting ended and one asked us if there were Germans in the tower, to which we answered in denial and by saying that one had retreated through the garden.
"

 

This find is reason to investigate another possible position of the shooter who killed Captain Kiley: 

 

Position # 4: the church garden at the base of the tower.

Validity of this information:

We have read most of the Diary which ends in the late 1950's. We haven't 'caught' Priest Odemaere on a single exaggeration or mistake in his entries. He is very precise in what he writes. An example is the detailed description of the church bells when they are taken away by order of the Germans. These melted two out of the three Vlokhoven  bells into ammunition for the Nazi war effort.

This is what Odemaere wrote about the damage to the church, caused by the paratroopers who thought a sniper was hiding there:
"The damage to the Tower was not big, a hundred roof tiles some holes in the gutters 10
[new page]
panes in the church, as by a miracle no stained glass. Our Dear Lady of Lourdes has visibly protected the parish.
Should we thank the 1st Saturday Ceremony?
"

 

This is how Odemaere describes the other incidents on the 18th:
"The house of the Van Schijndel's had at seven o'clock in the morning already gone up in flames in Hool Street. At approximately 8 o' clock Nard Vogels'wife was injured in the leg by a hand grenade which by mistake was thrown into the air raid shelter. At approximately 9 o'clock the block of houses on Woenselse Str corner Ree Street occupied by the Van Dam, Brouwers and Van der Heijden families was shot into fire by the aforementioned flak pieces [in a different hand writing: 88 mill] on Nieuwe Dijk.
No further personal accidents.
"

 

Also, the Priest is very candid in his writing. On the 19th of September, there were rumors of the Germans planning to counter attack Eindhoven with tanks. That same night, The Luftwaffe bombed the city killing hundreds of citizens and Allied troops.

Priest Odemaere wrote: "I can say, never to have been so frightened as that night especially for the looming entering of the Germans, my assistant was much bolder."

     

Further, the next Diary entry is dated December 5th, 1944. Odemaere then describes that the new chaplain, the Rev. H. Mutsears, comes to the church. This leads us to conclude that the description of the incidents on the 18th of September was made at least before December 5th, but perhaps even shortly after September 18th. We consider it safe to conclude that Odemaere wrote this in a period well before most of the discrepancies in the reports of Captain Kiley's death and the urban legends were born.

 

In conclusion, Odemaere was inside the church or in the Priest's residence next to it, when Kiley was killed. He came into the street after Father Chrysostomus, his chaplain and assistant, reported seeing American soldiers. At that time, shots were still being fired. We assume that the Priest had no motive to write anything different than the truth. He did write about his fear for the Germans, recapturing Eindhoven. He did write about a civilian* being wounded from a hand grenade. He would have mentioned any other important detail, if there were any. More precise and in relation to position #3: Odemaere's detailed writing makes it likely that his description of the incidents on September 18th is complete and therefore he would have mentioned a German soldier entering the church and / or dying in 'his' tower.

 

*From an earlier witness statement, by the church janitor, Mr. Vroomen, we know that it was a paratrooper who threw that grenade. Misses Vogels died recently. Not from her war injury, however.

 

 

(click on the image to enlarge):

 

 

Officers of "HQ"-Co./506th take 5 at the base of the Vlokhoven Church Tower.

Note pieces of slate roof tile on the ground.

Colonel Sink set up his temporary HQ - "Kidnap Forward CP" -  in the Girl School next to the church in the morning of the 18th of September.

After he got word from 2nd Bn. that they had captured the bridges across the Dommel River, he set up his HQ In the former German Ortskommandatur.

 

These relaxing officers may be lying on the very spot where Captain Kiley's killer

stood when he fired his deadly shot.

 

Likelihood of this position:

Odemare does not describe his 'origin of knowledge' when he wrote "shooting came from the base of the Tower". It may have been hearsay. It may have been that he had actually heard shots being fired from the church garden. Even the Americans had to ask the clergymen where the shooter may have been. They would not have to, if they had seen it for themselves. Most civilians were hiding during the shooting. Witness Wim Klerkx was hiding inside Odemaere's basement at that time.

Therefore, the knowledge of a German shooting from the base of the tower and a German retreating through the same garden must have come from someone very close to the incident, not being a US serviceman. Because it was Father Chrysostomus who first recognized the advancing Allied troops as Americans, it may well have been that he saw the incident. Because "We rushed to the street" after Chrysostomus' s report about the nationality of the advancing troops, it is likely that Chrysostomus was looking from one of the church windows.

 

A sniper's position inside the church garden has the disadvantages mentioned in Positions #1 and #2: he would hardly have any cover in front of him. But because the Americans had no idea where the sniper was, when he fired at Captain Kiley, there may have been a considerable distance between the shooter and the lead elements of the 506th. From this position a shooter can inflict the same wound as shown in the wound diagram. An advantage of this position is the easier escape route into the fields with the church building as a cover.

 

In the Diary we found this picture, made by Mr. Nard Vogels in the Summer of 1950:

 

 

The photograph is taken in North-Western direction; therefore away from the advancing paratroopers. The area had not changed much in 1950, but today it is developed into a residential area with townhouses.

 

When we compare this position to position # 3, the belfry, we must first take into account the story of the body of a dead German in the tower.

Battledetective.com recently met one of the witnesses in our Case File #12.

He recalled being present at a meeting where Bill Galbraight was told that the body of a dead German soldier was found in the Vlokhoven tower. Compare this with what Galbraight wrote in his November 2, 1998 letter.

 

In the Paragraph "Validity of this information" we stated that we have no reason to doubt Odemaere's entry in the parish Diary. He simply denies his presence.

It is also doubtful how a sniper could have entered the tower. Witness Albert Rockx told us recently that Frans van Erp's statement that he could play in the belfry may have been true for the altar boys, but the tower was always locked at times when there were no services in the church. Bill Galbraight also stated that the church door was locked when he tried to enter it.

 

Further, if a sniper would have died in the tower this must have been caused by the shots fired at the tower. This in turn must have caused a bleeding wound. There are no visible marks of blood in the belfry floor today. The reason for this is that there is no wooden floor. In our Battle Study # 6 we have shown blood stains sustained from wounds in June 1944 in wooden pews in a French church.

The floor in the Vlokhoven church is covered with zinc sheet. The reason for this is that Priest Habraken, who founded the Vlokhoven parish, also supervised the construction of its church. Habraken loved to paint.

 

This is an example of a painting by Priest Habraken:

 

 

Habraken had the architect delete the sounding boards that are usually placed in the slit windows of a belfry, to have a clear view from those windows. That way, he could paint the view. Because those slit windows were without those sounding boards, rain could easily fall in when there was also a bit of a breeze. This would cause a wooden floor to rot. So he had the floor covered in metal sheeting. Blood would not leave visible stains in zinc sheeting.

 

There is, however, a forensic technique to visualize latent blood stains on surfaces such as the metal sheeting on the belfry floor. Battledetective.com has been granted access to the tower from church officials to conduct this technique.

 

On March 5, 2008, Battle Detectives Tom and Antoine, accompanied by church sexton Vroomen and Jan van Hout, of the Dutch Society of Airborne Friends, climbed the winding stairway leading to the belfry.

First, Antoine and Tom studied the many bullet hits inside the tower. They counted approximately 15 strikes in the brick wall. Also they discovered evidence of two bullets striking the – then empty – metal bell frames.

 

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Entering the belfry.

Examining the bullet hits inside the belfry.

Ballistic analysis.

Multiple bullet strikes in West wall.

Bullet marks of over 63 years old.

Bullet hit next to belfry entrance door.

Bullet hole through door. Note strike mark in concrete door frame on other side of doorway.

Bullet strike in bell suspension frame.

Another bullet which hit the (then empty) bell frame.

Close examination.

Bullet trajectory indicator.

A distinct mark of a bullet striking the metal bell frame.

 

Then they started preparing the BlueStar(Tm) Forensic by mixing the components in distilled water. They waited about seven minutes for them to dissolve in a 125 Ml mister. BlueStar(Tm) Forensic is a luminescent agent which emits a bright blue light when it comes into contact with traces of blood. It can be compared with luminol but is a commercially manufactured chemical, made by the DuPont Corporation, with some significant improvements over the latter.

 

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Under the watchful eye of sexton Vroomen...

Gathering the latent blood stain reagent chemicals.

Pouring distilled water in the spray canister.

Mixing the Blue Star Forensic (tm) components.

 

In the meantime, sexton Vroomen told about the possible origin of the story of a dead body in the tower. The story had it that shortly after the shooting had died down on the 18th of September 1944, a dead German was found in the belfry. Vroomen assumes that this story was made up as a joke to emphasis and ridicule the already unlikely story of a sniper inside the tower. Vroomen is sure that there was not a sniper in the tower.


(click on the images to enlarge)

 

After the BlueStar(Tm) Forensic components had dissolved, the lights in the belfry were switched off. A test was made with an actual blood sample. It lit up in a bright blue light, indicating a positive result. The mixture was ready for use.
 

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It was cold and windy in the belfry. Tom and Antoine therefore wore protective face masks against the airborne droplets of the luminescent agent and took turns in either observing for a possible positive reaction or applying the chemical. They sprayed the chemical on the floor were, according to their educated guesses, the likely location of the sniper’s lair was and of the spot were he would, if hit, collapse and die. An indication that the agent was applied in a quantity, sufficient for a positive reaction, were the sometimes confusing reflections of dim rays of daylight in the systematically wetted zinc covered floor.
 

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Battle Detective Antoine.

Battle Detective Tom.

The most likely position for a sniper. Note "North-" indicator.

"Sniper's lair"

The belfry's windows with the post-war sounding boards.

Applying Blue Star Forensic (tm) near the presumed sniper's lair.

No reaction on zinc floor.

At the most likely spot for a possible sniper to be hit.

Applying it on other spots inside the belfry.

No reaction on other spots either.

Apllying the reagent chemical under the bell suspension frames.

Under the bell frames.

 

This led to no positive reactions.

The chemical was also sprayed on the door handle on the inside of the wooden door.
This revealed a bright blue reaction. In fact, the application of the chemical was a bit overdone and bright blue drops were visible, streaming down the door. However, BlueStar(Tm) applied to the floor beneath the door, showed no reaction at all.

 

From our latent blood reagent test, we conclude that no person in the belfry was severely wounded, let alone died there. The blood traces on the door handle may have been caused by workmen in the tower in post war years. Mr. Vroomen explained that a new roof was constructed on the entire church.

Further, over the past 63 years* numerous maintenance and repair jobs were done in the belfry. A possible scenario is that of a craftsmen who cut his hand on one of his tool, spilling blood on the door handle on his way downstairs to get a bandage.


* A recent luminol test has revealed that latent blood stains of over 140 years

old can still show up in a bright blue reaction. for more information, click here.

 

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Applying Blue Star Forensic (tm) on bellry door.

Testing for blood stains of a wounded person leaving the belfry.

Door handle.

Applying the reagent chemcial on door handle.

An apparent blood reaction. Note blue drip on examination glove finger.

Applying Blue Star Forensic (tm) on floor beneath door handle: No blood droplets there.

Worksman's glove under bell suspension frame.

Possible origin of blood on door handle: a post war roof construction worker hurt himself on his tools, gripping handle with bloody hand before he went downstairs for a band aid.

 

This is possibly the only living creature that ever died in the tower:

 


It is our theory that the combination of the available written evidence, the described theories of the likelihood of a sniper using the belfry and the results of our BlueStar(Tm) Forensic test, exclude the Vlokhoven Tower as the position of Captain Kiley’s killer.

Metal detector survey of the base of the Vlokhoven tower

With the sexton’s consent, Battle Detective Antoine used his metal detector in the church garden. He started at the most likely location, at the base of the tower. This is the exact spot as in the photograph of the resting “HQ” Company officers, shown above. Later, Antoine surveyed other parts of the garden. For obtaining evidence for “shooting came from the base of the Tower” and “one had escaped through the garden”, this investigation was of no significant value.
 

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The base of the tower.

Combat Scene Investigation.

The metal detector made an almost constant beeping sound.

Battlefield archeology.

Under the watchful eye of Jan van Hout...

This is the same spot as in the black & white photo of resting "HQ"-Co.506th officers, posted above.

Processing the scene.

What caused the detector to beep: pieces of excess roof sheet lead discarded by roof construction workers.

 

The metal detector, which has proved to be valuable on Antoine’s visits to European battlefields, let out a constant bleeping sound when used in a slow sweeping motion across the garden floor. Following up on some of the loudest bleeps, Antoine dug up many pieces of sheet metal, clearly scraps of metal cut in a desired shape. Sexton Vroomen reminded of the post-war installation of a new roof on the church. This explains the abundance of the metal pieces, probably discarded in the garden by craftsmen working on the roof.

Also present in the church garden was mr. Mans Pepers, the gardener.
 

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Gardener Pepers, explaining to Jan van Hout, he'd recognize a shell case, if he'd find one.

Mr. Mans Pepers.

Antoine using the metal detector in a wider area at the base of the tower.

No bullet cases in the church garden.

He made the following statement:

"The sexton told me that you are looking for bullets. You will only find debris in the garden though. Just pieces of brick and metal. I have been doing a lot of digging in this garden over the past years. It has been shoveled over several times. I usually dig about 40 centimeters deep; the depth of a shovel’s blade. But I have never found a bullet in this garden. I could tell if I would have found one. I am also the gardener of a building on Pastorie Street. Some years ago, I found an unspent cartridge of an M1 Garand rifle there. I recognized it, because I fired that weapon when I served in the Dutch army. It was a 7,62 millimeter round and I gave it to a policeman. Some bystanders laughed at the scene because I tossed it to the officer and he had to catch it."

The likelihood of finding 'the' shell casing of the shot that killed Captain Kiley can be considered slimmer than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

The shooter would have probably used the single shot, bolt action, K98 Mauser rifle. It is very well possible that the shooter did not reload his rifle, ejecting the empty casing from his rifle, after the deadly shot. In this scenario, he took the empty casing with him on his retreat through the garden. If the shooter did reload his weapon while still in the garden, the brass casing may have very well been picked up as a souvenir later.

Nonetheless, given the strength of the evidence in the parish diary, we consider position # 4, the church garden at the base of the tower, as the most likely for the shooter’s position.

 

March, 2009 Update:

Capt. Kiley's Helmet in Private Collection!

On February 7th, 2009 one of our viewers contacted us and wrote that he's an American 'private collector and WWII student', who chooses to stay anonymous in this publication. He wrote us, not only to congratulate us, as he put it "on a remarkable feat of detective work here"  but also "because I own Captain Kiley's helmet, the helmet he wore on that day September 18, 1944."

Naturally, we overloaded this collector with questions about were he obtained it. We also asked to describe the helmet's features in detail, because they might give more clues about Captain Kiley's death.

We soon understood that the provenance of the helmet was reliable because it could be traced back to a battlefield archeologist, also known to battledetective.com. We will not reveal this source's identity here either.
 

Answering our request for a description of the helmet's details, we received this:
"It does have abrasions/scratches to the top/side of the helmet from where it would have rubbed on stone walls or pavement etc.
Most prevalent are some scratches on the upper right hand side of the helmet as it is worn on the head. Other than that there is no damage to it, he probably had his chinstraps attached over the rear of the helmet as they are now and it simply fell off of his head when he fell.
It has his 3/506 spades he painted on the sides, his vertical white officer's stripe on the rear, his name inside painted inside in white, and he covered up his white painted captain's bars on the front with a small bit of OD paint for extra caution against the enemy (which sadly did little help) before the Holland jump. It was taken great care of since the war and remains in excellent condition. It really is a moving and poignant reminder of the young men who gave their lives
."
 

About the Captain's background, he explained us:

"Kiley was [...] a veteran of the 506 from its formation in Georgia.
He was a 1st Lt. during Normandy and served in the capacity of the Executive Officer of I Company 506 according to an official report.
He won the Bronze Star as well as the Purple Heart in Normandy.
"


EXHIBITS
These photographs were taken exclusively for battledetective.com.
Captain John W. Kiley's helmet is in the collection of a private collector whose name is known to us but will be kept anonymous on his request.


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