On this date in 1944, Operation Market Garden began. Market Garden was a massive airborne assault on German occupied Holland during World War II. Over a thousand C-47s, the military version of the DC-3 twin engine cargo plane, delivered thousands of parachute troops to the landing areas.
One of the C-47 pilots was Murray Lawler, who was born in a sod house west of Temvik, North Dakota, in 1921. On September 17, 1944, Lawler’s C-47 delivered troops of the 82nd Airborne Division to a jump site near Groesbeek, Holland; and the next day towed Waco gliders filled with supplies to the same area. The 82nd Airborne succeeded in securing their objectives, but other forces failed to secure a bridgehead over the Rhine River, part of a planned Allied invasion route into northern Germany. Consequently, the main objective of Market Garden was lost.
Lawler’s missions during the war also included the delivery of troops and supplies for the Normandy D-Day invasion, the landings in southern France called Operation Dragoon, the Battle of the Bulge and ultimately the battle to cross the Rhine River.
While stationed in England, Murray met and eventually married Miss Margaret Bradbury of Nottingham. Lawler had wondered if Margaret had any royalty in her background. Margaret assured Murray that she was just a commoner with no royal blood. Murray said, that may be true but you will be my “Duchess of Dakota.” Lawler was so taken with the title of his new bride that he had it painted on the side of his aircraft.
Murray and Margaret were married in England, and after the war was over, Margaret was the first war bride to arrive in North Dakota, where she was interviewed by the Bismarck Tribune after her arrival by train.
Mr. and Mrs. Lawler settled on a farm in Emmons County and raised 9 children. Murray passed away in 2006, and Margaret in 2017.
The original C-47, Duchess of Dakota, was destroyed after the war, but in 2004 a C-47 was bought and restored by Bob Odegaard of Kindred, North Dakota. In honor of Murray and Margaret, this plane was painted like the original Duchess of Dakota, and is now on display at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.
Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson
Obituaries for Murray Lawler and Margaret Lawler.
440th Troop Carrier Group records
Information provided by the Dakota Territory Air Museum, Minot.
Book: A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan