Between the 30th of September, 1944, and the 18th October, the largest tank battle ever fought on Dutch soil took place in Overloon, a small village on the planes of the River Maas, just six kilometres north of the town of Venray. The belligerents were, on the one side, Nazi Germany, and on the other side, the Allies, mainly comprising of American and British forces.
The battle of Overloon, part of Operation Aintree, was necessitated by the Allied defeat in Arnhem during the Operation Market Garden offensive. The Germans had secured the northern part of the Rhine and were in control at Arnhem. They then attacked what remained of Allied territory in the Netherlands, doing so from the south. The Germans now controlled Arnhem in the north and Venlo in the south, with just a narrow sliver of territory – stretching from Eindhoven to Nijmegen – remaining in Allied hands. Overloon lay on the narrow strip of land.
First the U.S. 7th Armored Division attached the Germans at Overloon, but suffered heavy losses and were beaten. As backup, came the British 3rd Infantry Division and the British 11th Armoured Division, and eventually the Germans were repulsed back eastwards.
The Battle of Overloon resulted in a victory for the Allies and they were able to advance towards Venlo, liberating Venray on the way. The Allies, though, did suffer greater loses than the Germans; 1,878 men lost their lives on the Allied side, with around 600 fatalities occurring on the German side. 40 Allied tanks lay destroyed.
Following the war, many of the tanks used and destroyed in the battle lay abandoned in and around the forest at Overloon, subsequently named Liberty Park. An open air museum commemorating the Battle of Overloon was built in the forest, comprising of the abandoned tanks. It was here where the Overloon War Museum was eventually built, opening in 2006 with a much expanded collection.
The museum, now the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, contains several distinct sections: a purely visual one, depicting various war scenes that took place during World War Two in the Netherlands; another section that displays Allied and Nazi military planes, vehicles and weaponry; a section detailing the preparations leading up to D-Day; a section comprising of photographs from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp; and a section looking at Fallschirmjäger, German para troops, in detail.
The museums website can be found here.