Happy New Year to you sweetheart, – and to the family – and I hope this is the last one we have to spend apart from one another. Somehow dearest, I miss you awfully on the Holidays – and tonight is no exception. I sure could kiss and hug you to a fair-thee-well or is it fare-thee-well? In any respect – I’d love to be doing just that right now, dear – and very, very hard!
Excuse the V-mail, darling. This time it is not due to being hurried – but to the weather – which all day has been unpleasant. I waited until now – but I finally had to start because it will be dark soon. We went back on the old time – last nite and it now gets dark early.
I will be unable to attend services tonite – but I’ll do my darndest to go tomorrow and do some real concentrated praying – for you, your folks and family – and mine. Until later – sweetheart – I’ll say ‘so long’ – and remember, dear – my sincerest and everlasting love is yours alone –
Operation Market Garden - Part I
|Drop sites and Starting Points|
In early September 1944, Montgomery, in order to maintain the momentum of the Allied movement from Normandy towards Germany, conceived an operation to outflank the German "West Wall" defensive line. Montgomery persuaded Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower that his daring plan of forcing a narrow corridor from Eindhoven northward to Arnhem and establishing a bridgehead across the Rhine River held the promise of causing a German collapse by the end the year. Montgomery's Operation Market-Garden, the biggest airborne operation in our history, consisted of two parts.
The Market part of Montgomery's operation was to lay a carpet with the First Allied Airborne Army to seize seven canal and river bridges in Holland as well as the very important bridge, in terms of supply across the lower Rhine, at the town of Arnhem. The Garden part of the operation was to have the British XXX Corp's Armored Division rapidly move 60 miles along the narrow corridor crossing to secure the captured bridges and join the airborne forces in Arnhem.
Three main advantages were expected to be achieved:
- Cutting the land exit of the Germans remaining in western Holland,
- Outflanking the enemy's frontier defences, the West Wall or the Siegfried Line, and
- Positioning British ground forces for a drive into Germany via the North German plain.
The 17th of September was the so called "Day Zero" of the operation. Before the actual airborne landings took place the Allies bombarded German positions so that the paratroops could be dropped with less risk. Around 0900 in the morning the air-raid warning sounded in Arnhem. The 2nd Tactical Air Force bombed German barracks and anti-aircraft positions.
From airfields in the U.K. paratrooper units from the First British Airborne Division, including the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade, left in 145 U.S. transport planes and 358 British tow planes towing 354 Gliders all to land near Wolfheze. the British 1st Airborne Division had to secure the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem.
|First British Airborne Division's Operation|
Major Gough’s Reconnaissance Squadron was ordered to occupy the Arnhem bridge by following a path along the railway, but ran into Sturmbahnführer Kraft’s training battalion near the railroad and the Wolfhezerweg. Meanwhile, the 1st Parachute Brigade's three battalions continued their advance towards Arnhem, each battalion by a different route. Lt. Col. John Fitch’s 3rd battalion followed the 'Tiger' route. Near Hotel de Bilderberg, they came upon Kraft's battalion. Due to this hold-up they didn’t reach Hotel Hartenstein until after sunset. Lt. Col. John Frost’s 2nd battalion followed the 'Lion' route. They were delayed in Oosterbeek by a welcome from the Dutch people and arrived at the railroad bridge too late. The Germans had blown it up. Then they were attacked by German machine-guns and armored cars. B-Company started to fight back, while A-Company continued their advance. The second target, the pontoon bridge, was partly down so they couldn't reach the southern bank of the river. Finally, they were able to reach the last target, Arnhem’s traffic bridge. But they could only take the northern access road and failed to cross the bridge because of SS groups defending the bridge’s southern access road. Now 2nd battalion’s approximately 600 men were surrounded and cut off. Lt. Col. David Dobie’s 1st Battalion followed the 'Leopard'. There they had to fight the 9th SS Panzer Division and suffered many losses. They heard that the 2nd battalion had reached the bridge, so they deviated from their planned route and went southwards but failed to join up with them. Like the 3rd Battalion they only reached the outskirts of Arnhem.
The American 101st Airborne Division was transported by 424 U.S transport planes and 70 towing planes with gliders. The U.S. 101st Airborne Division had its drop zone near Eindhoven, Best, Son, St-Oedenrode and Veghel. The 101st had to secure the bridge over the Wilhelmina canal in Son, the bridge over the Dommel in St-Oedenrode and the bridges over the Aa and Zuid-Willemsvaart canal near Veghel.
|American 101st Airborne Divisions' Operation|
501st Regiment of the 'Screaming Eagles' jumped near Veghel. By 1700, they had captured two bridges intact and set up a strong roadblock south of Veghel near the village of Eerde. Their operation was accomplished successfully. The 502nd Regiment landed in the triangle of Son-Best-St. Oedenrode. They encountered some light resistance at St. Oedenrode, but the bridge across the Dommel was taken intact. Another target of the 502nd Regiment was the bridge near Best. If this bridge could be taken General Taylor would hold two bridges across the Wilhelmina Canal; this one and another at Son. Taylor was told that only a few German units were settled at Best. Since the bridge was only a secondary target only one company was sent. They ran into strong resistance. Reinforcements were sent, but the battle ceased when the night fell. The 506th Regiment was to take the most important bridge in the Eindhoven-area, the swing bridge at Son. Immediately after landing, the three battalions approached the town in two ways. The first battalion was in front and went southwards. The rest of the 506th Regiment followed the main road through Son. It took about an hour to eliminate German resistance before they could advance. It was an hour too long. The Germans had had the time to blow up the Son bridge. Two other bridges had been blown up by the Germans several days earlier. A footbridge was constructed and a defense line was set up south of the Wilhelmina canal. Eindhoven, which according to the plan had to be taken this day, was not reached.
The American 82nd Airborne Division left in 480 U.S transport planes and 50 towing planes with their gliders. The bridges over the Maas at Grave and the Waal at Nijmegen were the targets of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division; they were dropped near Groesbeek and Overasselt.
|AMerican 82nd Airborne Division's Operation|
The drop zones chosen for the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division were rather far away from the selected targets because German anti-aircraft guns were near the bridges. Troops of the 505th Regiment entered Groesbeek and continued towards the Maas-Waal canal bridges. 504th Regiment landed near Overasselt. The 2nd battalion landed to the south at Grave, 700 meters from one of the bridges that had to be taken. They surprised German troops and took the bridge with hardly any resistance. The rest of the 504th Regiment had to take the bridges over the Maas-Waal canal. They succeeded in securing the Heumen bridge and made contact with the 505th Regiment. The two other bridges were blown up by the Germans just before the arrival of the American troops. It had been hoped that all bridges over the canal could be secured, but one bridge was enough to ensure the advance of the XXX Corps. Now only one target remained, the bridge at Nijmegen. German troops prevented the Americans from taking that bridge. However, the Americans succeeded in blocking Nijmegen’s access roads. The 82nd Airborne Division’s first day was successful. All of its objectives, except one, had been achieved.
Meanwhile, the British XXX Corps Armored Division began their advance from the South. Both the XII Corps and the VIII Corps were to give side cover to the advancing XXX Corps. This corridor (the red line on the map) was named 'Hell's Highway' because the route was very poor. There was only one road leading to Valkenswaard and Eindhoven which made the whole operation very difficult. Just over the Belgian-Dutch border the advance got bogged down because of German anti-tank guns. In no time several Sherman tanks were knocked out of action. Only after help from RAF Typhoon fighter-bombers did the British succeed in crushing the German resistance. The advance continued slowly, and on Operation Market Garden’s first day, the XXX Corps only reached Valkenswaard, not their intended target, Eindhoven. Operation Garden was already behind schedule.