18 September, 2011

18 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Belgium
18 September, 1944        1130

Dearest fiancée –

I just got back from New Year’s services at a nearby hospital and I enjoyed it very much. There was only a small group of us – but a Captain from N.Y. carried on very well and we went through the whole series of prayers – there’s something about praying that is satisfying – and when the Services were over – I felt a great deal closer in spirit to you and the families. The Lord has been good to us darling, to have kept us for each other, despite the distance separating us and the dangers involved. I prayed today that He continue to favor us by watching over us.

Strangely enough, dear, the hospital I visited today was one which came overseas with us from N.Y. They were on the same ship – which, by the way, if I haven’t told you already, dear, was the Aquitania. I met 2 of the fellows who had occupied the same state-room as I and we had a nice chat – reminiscing. They spent all their time in England in one spot and landed in France about 10 days after we did – but this is the first time I’ve run into them. If we stay close to them for awhile – I’m going to see if they can use some more help.

Last nite it was cold and rainy and really quite miserable outside. But we had pitched our Medical Tent, made it light proof and lighted some candles. We have a gasoline lantern for it but it is not working at present. Well – you’d be surprised how warm candles can make a tent. We called the Colonel in and we had a swell game of bridge. It was the first time any of us had played since way back in the early days at England. The colonel – by the way – is a cracker-jack player and I’ve picked up quite a bit from him.


You wrote in one of your letters that you wondered if I ever felt that you were beside me when I was walking or riding etc. Do I ever? Always, sweetheart, and that’s why I’ve said so many times before that when I return – it will be the most natural thing in the world – being with you. I have imagined you close to me – so many times and in such varied circumstances – that I’ll be surprised when you don’t recall an incident here or there that I tell you about. You certainly are in my mind darling, regardless of the circumstances.

By now you should be well acclimated to your position and I hope you continue to find it interesting and time-absorbing. Remember when you were working at the department store, dear? I’m glad you didn’t follow that up. Gee – it seems like ages ago when you were writing me about it.

The pictures enclosed – darling – make 21 I’ve sent – and I hope you’re enjoying seeing them – as much as I enjoyed taking them. Each one will be the center of some incident I can recall and tell you about – when this is finally all over.

I’ll stop now, sweetheart. I hope things are going along well at home and I hope you’re seeing my folks more often again. Until tomorrow, dear, so long – love to the folks and
All my deepest love
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about "A Bridge Too Far"
Operation Market Garden - Part II

In all, 35,000 men and equipment, such as jeeps and guns, had to be transported for Operation Market Garden. Such a large number of men could not be brought to their targets in just one day. Only one airlift per day was feasible. It would take 2 or 3 days to bring all the men and their equipment to their destinations. This would reduce the surprise effect, but there was no other choice.

On 18 September 1944, the clear blue sky over Holland was darkened by seemingly endless serials of Allied transports, bombers, and gliders. Over 1,300 C-47 transports, 340 Stirling bombers, and 252 B-24 bombers thundered toward the drop and landing zones. Nearly 900 fighters provided escort; over 1,200 gliders packed with vehicles, artillery, and men completed the vast air fleet. The 252 B-24s lumbered over the drop zones at 50 to 800 feet, each attempting to drop two tons of supplies. Over 20 escort fighters were shot down; 11 bombers went down and another 120 were damaged.

The story of the second day of Operation Market Garden continues from the web site "Remember September '44"

British 1st Airborne Division

Over the 1st Airborne’s drop zones, the sky was filled with parachutes and gliders - and it was filled with bullets and exploding shells from concentrated German fire. The Germans had the landing zones covered with machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. The situation was chaotic; but by some miracle, most of the paratroopers survived to take positions on the 1st Division's perimeters. The situation was not improved when the vast majority of supplies fell into the waiting hands of the Germans. At about 0930, a squadron of the 9th SS Panzer Division made an attempt to cross the Arnhem Bridge from the south and were crushed by the British troops. The road was full of burning wrecks and dead soldiers.

Arnhem Bridge looking south to north
after the unsuccessful German rush
on 18 September 1944

The Germans started to press the 2nd battalion with mortars and artillery. Frost was still isolated from the rest of the forces and ammunition and medication began to run down. The 3rd battalion had left Oosterbeek in the morning and was heading for the same road the 2nd battalion had followed. Later, the 1st battalion would do the same. Fire from guns of the 10th SS Hohenstaufen Division stranded both units near the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis (a temporary care center for wounded British soldiers). The British spread out in all directions. Due to fog in England, the 2nd day of landings in Arnhem took place later in the afternoon than planned. The 4th Parachute Brigade brought 1st and 3rd battalions reinforcements. The 11th battalion of the newly arrived brigade was sent to assist the 2nd battalion at the Arnhem bridge but was heavily attacked by the Germans and forced to retreat. Frost's 2nd battalion was still alone.

American 82nd Airborne Division

Of the 454 gliders assigned to the 82nd’s landing zones, 385 landed safely, delivering almost 1,800 artillerymen, 177 jeeps, and 60 guns. During the night, the 508th Regiment had attempted to seize the Nijmegen Bridge several times, but every time their attack got bogged down. A patrol of the 508th went back to the town's post office after a tip from some civilians that the igniter of explosives on the bridge was located there. They entered and destroyed anything that looked suspicious, but then found themselves surrounded by the Germans. They were stuck there for three more days.

Waalbrug Bridge over the Waal River in
Nijmegen, Netherlands before the War

The 82nd Division still had to prevent the Germans from recapturing those targets taken on the 17th. The 504th Regiment patrolled between Grave and Nijmegen and along the Maas-Waal canal, and together with the 508th Regiment they captured another bridge across the Maas-Waal canal, between Grave and Nijmegen. Meanwhile, a ragtag German force launched an assault on the landing zones. The 505th Regiment was attacked out of the Reichswald forest, but regained control of that landing zone around noon. However, some 500 German soldiers managed to advance and occupy the vital landing zone at Groesbeek. Priority number one shifted from the bridge at Nijmegen to the landing zone at Groesbeek because the second lift, bringing more artillery and infantry, was due to arrive at 1300. Reserves were put into action and men had to come all the way back from Nijmegen to support the men in Groesbeek. The Americans were outnumbered, but by 1400 the landing zone was back in their hands. Fortunately, the second lift had been delayed by fog so Gavin's men arriving around 1430 were able to land on the cleared zones. American “Liberator” bombers dropped supplies, 80 per cent of which were salvaged.

U.S. 101st Airborne Division

Of the 450 gliders assigned to the 101st’s landing zones, 428 landed safely. General Taylor’s force was bolstered by the nearly 2,700 men added to his ranks, along with much-needed vehicles and ammunition. The American positions at Veghel (501st Regiment) and St. Oedenrode (502th Regiment) were attacked several times by German troops, but all attacks were warded off. With the Son bridge destroyed, the bridge at Best had become the main target. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 502nd Regiment were sent to Best but the Germans were stronger and the two battalions were forced to take a defensive position. In spite of their stronger positions the Germans must have been afraid of losing the bridge because around 1100 the bridge was blown up. The 506th Regiment marched on towards Eindhoven. When they reached the outskirts of Eindhoven they were attacked. By approaching the city from different sides they put the attacking guns out of action. Bridges across the Dommel were taken without any fights and road blocks were set up. Around noon the first contact between the U.S. 101st Airborne Division (Market) and the British XXX Corps (Garden) was made. Armored cars had approached Eindhoven from the west. In the south the main force was held up by German resistance in Aalst but by nightfall contact was made between the paratroopers and the main force. Eindhoven was liberated. The 327th Glider Regiment landed providing reinforcement. Supplies were dropped by American Liberators, but only half were recovered.

Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in Eindenhoven
on 18 September 1944

From "Operation Market Garden" on Amazing Planet's web site:

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