19 September, 2011

19 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Belgium
19 September, 1944       1835

My dearest darling –

I’ll have to write swiftly because it will be dark soon – and then complete blackout. This is so much different than maneuvers – by the way, dear. A stray or careless lighting of a match or lighter is often fatal here. The boys take no chances. They shoot and ask questions afterwards – particularly in the region where we’re at now – but don’t worry, darling. I’m taking good care of myself.

I was busy all day today, dear, and that accounts for my getting started so late in writing. Tomorrow I go to another battery for a 3 day inspection – and that should end my traipsing around for a spell. The territory around here is very beautiful and scenic – but one doesn’t travel along with the reckless abandon which was characteristic up to now. You have to watch out.


On the whole – things have been quite quiet and easy for us of late – and we’re satisfied. What we don’t like at present is the early approach of darkness. It gets dark about 1900 and there just isn’t anything to do. Our medical tent blacks out fairly well – but with candle light. You can’t read or write very well with that and if several get into the tent – it soon gets stuffy. The only alternative then – is to go to bed – and gosh, darling, I can’t go to bed that early – i.e. – not alone. I bet when I get home and we’re married – that I beat you to bed every night – unless I’m on a call! Some of the fellows just thrive on this 10-12 hours of sleep, but I can’t. About six or seven hours – and I’ve had enough. Well – soon the war will be over, sweetheart – and it won’t make any difference. The end seems so near and yet so far at times. When it really comes – it will be difficult to believe – but come – it must soon, I feel. And with it – a better chance of returning home soon to you dear. Gosh – just to be with you and talk to you and look at you would be all I want for awhile. I would tell you how much I love you, darling and how hard it was living away from you all these months. It will be so satisfying to be able to tell you in person though.

Sweetheart – it’s getting dark quickly so I’d better close. The enclosed snaps, dear, make 28 that I’ve sent. I hope you’re receiving them. I see no reason why not – since they are of little ‘military value’.

Good nite for now, dearest, my love to the folks – and

All my sincerest love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

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

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

British 1st Airborne Division
The 1st and 3rd battalion, the South Staffords and the KOSB tried to reach the isolated 2nd battalion at the bridge. Heavy fights took place and the British troops suffered severe losses, their remaining forces pressed by advancing German tanks to retreat towards Oosterbeek. It was getting harder for the 2nd battalion to hold their position at the bridge. Every day casualties increased. The advance by the 4th Parachute Brigade was stopped north of Oosterbeek. Around 1700, the British withdrew towards Wolfheze. During this withdrawal, they had to cross open terrain covered by heavy German fire. Many soldiers were killed. At that moment, gliders carrying the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade’s equipment started landing on open terrain. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, German Messerschmitt fighters appeared and between these and German ground shelling most of the gliders and equipment were destroyed. Meanwhile, the German forces were still increasing in number. Then the British were attacked from the west. Supply was another problemas the zone where the supplies were dropped was in German hands. As a result, the British ended up with only 10% of the supplies dropped. Meanwhile, at the Arnhem bridge, Colonel Frost waited in vain all day for reinforcements.

U.S. 82nd Airborne Division
In the morning, the first contact was made with the XXX Corps by the 504th Regiment. Around 0900 the vanguard of the Guards Armoured Division arrived at Grave. The main force of the XXX Corps arrived three hours later. Browning and Gavin met at Overasselt and decided that an assault on the bridge should be carried out today. The 504th Regiment left some men behind to defend the secured bridges. The rest went to Nijmegen with the Grenadier Guards and launched an attack on the bridge. The Germans defending the bridge were reinforced by elements of the 10th SS Panzer Division which had crossed the canal at Pannerden. The attack was stopped by heavy German resistance. Gavin came up with a plan because the bridge had to be taken as soon as possible, especially since the XXX Corps had arrived. The following day men of the 504th Regiment would cross the Waal river and attack the bridge from the rear. The 505th Regiment and the Guards Armoured Division would simultaneously attack the south ramp of the bridge This plan could not be carried out until the next day because the boats needed for the crossing were still in the rear of the slowly advancing British XXX Corps and had to be brought to Nijmegen first. The 505th Regiment defended the area Groesbeek-Mook. They withstood several German attacks and still retained control over the area. The third lift practically didn't arrive. Because of the bad weather in England the airborne forces couldn't take off. Only the C-47's carrying the supplies were able to fly to the Netherlands, but almost none of the supplies were recovered.

U.S. 101st Airborne Division
Near Veghel the 501st Regiment was attacked by German paratroopers. They were forced to retreat, but they were able to withstand the assault. More infantry arrived at the landing zone and were used both to defend the landing zone and to support the troops at Best, where the men of the 502nd Regiment had been fighting since early morning. With these new reinforcements and the support of British tanks, the Germans were defeated late afternoon, capturing about 1,000 German soldiers. The 506th Regiment patrolled positions west and east of Eindhoven with British. Suddenly, Panther tanks approached Son and opened fire at the town, including the Bailey bridge. This was a serious threat to the corridor. Luckily, a 57-mm anti-tank gun, just moved from the landing zone, eliminated some of the tanks before they caused any real damage. The other tanks retreated and the corridor was saved again. That night the Luftwaffe bombed Eindhoven killing more than 200 and injuring 800 of its inhabitants, turning exuberance into grief and mourning. The attack delayed XXX Corps for several hours.

British XXX Corps
The Royal Engineers worked continuously on the Bailey bridge across the Wilhelmina canal and were done by early in the morning. The Grenadier Guards’ Sherman tanks leading the XXX Corps were the first to cross this bridge. They advanced directly towards Veghel where they linked up with the U.S. 101st Airborne Division’s 501st Regiment. Although the Americans took the bridge across the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal intact, some tanks had to cross the canal by a temporary wooden bridge (constructed by Airborne engineers) because the secured drawbridge was too narrow. At 0900, the second link up was made. Scout cars reached the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division at Grave. An hour later, British XXX Corps tanks crossed the Grave bridge and headed for Nijmegen. Now that Nijmegen was reached, a constant flow of vehicles of XXX Corps came through the corridor south of Nijmegen until September 22nd. The shortest way from Grave to Nijmegen was over the Maas-Waal canal bridge known as the Honinghutjes bridge, but it was badly damaged in earlier fights between the American paratroopers and the Germans making it unsuitable for British tanks. The XXX Corps had to cross the Maas-Waal canal at Heumen and continue to Nijmegen. When the Grenadier Guards reached Nijmegen an Anglo-American assault was launched to gain control over the bridges at Nijmegen but it failed.

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

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