20 September, 2011

20 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
20 September, 1944     1830
Dearest darling –

Germany, so far, looks just like any other country we’ve been in but – the people don’t. What a change just a boundary line can make! The towns along the border have taken a pasting and no one among the American soldiers seems to be sad over that fact. It has been a long time since Germany has been invaded. Maybe they will think things over next time. It’s a pleasure to go into someone’s field now and chew it all to hell and then leave – I used to feel sorry for the poor French and Belgians, but it’s so different now. As we ride through a small town – it seems strange not to see waving arms and broad smiles and gaily decorated streets. Instead, the people look sullen and only one person today smiled at us – he was in Priest’s clothing. An odd sight – all the white flags hanging out of many of the windows. Some are made of pillow cases, linen pieces with fancy edges, bed sheets – and even Turkish towels.

Today we saw the Seigfried line – or at least a part of it – and I was amazed at its simplicity. Certain it is – that so far – it has not been formidable and if the Allied progress has been slow – it has been due only to the ferocity of the German fighting rather than to the fortifications. Maybe it will be worse – deeper into Germany – but so far it is something that good propaganda was able to build up in the world’s mind – as something terrible and impregnable.

When I majored in German at school – I often wondered, dear, whether I would ever have the chance of visiting Germany. I never dreamed that war would bring me here. I’ve had some conversation – with a Priest today – and find that although my vocabulary is rusty – I can do quite well with my construction of a sentence. Not having spoken German for a long while – I was satisfied that I made myself understood quite easily. The Priest, by the way, told me that he and 180 other Catholics were the only ones left in town – out of 600 Catholics. The others had fled, disappeared etc. He was definitely not pro-Nazi in his speech – and the family he was staying with sounded the same, but darling, you just can’t trust them and I don’t aim to. It’s these bastards that brought me into the war and away from home and it is these same who, passively or actively, condoned the persecution of the helpless Jews and I can’t forget that. I am glad for one thing that I’ve noticed so far. Catholics and Protestants, alike, despise the Germans; all seem to remember the misery and suffering they’ve just seen in France and Belgium. If the Americans and British can only remain ‘hard’ – it will be good – because this time – let the Germans remember us as tough and perhaps they’ll think a long time before starting things.

Well, sweetheart, a lot of talk and wasted time without telling you that I can now say I love you in Germany – as well as in Belgium, France and England – not to mention the good old USA. I also love you darling, in 3 known languages and the Lord knows how many countless others that have never been articulated. The fact is, dear, I do love you and miss you more every day – and I think we’re beginning to see the light of this all. I hope I’m right – because – dammit – it’s been a long long time since I held you in my arms and tried to ‘break’ your back. Remember?

All for now, darling. Love to the folks and

All my deepest love.

P.S. Enclosed make 36.

Route of the Question Mark

(A) Welkenraedt, Belgium to (B) Rott, Germany (15 Miles)
16 to 20 September 1944

September 20... Rott, Germany. Our first entrance into Germany, through the futile dragons-teeth of the outer fringes of the Siegfried Line and past the houses with the white flags hanging from their windows. The bivouac area in the woods where it seemed to rain all the time, and during the day we had to build fires to keep warm, and at night we had to have white tape strung all over the area so the guards could find their way to their posts and back to their tents again.


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

125 Miles to the North of Rott, Germany, the northern-most bridge of Operation Market Garden, at Arnhem, was a bloodbath. The story of the fourth day of Operation Market Garden continues from the web site "Remember September '44"

British 1st Airborne Division
The 2nd battalion was still fighting to hold its position, with no hope of either the 2nd Army or 1st Airborne Division arriving. Because the rest of the British troops had withdrawn towards Oosterbeek, the Germans were given full play in Arnhem. The Germans started to set the houses in which the British soldiers were hiding on fire to force the soldiers out. At 0730 hours, the British paratroopers holding the north end of the Arnhem bridge were now defending smoldering ruins; there were no more than 300 men able to return the German fire. Hundreds of wounded fill the cellars. There was little ammunition; almost no food and water. But they were grimly determined to fight on. Then a mortar round exploded almost next to Col. John Frost; the irrepressible Frost was carried to a nearby cellar with shrapnel in his ankle and shin. A wounded soldier, seeing his commander, called to him: “Sir, can we still hold out?” By 1800 hours, the remnants of the bridge defenders surrendered or tried to escape through the German lines. As the wounded were carried out of the cellars, they were treated by their captors to chocolates, cigarettes, and brandy; it is ironic that the treats were from supplies intended for the 1st Airborne. A final radio message was sent out from the bridge defenders. It never reached any Allied forces, but it was picked up at 9th SS Panzer headquarters: “Out of ammunition. God Save the King.”

The rest of the troops at Oosterbeek, realized that reaching the bridge was impossible and so they concentrated on the region around the Headquarters in Oosterbeek. If they could hold this position, maybe the 2nd Army (XXX Corps) could still cross the river at Oosterbeek. Again, most dropped supplies fell into German hands.

U.S. 82nd Airborne Division
The boats for crossing the Waal arrived, and the 504th Regiment succeeded in clearing the western part of Nijmegen. The 504th Regiment prepared for a hazardous and heroic crossing which began around 1500 when 26 boats pushed off. Tanks and fighter planes gave cover. Unfortunately, an unfavourable wind kept a smoke screen from providing cover for the risky undertaking. The Germans put a deadly fire across the river and casualties were severe, yet the operation was successful. The paratroopers managed to reach the dike on the other side, and crushed the German positions at Lent. The attacks on the bridges in Nijmegen also were successful. The Allied forces reached the ramp of both the railroad and traffic bridge. Around 1900, the first British Sherman tanks crossed the Waal and met the men from 504th Regiment on the other side. Many explosives were found on the bridge, but for some reason the Germans failed to set them off before the British tanks crossed it.

Nijgenem Bridge after capture

Meanwhile, the forces at Groesbeek were heavily attacked by Germans supported by tanks, artillery and fighter planes. The attack on a suburb of Groesbeek was stopped before the Germans could the reach the city. The suburb, De Horst, was battered. During Market Garden the area was a constant scene of battle as one moment the Americans controlled it and the next moment it was the Germans. In the north and south the situation was critical. In the north German forces managed to reach Berg en Dal and Beek. The fight in the streets of Beek and around the Devil's Hill would last for almost two days. In the south Mook had fallen in German hands again and now the bridge at Heumen was in danger. The bridge at Heumen was of vital importance to the advance of XXX Corps and had to be secured. The paratroopers of the 505th Regiment fought back, supported by their artillery and the Coldstream Guards from XXX Corps. In the evening Mook was recaptured and just as De Horst, heavily damaged. The weather conditions back in England forced the planes to stay on the ground... again. The required men were two days late. They were really needed, especially after today, when the 82nd Airborne Division suffered their heaviest losses.

U.S. 101st Airborne Division
The German paratroopers who forced the Americans of the 501th Regiment to retreat on September 19th were surrounded by the Americans and defeated. More than 400 Germans were captured and the village Dinther was liberated. Panther tanks of the 107th Panzer Brigade again endangered the corridor. They shelled the passing trucks on the road to Son and tried to cut off the advance. American airborne troops with British support launched a counter-attack, but the battle was undecided. The fighting continued throughout the day.

British XXX Corps
The Guards Armoured Division supported the American attack on the bridge. The heroic river crossing of the American paratroopers was successful. In evening the first Sherman tanks crossed the traffic bridge. The bridge was in Allied hands. The Coldstream Guards assisted in clearing Mook from the Germans, who succeeded in recapturing the village and were now threatening the bridge at Heumen. The corridor was in danger too in Son, but the Allies retained control.

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

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