In this first entry of Gearbox's Market Garden Week, we take a look at the events that transpired on the first day of Operation Market Garden - September 17th. Stay tuned with us all week as we detail the history of Market Garden and release exclusive brand new screens from Hell's Highway each day.
The following information is quoted from an article written by Retired Colonel William Wilson that originally appeared in the September 1994 issue of World War II. Thanks to Colonel John Antal, US Army Ret. (our military and authenticity advisor) for making this information available.
"The 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, were veterans of D-day. In Normandy, the division had been scattered during the drop and it had taken several days before the majority of the men were in their own outfit.
In Operation Market Garden, the division was the first division that would link up with XXX-corps at Eindhoven. The division's primary targets were the bridge across the Wilhelmschannel at Son, two smaller bridges across the Dommel at St. Oedenrode and four bridges across the Aa and Zouth Wilhelmsvaart in Veghel.
The 506th would land North-east of Son on DZ A. The 501st had to land between Schijndel and Best on DZ B. The 502nd would land east of the other regiments just above Best on DZ C. The 326th Engineer Battalion is divided over the three drop zones.
Elements of the 506th have to rush towards the bridge at Son right after the landing. The 502nd will be the reserve of the division but also needs to take St. Oederode and the two bridges there. Overall, 6,641 men of the 101st division would land in Holland on September 17th 1944."
September 17, 1944 Grave. 82nd Airborne forces drop, the Glider borne element having landed previously in the abandoned Waco Hadrian gliders in the forefront.
"In daylight, we were easier for Luftwaffe interceptors to find, but none came
close. The daylight air gamble had paid off. There was no breaking of formation;
no evasive action as there had been in Normandy. Even as motors started to
burst into flame and wings began to break, pilots held their planes in place for the
crucial seconds that gave the paratroopers a chance to jump at the assigned
zones. Entire regiments came down in full view of each other. We landed close to
our men and weapons. It was the most successful jump the division had ever
made, either in training or in combat. Between 1 and 1:30 p.m., 6,769 men were
placed in their correct drop zones with less than 2 percent casualties. That was
the way a war should be fought! My whole attitude changed-temporarily.
After removing my parachute, I saw Major LaPrade, my battalion commander,
and Colonel Sink, the regimental commander, at the checkpoint on the southern
edge of the drop zone. They had previously agreed that, as quickly as possible,
the paratroopers would be formed into 15-man groups, placed under an officer
and hurried south to seize the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal. Timing was
crucial in this part of the operation; minutes counted. I became part of the second
group, led by Captain Mo Davis, commander of A Company. We moved on the
double toward the bridge. About 200 yards out, we received heavy German
88mm artillery fire, including flak that hit in the trees above us. We were forced to
the ground, taking casualties from tree bursts. Davis was hit, and as his wound
was being treated, the medic was also struck by a bullet. Davis said, "You better
hurry up, medic. They're gaining on you."
It was Mo Davis' third wound. He and I had come out of Normandy on stretchers,
side by side on the same boat two days after our jump on June 5. In Normandy,
he had been wounded in the chest and shoulder. We went to the same hospital
and after a few days, we raised enough hell to be released. I won't forget Mo
Davis. He was older, a big man, and his presence instilled confidence and
determination in the company. As Davis was receiving treatment for his wound, a
deafening explosion occurred at the canal bridge. I looked up and saw pieces of
the bridge hurtling hundreds of feet into the air. I rushed on with my men and
reached the canal in time to see three dazed German soldiers near the remains
of the bridge, one of them with a hand-crank demolition detonator."
This is the first shot of five exclusives that will be released on Gearboxity this week. If you sign up for our mailing list (on the top left of the main page), you'll receive an extra exclusive screenshot this Friday, so sign up now!
A video about this day in Market Garden can be seen by clicking this link . Gearboxity also offers the words of veteran Ed Peniche in our exclusive video series , and a briefing of Operation Market Garden from the Colonel. For further reading, see:
A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan, The Epic of the 101st Airborne by
David J. Phillips, and Hell's Highway by George Koskimaki.