May 4, 2015

1944. The Dutch Corridor

The Fight for Western Holland
Field Marshal Montgomery inspecting the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade
Bill Downs


September 25, 1944 (censored)

We have good news this morning that reinforcements and supplies are beginning to reach the British airborne forces west of Arnhem. Complete relief of this brave garrison that has held out for eight days now is definitely in sight.

The Dutch corridor is gradually being extended to include the ground that the British parachute and glider troops have been holding against tremendous odds. The corridor now is firm across the marshy ground north of Nijmegen between the Waal river and the Lower Rhine. Polish paratroopers dropped south of the Rhine several days ago are fighting alongside the tanks and infantry of the British Second Army, and together they secured a firm foothold on the south bank of the Lower Rhine near the town of Oosterbeek. There once was a ferry crossing, but the Germans destroyed it last week.

It is unclear whether the British airborne forces on the northern side of the river hold any section of the far bank. But men and supplies are getting across through the no-man's-land on the other side of the river, and the news is better from this sector than at any time during the past five days.

American-made ducks—the amphibious supply carriers—have been rushed to the Lower Rhine, but up until the day before yesterday, they could not be used successfully to ferry supplies due to the difficult and steep banks of the river. Rafts and barges and assault boats, however, are being used successfully.

When I left Holland yesterday, the whole front was loud with praise and admiration for the British soldiers who had been holding out around Arnhem. American airborne forces, who sweated out three days of isolation before contact was established with them, say that the Arnhem troops are putting up "one hell of a good show."

Yesterday rocket-carrying Typhoons went to the aid of the garrison despite bad weather hitting at the scores of machine gun and mortar positions that have been plastering the square mile area of Holland that the British have held the past week. There is no indication yet how successful these attacks have been.

Down along the corridor south of Nijmegen, the German force that cut the Allied supply line the day before yesterday has definitely been seen off. This battle group of Nazi tanks and infantry attacked from the east. Yesterday, however, another group of Germans started an attack on the corridor from the west, but an Allied counterblow pushed them back.

Reconnaissance planes report that there is considerable movement in western Holland, the area outflanked by the Allied drive northward into the Netherlands. Yesterday Allied planes destroyed thirteen locomotives pulling trains northeastward, and another fourteen locomotives were damaged.

The Germans are not expected to evacuate western Holland without fighting a bitter delaying action. But as the Dutch corridor grows in strength, they are in more and more of an impossible position west of the corridor.

After spending the past week at the front, it is amazing to come back to Brussels, to hot water and clean sheets and food served on linen. And it's hard to eat a meal in comfort here and know that, four hours away by car, there are men fighting and living almost in primitive conditions.

The reality of war is a transitory thing that is quickly banished by normality and peace. The men fighting their way into Germany are going to need a lot of good, normal living after this war, and they are depending on you back home to see that it is there waiting for them.