August 10, 2016

1944. The Bitter Fighting Around Nijmegen

American Paratroopers Fight the Germans Near Nijmegen
"17 September 1944: Six American paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army receive a final briefing from their commanding officer before emplaning" (source)
From War Report: BBC Radio Dispatches from the Front Line, 1944–1945, pp. 278-80.

As part of the September 1944 reports. Bill Downs also gave an account of the Nijmegen bridge assault.

In the fighting round Nijmegen the American airborne units were able to draw some advantage from the character of the land they were contesting:

24 September 1944

The American paratroops fighting south and east of Nijmegen have done an excellent job in extremely difficult country. The terrain in this particular area is thick with forests and brush. The ground is hilly. But all in all it is perfect country for self-contained units such as the airborne forces operate. Here the American soldier can use elementary woodcraft that he learned as a boy, and in this type of country the independent task force, even though it is only a couple of dozen men, proves its value. The German soldier is inferior in this type of fighting.

One American unit captured a German train shortly after it landed on Sunday. The train was headed for the Reich loaded with soldiers being taken back to form new units. Since it was Sunday there were numerous German Customs officials on board after a weekend in Holland, and various other people on board who suddenly found themselves prisoners of war. Included was the German Consul for Nijmegen. He calls himself the "Honourable Consul", the soldiers said, and that's how we listed him, the Honourable Consul. But now he's the Honourable Prisoner.

One group of American paratroops captured a number of German 88-mm guns near one of their dropping areas, and set about destroying them. An HQ was set up in a nearby building where the staff was settling down to work. However, the demolition squads did not notice that the Germans had abandoned one gun leaving it fully loaded. The 88 went off and the shell went directly through the HQ building—no one was hurt, but a lot of people were frightened. Such incidents are common along the Dutch corridor that now stretches two-thirds of the way across eastern Holland. But it's not all comedy and this fighting is not done by a bunch of boys out on a walk. Here's what happened to one unit fighting south-east of Nijmegen in German territory.

There had been a stiff battle between patrols in a forest just over the German frontier. A number of American and German soldiers were killed but the Nazi patrol was wiped out and the Americans re-formed to press on. Six men went one at a time down a trail in the area and not one of the six came back. And then a unit went down and found nothing but a group of dead Germans lying among the trees. Beyond this area were the bodies of six Americans. Examining the bodies of the supposedly dead Germans, they found one 15-year-old Hitler youth—a paratrooper kicked him as he groaned—underneath him he hid an automatic rifle. He was the sniper who had picked off the patrol. His hands and face had been coloured a deathly yellow. His uniform had been purposely splashed thickly with blood. The sniper was shot.