907 Glider Field Artillery Battalion 101 US Airborne Division 

 

From the book Kilogram by Bob Minick

 

17 September: Lieutenant Taylor let out a yell 'said"Happy landings, boys! I'll see you on the ground!" tapped the first man in the stick on the leg.

Out he went with seventeen other following. As the last man cleared the door, the lieutenant turned around and motioned the "all clear"signal to the pilot. He then forced another smile on his face and stepped out into the wild blue yonder. During his descent, he was amazed at his ambivilant situation. Everything was deadly quiet, even though the sky was crowed with troopcarriers and parachutes.

He angeled away from a fifty-foot tree and pulled down a few yards from a wooded area, where he extricated himself from his chute.

After standing up and looking around, the lieutenant realized there were only a few German snipers firing on the drop zone. He and Pfc Logue and Solomon quickly assembled, gathered up their equipment, and then moved off in the direction of their mission.

When the green light flashed on in Lieutenant Stinson plane, the aircraft was already descending. Instead of jumping from 800 feet, going 150miles per hour, they were jumping from 400 feet doing 190 miles per hour. Panels were splitting as the chutes popped open!.

Corporal Withers straightened out just in time to see a cow standing in his landing path. Caught by a groundwind, he sailed over the cow with both legs bent for a landing but found himself confronted by a barbed wire fence. He raised his legs further and in doing so, hit the fence with his legs in a weakened position. The canopy of his chute was drapped across the fence behind him, and part of the tendons in his left knee were torn loose. However, Withers found that when one is 15 to 20 miles behind the enemy front lines, one couldn't be to concerned with that, comparatively speaking and under the circumstances, was a minor injury.

 

Lieutenant Stinson ans his team quickly recovered their radio, which had been dropped by an equipment chute, and began moving off the dropping zone. As they were leaving, a woman from the Dutch underground approached and said she had received a telephone call from a friend in Veghel who said therewere few Germans in town and, that if they hurried they should be able to take the town without little difficulty.

By  this time, the Dutch people were pouring from their houses with bits of orange cloth on their clotinh, the national Dutch color. They were offering the paratroopers fruit, flowers and wine and were welcoming the liberators with enthusiasm, that bordered on hysteria. In fact, their jubilant celebration and gaiety in the small crowded streets was beginning to get in the way of the war.

At Lieutenant Stinton's team, along with the infantrymen of the 501, approached the outskirts of Veghel and the bridge over the Willemvaart Canal, a Germany army bus, with a red cross on it came careeing down the road from the direction of Veghel. Commands of "Halt" were ignored and, as the bus passed anembankment where a trooper was setting up a .30 caliber machinegun, the gunner raked the bus with fire. It went out of control, finally landing in a ditch. The only occupant turned to to be the driver, who considerably shaken but unhurt. He was questioned by an intelligence sergeantin the presence of Colonel Johnson. Apparently he had nothing worthwhile to offer and because the paratroopers couldn't be encumbered with prisoners, the trooper guarding the German was told to get rid of him. Even though the landing had been a parade field drop, it promised to be a long cruel war for both sides.

The Americans then proceeded on into the center of Veghel, where a brief fire fight disposed of the few Germans inclined to resist. Here the people, once again turned out in huge crowds, laughing, crying and showing all signs of joy exhileration and Dtch style "Wilkom".

Exactly two hours from the time, Lieutenant Stinson and his team had touched down on Dutch soil, Veghel, their immediate objective, had been secured by elements of the 501.

Corporal Withers initial duty was to set up the SCR-610 ad contact British Army artillery for supporting fire mission. He was to use code words given them by the British, and when attempts to contact them were unsuccesful, Withers assumed the British units were still out of range.

In an effort to increase the range of their radio signal, Sergeant Paprocki, Corporal Withers and Corporal Edstrom climbed to the uppermost window in the steeple of the church in the town square. Still Withers received no answer. By this time, German counterattacks were being mounted and anti aircraft guns were being fired at low level into the town. Withers then decided to dispence with the code and make an attempt to contact the British in the clear but met with no more succes than before.

The story of Holland is one of a road, the bridges that spanned the rivers and many  canals that the road crossed and of the three airborne divisions responsible for keeping the road open. The stretch of highway that ran from Eindhoven to Arnhem would have to be kept open by the lightly armed paratroopers mission was to capture the Arnhem bridge, the prize Plum of all objectives. Major General Roy Urquhart;s "Red Devils"had been assigned the most northerly target and would be expected to hold out for no longer than forty-eight hours. The southern portion of the corridor was given to the "Screaming Eagles"of the 101st, whilst the 82nd was ordered to seize the bridges over the Maas river at Grave and the Waal river at Nijmegen.

The entire succes of outflanking the Rhine defense-line depended solely on how fast the armoured columns of Second Army could race through to the British paratroops holding the Arnhem bridge. It would be thinly defend corridor and the overall lenght of the  highway would undoubtedly allow the Germans to penetrate and cut the road at various locations. But it was a gamble that the strategists fet was in their favor.