For two months, the Americans battled against German tanks, constant artillery barrages and driving rain and they grimly held their ground, until the Germans finally abandoned the effort. Written with the help and input from numerous veterans, this book tells the complete story of many of America's best soldiers as they fought and died in Holland.
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Biographical Note. Ian Gardner served for five years in Support Company, 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment as a medic before leaving the Territorial Army in due to injury. After a visit to Normandy in he decided to focus on the st Airborne Division, and in particular the 3rd Battalion of the th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which led to the critically acclaimed Tonight We Die As Men, co-written with Roger Day.
This, his second historical work, continues their story. Currently self-employed, he is married with two grown up children and lives near Aldershot in Hampshire. He survived the war before eventually retiring as a Colonel. He is an active member of veterans' societies. You may also be interested in the following product s. More info. During the spring of this rural idyll along the tranquil banks of the river Kennet was brought to an abrupt halt when work started on the construction of Ramsbury airfield. At about the same time, a camp was built in a field on the northern edge of the village.
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The first thrust started on June 5, when some 5, ships and 1, transport aircraft began making their way across the Channel towards occupied France. The attack was set along 40 miles of coastline between the Vire Estuary in the west and the river Orne to the east.
The initial seaborne landing was to be carried out by 21st Army Group, under command of General Bernard Montgomery and consisted of six infantry divisions augmented by three airborne divisions, one British 6th , and two American 82nd and st under overall command of VII Corps. These vital crossing points one pedestrian, one vehicular had to be held or destroyed to prevent an enemy counterattack. Throughout most of D-Day, Sink had no idea where his second and third battalions were, as most of the th communications equipment had been lost on the jump.
By the morning of June 7, although Shettle and his growing force were still unable to communicate with the regiment, they were fairly confident of a successful conclusion to their mission. Ironically it was the continuing lack of communication that sealed the fate of the bridges, because at lunchtime the United States Air Force USAF arrived and within a few terrifying moments both bridges were destroyed.
On June 13, the Germans launched a fearsome counterattack and 3rd Bn temporarily led by Captain Robert Harwick from H Co rejoined the th to defend the nearby town of Carentan in an action that became known as the battle of Bloody Gully. From an American perspective, the battle was one of the most important and decisive actions of the entire Normandy campaign. The st was only expected to be in theater for seven days, but because of numerous difficulties encountered by VII Corps which also included the US 4th Infantry Division , they remained in the region until the end of June, when Cherbourg was finally captured.
The st Airborne suffered a staggering 4, casualties during the campaign, with 3rd Bn th experiencing the highest overall concentration.
These original Toccoa men would be hard to replace, and the loss of LtCol Wolverton was deeply felt by all of those who had survived. During the second week of July , the th PIR were withdrawn from Normandy and returned to the UK to rebuild and restructure in preparation for the next mission.
At short notice, on September 17, , the st Airborne Division parachuted into the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden. By early September, Second Army had reached the Escault Canal in Belgium and due to the accute lack of intermediate seaports and railway lines, Dempsey was now able only to support a single tactical thrust by XXX Corps.
Once the German front line had been punctured, Montgomery doubted that the enemy would have enough strength remaining to prevent a breakthrough. The objective of the th PIR was to capture four crucial bridges over the river Dommel in southern Eindhoven. Third battalion, now led by Major Oliver Horton, spearheaded the advance on September 18, taking heavy casualties along the way at the villages of Vlokhoven and Woensel.
Upon entering Eindhoven the first Dutch city to be liberated thousands of people spilled onto the streets to embrace the paratroopers, overjoyed after four dark years of Nazi occupation. A few hours later, when XXX Corps entered the city, the roads were so crowded that their tanks and vehicles were unable to get through. The celebrations were short-lived as Eindhoven was bombed the following evening by the Luftwaffe German air force , causing hundreds of civilian casualties.
With the capture of Eindhoven, the st Airborne thought that its mission was over. However, this was only the beginning of a bloody campaign that would see no quarter given by either side. Thousands of heavily armed enemy troops trapped behind Allied lines were reorganized into temporary fighting groups and sent on the offensive.
Over the next two weeks, the th PIR were constantly called upon to defend the transport hubs north of Eindhoven at Sint Oedenrode, Veghel, and Uden. By October the regiment were sent further north to take over from the British th Infantry Brigade near Arnhem. Surrounded by water, the Island was the name given by the Allies to the Betuwe, the area of land northwest of Nijmegen between the Neder Rijn Lower Rhine and the river Waal.
This would be the scene of a bitter struggle for two long months fought against determined German attacks amid heavy rain, flooding, and constant shellfire. The mission in the Netherlands would be one that the men would never forget. Many felt that their lives had been misused and wasted, Normandy had been bad enough, but this time the men from 3rd Bn had really been through hell … this is their amazing true story.
For those members of the Third Battalion, th Parachute Infantry Regiment who returned from Normandy in early July physically unscathed, it seemed like they had moved from one life into another. While in France, the st Airborne had forged a formidable reputation amongst the Germans, earning itself the nickname butchers with big pockets. Home for 3rd Bn was still the village of Ramsbury, which, despite all that the men had just gone through, remained tranquil and somehow unchanged.
The only sign that there was still a war on was the sound of transport aircraft coming and going from the airfield USAAF Station located up on the hill. Situated in rural Wiltshire, Ramsbury was one of many beautiful hamlets occupied by the st Airborne Division before, during and after operation Neptune. Regimental Headquarters RHQ remained at nearby Littlecote, which was one of the finest examples of an early 16th-century Tudor manor house in England.
She did as she was told, until one of the wealthier ladies in the village invited Petroff to dinner. As she recalls: It burned me up so much that I went to one of the local pubs, the Crown and Anchor, and paid three pounds and ten shillings for six bottles of spirits. As the guys returned, I took them back to my office and gave them a few drinks before pumping them for information.
All the boys could talk about was Colonel Wolverton and his prayer in the marshaling area and the idea of a postwar reunion at the Muelbach Hotel, in Kansas City. Colonel Wolverton was much loved by the men and had felt compelled to speak candidly to them before boarding the aircraft for France. Every single man in the battalion had been touched in some way by his incredibly poignant and emotive words …. God almighty! In a few short hours we will be in battle with the enemy. We do not join battle afraid. We do not ask favors or indulgence but ask that, if you will, use us as your instrument for the right and an aid in returning peace to the world.
We do not know or seek what our fate will be. We only ask this, that if die we must, that we die as men would die, without complaining, without pleading and safe in the feeling that we have done our best for what we believed was right. Oh Lord! Protect our loved ones and be near us in the fire ahead, and with us now as we each pray to you.
Horton did not possess the same tactical ability as LtCol Wolverton, but nevertheless he was a more than capable leader. Affectionately known as Lady W by the Americans, widow Violet Wyndham owned the imposing manor house built during the reign of Charles I. Mrs Wyndham was only too pleased to welcome back the Americans, along with her year-old son, Francis, who had joined the British army in the summer of , only to be invalided out with tuberculosis and pleurisy.
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To pass the time during his convalescence, Francis, an aspiring author, wrote his first novel, Out of the War. Cann had not made the jump into Normandy due to the fact he was in hospital with yellow fever. Although the menu was supplemented with C, K and D rations, it always amazed me just how Spangler and boys, as basic KP [kitchen police], were able to provide many appetizing and healthy meals using such simple ingredients. Mrs Wyndham did not eat with us in the mess but I have no doubt that the cooks surreptitiously provided her with meals in her private quarters.
All paratroopers were issued one and a half rations per day because our training regime required superior body and muscle strength. It was also a weekly requirement for all airborne troops to battle march, at least 15 miles with full equipment. After Normandy, most of the field grade officers were relocated from Parliament Piece to other locations around the village as Bill Wedeking reveals:. Some evenings we would sit by the fireplace, without a care in the world, just listening to music.
I gave Jessie my silk escape map of France, which she made into a beautiful pillow cover. Ray was Irish and a gifted poet who gave me this verse, Time may steal our years away — yes, and steal our memories too, but a memory of the past remains and half our joys renew.
The Hyde Parkers were a delightful couple who treated Joe and Andy like kings. At 76 years of age, Edmond was no stranger to war, having captained a warship during the infamous battle of Jutland in At the time Andy was deeply unhappy, drinking heavily and naively wished that Maj Horton would either promote him, or simply send him back to being a platoon leader.
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