Deliver Us from Darkness
The Untold Story of Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment During Market Garden
Publication Date: November 19, 2013
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At short notice on September 17, 1944 the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into Holland as part of Operation "Market Garden." The plan was to secure the main highway that passed through the city of Eindhoven - facilitating the advance of General Sir Miles Dempsey's Second British Army towards Arnhem. The objective of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was to capture four crucial bridges over the river Dommel in southern Eindhoven. Indeed, with the capture of Eindhoven the 101st Airborne thought that its mission in Holland was over. However, this was only the beginning of a bloody 72-day 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. Supported by Tiger tanks and self propelled artillery the German Army began an audacious series of counterattacks along the road to Nijmegen that became known as "Hell's Highway." Over the next two weeks the 506PIR were constantly called upon to defend the transport hubs north of Eindhoven at Sint Oedenrode, Veghel, and Uden suffering horrendous casualties.
By October the 506th were sent further north to take over from the British 214th 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. The 3rd Battalion played a pivotal role when a major German attack was thwarted near the town of Opheusden despite heavy losses which shook the Battalion to the core. But this was simply the beginning of a bitter struggle that would continue for another two months. Heavy rain, flooding, and constant shelling turned the area into a no-mans land reminiscent of the Somme in the First World War. The men lived like animals in such squalid conditions that trench foot became a normal part of life. By the end of November, after sustaining appalling losses in the face of the determined resistance the Germany Army finally abandoned all hope of ever retaking "The island." Finally on November 27, the 101st were withdrawn from the line and sent to France to recuperate. The mission in Holland 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 members of 3/506 had been through hell...
"A powerful survey indeed."
--James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review (August 2012)