THE PLATOON ACTION
When Easy 505 was stopped by the enemy fire, smoke hand grenades were set off to cover the movement of the troops. The 3rd Platoon moved across the Dalshe Weg at an intersection about two blocks from the Park, going into buildings on the right of the approach; they proceeded to fight from one building to another, at times in hand-to-hand combat. The fighting lasted for about an hour in this area before the entire block was secured. The 2nd Plat. was ordered to take over this area as the 3rd Plat. was to be withdrawn to the cover of a large church in the block. Completing the assembly at the church the CO gave the Platoon Leader another mission: move across the street opposite the buildings they had previously secured and take up positions in the buildings along the east side of the Park. When all men were in the position to open fire on the enemy with the LMGs and BARs, the remainders of the Platoon were to move into the Park and close with the enemy. The 2nd Plat. would assist in the assault from their present positions and would jump off when the 3rd Plat. opened fire.
The platoon moved a block to the east and crossed the street into the buildings, being covered from enemy machine-gun fire by two knocked-out tanks burning in the street and cutting off the fields of fire. These buildings had been large three-story apartment houses of brick construction, but the Germans had set them on fire on D+1 to prevent troops from taking positions in them should they progress that far. The majority of the walls were still standing but all of the wooden parts had burned and fallen through to the ground level, the rubble still smoldering and very hot. Shortly after entering the buildings, enemy artillery began to fall on the arcs, but the men continued to work their way forward to take up their pre-designated positions. As the platoon was going into position a runner from the company arrived and stated the Company Commander wanted the platoon brought out before it was eliminated by the artillery. Three men were hit and had to be carried back to the location of the Company Command Position where the Platoon Leader received another order. This time to move two or three blocks to the east and then, north to a Parkway, attack west, clearing the Parkway to flank the enemy or get in behind his Park Positions.
The platoon, with one section of LMGs attached, moved six blocks northeast to the eastern end of the Parkway. Here the platoon was halted and left under cover of the buildings while the Platoon Leader with two men went to make a recon of the area. It was about 2000 and darkness had fallen over the countryside however the section of the town being fought over was well illuminated by the fires that were burning. The east end of the Parkway came to a dead-end at the point where the Platoon Leader and his patrol entered. Using the cover of a sunken lawn to conceal their movement to the opposite side they moved in behind a bank on the north side of the Parkway and discovered that it extended along the rear of the enemy positions for about two blocks, dropping off steeply to a street some twenty or thirty feet below. This was the break the platoon had been looking for; so the patrol moved along behind the enemy positions and using Tommy Guns, hand grenades, and knives eliminated the enemy in this area in less than an hour.
The bank was a perfect cover for the movement of the patrol from the rear of one position to the rear of another; and with the fires in front of the enemy, their heads protruding above the foxholes made perfect targets. In some instances, an enemy’s head was no more than two feet from the muzzle of a gun when the trigger was pulled. Artillery was still falling and the enemy along the Parkway was so busy pouring fire into the buildings across the street that the activities of the patrol went unnoticed until it reached a point where the parkway converged with the Park. Here it was discovered and fired on by a machine gun. The fire was returned by the patrol but none of the men could get into a position to assault the enemy gun. Two men held the ground while the third man was sent back with an order to the Assistant Platoon Leader to bring the platoon forward and occupy the recent enemy positions. Two LMGs were to be brought forward to the Platoon Leader and set up to cover the enemy machine gun. By 2300 the platoon was in position and the enemy gun that fired on the patrol had been forced to take cover.
All automatic weapons were left in position and the remainder of the platoon was organized into four-man patrols to enter the north section of the Park to destroy the enemy AT guns and all of the enemy that could be found. This section of the Park was on a lower level than the south section and offered a defiladed area in which the patrols could operate and not be endangered by small arms fire from our own troops on the south. Patrol activities continued throughout the night with the net result of one 50-MM AT gun and crew being destroyed, several enemies killed, and a few taken prisoner. The patrols were withdrawn to their own lines prior to daylight and re-supplied with ammunition.
At 0530 September 20, the Battalion ordered a direct assault into the Park from the three sides held by our troops. The Platoon was to move back into the north end of the Park where they had been patrolling, assault the enemy gun positions from the rear then proceed onto the Bridge. The Germans had brought reinforcements across the bridge during the early morning, and when the platoon moved into the assault it was met by a terrific volume of automatic weapons fire and forced back into its previous positions. Two bazooka teams were brought forward and put into action against the gun positions in the Park and the old Dutch Fort that was located near the Bridge. They were successful in eliminating the gun positions to their front, but their weapons had no effect on the Fort other than to drive the enemy gunners from one window at a time.
When the fire was shifted to another window the gunners who had previously been fired on would reappear and take up their firing positions. Enemy snipers that had infiltrated into the buildings behind the Platoon were beginning to make their presence felt and it was necessary to put a four-man patrol into these buildings in an effort to eliminate them. By 1200 they had killed six Germans and the harassing fire in the rear of the Platoon had subsided. The Germans however had succeeded in killing three men and wounding four others so seriously that they had to be evacuated. Artillery had started to fall on the Platoon positions at about 0700 and continued throughout most of the day. The enemy batteries were located behind a dike on the opposite side of the river and each time they fired the report gave a sufficient warning for everyone to get down in their foxholes. Their efforts were not totally unrewarded, as the Platoon was receiving numerous casualties.
At 1000, the three 60-MM mortar squads in the company were grouped and attached to the platoon. These squads were put into position and given several targets to fire on. They had fired on the first target for effect when the enemy artillery located the position and knocked it out. Five men were injured and two mortars were damaged so badly they could not be used. It was learned later that the enemy had observers to the rear of the platoon position, thus accounting for their accurate fire on every move being made by the men. The Battalion Medics were unable to evacuate all the casualties so the platoon aidman moved the injured men into the basement of a building where he could care for them and wait for help to effect their evacuation. The order was issued by the Battalion for a combined assault with the UK Armor to take place at 1445. The Platoon’s mission was to move into the north end of the Park from the flank and cut the enemy off from the rear.
This assault was successful and all enemy resistance on the south end of the Bridge was eliminated by 1800. The first British tank crossed the Bridge at 1830 and made contact with the US 504-PIR who, during the day, had effected a river crossing in assault boats downstream at the western edge of the town. The Platoon was relieved of its sector of responsibility and given the mission of patrolling the town to mop up the bypassed enemy. At 0800 September 21, the Platoon was relieved in Nijmegen and sent two miles east on a separate mission. During this engagement, the Platoon with one section of LMGs and two 60-MM mortar squads attached suffered the loss of five men killed and seventeen evacuated due to wounds received. The enemy in the Park Area was estimated to total three hundred and fifty, of which one hundred and fifteen were killed, ninety-one captured and numerous others wounded.