A British 17 pounder anti-tank gun protects the road embankment on 'The Island', North of the Nijmegen road bridge


During the night of October 1-2, the regiment was ordered to relieve the British 241st Brigade, 43rd Infantry Division in the area Dodewaard – Opheusden – Handwiik. The regiment moved to the vicinity of Zetten during the day and at dusk commenced the relief of the British forces. By midnight, the relief was completed. The regimental disposition was as follows: the 2nd Battalion defending north along the south bank of the Neder Rijn River; the 3rd Battalion defending west along the line Opheusden-Dodewaard, its right flank anchored on the Neder Rijn, left flank anchored on the Waal river; the 1st Battalion in regimental reserve in the vicinity of Zetten.

The terrain here, as in the majority of Holland, was very flat, and at no point in the regimental sector did it rise thirty feet above sea level. On the north (enemy) bank of the Neder Rijn River the terrain rose to approximately two hundred feet above sea level. This high ground afforded the enemy excellent observation of the entire regimental sector, which restricted all movement to the hours of darkness. This situation was comparable to a sand table with the enemy as spectators. During October 3-4, the enemy restricted his activities to the systematic shelling of the entire sector by mortars and artillery pieces, for which he seemed to have an unlimited supply of ammunition.


At about 0200 hours on October 5, the enemy launched an attack in the vicinity of Opheusden, supported by mortars, artillery, and light tanks. The 3rd Battalion stopped the initial attack, but at 0530 hours, the enemy resumed the attack with very much increased artillery and by 1500 hours, the 3rd Battalion had been pushed back about five hundred yards. At about 1200 hours, the 1st Battalion was ordered to move to Opheusden and counter-attack through the right flank of the 3rd Battalion. This attack jumped off at about 1500 hours and by night the 1st Battalion had succeeded in restoring the line originally held by the 3rd Battalion.

American paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division get help from Dutch resistance fighters. Holland 1944

During the night of October 5-6, the 3rd Battalion was shifted south of the railroad and the 1st Battalion was assigned the Opheusden area. The night was relatively quiet. At dawn, October 6, the enemy launched another attack in the Opheusden Area preceded by the heaviest artillery preparation yet encountered in Holland. The 1st Battalion was pushed back about 500 yards. Upon the commitment of the 1st Battalion on October 5, a battalion of the British 43rd Infantry Division was attached to the regiment as a reserve. The Regimental Commander now decided to commit the British battalion between the 1st and the 3rd Battalions in a coordinated attack to regain the ground lost by the 1st Battalion. This attack was scheduled to jump off at 1245 hours, but due to enemy artillery, the British battalion did not reach the line of departure until about 1400 hours.

The 1st Battalion and the British Battalion were able to advance about three hundred yards before being stopped. It was now apparent that any further attempt to kick the enemy out of Opheusden would be too costly in men and material. The town was of no material value to the regiment in defense of this line. On the night of October 6-7, the 3rd Battalion of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment was attached to the 506th. This permitted the relief of the 1st Battalion and the British Battalion. Upon completion of this relief, the British battalion would revert to its parent division, and the 1st Battalion would move to an assembly area about twelve hundred yards in the rear of the front line. This relief was accomplished by the 3rd Battalion of the 327th Gilder Infantry, occupying positions some six hundred yards in the rear of the line originally held by the 1/506 and the 43-ID (UK). By 0200 hours, October 7, the relief had been completed, the British Battalion cleared the regimental area, and the 1st Battalion closed in the assembly area.

A Dutch family in the village of Zon offers water and assistance to American paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division, 1944

At dawn on the morning of October 7, the 1st Battalion aid station personnel observed troops moving through an orchard some two hundred yards west of their position. Thinking they were British troops, our men did not give them much attention, but upon closer examination the 1st Battalion found them to be enemy and went into action. At the end of a thirty-minute fight, the 1st Battalion had captured one hundred and fifty-five and killed approximately fifty enemies. Upon investigation, it was learned that this enemy force had overrun the 3rd Battalion, 506th’s, position just south of the railroad. When the firing in this vicinity commenced the 3rd Battalion, 327th, commenced firing its machine guns located on the north side of the railroad cutting this enemy column in two. PWs captured by the 1st Battalion stated that their force consisted of a battalion with the mission of capturing Zetten. Apparently, the enemy column was out when the 3rd Battalion, 327th, commenced firing.

At about the time the action in the 1st Battalion area was over a strong enemy attack was launched in the 3rd Battalion, 506th, sector. This force was estimated at two battalions supported by mortars and artillery. Due to the excellent fields of fire afforded by the flat terrain, our supporting artillery and automatic weapons could be employed most effectively. With these conditions in its favor, the 3rd Battalion was able to stop the attack, and by dark October 7, all enemy ground activity had ceased.


During the night of October 7-8, the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment relieved the 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, without incident and the 3rd Battalion, 327-GIR reverted to Regiment’s control. By dawn, October 8, the 3/506-PIR, had closed in an assembly area in the vicinity of Zetten. During the period October 2-8, the 2nd Battalion had contained a small bridgehead in its sector along the south bank of the Neder Rijn River. This bridgehead was estimated to contain about three hundred enemies and was completely eliminated by the combined efforts of the 2/506, and elements of the 501-PIR on October 9. Thereafter, from October 10 to November 26, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment occupied various defensive positions on the island between the Neder Rijn River and the Waal River.

(left) Gene Gilbreath, (1925–2019, served in HQ Co, 2/506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101-A/B. He was a replacement after Normandy and joined the division in July 1944 as Pfc

Previous article96-ID (Report – Okinawa – Ryukyus) – April 1945
Next article382/96-ID Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru Line (Okinawa) May 1945