The Waalcrossing, 20 September 1944.


One of the main objectives of Operation Market Garden was to capture the two bridges across the Waal river in Nijmegen. Under the command of General James Gavin , paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division  landed in the area around the village of Groesbeek on Sunday 17 September 1944. The Allied units secured the drop zone end quickly reached the outskirts of the city, but then met fierce resistance. Units of the 10th SS Panzer Division Frunsberg  under command of SS Brigadeführer Heinz Harmel   halted their advance and made it impossible for them to approach the bridges from the south. To maintain what was left of the momentum, a plan was drafted to cross the Waal river in little canvas boats  and attack the bridges from the south and north simultaneously.

On 20 September American paratroopers crossed the Waal in 26 tiny boats. Lacking proper oars, some soldiers had to use their rifle butts to row. Half of the 260 U.S. soldiers involved were killed or wounded. Only thirteen of the dinghies could be used for a second crossing. After four hours of fierce fighting and heavy losses on both sides, the paratroopers with the help of the 30th Corps  under command of Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks  , succeeded in capturing the bridges intact.

One of the survivors was Lieutenant Colonel Jim “Maggie” Megellas a regular visitor on his 1944 warfields, who commanded a platoon in Company “H” of the 3rd Battalion. The 82nd would stay in Holland, until 13-11-1944 and had during WWII the next casualties: 1.619 killed in action, 6.560 wounded in action and 332 died of wounds. After the war Gavin also played a central role in integrating the U.S. military and retired in March 1958 as a Lieutenant General.



The city of Nijmegen was liberated.




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