Dutch civilians ride on a jeep during the advance towards Nijmegen, 20 September 1944.

Dutch civilians ride on a jeep during the advance towards Nijmegen, 20 September 1944.

Cromwell tanks of Guard's Armoured Division drive along 'Hell's Highway' towards Nijmegen during Operation 'Market-Garden', 20 September 1944.

Cromwell tanks of Guard’s Armoured Division drive along ‘Hell’s Highway’ towards Nijmegen during Operation ‘Market-Garden’, 20 September 1944.

The bridge at Nijmegen after it had been captured by the 82nd (US) Airborne Division. A dead German SS officer lies where he fell during the attack.

The bridge at Nijmegen after it had been captured by the 82nd (US) Airborne Division. A dead German SS officer lies where he fell during the attack.

Operation Market Garden was a series of airborne attacks on a succession of bridges on the route into Germany. The US 82nd Airborne Division had dropped in Nijmegen and been engaged in a furious fight to secure the ground around the southern end of the bridge across the Waal. They had still not secured the northern end when a small force of British tanks arrived on the 20th September.

A plan was now developed to launch an amphibious assault across the Waal while the tanks rushed the bridge. British canvas boats were now brought up and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Regiment prepared for the attack. They were unfamiliar with the boats and untrained in this type of attack. On the opposite bank the Germans were well dug in in established positions. Lt James Magellis describes the opening of the attack:

At 1500 on 20 September, Major Cook blew a whistle signaling the start of the assault. Shrill cries of “let’s go” followed as the paratroopers released pent-up emotions. We grabbed the boats by the gunwales, charged up the embankment, crossed the open, flat top of the dike, and made a mad dash for the river. The boats, loaded with our gear and weapons, were heavy, and the going was tough in the loose sand.

We caught the Germans by surprise. For the first hundred yards they hadn’t fired a shot, but when they realized what was happening, all hell broke loose. They opened up with everything they had: small arms, machine guns, 20mm flak wagons, mortars, and artillery.

Magellis includes a number of different accounts of the action that afternoon in his memoirs, amongst them one written by Captain Henry B. Keep:

As we frantically scurried for the river’s edge, chaos and confusion reigned. With shells exploding all around us, we kept charging forward. At that point we were all driven by instinct and running on adrenaline with but a single purpose: to get our boats in the water and across the river.

At last we reached the drop. We let the boat slide down to the beach and ourselves slid alongside of them. We pulled our boat quickly across a short beach and everyone piled in. By this time, the situation was horrible.

The automatic and flat trajectory fire had increased and the artillery was deadly. Men were falling right and left. In everyone’s ears was the constant roar of bursting artillery shells, the dull wham of a 20-mm, or the disconcerting ping of rifle bullets.

After a false start we got stuck in a mud bar and several of us were forced to get out and go through the extremely uncomfortable process of pushing off again. We found ourselves floating in the wrong direction. Everyone grabbed a paddle and frantically started to work. Most of the men had never paddled before and, had it not been for the gruesomness [sic] of the situation, the sight might have been rather ludicrous.

Every movement in excess of the essential paddling was extremely dangerous since the bullets were flying so thick and fast that they gave a reasonable facsimile of a steel curtain. By now the broad surface of the Waal was covered with our small canvas crafts and crammed with frantically paddling men.

Defenseless, frail, canvas boats jammed to overflowing with humanity, all striving desperately to get across the Waal as quickly as possible. Large numbers of men were being hit in all boats and the bottoms of these crafts were littered with the wounded and dead. Here and there on the surface of the water was a paddle dropped by some poor unfortunate before the man taking his place had been able to retrieve it from his lifeless fingers.

Somehow or other we were three-quarters of the way across. Everyone was yelling to keep it up, but there was very little strength left in anyone. But at last we reached the other side.

We climbed over the wounded and dead in the bottom of the boat and up to our knees in water waded to shore where behind a small embankment we flopped down gasping for breath, safe for the moment from the incessant firing.

All along the beach what was left of our flimsy boats were reaching shore. Men more dead than alive were stumbling up the beach to get momentary protection behind the unexpected but welcome embankment before pushing across the broad flat plain in front of us.

See James Megellas: All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 - 20 September 1944: A large group of German soldiers who have been taken prisoner in Nijmegen and the surrounding area by American paratroopers of the 82nd (US) Airborne Division.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 – 20 September 1944: A large group of German soldiers who have been taken prisoner in Nijmegen and the surrounding area by American paratroopers of the 82nd (US) Airborne Division.

The battle was very far from over, the 3rd Battalion was to fight an intense action before the bridge was finally secured at 1700. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion was still battling it out in Nijmegan itself, as Germans now sought to retreat across the bridge they fell into the hand sod the 3rd Battalion.

The small force of British tanks were now ten miles away from Arnhem. Controversially they did not press on but waited to regroup before renewing the attack.

Meanwhile the isolated British Parachute Regiment were still battling it out in Arnhem:

Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield VC

Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield VC

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: –

No. 5057916 Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield, The South Staffordshire- Regiment (1st Airborne Division) (Stoke-on-Trent).

On 20th September, 1944, during the battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire.

In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During the brief respite after this engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.

After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time enemy attacks were launched and driven off.

Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled under intense enemy fire to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self propelled gun which was appoaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.

The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty which characterised his actions throughout.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 - 20 September 1944: British engineers removing the charge which the Germans had set in readiness to blow the Nijmegen bridge.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 – 20 September 1944: British engineers removing the charge which the Germans had set in readiness to blow the Nijmegen bridge.

A panoramic view of the city of Nijmegen, Holland, and the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal (Rhine) River in the background.  The city was hit by German and Allied bombardment and shelling.  September 28, 1944.

A panoramic view of the city of Nijmegen, Holland, and the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal (Rhine) River in the background. The city was hit by German and Allied bombardment and shelling. September 28, 1944.

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Sep

19

1944

Arnhem becomes a desperate battle for survival

RAF aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge on 19 September, showing signs of the British defence on the northern ramp and the wrecked German vehicles from the previous day's fighting.

Later in the same day Captain Queripel found himself cut off with a small party of men and took up a position in a ditch. By this time he had received further wounds in both arms. Regardless of his wounds and the very heavy mortar and Spandau fire, he continued to inspire his men to resist with hand grenades, pistols and the few remaining rifles.

Sep

18

1944

Second wave drop into Arnhem meets deadly reception

Paratroops drop from Dakota aircraft over the outskirts of Arnhem during Operation 'Market Garden',

For a split second the wooshing stops and then KERBOOM!

The mortar shell explodes nearby, followed by several more incoming shells. Dirt and smoke are thrown up into the air but, as suddenly as it started, the firing ceases. Through the falling dirt and choking smoke, A lone soldier can be heard screaming for help. Moss looks up from his hiding place and sees the soldier covered in blood, screaming in agony. A couple of Medics run to his aid. Slowly, the rest of the soldiers emerge and resume their places in the static column. It’s as if nothing happened.

Sep

17

1944

Market Garden: Allied airborne attack into Holland

Men and supplies drop from transport 'planes above Nijmegen.

However, there was no delay, and as we passed their old positions we found two lorries and three motor-cars in various stages of destruction, also an untidy little bunch of dead and wounded Germans. It seemed a pity that the vehicles were now unusable, but there had been no time to arrange a road-block. It was however a very encouraging start. Approximately thirty Germans, including officers among them, and valuable transport, accounted for without loss to ourselves.

Sep

16

1944

Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge

September 1944 – Shot of the Marines going across the beach and airport on the initial landing.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

Sep

15

1944

The US Marines hit the beach at Peleliu

As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944. The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27. (AP Photo)

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

Sep

14

1944

Red Army Poles join the Warsaw Uprising

Armia Krajowa soldiers fighting during the Warsaw Uprising. One man is armed with Błyskawica machine pistol.

We knew for certain that there had been some Germans in a house on a slight rise about 400 metres away, perhaps closer. It was a difficult rifle shot but easily within range of their Maxim. I pointed the house out to him. He crouched behind the gun and started to fire long and, in that confined space, enormously noisy bursts. Whatever his other merits as a machine-gunner, conserving ammunition was not one of them.

Sep

13

1944

“Madeleine” – Noor Inayat Khan executed at Dachau

Noor Inyat Khan was executed at Dachau.

The Gestapo had found her codes and messages and were now in a position to work back to London. They asked her to co-operate, but she refused and gave them no information of any kind. She was imprisoned in one of the cells on the 5th floor of the Gestapo H.Q. and remained there for several weeks during which time she made two unsuccessful attempts at escape. She was asked to sign a declaration that she would make no further attempts but she refused and the Chief of the Gestapo obtained permission from Berlin to send her to Germany for “safe custody”. She was the first agent to be sent to Germany.

Sep

12

1944

USS Sealion sinks Rakuyo Maru – and 1300 PoWs

The Rakuyo Maru was part of Convoy HI-72 and transporting 1317 Australian and British prisoners of war (POWs) from Singapore, when it was torpedoed and sunk in the Luzon Strait by USS Sealion on 12 September 1944. A total of 1159 POWs died as a result of the sinking.

It was now 4am and most of the rafts had drifted close together. A lot of the English POW’s drifted into burning oil and a lot also died after being hit by rafts and hatch covers which were being thrown into the water. The English had been on the starboard side of the Rakuyo Maru. A few men had still not abandoned ship and they found a lifeboat that the Japanese could not launch but which they managed to launch. They also found one terrified Japanese Jig-a-Jig girl still on the ship whom they took with them. Once in the water they met up with a boatload of Japanese and handed the Jig-a-Jig girl over to them.

Sep

11

1944

US troops cross the border into Germany

Two American soldiers look down on a long row of "dragon's teeth" concrete devices to halt invading tanks at the Siegfried Line. American troops move through a break in the vaunted defense line and pass into Germany. 09/15/44.

So, Lieutenant DeLille, Pfc [William] McColligan, the German farmer, and I went into Germany about one and a half miles, where we could get a good view. We studied the pillbox area with our field glasses. None of them seemed manned. We returned to Stolzembourg, where we reported the information [by radio] to Lt. Loren L. Vipond [his platoon commander]