Posted:  Sept. 28, 2014

The Battle of the Bridges: The 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market GardenOperation Market Garden has been recorded as a complete Allied failure in World War II, an overreach that resulted in an entire airborne division being destroyed at its apex. However, within that operation were episodes of heroism that still remain unsung.On September, 17, 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, floated down across the Dutch countryside, in the midst of German forces, and proceeded to fight their way to vital bridges to enable the Allied offensive to go forward. The 101st Airborne was behind them; the British 1st Airbourne was far advanced. In the 82nd s sector the crucial conduits needed to be seized.The Germans knew the importance of the bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen as well as James Gavin and his 82nd troopers did. Thus began a desperate fight for the Americans to seize it, no matter what the cost. The Germans would not give, however, and fought tenaciously in the town and fortified the bridge. On September 20 Gavin turned his paratroopers into sailors and conducted a deadly daylight amphibious assault in small plywood and canvas craft across the Waal River to secure the north end of the highway bridge in Nijmegen. German machine guns and mortars boiled the water on the crossing, but somehow a number of paratroopers made it to the far bank. Their ferocity thence rolled up the German defenses, and by the end of day the bridge had fallen. This book draws on a plethora of previously unpublished sources to shed new light on the exploits of the Devils in Baggy Pants by Dutch author and historian Frank van Lunteren. A native of Arnhem the site of The Bridge too Far the author draws on nearly 130 interviews he personally conducted with veterans of the 504th, plus Dutch civilians and British and German soldiers, who here tell their story for the first time. REVIEWS "Through years of painstaking research and close contact with 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment veterans, Frank van Lunteren has added much to our understanding of Market Garden. On these pages, the human story comes to life, sometimes tragic, sometimes amusing, but always poignant and compelling." John C. McManus, Ph.D., Author of SEPTEMBER HOPE: THE AMERICAN SIDE OF A BRIDGE TOO FAR and THE DEAD AND THOSE ABOUT TO DIE, D-DAY: THE BIG RED ONE AT OMAHA BEACH It is rare to find such an engrossing book as Frank van Lunteren s The Battle of the Bridges. Anyone who wants to read firsthand experiences of one of the most amazing actions in the western European Theater of the Second World War must get this book. Doug McCabe, curator of the Cornelius Ryan Collection Battle of the Bridges provides an exhaustively researched account of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment s exploits during Operation Market Garden. The legendary crossing of the Waal river to seize the Nijmegen bridges is covered in exceptional detail. Steven Zaloga, Author of US Airborne Divisions in the ETO" and his most recent "The Devil's Garden: Rommel's Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day""

I will admit I am a little partial to any WWII books about the 82 Airborne. This is mostly about the 504 but it does talk about the 505, 508, and the Glider Company and an artillery unit assigned to the 82. This mission is named Market Garden or The Bridge too Far. The 82 was to jump 57 miles behind enemy lines and capture and hold four bridges, (7, 8, 9, &10), these bridges were over the Mass-Waal Canal and also included the longest bridge in Europe or longest span Nijmegen. The author starts off with the history of the 504, and how they took a beating with the two jumps in Italy, they would not jump in D-Day due to lack of personal. By September 17, they were ready to jump with the rest of the 82. My father was with the 508, and he did not talk much about the war but I do remember that when the movie came out we went to go see it and he did not say whether he liked it or not. He was very critical of other units not American, just felt that Americans always watched out for each other. He was also very vocal about the officers in the 82nd, saying that they would always be right there with you know matter what. That even in this battle Gen. Gavin got in the water with the men and that always impressed him. I found out that in many of his interviews that many of the family members did not know what their fathers or grandfathers did during the war, they just did not talk about it. They had a job to do and they did it. This book is filled with a lot of information, for example that some men would get crushed by the supply packs that weighed 1800 lbs. that was the first time I read about those. The 504 with grit and determination does take charge of the bridge. Crossing the river is really what cause the most casualties for they had to do this in daylight and at the same time make that the Germans did not try to blow the bridge. I know the author criticized Gavin for not having boats their right away, but let us not forget that this was Montgomery’s idea and how when the U.S. planed an invasion they were the ones responsible to have the equipment there when needed. The British did not have to request the day of the attack they should have known if you are expecting infantry to capture a bridge from the other side of the canal you need a boat. My father did tell me that the canal was like a river. The 82nd captured all of their objectives before the British were to arrive with their tanks. The day they arrive they stopped instead of going as far as they could until night fall. Why they stopped in the afternoon is knows idea. But what is known they never got to their own 1st division Paratroopers and from there it just seem to get worse. With the Germans sending in more troops and these were veterans that were combat experienced this fight would continue on for days. The 504 after a day’s rest was sent to relive and help the 508 north from where they were at to recapture a town this would go on back and forth. This is a fascinating story told by men who were there and though some have passed on since the Author interviewed them I feel privileged to have read their accounts. They were all heroes though they never thought that they were. A good book. I got this book from net galley. 

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