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RECOLLECTIONS OF PAST BRING INSIGHT INTO FUTURE

     Full of youthful vigor that so often compels young men to seek adventure and excitement, Dr. Ralph Boroughs, Lander College professor of science education, was inducted into the Army during World War II along with his whole class at The Citadel. He volunteered for the paratroopers and 15 months later was in a transport plane preparing to parachute into Nazi-occupied Holland.

     The time was Sept. 17, 1944, roughly three months after the allied invasion of Europe, known as D-Day, had swept across France and begun the final thrust into Belgium and Holland. The mission Boroughs was involved in, with the exception of D-Day, it has been called one of the most "daring" and "historic" operations under- taken in World War II. It had been dubbed operation Market-Garden, and its objective was to punch a hole through Holland, opening the way for Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery's tanks to move on to the conquest of Hitler's Germany. Much later, Hollywood would make a movie based on this operation; it would star Scan Connery and Laurence Olivier and would be called "A Bridge Too Far."

     After nearly four decades, Boroughs has begun to dust off his memories and reflect again upon ex­periences like operation Market-Garden, memories he himself admits to having lain to rest.

     "I don't know why I hadn't thought more about those times," he said. "I guess I had just put that period of my life behind me and gone on to other things."

     Boroughs says the memories were reactivated last Christmas Eve when he and his family got together to celebrate the holiday. It all started when he uttered the words: "I remember a Christmas Eve 39 years ago." Encouraged by his children and grand­children to continue the tale, he told them of that grim Christmas, one he and a fellow soldier spent burying a comrade who had fallen shortly before, during the Battle of the Belgian Bulge.

     But once opened, the floodgate of memories refused to be closed again. "My children suggested that I write down the things that I told them," Boroughs said. "But, once I started, I couldn't stop."

     He has recorded 35 stories of memories from the one and a half years he spent in the Army as a paratrooper during World War II. He has written of laying mine fields, checking bodies which had been booby-trapped by the enemy, of seeing death in its most gruesome and revolting form, of the fear men feel knowing that life could end at any moment. The book of memories also contains some lighter moments such as his story which follows:

 

 

Sunny-side Up

     It was mid-afternoon when we jumped into Holland. We suffered no casualties from our brief scrimmages during and after landing. Little Car Austin thought I had taken a hit. As I jumped ahead of Austin, he saw me float through a patch of ack-ack smoke and upon assembling, he saw blood on my face and combat jacket. Where did the blood come from?

      Since we were being shot at in the air and shot at after hitting the ground, I didn't take time to unhook my parachute. I hurriedly hacked it off with my jump knife. In the process I cut my finger slightly, but I bled like a stuck hog and generously smeared my blood around.

    The 30-odd prisoners we captured were used to help pack our demolition equipment to Nijmegen. Our mission was to find the main highway leading south out of the city and set up a road block. It was just getting dark when we found the spot. Trees lined the road with deep ditches on either side. Charges of C-2 were places on four trees, two on each side of the road. The trees fell perfectly across the road as planned. We set up positions on the south side of the road block for the rest of the night. It was a weird night, pitch black so you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, but the sounds were ominous — footsteps on the other side of the fallen trees. We lay silently on our side unseen and undetected.

     During the middle of the night we heard a train steam up. The second demolition section had the assignment of blowing the main railroad track out of the city. As the train started moving, we could hear it getting faster and faster.   Finally   when it seemed to have reached a full head of steam, we heard the explosion. The second section must have accomplished its mission.

     We later learned that the train was hit by a bazooka.)

     The third section was not so lucky. They ran into a group of sharp shooters who almost wiped them out. One of the survivors told us that Lt. Joseph Duffy, leader of the section, was killed with a bullet right between the eyes.

     The next morning in the light of day, civilians came out of their houses to see what caused the explosions during the night. They were overjoyed when they found out we were Americans. One man spoke English and asked, "What can I do to help?" We had jumped with only K rations so we asked for food. The man went back in his house and in short order came out with eggs, sunny-side up.

     As Boroughs began recording incidents such as "Sunny-side Up," he found that because of the great length of time between the events of which he writes and the present, there was a problem with being accurate. "After I started writing last year," he said, "I realized that many of the names and places were no longer with me, and I had to seek information from other sources, people I had lost contact with years ago."

     One of those sources was South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. Recalling that Thurmond had been in a glider unit connected with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II, Boroughs wrote him requesting information. It was through Thurmond's office that he learned of an organization called the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) Association. The 508th was part of the 82nd Airborne Division, and it was to Headquarters Company of the 508th that Boroughs had been attached during the war. From the PIR Association, he received a roster listing some of the men he had fought beside during the War. With the roster, Boroughs was able to get in touch with people from his old unit who could provide him with the information he would need.     But the roster has led Boroughs td more than mere information. He is now an active member of several veteran paratroopers groups and has attended some reunions.

     "It was good to see the men again," Boroughs said of the reunion last year. "And although we were able to remember a great many things together, many of our recollections of the same events did not match."

     Still the professor says the reunion was one he felt glad to attend. The organizations he is now a member of will meet each year in a different state, and Boroughs says he plans to attend each one, but he adds, "Finding that many of us have died, it gives us a sense of urgency to know that if those of us left want to see each other again, we'd better hurry."

     For Boroughs, writing about these memories, which he must hurry to discuss with the men he shares them with, has had far greater significance than the mere preservation of past events. He has renewed friendships which were so important during the war and perhaps gained a better insight into the past and future by recording them and making contact with the men he knew so long ago on the cold fields of war.

    
Paratroopers

[Front, l-r Lt. Donald W. "Ripper" Hardwick, Lt Charles A. Yates
Standing, Edwin A, Luczaj, Zig Boroughs, Harold Gerkin]

Lander College professor of science education Dr. Ralph Boroughs, center rear, with men of the 508th during the Holland campaign. Active in several veterans' groups, he is now recording his memories of World War II. (Lander College photo)

Source: The Index-Journal. Greenwood, SC, Tuesday, December 11, 1984

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