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MARKET-GARDEN RECOLLECTIONS

As a young boy of 19 in combat after less than one year in military service, I now realize that all the excitement and confusion (and being overwhelmed by the stories from the veterans of the Normandy campaign in which I did not participate), I made little attempt to know the big picture as it unfolded. Consequently, I did not have a good grounding in the actions in which I was involved.

From a few pages of my diary-type notes, which I started on numerous occasions but never continued, I found these comments:

"Our Jump into Holland was made on 17 Sept. 1944 near Nijmegen. I jumped No. 6 in plane No. 13 (Judy Ann), as the ammunitions bearer in Sgt. Mullen's squad."

I must have been "volunteered" for some special duty on the Drop Zone, because I did not go with the platoon into Nijmegen on that first night. On the company's return to the DZ the next day, I participated in the drive to clear the DZ for the gliders which were to follow and then moved with "A" Company to occupy Devil's Hill.

I remember that the fighting was quite fierce at times, but the part which made the greater impression on me was the action after we were dug in. The soil was quite sandy, so the digging went quite well, but the sand was to haunt us later as it was constantly getting into the working parts of our weapons. During that first night on the hill, we were on edge with every rustle in the underbrush. We knew we had to conserve our ammunition, but intermittent fire went on all night as no one was about to take the risk of the enemy using the cover of darkness to regain possession of the high ground.

With morning came noises of motorized equipment at the base of the hill and voices shouting as in preparation for an assault. Then came the mortar fire on our positions we were sure this was the cover for the charge to follow. One of the shells hit close by and sprayed our foxhole with sand. On my next attempt to fire my rifle, I found it to be jammed. This appeared to be the end for me and perhaps my buddy (Guashino[1] , I think) I was suddenly useless to help defend our position. I was sure this was it - my one last and only shot would be my hand grenade which I jerked from my harness and stood ready for the exact moment. If I went, at least one Kraut was going with me! The pin was pulled and the tape removed from the handle; I crouched in my hole awaiting that right moment until I could "see the whites of their eyes." Well, they never got that far, and there I was, stuck holding a grenade with only the pressure of my hand to keep it from exploding.
After things quieted clown, I was able to salvage the tape to wrap the handle and used the safety pin from my ammunition bandolier to temporarily replace the pin which was lost. I can't remember whatever became of that grenade, but it sure wasn't safe to have around in that condition.

After the early skirmishes, Devil's Hill was quiet at times for some long stretches; we still had to be on guard for fear of a sudden outburst from any direction. Sgt. Mullen, recognizing that the troops had not eaten a decent meal In days, took the opportunity to stake out in the little cottage which was at the peak of the hill (overlooking the flatlands below) and prepared a huge pot of soup for us. We spelled each other at the foxholes to take our turn going back. The soup was very greasy and loaded with red cabbage; it sure hit the spot!! We overlooked the small pieces of hair which had to be picked from our teeth as we ate.

Sometime later, I found, out that Sgt. Mullen got his soup meat from a cow that was killed in the crossfire in the open field below the hill. He certainly was no meat-cutter in his attempt to select the proper cut of meat and dress it cleanly for the menu he planned. The red cabbage came from the cottage garden.
A number of German soldiers were killed in the assault on the hill and their bodies were left strewn over the area, remaining there the entire time we occupied the ground. We used the bodies as landmarks in. giving directions to the cottage (and other needs for messenger service). As I recall, to get to the cottage we went as far as the non-commissioned officer lying on his back with his mouth wide open and his left hand raised then took the path to the right.

/s/ John Shultz
Pvt. John Shultz, "A" Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Airborne Invasion of Holland 17 Sept. 1944

[1] John L. Guaschino

 

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