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THE 1ST BATTALION IN NIJMEGEN (2 of 3)

     Just before dusk, about 2000 hours of D-day, the regimental commander ordered the First Battalion commander to take his battalion, minus "C" Company, one section of 81mm Mortars, and one section of machine guns into Nijmegen with the mission of securing the highway bridge over the Waal River. This was the first time the battalion was told it was to secure this bridge. By the time the battalion minus [sic] was assembled from its rather wide defensive positions, it was well after dark. A Dutch underground worker who had contacted Regi-mental Headquarters had stated that the highway bridge over the Waal River was defended by a non-commissioned officer and seventeen men. This Dutch patriot also volunteered to guide the battalion into the town. The route into the bridge area was selected in consultation with the Dutch civilian. When the Battalion commander suggested the most direct route to the bridge, on the concept that speed was most important, the Dutch civilian pointed out that that route was covered by an 88mm gun, and that the street was very narrow. He suggested a route nearly as short which followed a broad boulevard into town, and then swung East into the bridge area from the flank. He also pointed out that this route went by the Dutch underground headquarters in the city, who could give us the last minute information on the bridge defenses. Working on the theory that if the Dutch civilian was loyal, we could gain much since no member of the unit had been in this large city before and lose only a few minutes of time if he wasn't, the Battalion Commander decided to use the latter route. Another contributing factor was the knowledge that the combat patrol under Lt Weaver was using the other route. If it was open, and the one the battalion used was blocked, the two were not so far apart that the movement could not be changed enroute.

The movement into town, with "A" Company leading - point out front - was uneventful until the point reached the traffic circle in the city where it was to swing right toward the bridge. The time was a little after 2200 hours. A sharp "Halt", unmistakably in German, came through the dark, followed by a prolonged burst of fire from a Schmeiser [sic] machine pistol. "A" company's point took cover, and returned the fire. The Battalion Commander, in the advance party with the "A" company commander, Captain Jonathan E. Adams, directed the company commander to attack, secure the traffic circle, and block all entrances to it from the West. "A" company immediately attacked as ordered, bogging down in the fierce fire and a hail of grenades just beyond the traffic circle. The company took a number of casualties, and became somewhat confused in the darkness, so it was ordered to hold what it had gained, while "B" company was ordered to take up the attack on the right of "A" company. "B" company promptly complied with the order and ran into severe resistance, and was stopped by the intensity of the fire. In the meantime the Dutch civilian had disappeared (he was later found to have been killed in the initial fire fight). At this stage, the Germans counterattacked, partially over running "A" company, which was not completely reorganized from its initial attack. The German attack was stopped, "B" companies reserve platoon committed to cover the sector occupied by "A" company, and "A" company was pulled back and reorganized. At this time a runner was sent back to Regiment (the SCR 300 radio would not carry over the five miles to the Regimental CP) to inform the regimental commander of the situation and request release of the remainder of the Battalion to battalion control. The commanding officer of the First Battalion, on the basis of resistance received, had reached the conclusion that he was opposed by a force equal in strength to his own, and more strength was needed to accomplish the mission assigned. In the meantime, "A" company's reorganization was completed, and another plan of attack evolved where "B" company would attack to its front, while "A" company moved around the right to try for the bridge again. "B" company's attack would keep the German force pinned, and cover the flank and rear of "A" company. The attack went off as planned, and "A" company had advanced to within about four hundred yards of the bridge when another German force not in contact with "B" company, counterattacked, isolated most of "A" company's first platoon under Lt George Lamm, and the company commander, Captain Adams, who was up with his lead elements. The remainder of the company again became disorganized, and fell back on the "B" company position.
 

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