September 17th, 1944
UNITED KINGDOM: The blackout is replaced by the "dim-out", permitting a modified form of street lighting.
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS: The last UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle
mission (Operations FRANTIC) is completed as 72 US Eighth Air Force B-17s and 59
P-51s fly without bombs from Italy to the UK; 2 B-17s and a P-51 abort and a
P-51 crash lands southwest of Paris; 70 B-17s 57 P-51s land safely in the UK.
The Eighth Air Force flies Mission 637 supporting Operation
MARKET-GARDEN: 875 B-17s are dispatched bomb 117 flak batteries and installations and an airfield, all in the Netherlands; 815 B-17s attack the primaries and 6 hit Eisenach; 2 B-17s are lost; escort is provided by 141 P-51s; 1 P-51 is lost.
503 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s escort aircraft of the First Allied Airborne Army making a parachute and glider drop of 20,000 troops into the Netherlands to secure the axis of advance toward the Zuider Zee for the British Second Army, as part of Operation MARKET-GARDEN, 17-30 September; troops dropped are the I Airborne Corps, consisting of the British 1 Airborne Division (with Polish Parachute Brigade) and US 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions; the fighters also bomb and strafe flak positions and other ground targets, encountering intense flak and about 30 fighters; they claim 7-0-0 aircraft in the air, 1-0-0 on the ground and the destruction of 107 flak positions; 6 P-47s and 7 P-51s are lost.
AIRBORNE OPERATIONS: Between 17-26 September, the US IX Troop Carrier Command, assigned to the First Allied Airborne Army, supports Operation MARKET-GARDEN as follows:
Aircraft dispatched: 3,996 of which 3,634 are successful
Gliders dispatched: 1,899 of which 1,635 are successful (320 of these gliders are Airspeed Horsas)
Losses: 98 aircraft and 137 gliders
Troops dropped or landed: 30,481
Vehicles dropped or landed: 1,001
Artillery weapons dropped or landed: 463
Tons of equipment, including fuel, dropped or landed: 3,559
TACTICAL OPERATIONS: The US Ninth Air Force flies no combat bomber missions; weather permits 1 leaflet mission. XIX Tactical Air Command supports US VIII Corps in the Brest, France area and in Germany, flies armed reconnaissance over the Trier and Saarbrucken areas and IX Tactical Air Command flies armed reconnaissance in the Dusseldorf, Duren, Cologne, and Linz/Rhine areas, supports the US 2d and 5th Armored Divisions and 4th Infantry Division in the Netherlands, and participates in Operation MARKET-GARDEN. (Jack McKillop)
NETHERLANDS: As the British Second Army nears the border, the government orders a general strike.
launches Operation Market-Garden today with parachute and glider drops aimed at
capturing bridges over the Dutch rivers near the German border. This will be followed up with the advance of
the British XXX Corps. The front will then be at Arnhem, Holland. It will be a
long salient, but due to the ground in Holland, defensible.
He plans to seize a series of 5 bridges with the use of 3 airborne divisions. This will enable him to bypass the fortified Siegfried Line and drive Allied forces into Germany by the lightly-defended back door. Montgomery says that the war will be over by Christmas.
American paratroopers have been assigned to seize a series of bridges across the Maas and the Waal while the British paras have been dropped at Arnhem, the farthest target, to seize the two Lower Rhine bridges. The 1st Parachute Reconnaissance Squadron came down at 1.15pm without opposition, eight miles west of Arnhem. It was three-quarters of an hour in advance of the main force, the 1st Parachute and 1st Air Landing Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division. Dutch civilians welcomed the men, but their greetings delayed the paras' deployment.
By the time the paras attacked the railway bridge it was being blown up, while another group, attacking from the northern approaches of the road bridge, found a strong German force in position at the southern end. There was worse to come. Not only had the British landed within two miles of the HQ of Field Marshal Model but the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions had recently arrived north of Arnhem for regrouping.
The British CO, Major-General Robert Urquhart, narrowly escaped
capture by hiding in a house. He ventured to the front when he lost contact with
the landings. He has ended up trapped there, and still out of touch with his
Jay Stone (a veteran of Market Garden) adds: On 17 September 1944 units of the British 1st Airborne Corps parachute and land by glider in the Netherlands. The mission of the corps, which consists of the US 101st Airborne Division, the US 82nd Airborne Division and the British 1st Airborne Division, is to seize bridges over waterways between Eindhoven and Arnhem so that British XXX Corps can move 60 miles between those two cities within 48 hours and out flank the Siegfried Line in Germany.
The mission of the the 101st is to seize bridges over rivers and canals between Eindhoven and Veghel The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment lands vicinity of Zon (Son). Forward Observers of the 321st Glider Field Artillery jump with the three battalions of the 506th. Their mission is to fire Artillery units of XXX Corps in support of the 506th. The most immediate and vital objective of the 506th is the seizure of the bridge over the Wilhelmia Canal in Zon. Immediately upon landing and without assembling, members of the 1st Battalion move south toward the bridge.
Colonel Robert Sink, regimental commander, accompanied by riflemen of the 1st Battalion and engineers of the 326 Engineer Battalion, is in the lead group. The bridge is blown as they are 100 yards away. Engineers of the Third Platoon of Company C, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion (the battalion's parachute company) throw a foot bridge across the canal on the wreckage of the vehicular bridge.
To the north the 82nd lands between Grave and Nijmegen. Its mission is to seize the bridge over the Maas River at Grave and the huge multispan bridge over the Waal at Nijmegen. This bridge with its approaches is one hall mile long. The seizure of this proves costly to the 82nd. The British 1st Airborne Division is to land six miles from its objective, the steel and concrete bridge at Arnhem. Because of concerns about conflicts with the traffic of the airlift of the 82nd to the south and because the leaders of the RAF believes that there are anti units to the north of Arnhem, these leaders of the 'few,' the vaunted, refuse to drop their comrades of the 1st closer than six miles from the objective. While there are many reasons for the failure of Market-Garden, this proves to be the lynch-pin of the failure which includes the loss of 75% of the 1st Airborne Division.
Here's Jay's personnel memoir of that day:
As the C-47 in which we were riding on the September 17th gained altitude I turned around, looked out the small window and saw many other C- 47's, along with ours, gathering into formation. There were approximately 25 C-47's carrying the 3rd Battalion. Our pilot climbed for altitude through the clouds which were ever present over England. This time they were not thick but wispy. As we gained altitude we joined aircraft of other units and together we made a formation which stretched to the horizon.
First Lieutenant Francis Canham and I were flying in with the commander of the 3rd Battalion. He was our jump master and number one man in the stick. Number two was the battalion operations officer (S3), Canham was number three and I was number four man. The battalion commander spent a lot of time standing near the open door while the S3 spent his time standing on the opposite side of the cabin. I don’t know what Canham was doing but I spent a lot of time praying. A chaplain had given me a small paperback book which contained some prayers which had given me comfort in times past and so I read some of this book. The S3 must have seen the concern in my face and when I looked up at him one time he smiled at me and winked. Two days later during the attack on Eindhoven he was lying on a sidewalk in a pool of blood with a small hole in his head.
Our route to Holland was over Belgium which was in allied hands. South of Holland we turned north for the final run to the drop zone at Zon. As we flew over Holland the Germans began firing anti aircraft shells and heavy machine gun rounds at us. When I heard that for the first time I asked the soldier next to me what it was. He calmly replied that they were firing at us with machine guns. I had heard them on the ground but never in the air.
Fifteen minutes before an aircraft is scheduled to arrive over the drop zone, the crew chief notifies the jump master of that fact and the pilot turns on the red light just inside the open door. The jump master orders the men to stand up, hook up, check equipment, and then sound off for equipment check. When the pilot turns the light to green the jump master goes out closely followed by the rest of the stick. The crew chief gave the word to the battalion commander and the pilot turned on the red light. The battalion commander ordered us to stand up and go through the drill. We were one tense group of soldiers. I had been in combat but this was my first combat jump. However, some of these soldiers had not been in combat and would make their entrance via parachute. The battalion commander stood in the door looking for his check points so that he would know where he was when we jumped. The rest of us kept on waiting. Eighteen minutes later the crew chief came back and told the battalion commander that the navigator had made a mistake and that we were then 15 minutes out. When we heard that there were many unpleasant words for the navigator. Now we had to go through that awful wait again.
This time the navigator got it right and fifteen minutes later the green light went on and we went out the door. Paratroopers are always anxious to get out an aircraft but this time we were more anxious than usual. We could see puffs of black smoke made by anti aircraft shells as they sought out our planes and exploded. Nobody wanted to be in an airplane when it was struck by an anti aircraft shell and so we were on each others backs as we went out. I later found out that we had jumped at an altitude of 450 feet. I believed it because no sooner did my parachute canopy open than I landed on the ground.
As soon as I landed I collapsed the canopy of my chute, looked around and saw Canham. I looked for our equipment bundle, found it immediately and attempted to untie to rope which held the opening closed. It was a tight knot and I was unable to open it so I took my knife from its sheath on my leg and cut the rope, opened the bundle and took out our radio and batteries. By then Galant and Brasswell had joined Canham and me. The roar of the C47s overhead was load. A few had been shot down by German anti-aircraft fire. Shell fragments from spent anti-aircraft rounds fell close to us. The odd C47 that was shot down might fall near us. Both could be dangerous and so the drop zone was becoming an unhealthy place. We had completed the assembly of our FO team, secured our equipment and so we headed for the assembly area of the 3rd Battalion in a portion of near by woods marked with blue smoke.
There was a touch of euphoria in our group. None of us had the experience of mass jump during our training but we knew that we had just taken part in a successful one. Everything was working like clockwork. It couldn’t have been better. The adrenalin was pumping so much that it was only after we had been in the assembly area for several minutes that I noticed that I had sliced off a bit of my left thumb cutting the rope on our radio equipment pack. Canham found the battalion commander and we joined his command group. I placed our radio on my back and the batteries on my chest, hooked up the antenna and turned the power on. The mission of our FO team was to adjust the fires of British XXX Corps Artillery in support of the 3rd Battalion. Other FOs from the 321st were with the other two battalions. I attempted to check into its net but was unsuccessful. We thought that perhaps we were out of range of the British and so turned the radio off to conserve batteries. When we were closer to them we would try again.
The 3rd Battalion was the reserve battalion for the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The regiment’s mission was to seize the bridge over the Wilhelmena Canal in Zon. Colonel Robert Sink, the regimental commander had given the 1st Battalion the mission of securing the regimental objective. As soon as 15 - 25 men came into the battalion’s assembly area they were sent south through the woods. Just before they arrived at the canal they were to swing left and move on the bridge and capture it before the Germans blew it. Major James L. LaPrade, the commander, had the battalion on the way in 45 minutes. General Maxwell Taylor, the division commander, accompanied the battalion. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion had completed its assembly and on Colonel Sink’s order moved south on the Zon road toward the bridge. We in the 3rd Battalion followed. On the road to Zon we again tried to raise the British but were unsuccessful.
The 1st Battalion should have been at the bridge before the 2nd Battalion but it was delayed by fire from a group 88mm guns. The guns were silenced and the advance continued. Because of this delay the 2nd Battalion arrived to within 50 yards of the bridge just as did the 1st Battalion came within 150 yards from the flank. At that moment Germans blew the bridge. Just about everything but the center pillar was gone. A moment after the bridge blew LaPrade, Lieutenant Millford F. Weller and Sergeant Donald B. Dunning came running up, took a look, dove into the water and swam to the other side.
Meanwhile, our FO team moved south on the Zon road with the 3rd Battalion. It was typical of any approach march. Some forward movement interspersed with many stops. During this Canham told me to take the radio to the Division Artillery (DivArty) communications section and see if its members could get our radio going. The DivArty headquarters was in a wood about one-half a mile west of the road. They were unable to fix my radio and thought that it had been damaged in the drop. They were probably right as we had not had any special packing for such a sensitive radio as the SCR 610 was. I asked for a replacement and they looked at me as though I were playing with 51 cards.
I hustled back to the road and found my guys as they were continuing the march with the 3rd Battalion. The 3rd Platoon, Company C, 326 Airborne Engineer Battalion (the battalion’s parachute company) had jumped with the 506th. It quickly through a wooden foot bridge across the canal. The bridge was not as stable as it could have been and only a few men at a time could cross on it. This caused slow movement throughout the column of the 506th.
At about 9:00 P.M. darkness came and it found us tired. We had gone to bed late on the 16th and had been up early on the 17th. Since the jump we had been on the move carrying that heavy radio and extra batteries in addition to our normal equipment. As we moved through Zon I could hear on the radioa of the residents the BBC broadcasting news of the success of the airborne operation. After having the bridge blow up on us and our slow movement south I couldn’t understand was so successful. Certainly the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem was not meeting with success, either. There really wasn’t much success that first day. Perhaps the BBC meant that the drop had been successful. For the 506th the rest of the operation had not been.as successful it it might have been. After all, our mission was to seize the bridge over the Wilhelmenia Canal andthe Germans had blown it.
Because of the slow movement and my fatigue whenever we stopped in Zon I moved to the side of the road, leaned against a window of a house and rested the bottom of the radio on the window ledge. This took the weight off my shoulders but didn’t relieve my fatigue and several times I woke up from a quick sleep while walking down the road. We finally crossed the bridge and moved off to the right into a drainage ditch where we fell asleep immediately. This was a violation of that sacred rule, "Dig in for the night." Canham was a careful leader and I can’t understand why he did not insist that we dig in.
See also: The Battle of Arnhem Archive.
GERMANY: Rastenburg: Told of the Allied airborne landing at Arnhem today, Hitler collapsed with a suspected mild heart attack and took to his bed. Even on his best days, the Fuhrer suffers from headaches, stomach cramps and dizziness, and wavers between fits of rage and deep depression.
He exists on an assortment of drugs prescribed by his physician, Theodor Morell: Vitamins A and D and glucose to stimulate his appetite; anti-gas pills and digestive aids; Vitamultin-Ca to alleviate depression; caffeine and pervitin tablets to stimulate the brain; injections of heart and liver extracts; cocaine for headaches; sedatives for sleeping.
He harangues his generals about the new armies he will raise, the secret weapons that will appear, and the quarrels that will break out among the Allies; these factors will enable Germany to gain a victory that will endure for a hundred years, he says.
But anxiety over the looming defeat, the unhealthy existence in the underground bunker and Morell's drugs have made Hitler a physical and mental wreck. On the rare occasions when he leaves the bunker he sways and stumbles. Greyfaced, trembling, blinking his bloodshot eyes, he retreats into the Wolfsschanze.
A U-1302 crewmember took his own life with a pistol in the port of Gotenhafen. (Dave Shirlaw)
NORWAY: U-855 is listed as lost. (Type IXC/40) Missing since 11 September, 1944 in the area west of Bergen, Norway. 56 dead (all crew lost). The boat was returning from a weather reporting patrol when she possibly hit a mine on or about the 17 September in the Iceland-Faroes mine barrage. (Alex Gordon)
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS: The US Fifteenth Air Force dispatches 440+ B-17s and B-24s, with fighter escort, to attack 2 oil refineries and 4 marshalling yards in the Budapest, Hungary area in an attempt to hit Germany's principal remaining oil supply and to aid the Soviet and other friendly forces on the southern Russian front by pounding the focal rail traffic point in that area; some of the escorting fighters strafe targets of opportunity in the general target area. Bad weather hampers all but 8 of 54 B-24s flying supplies to southern France. 25 bombers return from Cairo, Egypt to Italy with Allied airmen formerly imprisoned in Bulgaria; 2 B-17s, escorted by 41 P-51s, evacuate wounded airmen from Czechoslovakia to Italy.
FRANCE: The US Seventh Army's French II Corps makes contact with the US Third Army's French 2d Armored Division near Bains-les-Bains.
ITALY: In the mountains south of the Po Valley, US Fifth Army forces break through the Gothic Line at Il Giogo Pass, take Monte Altuzzo and Pratone, finish clearing Monte Veruca, and gain the crest of Monte Monticelli. US Twelfth Air Force B-25s hit troop concentrations in the British Eighth Army battle area in the vicinity of Rimini; B-25s pound railbridges in the western Po Valley, while fighter-bombers operating in the Po Valley attack rails, roads, rolling stock, road bridges, motor transport and other targets. (Jack McKillop)
The US 8th Infantry Division and the 321st and
322d Infantry Regiments of the US Army's 81st Infantry Division land on Angaur in the Palaus
Islands. Resistance is strong from the 1600 man Japanese garrison, but the army
capture the north-eastern third of the island. Most of the
south end of Peleliu Island is held by the Marines. Attacks on the Japanese
positions on Mount Umurbrogol begin, marking the tough fighting ahead, but US
forces are finding the resistance lighter than on Peleliu, six miles to the
north. There, 24,300 marines have been pinned down by 10,500 Japanese operating
from a high ridge. Ironically, the Palaus are no longer essential to US war
plans. The islands, 800 miles southwest of Guam, were intended as a staging area
for an attack on Mindanao. However, two days ago General MacArthur told
Washington that he now intends to attack the Philippines directly.
During the afternoon, USN carrier-based F6F Hellcats attack US Army ground troops killing 7 and wounding 46. All close-air support missions are temporarily halted on Angaur.
A US Seventh Air Force B-24 on a snooper mission from Saipan Island bombs Iwo Jima Island; armed reconnaissance over Marcus Island is unsuccessful due to bad weather. Gilbert Islands-based B-25s pound Nauru Island.
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC: Royal Navy carriers Indomitable and Illustrious launched an air strike on Japanese facilities in Sumatra. (Dave Shirlaw)
US Far East Air Force B-25s bomb Buayoan Airfield on Mindanao in the Philippines. B-24s, B-25s, and P-38s hit Langoan Airfield on Celebes Island. B-25s and P-39s, fighting bad weather, attack a variety of targets, including airfields and villages in Amboina-Ceram Islands area. In New Guinea, P-47s and P-40s pound the airfield on Samate Island.
JAPAN: In the Kurile Islands, 2 US Eleventh Air Force B-24s abort a mission to Suribachi due to weather and 4 B-25s fly an unsuccessful shipping sweep. Four PV-1 Venturas of the USN's Bombing Squadron One Hundred Thirty Six (VB-136) based on Attu attack Parmushiru and Shimushu Islands. The aricraft flown by the squadron commander is damaged and forced to land in the USSR where the crew is interned. As a result of this mishap, further Empire Express missions are canceled and VB-136 missions are restricted to sector searches or special photo missions where the speed of the PV-1 is required.
BURMA: 8 US Tenth Air Force P-47
Thunderbolts bomb Katha, 8 hit Momauk and Wanling, and 8 others attack Bhamo; 6
B-25s hit Mangshih while 3 others bomb Indaw; 16 B-24s haul fuel to Liuchow,
China; C-47 Skytrains fly 200+ sorties delivering personnel and supplies to
various points in the CBI.
CHINA: 29 US Fourteenth Air Force B-24s bomb Changsha; 27 B-25s hit Hwangshapu, Kiyang, and Nanyo; 130+ P-51 Mustangs and P-40s on armed reconnaissance attack town areas, strongpoints, shipping, railway targets, gun positions, trucks, and other targets of opportunity from NE of Ichang southward through Hunan Province and beyond; areas hit include Changsha, Kiyang, Lingling, Chuanhsien, Siangtan, Hengshan, Kweiyang, and Lingkuantien, plus scattered targets of opportunity elsewhere. (Jack McKillop)
CANADA: Frigate HMCS Poundmaker commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: Large cruiser USS Guam
Destroyers USS Compton, Frank Knox and Gainard launched.
Minesweeper USS Embattle launched. (Dae Shirlaw)
Provisional HQ, Fleet Marine Force is designated HQ, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. (Gordon Rottman)
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