From the Sky we lead

Dick Wolch, 508th Regiment 82nd Airborne Division.

Peering from, the window of the plane, I tried counting the number of C-47's winging their way toward Holland. I gave up after reaching three hundred. Each plane carried a load of American Paratroopers fully equipped to deal the German troops in Holland a backbreaking blow at the north end of the Siegfried line.

As the great armada roared over the Holland countryside, enemy troops below threw up small concentrations of flak, but not enough to cause concern. The majority of the men were veterans of the Normandy airborne invasion, men who had to ride through flak thick enough to walk on.

As the planes neared the DZ (drop zone) the jump master yelled to stand and hook up. My legs felt like rubber as I leaped to my feet. I was scared and scared stiff. With one hand clung to a hand grip above my head and with the other hooked to the static line to the anchor line which runs parallel with the fuselage.

Para dropping at Groesbeek

Photo: US Archives

A "butterfly" was slowly creeping into my stomach. Beads of sweat rolled down my cheeks, drenching the collar of my jumpsuit. I kept telling myself everything will be o.k., but the butterfly did not leave. I thought of an anti-aircraft shell hitting the plane before the word "GO" was given. Someone behind me was cursing and sobbing.

"Is everybody ready?" yelled the jump master. Twenty-one voices answered as one, "hell yes, lets go". Again the jump master jelled, "OK, pile out". I saw him disappear through the door, then the second, the third, fourth and I began the speedy shuffle toward the door. As I moved nearer the door the "butterfly" suddenly disappeared. I felt light on my feet. I swore and I threw my right foot out of the door. Swearing always did seemed to help. Te prop blast caught my body and pulled me into nothingness.

The parachute opened with a terrific jerk, shaking every bone in my body. I opened my eyes, but could only see blackness. My helmet had slit over my face at the opening shock, completely obscuring my view. Finally I arranged the helmet then checked the chute for possible rips or broken suspension lines. I turned my attention to the ground when I heard the sharp barks of M-1 rifles.

Hundreds of men and parachutes covered the drop zone. The different colored parachutes resembled a large flower with insects crawling over it. Overhead more planes roared over, spewing paratroopers and equipment bundles. The sky blackened with men and parachutes.

Running toward the west side of the DZ were seven enemy ack-ack gunners trying to reach the shelter of trees and brush which bordered te drop zone. A few seconds ago they were shooting 20 and 40 MM shells at us, causing planes and men to crash to death. A score of paratroopers took aim and fired, the enemy fell to the ground and lay still.

The swinging of the earth made me realize of my own predicament. I was oscillating at a terrific rate. Pulling slowly on the risers to halt the oscillation, I clamped my feet together and waited for the ground to rush up. A paratrooper looked up, then jumped aside. I relaxed for the landing and said a short prayer.

I hit the ground backwards, but not gently. Rolling over on my back caused my tommy-gun to act as a prop and I ended the role with my face deep in the sand. Half blinded, I shook the sand out of the barrel and tried to pull back the bolt. Jammed! I dropped the tommy-gun and pulled an automatic pistol from my boot and snapped back the hammer. None of the enemy were in sight, except two badly riddled bodies. I had landed near a 20 MM gun emplacement. Both barrels were shattered by grenades and the crew killed. I wanted the sight for a souvenir, but found that a paratrooper had already taken it.

Continue here with Dick Wolch's Market Garden recollections

Dick posing in the cockpit of a C-47 on an airfield in England prior to the drop in France on D-day.

Dick Wolch in France in 1945.

Books about the 82nd Airborne Division in WWII

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