First contact with the enemy

Dick Wolch, 508th Regiment 82nd Airborne Division.

After I have reached the assembly area, Staff Sergeant Bill Howe, Corporal Harold Kasper and I are assinged to haul the supplies and ammunition from the dropzone to the Regimental Ammunition Dump which is being set up a short distance from the dropzone. The three of us walk towards a farmhouse hoping to find a horse and cart to help us with the job. We knew from experience in Normandy that the enemy would waste no time and would launch a counterattack ASAP, so it was essential to bring the supplies to the right places quickly.

As we neared the house a boy of fifteen approached. I lifted my gun as a signal for him to halt. He waited with a wide grin until we approached. He spoke fairly good English and began telling us how many enemy troops were in the area and where they are located. I interupted by asking for a horse and cart. He lead us into a big courtyard where onter members of the family were waiting to welcome us. I told Bill and Harold to look for the horse and cart and in the meantime I would stand guard near the courtyard gate.

The companies had already cleared the dropzone and were attacking the city of Berg and Dal a mile away. I could hear the clatter of machine guns and rifle fire. Now and then te dull explosion of a mortar shell could be heard.

A movement in the brush four hundred yards away caught my attention. Standing on tiptoe, I saw a file of men leap over a fence and squat down in the brush. Friend or enemy? More men were leaping the fence. One man stood up and I saw the blue-gray uniform of a german soldier. He lifted his arm, then crouched down. A moment later the group moved in the direction of the gate.

With a low whistle I warned Bill and Harold then crouched down and worked my way into a cluster of brush growing against the courtyard wall. The enemy moved forward almost a hundred yards before they stopped. Their eyes were rivited upon the dropzone where now hundreds of Gliders threw up great clouds of dust as they skidded to a stop. The front of the gliders lifted, anti-tank guns and jeeps loaded with men rode out and raded in the direction of Berg-and-Dal. Many of the glider troopers did not wait for the front of the glider to lift, they simply kicked the flimsy partitions of the fusalage out and jumped out.

We decided to make a dash for the dropzone, hoping that the arrival of the glider troops would keep the enemy down and out of sight. Bill held the reins and made the horse run at a fast trot. The three of us ran on the off side of the cart for protection. Looking back I saw six or seven of the enemy rise and take aim. Harold stopped and fired a burst. He turned and ran after the cart while I stopped and fired a burst. We kept that up until our clips were empty. Our guns drew the attention of glidermen. They opened up with machine guns mounted on jeeps and kept the enemy pinned down until we reached the safety of small hill. A mortar crew had had the time to set a mortar in position and lobbed a half dozen shells at the enemy group. That ended all the plans of that group to advance on us, all were a direct hit.

Continue here with Dick Wolch's Market Garden recollections

Dick Wolch in France in 1945.

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