Robert M Murphy

505th PIR, A Company

I was in the hospital in England for sixty or seventy days after my return from Normandy, because of the wound in my back. I was operated on my birthday and the surgeon took the shrapnel out and gave it to me later that day, he said it was a present for my eighteenth birthday. I had entered the army at an early age by forging my birth certificate.
I went AWOL from the hospital because during my transfer to the hospital they had taken my jump boots so I went to Kuorny and got new boots. I got my pay and went back to the hospital. I went AWOL from the hospital in the first week of September and got back to the regiment. I got back just in time for the Holland jump on September 17, 1944. We jumped at one o’clock in the afternoon The Dutch people were just coming out of church where they had been praying, I am sure, for liberation. We jumped in Groesbeek. The 505 jumped on a drop zone in Klein Amerika.

Later that day a young Dutch family offered me some of their very meagre food from their Sunday meal.
After a few days, A Company and also some of the other first battalion people where going to Mook, because B or C company was there alone and they where counter attacked by a heavy group of Germans. They were in deep trouble and we were called to go down there and rescue these paratroopers and retake what had gone lost in the counterattack. At one time while I was running along a crossway, on the way from Groesbeek to Mook, as you come down the hill there was a cemetery in the area. I believe the street is now called the “General Gavin straat”. We went down there and I was told to run across this crossway. As I did I saw two Germans in a foxhole and I didn’t stop, but pulled a hand grenade and tossed it in the foxhole. I didn’t stop to see if it went off, I just kept running as fast as possible down to the town as the lead man.       

Incidentally, I know the exact area, because I have been down there since many times.
I have been to this yard where several men where hiding behind this fence. They where American paratroopers and they were totally out of ammunition. Eventually the rest of my company came by. We continued on in combat and there was no artillery or mortars and it was just hand-to-hand and house-to-house. We had captured several Russian and Polish soldiers that where in German uniforms. They were our enemies of course. That night when we took them we gathered their watches. The next morning I was called upon by Captain Dolan, my company commander to escort the prisoners back to the Prisoner depot, which was in the town of Groesbeek. We had heard that there were German paratroopers right on that road from Mook to Groesbeek, but he said nevertheless get rid of them. It is a comic story. I gave all the prisoners their watches back, which I had taken the night before. I figured that in about ten minutes I was going to be dead or a prisoner-of-war myself.

Para dropping at Groesbeek

Photo: US Archives

The brave Dutch woman

Now I will tell you a story about a very brave woman. As I was marching these prisoners back with their hands over their heads and myself carrying a Thompson machine-gun. I went by this house on my left as we were up by the end of this causeway. Incidentally this old house is there now. This woman was coming running out of her house and said fallschirmjäger, which mend German Paratroopers. They were in her yard. She pointed to her yard. I knew enough of what was going on as soon as she said fallschirmjäger. These Russian and Polish soldiers dropped to the ground immediately and went face down. I guess they where pretty frightened of the German paratroopers. Knowing that I was an American paratrooper there was going to be a big problem, so I told them to stay down on the ground. I went around the house and there where six German paratroopers. I jumped up in front of them and said “Hande hoch”, hands up and they put their hands up and they dropped their rifles. Surprisingly I had no battle they just dropped their rifles. In any event, they all had pistols, P-38’s or Lugers, which is like a gold mine to the American combat soldiers. They were souvenirs that we liked to sell the rear echelon quartermaster corps and then the woman was knocking on the window and pointing to the other side of the house. To make a long story short I got another five paratroopers.

As I lined them up against the wall standing up a shot rang out. I was fired upon by another German. I turned around quickly and saw a man in German uniform ducking down the other side of the raised causeway road. I fired three rounds and then my “tommy” got jammed with the round in the chamber. This left the sub-machine gun totally useless. I threw a hand grenade over there and then I got up. I also had a pistol , an Italian 44 six-shooter. By that time the German soldier was gone. The German paratroopers who still had their pistols were still there facing the wall. I had taken their Schmeissers away but not yet their pistols. Obviously they felt that my Thompson was still working.

The reason that I tell you this story is because of the remarkable bravery of this woman who came out of her house with the risk of her life, which reminded me of my mother, because she could have done something like that. This woman didn’t have to do anything, she could have stayed in her house and obviously I would have been killed then. These German paratroopers where not their to surrender, they were fully armed an looking around the corner I was supposed to come around, when I jumped in front of them from the other corner.

As a matter of fact I wrote a letter to my mother telling here that the Dutch were treating us better than any other persons that we had met since we had been overseas.

After the Holland campaign we marched out of the Nijmegen area. We went down to Oss and there we got onto trucks. From there we were driven down to Reims.

Robert M. Murphy

Robert just prior to his jump as pathfinder into Normandy, France.

Airborne soldiers resting alongside of the road during their advance.
Picture courtesy, Lindsey Lewis.

Airborne soldiers with Thompson sub-machineguns waiting in a ditch.
Picture courtesy, Lindsey Lewis.

Books about the 82nd Airborne Division in WWII

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