- Oosterhoutsedijk 90, 6663 KV Nijmegen, Pays-Bas
One of the main objectives of Operation Market Garden was to capture the two bridges across the Waal river in Nijmegen. This task proved to be difficult. In a desperate effort to maintain the momentum, U.S. paratroopers crossed the Waal in canvas boats. Attacking from both sides, they managed to capture the bridges intact.
One of the main objectives of Operation Market Garden was to capture the two bridges across the Waal river in Nijmegen. Under the command of General James Gavin, paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division landed in the area around the village of Groesbeek on Sunday 17 September 1944. The Allied units secured the drop zone end quickly reached the outskirts of the city, but then met fierce resistance. Units of the 10th SS Panzer Division halted their advance and made it impossible for them to approach the bridges from the south. To maintain what was left of the momentum, a plan was drafted to cross the Waal river in little canvas boats and attack the bridges from the south and north simultaneously.
On 20 September American paratroopers crossed the Waal in 26 tiny boats. Lacking proper oars, some soldiers had to use their rifle butts to row. Half of the 260 U.S. soldiers involved were killed or wounded. Only thirteen of the dinghies could be used for a second crossing.
After four hours of fierce fighting and heavy losses on both sides, the paratroopers with the help of the 30th Corps, succeeded in capturing the bridges intact. The city of Nijmegen was liberated.
Forty years later the ‘Waal Memorial’ was erected to honour the soldiers who fell during the Waal crossing.
In 2013 a third bridge over the Waal was inaugurated by the last surviving veterans of the assault, and Mrs. Barbara Gavin, the eldest daughter of General James Gavin, the ‘liberator’ of Nijmegen. The new bridge is named ‘the Crossing’ to commemorate the heroic crossing that liberated Nijmegen in 1944.
Operation Market Garden was one of the largest Allied operations of the Second World War. It aimed to secure the bridges over the rivers Maas (Meuse), Waal and Rhine in the Netherlands in order to outflank the heavy German defences of the Siegfried Line and to insure a swift advance towards Berlin.
From 1943 to 1945, the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division was deployed in all of the important operations in western Europe. It took part in military operations in Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as on the territory of the German Reich. After the war it was stationed in Berlin as part of the occupying forces.
James Megellas joined the U.S. army in May 1942 and saw action in Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany. He took part in some of the most famous battles of the Second World War and is one of the most highly decorated members of the 82nd Airborne Division.
During the Second World War 6 million Jews were murdered across Europe by the German occupiers. Rose Jakobs was a Jewish girl who went into hiding during the occupation of the Netherlands. Like Anne Frank she wrote a diary. She was one of the few Jews that survived. Unfortunately she was killed by a bomb fragment just after the liberation of Nijmegen.