Operation Market Garden: 101st Airborne

During Operation Market Garden in September 1944, one of the main American units to participate was the 101st Airborne. The division’s men and equipment were dropped in Holland via C-47 transport planes and towed gliders, between the towns of Veghel, Zon and Best, north of the city of Eindhoven. Unlike the preemptive night landing the division had participated in during the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden called for a massive daylight drop on enemy-controlled territory. The men of the 101st, like other paratroop groups dropped into Holland as part of the “market” portion of the operation, were tasked with capturing key roads, bridges and intersections to allow the “garden“, or Allied armored element of the operation progresses towards the Rhine and the German border.

Despite the daylight operation and the many difficulties encountered by the division during D-Day, the 101st’s landing operations on September 17, 1944 went largely as planned, with the majority of men and equipment landing on designed drop zones. Initially, they experienced lighter than expected resistance in the fall and managed to make great strides in securing designated objectives. This would quickly change in the following hours, however, as the German defenders in the area quickly regrouped and began concentrated thrusts against the Allied paratroopers. The men of the 101st Airborne fought off these counterattacks with the best small arms the United States could supply at the time. This included the famous M1 Garand, which gave airborne riflemen a distinct advantage in rate of fire over the bolt-action Mauser 98k that was still standard in the German Army. Other firearms included the collapsible M1A1 carbine, various versions of the Thompson submachine gun, the M1911 and M1911A1, as well as the larger M1918A2 barbell and belt-fed M1919 air-cooled machine gun.

However, as the photos of the operation prove, the Springfield M1903 was also used during the operation, although it was officially replaced by the M1 as the standard rifle since before the war. The reason for his presence had to do with rifle grenades. At the time, the M7 rifle grenade launcher was still in development, as designers attempted to find a way for the M1 to project grenades without damaging the gas system. Since the M1903 has no gas system and there was a launcher, World War I rifles were still being used as grenade launcher rifles in 1944. While the men who parachuted into Holland used the M1919 lighter and air-cooled. machine gun mounted on the M2 collapsible tripod system, the old water-cooled M1917 machine gun was also present, used by glider infantry which did not have so much weight limitation.

During the operation, the men of the 101st were warmly welcomed by the Dutch people, who had suffered for years under the tyranny of German occupation and rule. This was particularly felt when the men of the 101st liberated the city of Eindhoven, where the population went to celebrate the end of Nazi control. Despite the fact that it would only be a temporary liberation, as the Germans would eventually retake the city, the presence of American soldiers confronting the invading Germans gave hope to the Dutch, even though the war would not end so quickly. than the men involved. in Operation Market Garden had hoped.

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Terri S. Tomasini