508 P.I.R. Red Devils

Fury from the sky

The Red Devils in Holland

On 9 September 1944 Field-Marshal Montgomery proposed a plan, called Operation Market Garden, to secure a bridgegehead across the Rhine. The operation called for a combined armor and airborne assault to seize and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German lines in Holland. If the operation would succeed, the Allies would be able to smash into Germany much faster and end the war before Christmas. The airborne phase of the operation consisted of capturing five bridges ahead of the armored force. The American 101st Airborne would be dropped in the area of Eindhoven, the 82nd Airborne in the Nijmegen area and the British 1st Airborne in the vincinity of Arnhem. The 504th parachute infantry regiment, now back at full strength, rejoined the 82nd Airborne, while the 507th went to the 17th Airborne Division.

At approximately 1330 hours on 17 September 1944, the Red Devils of the 508th jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. Although initial resistance was light, heavy fighting ensued for days.

On September 18, First Sgt. Leonard A. Funk, Jr., led elements of C company in a fierce counterattack to clear the landing zone (LZ) of attacking Wehrmacht infantry and anti-aircraft artillery to allow the landing of reinforcing gliderborne troopers and artillery of the 319th, 320th and 456th Field Artillery Battalions. For his actions, First Sgt. Funk received the Distinguished Service Cross.
'Wrath of the Red Devils' - Painting by James Dietz. The trooper up front, firing the Thompson submachine gun is First Sgt. Leonard Funk. For more information on this particular story and the painting, click here .
The 508th established and maintained a defensive position along the main line of resistance which measured over twelve thousand yards in length against heavy German resistance. The regiment then seized Bridge #10 and prevented its destruction by destroying the apparatus for the demolition of the Nijmegen Bridge across the Waal River. This action contributed to the successful completion of the 82nd Airborne's mission.

 The "Waalbrug", the famous bridge in Nijmegen.
Meanwhile, the regiment also seized, occupied, and defended the Berg en Dalkamp Hill mass terrain which controlled the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area. They cut Highway K, preventing the movement of enemy reserves, or escape of enemy along this important international route.

Finally, the regiment withstood and repulsed the major enemy efforts at Wyler and Beek to penetrate the Division position and assault units to the north. While accomplishing these missions, the regiment captured 483 prisoners. During this period of combat the regiment suffered 139 KIA, 479 WIA, and 178 MIA. No Red Devils were captured by the enemy. 

This article was featured in "The All American Paraglide", a divisional newspaper for the 82nd Airborne. It shortly describes the main actions of the 508th PIR during operation Market Garden.

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