Taking you on a step by step walk through, where Easy Company fought the Crossroads battle!
It is safe to say that most of us have seen the HBO hit series Band of Brothers which tells the story of the men of Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division. In Episode 6, Crossroads, the soldiers find themselves on the Island in the Netherlands. This move came as a rude surprise to them. After they fought along Hell’s Highway for three weeks, they had expected to be sent back to England.
This was not to be as they were needed in the area between Arnhem and Nijmegen, with rivers and canals on all sides it quickly became known as The Island.
Why the Island?
Operation Market Garden failed when the ground forces were unable to link up with the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. The Rhine river was eventually reached but by that time the bridge was lost, and they had no means of crossing the Rhine and securing the bridgehead carved out at Oosterbeek. All there was left to do now was to evacuate the surviving paratroopers across the river massive victory for the Germans.
A narrow corridor from the Belgium border to the Rhine just below Arnhem was what the Allies now to consolidate and expand, but there were not enough divisions available to do this. Field Marshall Montgomery had no choice but to keep the two American airborne division on the front lines. The 82nd Airborne went on the defensive to the east of Nijmegen, and the 101st Airborne went to the Island to beef up the lines.
With the Allied offensive now over, the Germans were determined to undo some of their gains and planned to retake or destroy the bridges at Nijmegen. On October 5th, 1944 the German 363rd Volksgrenadier division was to attack from the west and clear the Island of allied troops.
Facing them was the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment who had taken over this bit of front line from the British 43rd Wessex Division, note the difference in size there. The 506th had already been in combat for three weeks and had lost 40 officers and 293 enlisted men, a substantial part of 159 officers and 2,093 enlisted men that left England.
With so much land to cover and so few troops, the regiment was spread thin. The 3rd Batallion was facing west at the village of Opheusden between the Waal and the Rhine river, which at that point are only 4500 yards from each other. The 2nd Batallion was on the South bank of the Rhine river facing North and covering an area 3 miles in length. 1st Battalion was in reserve but moved up to Opheuden when the German attack began.
Too much ground to cover
To cover these 3 miles the 2nd Battalion had Dog and Easy company on the line with Fox in reserve. Easy company at this time had only 130 enlisted men and five officers present for duty. With such a long frontline and so few men to cover it, they had no choice but to establish outposts and maintain contact with these using patrols.
Taking advantage of the gaps between the American outposts, two companies of SS had crossed the Rhine in secret and were now ready to wreak havoc behind American lines to support the main attack.
At 04:00 on the morning of October 5th, 1944 a patrol was sent out to the River to observe enemy activity. This patrol stumbled upon the Germans that were covering the road to where they crossed the river.
From here the video will take over!
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