114. The bridge or your life
After successfully dropping on the moors north of Son on Sunday September 17, American paratroopers immediately head towards the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal. The Americans need to capture it and then push on to Eindhoven. German guns fire at them incessantly, but they are able to reach the vicinity of the bridge. Then the Germans blow the bridge. A paratrooper describes it.
On Sunday September 17 1944, more than 4,500 American paratroopers of the 502nd and 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division landed on the heath land north of Son. Among other things, the 506th had to capture the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal and then push forward to Eindhoven. The Americans encountered strong resistance and came under machinegun and cannon fire. When they reached the bridge, it was blown up before their eyes by the Germans, who then withdrew. On the night of Monday 18 to Tuesday September 19, British engineers worked with all their might to build a Bailey bridge. It was finished early on Tuesday morning and tanks and other heavy equipment were able to cross the Canal.
But things almost went wrong after an attack by 8 German Panther tanks. A German tank managed to approach within 150 meters of the Bailey bridge. However, it was eliminated by an anti-tank gun, which had just arrived from the landing zone. The Germans were forced to retreat.
Nieuwstraat / Kanaalstraat, bridge over Wilhelminakanaal.
GPS code: 51° 30' 19.6554"N 5° 29' 30.768"O