The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market Garden
The bridge at Son
On 17 september, shortly after the parachute landings of the 101st Airborne Division
near Son, the whole 1st battalion of the 506th regiment found its way to one of their
main objectives, the swing bridge over the Wilhelmina canal in Son. To take any Germans
at the bridge by surprise a route through the surrounding woods of Son was taken.
The intension of the troops was to flank attack and destroy any Germans defending
the bridge. When the troops came close to their target they discovered a German FLAK
battery consisting out of two 88 mm guns, mortars and machine guns protecting the
bridge. This battery had already been noticed and briefed to the British in Belgium
by the local resistance but apparently this information hadn’t reached the Americans
because otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen this route to the bridge. When the troops
came in sight of the guns, after coming from the protection of the woods, the German
laid down a horrific fire. This unexpected fire resulted in a heavy slaughter under
the troops and no sooner the gunfire was followed by man to man fights with the Germans
in a park behind a sanatorium. In this sanatorium, that already had taken a direct
hit during the artillery barrage from the 88’s, about one hundred TBS-patients were
being treated. Witnessed by the patient’s hand grenades flew all about and many Americans
were severely wounded and some were killed.
The fast advance of the 1st battalion was clearly stopped. Meanwhile, after they
had gathered near their drop zone with considerable delay, the 2nd and 3rd battalion
of the 506th came in over the main road to Son. Also these troops came in to sight
of the 88’s and had to retreat after the Germans put them under fire. By taking another
route around the houses adjacent the main road the men were able to approach the
guns and take out the crews that were manning them. Of the three bridges over the
Wilhelmina canal two had already been destroyed by the Germans and the bridge at
Son was also prepared to be blown.
Because 2nd battalion was under the impression that 3rd battalion would have already
taken the bridge the houses leading to the canal bridge where systematically cleared
by them. When the troops up front subsequently reached the canal bridge within a
few yards yards the Germans detonated their explosives and blew the bridge. Now there
was no way to cross the canal anymore and the Americans had to quickly search for
another way to cross the canal. But the Americans were lucky, the local resistance
had been able to provide a substantial amount of heavy timber which was kept behind
from the Germans and could now be used by engineers to temporary repair the bridge.
Sadly though the 506th PIR’s objective to reach Eindhoven before 20.00 hrs that evening
and hook up with the first tanks of the British 30 Corps would not be met.