The Battle of the Bridges

The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden

Frank van Lunteren

Operation Market Garden has been recorded as a complete Allied failure in World War II, an overreach that resulted in an entire airborne division being destroyed at its apex. However, within that operation were episodes of heroism that still remain unsung. This book draws on a plethora of previously unpublished sources to shed new light on the expl
Date Published :
April 2017
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Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612002323
Pages : 368
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781612004778
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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Operation Market Garden has been recorded as a complete Allied failure in World War II, an overreach that resulted in an entire airborne division being destroyed at its apex. However, within that operation were episodes of heroism that still remain unsung.

On September, 17, 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, floated down across the Dutch countryside, in the midst of German forces, and proceeded to fight their way to vital bridges to enable the Allied offensive to go forward. The 101st Airborne was behind them; the British 1st Airbourne was far advanced. In the 82nd’s sector the crucial conduits needed to be seized.

The Germans knew the importance of the bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen as well as James Gavin and his 82nd troopers did. Thus began a desperate fight for the Americans to seize it, no matter what the cost. The Germans would not give, however, and fought tenaciously in the town and fortified the bridge. On September 20 Gavin turned his paratroopers into sailors and conducted a deadly daylight amphibious assault in small plywood and canvas craft across the Waal River to secure the north end of the highway bridge in Nijmegen. German machine guns and mortars boiled the water on the crossing, but somehow a number of paratroopers made it to the far bank. Their ferocity thence rolled up the German defenses, and by the end of day the bridge had fallen.

This book draws on a plethora of previously unpublished sources to shed new light on the exploits of the “Devils in Baggy Pants” by Dutch author and historian Frank van Lunteren. A native of Arnhem—the site of “The Bridge too Far”—the author draws on nearly 130 interviews he personally conducted with veterans of the 504th, plus Dutch civilians and British and German soldiers, who here tell their story for the first time.

About The Author

Frank van Lunteren was born and raised in Arnhem, the Netherlands. While studying history in Nijmegen, in the spring of 2001, he established contact with a WWII veteran of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Shortly after he graduated as a historian, Van Lunteren was guest speaker at the August 2007 Convention of the 504th PIR Association. There, veteran Francis Keefe (1924–2021) asked him to write “a book on the entire regiment.”

The research process of over twenty years culminated in five volumes: Birth of a Regiment (May 1942–September 1943), Spearhead of the Fifth Army (September 1943–April 1944), The Battle of the Bridges (April 1944–November 1944), Blocking Kampfgruppe Peiper (November 1944–February 1945), End of an Odyssey (February 1945–January 1946). From activation to the New York Victory Parade, Colonel Reuben Tucker’s troopers are followed throughout World War II.


Foreword By Brig. Gen. Christopher Tucker (USA, Ret.)

1 Replacements: Leicester, England, July 1–September 10, 1944
2 The Seventeenth Mission: Leicester, England, September 11–16, 1944
3 Drop Zone “O”: Overasselt, September 17, 1944
4 Captain Bohannan’s Last Flight: Heijningen, Overasselt, Grave Bridge, September 17, 1944
5 Capture Of The Maas Bridge: Grave, September 17, 1944
6 The Maas–Waal Canal Bridges: Heumen, Malden And Hatert, September 17, 1944
7 Consolidating The Regimental Sector: Grave, Neerbosch, Nijmegen, And Wychen, September 18–19, 1944
8 Suicide Mission: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
9 “All Hell Broke Loose”: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
10 I Company Crossing: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
11 Fort Hof Van Holland And The Fight At The Lent Viaduct: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
12 Enlarging The Bridgehead: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
13 Mission Accomplished: Nijmegen, September 20, 1944
14 The Island: Lent, Oosterhout And Nijmegen, September 22–September 23, 1944
15 No “Walk In The Park”: Holland And Germany, September 24–27, 1944
16 Battle Along The Wylerbaan: Holland And Germany, September 28–October 2, 1944
17 Battle At Erlekom: Holland And Germany, September 28–October 4, 1944
18 Holding The Line: Holland And Germany, October 5–November 14, 1944

Postscript September 1945–March 2014
Appendix A Distinguished Service Cross Recipients
Appendix B Order Of Battle For Operation Market Garden

Contributing Veterans
Selected Bibliography


"Through years of painstaking research and close contact with 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment veterans, Frank van Lunteren has added much to our understanding of Market Garden. On these pages, the human story comes to life, sometimes tragic, sometimes amusing, but always poignant and compelling."


"It is rare to find such an engrossing book as Frank van Lunteren’s “The Battle of the Bridges.”  Anyone who wants to read firsthand experiences of one of the most amazing actions in the western European Theater of the Second World War must get this book."

- Doug McCabe, curator of the Cornelius Ryan Collection

“Battle of the Bridges” provides an exhaustively researched account of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s exploits during Operation Market Garden. The legendary crossing of the Waal river to seize the Nijmegen bridges is covered in exceptional detail.

- Steven Zaloga, Author of US Airborne Divisions in the ETO" and his most recent "The Devil's Garden: Rommel's Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day"

A review cannot do justice to this book-it must be read! For those familiar with the actions of America's airborne soldiery, you will have your beliefs revitalized! Would any other airborne regiment of the U.S. Army have done as well- perhaps- but in this case it was the 504th - and to it must go the laurels of "the Battle of the Bridges"!

- Airborne Quarterly

"... a superb book about the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment's role in Operation Market Garden. Today, Frank should be considered as the authority on the subject of the World War II 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He has interviewed countless veterans of the regiment and has dug deeply to find previously little known accounts of the actions of the participants in the regiment's combat. As a result, his narrative in this book is full of new first person accounts of the battles fought by the regiment to capture the Grave Bridge, which spanned the Maas River, as well as a vital lock bridge on the Maas-Waal Canal on the first day of the operation, and subsequent capture of the northern ends of the two massive bridges across the Waal River in Nijmegen after an epic crossing of the river under extremely intense enemy fire. In addition, Frank's narrative provides the reader with multiple perspectives where available from veterans who participated in the same action, which many readers such as myself value and appreciate, although others might find the repetition to be not to their liking..... included a number of previously unpublished photographs of the 504th, the bridges, and the battlefields in the book.. adds greatly to the known information of the regiment and of this battle. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the World War II history of the United States Army's airborne forces. I can hardly wait for Frank's upcoming companion books about the 504th's other campaigns as I am sure they will be excellent as well."

- Phil Nordyke, 82nd Airborne Division historian and author of More Than Courage: The Combat History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II and All American All the Way: The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II, and other titles

"The Battle of the Bridges is a seminal contribution to the gloried history and daring exploits of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during Operation Market Garden, with special focus on the suicidal daylight crossing of the Waal River and subsequent capture of the bridges in Nimegen. Combining historical research with extended personal interviews of both American, British, and German soldiers and Dutch civilians, Frank Van Lunteren’s suspenseful writing compels the reader to share the intimate, desperate, unbelievable struggles of American soldiers fighting, bleeding, and dying to free Holland from years of pernicious Nazi occupation. ...reaffirms his stature among the very best military historians documenting the U. S. 82nd Airborne during WWII. ... As the nephew of Pvt. Louis P. Holt, Company H, 3rd Regiment, 504th, who died crossing the Waal in one of those pathetic canvas boats, I can only express my admiration and appreciation to Frank for his ongoing efforts to ensure that all those who fought, and especially the many who died, during the battle of the bridges, remain forever alive, forever heroic, and forever exemplary models to future generations."

- James Louis Holt, Ph.D.

“Another remarkable account of quite amazing heroism - the story of the "Devils in Baggy Pants" sees Dutch military historian Frank Van Lunteren telling the tale of a battle within a battle that made heroes of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during operation Market Garden, itself considered something of a failure. This story will make you think again.”

- Books Monthly

"A readable but informative book...supplemented by well chosen maps and illustrations. 4 stars."

- Army Rumour Service

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