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Up Alexander (2) Alexander (3) Alexander (4) Alexander (5) Alexander (6) Alexander (7) POWs In Holzheim Darrell Apple R.E. Archambault David Axelrod


   The next time I awakened, Father Connelly was bending over me praying. I remember telling him that I was not a catholic. He told me to just be quiet and that he was taking care of things. When I came to again, the nurse came to me, looked at my dog tags, and said your dog tags only say you are a Christian, but you are a catholic now for Father Connelly just gave you the last rites. I remember my stay in the field hospital. I was hooked up with tubing in just about all my orifices until the fifth day, at which time, 34 days after floating into Normandy on a parachute in the dark of night, I was put on a stretcher, carried by ambulance to a British hospital ship which crossed the channel to Portsmouth, England. There, I was loaded onto a hospital train, which carried me to a base hospital in central England. I was confined there for about 40 days before being transferred to a recuperative hospital facility near Portsmouth where I stayed until about September 20th.


   On September 12th the hospital commander called me to his office and said that General Gavin, who was now the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, had called and wanted to know if I could be released for duty with the Division. He said he had a job for me wherein I would work only about an hour a day. The hospital commander said that he didn't believe him and that I needed more time to heal.

   On September 18th, I learned that my 82nd Airborne Division and two other airborne divisions had invaded Holland the day before. My division had dropped near Nijmegen, the 101st at Eindhoven, the British 6th Airborne Division at Arnhem, and a Polish Brigade between Arnhem and Nijmegen. The story of this invasion was written up in "A Bridge too Far.” The three airborne divisions and the Polish Brigade were to open and hold a corridor whereby the British armor could make a fast and deep penetration to Arnhem and cross the Rhine River.

   General Montgomery and the British had underestimated the problem in carrying out such a deep penetration on a very narrow front and the British armor was stopped cold about two miles beyond Nijmegen. Our 82nd Division people were very upset because they had lost heavily in the Waal River crossing in canvas boats and in securing the city of Nijmegen so that the British armor could advance toward Arnhem. After crossing on the bridge, secured primarily by American forces, the British armored division stopped to brew a cup of tea, and the British were roundly cursed by our 82nd men of the 504th Regiment, as they had lost 46 KIA and 50 or more wounded in crossing the Waal River in their canvas boats under heavy fire from the Germans. The 505th had had heavy losses in securing the near end of the bridge.

   The previous action had been completed just prior to my arrival in Nijmegen. I was told by the Chief of Staff, Colonel Wienecke, that the 82nd Division was to be relieved and pulled back to Reims, France in 30 days and go into reserve for replacements, re-equipment, etc. Also, inasmuch as I was not fully recovered from my chest wound, I was to proceed and go as camp commander for Camp Sissonne, France. I was to organize the old French training base to receive and accommodate the 82nd Airborne Division in 30 days. This was near Reims, France. The Division eventually returned to Camp Sissonne in late October. I stayed on as camp commander until January 20, 1945. At that time, not having fully recovered from the lung wound, I was ZI'd1 and returned to the states as Director of Training at the Parachute School, Fort Benning, Georgia.

   During most of my time at Benning we carried on with intensive training fully expecting to be sent to the Pacific Theater to carry on with the fighting against the Japanese. When the atomic bombs were dropped, the war came to an end and those who intended to stay in the army started scrambling for the best assignments. I had applied for regular army and passed the written exams but about 30 days later the Surgeon General turned me down because of the lung wound and the piece of shrapnel still lodged in my left lung. Discharged from active duty in November 1945, I applied for and was assigned in a reserve officer administrative capacity. Later, I was assigned as a mobilization designee at the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1959, I developed a malignant tumor and had to drop out of the reserves thus ending my military service. Mark Alexander passed away in May 2004.

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1 The term “ZI” was a mnemonic for “Zone of Interior”, meaning the United States. Being “ZI’d” meant you were going home.


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