Incredible patrol

In October, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division was in Holland, after the failure of “Operation Market-Garden,” on what became known as “The Island.” The German forces were mostly to the North of the Lower Rhine, with good observation of the American troops on the Southern bank of the river. At the time, little was known of the exact disposition of German forces across the river so General Higgins ordered Lt. Hugo Sims, commander of the I&R Platoon of the 501st PIR, to conduct a patrol across the river and capture a German prisoner for interrogation. Lt. Sims meticulously planned an extended patrol deep behind German lines to capture a prisoner and gather intelligence about the enemy forces across the river. The plan was to cross the Lower Rhine, travel approximately six miles inland during the night, stay in a house along the road between Utrecht and Arnhem during the following day and, after nightfall, capture a German vehicle and drive it back to the American lines with the prisoners. Six men, including Sims, a German speaking interrogator, and four men from the I&R platoon carried out the patrol. The men crossed the river undetected, discovered a German ammo dump, motor pool, by-passed the German occupied town of Wolfheeze and before dawn, captured two German cavalrymen in the house they were to stay in along the Utrecht-Arnhem road. The patrol set up their radio, made contact with the regiment and passed along the intelligence gathered so far. During the day the patrol managed to capture many more German prisoners, mostly in ones and twos as they stopped to rest or get a drink of water at the house the patrol was in. All of the prisoners were incredulous that they had been captured so far behind their own lines. Some Dutch civilians also came to the house during the day and were kept inside the house for security reasons. The civilians helped with interogating the prisoners and Lt. Sims radioed the new intelligence back to headquarters. It was now getting to be time to start looking for transport to get back to the American lines. Along came a 5-ton truck carrying 15 SS soldiers which was stopped by the patrol and taken captive. This was to be their ride. After dark, all the prisoners were loaded into the truck and were guarded by members of the patrol, but the German driver stayed up front to drive the truck. He proved to be a reluctant chauffer, however, and managed to get the truck stuck part of the way back to the river. Lt. Sims was left with no choice but to march the prisoners back to the river and the boats that would carry them all to the American lines. The last German prisoner taken, a Captain who stopped to yell at the truck driver for blocking the road and was subsequently taken prisoner, attempted to escape. One of the patrol members chased him down and persuaded the Captain to be compliant the rest of the way.

So now there were six American paratroopers marching 32 German prisoners of war, still miles behind German lines, toward the Rhine and captivity. The column even marched through part of the town of Renkum before reaching the boats on the river. The patrol and prisoners shuttled across the river until all were safely on the American side of the Rhine. Not a man of the patrol was wounded or killed and only two shots were fired (into the air) while subdueing the German Captain during his escape attempt. None of the prisoners were harmed.