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15 October 2014
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Operation Varsityicon for Recommended story

by David Sims

Contributed by 
David Sims
People in story: 
Sgt. Robert P. 'Bob' Sims
Location of story: 
Wiesel, Germany
Article ID: 
A2213920
Contributed on: 
19 January 2004

This is about my father who was a member of the US 17th Airborne Division, 513th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment), Company A. He was a Squad Leader.

The 17th was the US Reserve Division and were known as 'The Golden Talons.' They were disembarked somewhere in England and later transferred to various locations in France. The Division made their first jump into combat in relief of allied forces trapped in the 'Battle of the Bulge.'

Their second jump was in conjunction with the British 6th Airborne in the area of Wesel, Germany called 'Operation Varsity.' This was the largest airborne assault in history consisting of about 10,000 allied paratroopers.
This was my father's first combat jump.

Like many combat veterans, my father did not talk much about actual battlefield experiences; however, he once related to me the drop on March 24, 1945. This was a massive airlift for the Americans from around Riemes, France, consisting of about 75 C46's and C47's.

As they neared the multiple drop zones around Wesel, the enemy anti-aircraft fire became horrific. Many of our planes were destroyed in the air, or plunged to the earth taking their crews and paratroopers with them. many lives were lost.

In addition, the entire operation area unexpectedly became overcast. Air crews could not precisely locate their assigned drop zones, resulting in paratroopers dropping everywhere. Unfortunately, most were dropping right in the middle of an entire German Division. Many paratroopers were shot before they hit the ground.

My father landed safely, but there was no one else around. He, quickly, unharnessed his chute and took cover in some low ground. Soon, other troopers began to drop nearby. They were Brits from their 6th Division separated from their units, as well.

My father gathered them together and organized a fighting unit. They began moving toward the deafening sounds of fighting, and the thunderous roar of German 88's. The ground would shake like an earthquake with each round fired.

After moving through some woods, they could see an '88' emplacement in a clearing beyond. After analyzing the position, a plan of attack was carried out by causing a diversionary fire using rifles. Several others rushed the emplacement from a different direction. They threw hand grenades into the defensive works. This silenced the crew. No mention of any casualties on our side.

After regrouping, they continued toward the fighting and joined with an American group. Resistance was heavy through the night and the next few days, but the number of prisoners taken was increasing rapidly. Finally, enemy troops were surrendering en masse.

Word passed that General Model, the German commander, had been found shot in the woods. It seemed clear the end was near.

My father continued fighting with the Infantry as they moved northeast of Wesel neutralizing small towns, until he was able to rejoin his airborne unit. After the surrender, the 17th Airborne performed security and patrol duty as occupation forces.

In September, 1945, the 17th Airborne was relieved by reserve infantry and returned to England where they shipped back to the US.
Like my father, most men were discharged from the Army and returned home as heros they were.

Having listened to his story and reading books on Operation Varsity, I continue to be amazed at how fortunate my father, and our family, for he to return home unharmed. It seems as if we all have a predestined time on earth and nothing else shall interfere.

Thank you for the opportunity to record this memory. I welcome any survivors of the US 17th and British 6th to contact me at any time.

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