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  • Clank-clank-clank-clank!

  • It's the sound an infantryman dreads most, the sound of heavy steel tank treads coming

  • your way.

  • For the British paratroopers caught far behind enemy lines, it's the sound of death- and

  • it's coming from all around.

  • Operation Market Garden, meant to hasten the end of the war against Nazi Germany by as

  • much as six months, is a complete disaster.

  • The airborne assault was meant to secure vitally important bridges behind enemy lines, opening

  • up an invasion route into northern Germany which would allow Allied troops to pour into

  • the heart of the Nazi regime itself, and rip it out while still beating.

  • For the Nazis, this would've been a strategic disaster, and likely signaled the end of the

  • war.

  • With over 41,000 airborne troops, it is the largest airborne assault in history, and yet

  • the Allies would severely underestimate the Germans, leading to a defeat five days later.

  • For now though, Major Robert Henry Cain, commander of Bravo company, 2nd South Staffordshire

  • regiment of the 1st Airborne Division, has greater concerns than the imminent defeat

  • of the ambitious Allied airborne thrust into Germany.

  • He has two Panzers bearing down on them, and only a PIAT- Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank-

  • to defend himself with.

  • Allied armor never got a chance to make its crossing, and these tanks aren't going to

  • blow themselves up.

  • Bleeding from several bullet wounds, the good Major lifts up his PIAT and takes aim at the

  • lead tank....

  • Five days earlier and Major Cain is loaded up into a glider along with the rest of his

  • men.

  • The Allies have made extensive uses of gliders to ferry airborne troops to battle, cheap

  • and unpowered alternatives to the lumbering transport planes that tow them to their destinations.

  • As the plane towing them lifts into the air, the glider soon follows suit, and is quickly

  • several thousand feet in the air.

  • Then, the first of many disasters strikes.

  • The tow rope keeping the glider attached to its plane snaps, leaving the glider flying

  • through the air completely unpowered.

  • The pilot at the front desperately works the controls, trying to find a safe place to set

  • the glider down.

  • Despite being paratroopers, the men aren't wearing parachutes as they are meant to ride

  • their glider all the way to their final destination, a battlefield in Belgium.

  • While this places the men at more risk, the use of gliders also means that the men won't

  • be as widely dispersed as they would be if they simply parachuted in, and allows them

  • to retain unit cohesion and to stay close to their supplies and heavy equipment.

  • Incredibly though, the pilot manages to bring the glider down to a rough, but safe stop

  • on a nearby field, smashing into a tall hedge.

  • The pilot is in disbelief, this exact same thing had happened to him on D-Day.

  • Perhaps he's just lucky, for the Major though, he and his men had a battle to get to.

  • Early the next day, Major Cain and his men make a rough landing near Arnhem.

  • The Major's company's currently involved in heavy fighting as they attempt to reach their

  • target, the strategically important bridge at the town of Arnhem, which will allow Allied

  • ground forces to cross the river and join the fight.

  • If the bridge isn't taken, the ground assault element won't be able to cross, and this could

  • spell doom for the entire operation.

  • The Germans however are no fools, and they've set up a blocking force to stop the British

  • soldiers from reaching their objective.

  • For over a day the fighting is intense, only barely letting up at night before resuming

  • once more early the next morning.

  • The British are in effect boxed in by German units, and are receiving terrible casualties.

  • Supported by artillery and self-propelled guns, the Germans completely outgun the relatively

  • lightly armed British paratroopers, and are decimating British forces.

  • To make matters worse, the Germans now have tanks rumbling down on the Major and his men.

  • With the Allied ground assault unable to cross the river, German panzers have been freed

  • up from engaging allied armor and now join in a push to eradicate the British and American

  • paratroopers.

  • Fighting that was desperate has just now been kicked up a notch as the tanks lend their

  • cannons and machine guns to the fight.

  • The only thing the paratroopers have to fight off the tanks is the British PIAT, a shoulder-fired

  • anti-tank weapon that fires a 2.5 pound (1.1 kg) explosive warhead.

  • The weapon has an advantage over the American bazooka and the German Panzerschreck, and

  • that's the fact that it is spring-fired, meaning there is no distinctive puff of smoke that

  • can give away a soldier's position as he fires it.

  • However, this is where the PIAT's strengths stop, as the weapon is largely inferior to

  • either its American or German counterpart.

  • For starters, the weapon sported less penetration power than a bazooka or a panzerschreck, and

  • it was extremely awkward to operate.

  • The firing mechanism required two fingers to pull back, and as the weapon was spring

  • loaded, you had to put considerable effort into preparing it to fire.

  • Once fired though, the recoil from the weapon was so severe that men's shoulders were often

  • dislocated, and at times their collarbones broken.

  • After just a few firings, any soldier's shoulder would be bruised purple, and yet today they

  • are the British paratrooper's only hope of fending off the German tanks.

  • The PIATs manage to hold off the advancing tanks, but the men are completely boxed in.

  • The area has become a killing field, and a fighting withdrawal is ordered.

  • By the time Major Cain manages to retreat, most of Alpha and Bravo company has been destroyed,

  • leaving only a handful of survivors.

  • The losses are staggering.

  • With no clear chain of command left surviving, Major Cain assumes command of all the remaining

  • survivors of the 2nd South Staffords.

  • This leaves him with barely more than a reinforced company, and he orders the men to move to

  • a more defensible position on high ground atop a hill a few hundred meters from the

  • German blocking force.

  • Their movement is spotted by German forward observers though, and soon heavy mortar fire

  • begins to rain down on the British.

  • The men desperately try to dig in as the mortars explode around them, but the ground is hard

  • and covered in thick roots, making it all but impossible to dig fox holes.

  • Major Cain is wounded by shrapnel, adding to several other wounds already suffered.

  • As more enemy tanks begin to roll towards them and the mortar fire eases off, the Major

  • is starting to realize something- someone in intelligence messed up bad.

  • There weren't supposed to be so many German armored forces here, and yet somehow allied

  • intelligence missed the fact that the Ninth and Tenth SS Panzer Divisions had both been

  • recently redeployed to the area.

  • Thousands of allied paratroopers, armed with only the weapons they could carry on their

  • backs, had been sent to fight hundreds of heavy German tanks, supported by thousands

  • of infantry equipped with self-propelled guns, artillery, and mortars.

  • The operation had just begun two days prior, and it was already a blood bath.

  • Major Cain orders the survivors to fall back, and as the sun rises the next morning he's

  • been forced out of Arnhem, and of the 1,000 strong 2nd South Staffords, he now commands

  • only a band of 100 soldiers- most of them wounded.

  • Nonetheless, he orders the men to dig in, there's no escape for them, but if they can

  • hold their ground then possibly other Allied assaults might have been successful, and rescue

  • could come from other bridgeheads.

  • The Major has no way of knowing that Operation Market Garden is officially a failure, and

  • one of the worst defeats of World War II.

  • The Germans advance under cover of fighters, and supported by self-propelled guns and tanks.

  • The British are subjected to a blistering barrage of fire, and yet the men fight heroically,

  • refusing to yield.

  • The Germans hope to cut the British off from the river, which would make rescue impossible

  • and doom the entire 1st Airborne to surrender or death.

  • Despite being wounded and bleeding, Major Cain is moving from house to house, backpack

  • full of rounds for his PIAT.

  • He pops up behind windows, attacking the tanks from their vulnerable sides and tops, and

  • the only angle at which a PIAT has a decent chance of defeating tank armor.

  • His shoulder is turning black from the extreme pounding the spring-loaded weapon delivers

  • on each firing, it feels like a horse kicking him square in the shoulder each time he pulls

  • the trigger, and yet he knows that it's either this or death- the Germans are relentless.

  • Falling back, Major Cain slips into a trench and calls out for an artillery officer to

  • direct his fire with the PIAT.

  • The artillery officer, located on the second floor of an abandoned house, spots targets

  • for the Major, and Major Cain lobs over four dozen rounds with the aid of the artillery

  • officer.

  • The Germans however have caught on, and a self-propelled gun turns to the direction

  • of the house and fires, obliterating the upstairs floor and the officer there.

  • The chimney comes crashing down, nearly crushing Major Cain to death.

  • Major Cain however quickly gathers himself together and crawls forward through the trench.

  • He spots another German StuG (pronounced STOOG) and fires, destroying the tank's treads.

  • The tank fires back, missing the Major but throwing up great clouds of smoke and dust,

  • which helps obscure the Major as he moves to a different position.

  • The Major fires a second round, but the round fails to penetrate the thick armor, and the

  • German tank fires back, throwing more debris into the air.

  • A Panzer now joins the fight, and the Major pops up to fire off another PIAT round at

  • this new threat- only to be met by the ominous sound of a dull 'click'.

  • His weapon has misfired, and a split second later the timed explosive round blows up in

  • his face.

  • Major Cain is hurled backwards, completely blinded and with ruptured eardrums, and yet

  • he is screaming- not in pain, but for his men to engage this new threat.

  • Behind him, several soldiers manhandle a heavy 75mm American howitzer to face in the direction

  • of the German tank, drop the barrel, and use the artillery piece as an anti-tank cannon,

  • decimating the Panzer.

  • The Major is severely wounded and dragged back to a casualty collection point.

  • Luckily for him, the explosive round has mostly exploded outwards, and the blindness is temporary.

  • His eardrums are shattered though, and his vision hazy.

  • Plus he's been wounded at least a half dozen times already, and has lost a fair amount

  • of blood.

  • Nonetheless, the Major shoves the medics aside and thirty minutes later is back on the front

  • line.

  • By now though the company has run out of PIAT ammunition, so the Major improvises.

  • German flamethrower tanks are approaching, and threatening to roast the British defenders

  • to death, so the Major grabs a two inch mortar and levels it off at the approaching tanks,

  • destroying the lead tank.

  • He fires off several more shots from the improvised anti-tank weapon, and incredibly the Germans

  • begin to pull back.

  • The British defenders, no doubt emboldened by the absolute insanity of Major Cain's exploits,

  • have managed to hold their ground.

  • As night falls, boats manage to cross the river and reach the stranded British paratroops.

  • The Major refuses to leave the battlefield until every single survivor is aboard a boat,

  • and before boarding himself he finds a razor and a piece of mirror, taking the time to

  • shave five days of stubble so that he could present himself to his superiors on the other

  • side of the river, “as a proper British officer.”.

  • Credited with destroying or disabling six enemy tanks and an unknown number of self-propelled

  • guns, the Major would go on to win the Victoria Cross, and was the only recipient to survive

  • the most disastrous operation in the entire war.

  • Want more incredible world war stories?

  • Check out Soldier continued fighting WWII because he didn't know it ended.

  • Or click this other video instead for a change of pace!

Clank-clank-clank-clank!

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B2 major cain tank german allied british

The One Man WW2 Tank Killer

  • 13 1
    Summer posted on 2020/08/10
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