The Netherlands / Audiospot
After the start of the Allied airborne landings, the Germans immediately activated their evacuation plan. At Nijmegen Central Station, trains were packed full with stolen goods and supplies. In the meantime, the Arnhem rail bridge had been blown up, so the evacuation had to take place along the Groesbeek-Kranenburg railway line. But that was almost completely liberated territory! Yet the German authorities still decided to take a chance.
On the night of September 17 to 18, 1944, the Germans decided to pull out of Nijmegen, where the fighting was still fierce. They wanted to attempt their evacuation by train, through an area that was already in American hands. The original plan was to run freight trains from Nijmegen, through Arnhem, to German territory, but because the rail bridge in Arnhem had been blown up by German troops on the first day of Operation Market Garden, they had to find an alternative route.
This route would run directly across enemy-held territory, via Groesbeek and over the German border through Kranenburg to Kleve. The Americans of the 505th Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division were taken totally by surprise when the first train steamed past. No-one had anticipated this daring option, and they could not react quickly enough to stop this mystery train. A half-hour later came a second train, but this time the Americans were ready. On the high ground of the Hooghe Hoenderberg, between Nijmegen and Groesbeek, a barricade was set across the track, and a bazooka was fired at the approaching train. As it stopped, the Americans stormed the rails, and the Germans jumped from the wagons and took cover in the nearby woods. It took the Americans a whole day to round them all up.