The Netherlands / Audiospot
On the 19th of September 1944 the Allied advance on Nijmegen halted here. The bridges had to be captured (preferably undamaged), but the German occupiers were not defeated. The Americans commandeered everything that could float in order to reach the other side of the River Waal.
Inland shipping is these days an important element in the Dutch transport sector. The Waal is itself one of the busiest rivers for navigation. However, during the Second World War there were no Dutch barges or container ships sailing here, but just rowing boats carrying soldiers.
As a precaution, the Germans had laid explosive charges on the road and rail bridges in September of 1944. The Germans held the bridges, and thought the Allies would be unable to cross the river Waal.
On September 19 1944, heavy fighting took place between American and German troops, south of the road and rail bridges. The next day, September 20th, began one of the most celebrated and heroic river crossings of the war.