Private Jack S. Robins had done this before. He’d jumped out of a perfectly good airplane high over enemy terrain. The native of Lackawanna County parachuted into Hitler’s Fortress Europe on the night of June 6, 1944. He survived his jump with the 101st Airborne Division and helped push the Germans out of Normandy.
In a letter to his parents in Chinchilla, Private Robins described his jump into the Netherlands and the operations that followed:
On Sunday morning, the 17th of September, I was busily preparing my equipment for the largest airborne operation ever to be made anywhere in the world. The day was clear and the sun shone brightly over the hundreds at C-47 transports lined up along their dispersal areas. A perfect day for jumping which is always a great help for a paratroopers morale.
The Air Force personnel and glider men who would follow us in some hours later were helping to adjust our chutes and equipment.
D-Day over Normandy was a hectic jump for most of us due to the flooded areas and our excessive equipment which dragged us down beneath the water. I came to the conclusion I could sacrifice some of my food ration in order to lighten my load. But when it came time to get into the plane it seemed that I had just as much if not more equipment than on D-Day.
After a smooth ride over the English Channel we came to the occupied territory of Europe. Buzz-zzz! The warning bell sounded notifying us of the 20-minute stand we were to make before jumping. We clambered to our feet and hooked our static lines to the cable overhead. This moment is one of the hardest for a paratrooper. As we are now over enemy territory we all feel sort of funny, not knowing just when that dreaded ack-ack will start coming up at us. We knew of one bad spot and sure enough just one and a half minutes before we jumped, all hell seemed to break loose at our’ plane. I could hear the bullets, small arms and 20mm ack-ack guns doming too darn near the plane.
At last the green light and what a relief to know that you are getting out of that plane. I was number 17 in my stick and thought I’d never reach the door. Wham! The chute opened with a terrific snapping effect on my body but I knew I was safe for the moment. I slipped hard to miss a sand scoop situated in a gravel dump. The ground looked just like North Carolina sand but it was hard just the same. All around me the fellows were getting out of their harnesses and gathering up their equipment. As I was getting out of my chute I noticed more planes overhead and off to right more men sailing earthward. If I had I had a camera I could have caught a picture of beautiful scenery and well as sudden death as a C-47 plane went down in flames.
As I landed close to our regimental interpreter we were approached by a dozen children and grown people. They were the happiest, most thankful people I’ve ever seen. We gave the children several sticks of gum which is the war’s “friendship code.”
Within an hour we had our objective and quite a bit of transportation besides. I picked up a German messenger’s bicycle and rode into town. Several snipers had been cleared out of the houses by our men scattered in the town. Then all of a sudden a bus came tearing down the street and across the canal bridge. At first no one paid any attention, then all of a sudden we realized it was clearly marked as German. What a mess of holes they made in that bus with the machine guns. The same treatment was given to a couple of German command cars which came tearing through later.
That evening was a quiet one for most of us. Many of the families insisted that we stay at their homes for our meals of fresh milk and Dutch bread. The people were swell to us and the country is very beautiful. There is plenty of fresh fruit but very little other kind of food.
The following days weren’t as pleasant and [death] was everywhere as the Germans did everything they could to defeat our purpose. Ever since then there has been fighting and destruction everywhere.
This letter appeared in The Scrantonian on December 3, 1944. Private Robins had a previous letter published in the newspaper, a vivid account of nearly drowning in his parachute harness on June 6, 1944.
His letter about Operation Market Garden gives a vivid description of early operations in Holland with the 101st Airborne Division. One of my favorite television programs of all time, HBO’s Band of Brothers, shows the same scenes and presents much the same picture of the initial landing near Eindhoven.
Market Garden eventually fell into disorganized chaos and became one of the Second World War’s biggest debacles on the Allied side. It was one of the great miscalculations of the war and Private Jack S. Robins landed right in the middle of it. He survived his time in Holland and survived the war.
Featured Image: Private Jack S. Robins and a scene captured from the September 17, 1944 jump into occupied Holland.