When 82nd Airborne paratrooper Gene Metcalfe boarded the C-47, which would drop him at Groesbeek Heights, just outside of Nijmegen, Holland, he was handed a box of twelve dozen condoms by an over-confident British Lieutenant. He was to be among the first to jump into what should have been a picture-book meadow, free of German troops. Instead, it was defended by three German anti-aircraft cannon emplacements. As he jumped into a hail of bullets and exploding shells he watched his plane roll over and plummet into the ground. It was at that moment he realized the condoms had either been a bad joke or the planners of Operation Market Garden had seriously underestimated German resistance.
The order to fall back had been given by Lieutenant Weaver. Gene, being in an advanced position, didn’t hear the order and continued to fire as fast as possible. His best friend, Ray Meade, positioned about 50 yards away on the other side of the road, did hear the order and, through the darkness, realized Gene wasn’t pulling back. Not wanting to leave his friend, he decided he’d take a chance and charge across the roadway to let him know they were pulling out.
Just as Meade took his first step towards Gene’s position, a shell from a German “Eighty-Eight” cannon exploded near Gene and threw his body high into the air, hitting the ground with an audible thump. Undaunted, Meade continued across the road dodging enemy fire the entire time and found Gene lying face-down. He rolled him over, noticed blood coming from his right ear, and assumed the worst. Gene was left for dead at Nijmegen, the only member of the patrol who did not return.
Some time passed before Gene began to regain consciousness. His ears were ringing, and he felt as if he was on a merry-go-round when he felt something poking him in the stomach. He opened his eyes and, to his horror, realized a member of the dreaded German “SS” was poking him with his rifle.
About an hour later Gene found himself standing between two hardened, machine-gun-toting fanatics of the “Reichsfuhrer SS” deep in the bowels of an ancient castle facing interrogation by Heinrich Himmler himself. He would witness mass carnage, abuse as a slave laborer to eventually escape, only to be recaptured.