What is an I&R
I&R Platoons in
Platoons in Action During WWII
1944, the 101st Airborne Division was in Holland, after the failure of
"Operation Market-Garden," on what became known as "The Island." The
German forces were mostly to the North of the Lower Rhine, with good
observation of the American troops on the Southern bank of the river.
At the time, little was known of the exact disposition of German forces
across the river so General Higgins ordered Lt. Hugo Sims, commander of
the I&R Platoon of the 501st PIR, to conduct a patrol across the
river and capture a German prisoner for interrogation. Lt. Sims
meticulously planned an extended patrol deep behind German lines to
capture a prisoner and gather intelligence about the enemy forces
across the river.
The plan was to cross the Lower Rhine, travel
approximately six miles inland during the night, stay in a house along
the road between Utrecht and Arnhem during the following day and, after
nightfall, capture a German vehicle and drive it back to the American
lines with the prisoner(s). Six men, including Sims, a German speaking
interrogator, and four men from the I&R platoon carried out the
The men crossed the river undetected, discovered a
German ammo dump, motor pool, by-passed the German occupied town of
Wolfheeze and before dawn, captured two German cavalrymen in the house
they were to stay in along the Utrecht-Arnhem road. The patrol set up
their radio, made contact with the regiment and passed along the
intelligence gathered so far.
During the day the patrol managed to capture many
more German prisoners, mostly in ones and twos as they stopped to
rest or get a drink of water at the house the patrol was in. All of the
prisoners were incredulous that they had been captured so far behind
their own lines. Some Dutch civilians also came to the house during the
day and were kept inside the house for security reasons. The civilians
helped with interogating the prisoners and Lt. Sims radioed the new
intelligence back to headquarters.
It was now getting to be time to start looking for
transport to get back to the American lines. Along came a 5-ton truck
carrying 15 SS soldiers which was stopped by the patrol and taken
captive. This was to be their ride. After dark, all the prisoners were
loaded into the truck and were guarded by members of the patrol, but
the German driver stayed up front to drive the truck. He proved to be a
reluctant chauffer, however, and managed to get the truck stuck part of
the way back to the river. Lt. Sims was left with no choice but to
march the prisoners back to the river and the boats that would carry
them all to the American lines. The last German prisoner taken, a
Captain who stopped to yell at the truck driver for blocking the road
and was subsequently taken prisoner, attempted to escape. One of the
patrol members chased him down and persuaded the Captain to be
compliant the rest of the way.
So now there were six American paratroopers
marching 32 German prisoners of war, still miles behind German lines,
toward the Rhine and captivity. The column even marched through part of
the town of Renkum before reaching the boats on the river. The patrol
and prisoners shuttled across the river until all were safely on the
American side of the Rhine.
Not a man of the patrol was wounded or killed and
only two shots were fired (into the air) while subdueing the German
Captain during his escape attempt. None of the prisoners were harmed.
Members of HQ Co. 501 PIR in
German Prisoners from the Incredible Patrol
On 10 December,
1944, the I&R platoon of the 394th regiment, 99th Infantry
Division was sent to the Lanzerath area to set up an observation post
and protect the regiment's right flank. 1st Lt. Lyle Bouck positioned
his platoon in the wood line Northwest of Lanzerath, overlooking the
highway which runs North to the main defensive positions of the
regiment and with a view to the East towards Losheim just across the
German border. Besides their normal small arms, the platoon had
accumulated some BARs, a .30-caliber light machine gun and had one of
its jeeps equiped with a mounted .50-caliber heavy machine gun as well
as extra ammo and grenades.
On the morning of
16 December, the Germans shelled
the entire front to start their Ardennes Offensive to Antwerp, Belgium.
The platoon faired well under the shelling due to its well prepared
positions with deep and well protected foxholes, but the communication
lines to regiment were cut. Lt Bouck managed to maintain contact using
the platoon SCR-300 radio. Shortly after the shelling stopped, an
American tank destroyer unit positioned at Lanzerath pulled its guns
back to positions in the rear, leaving the I&R platoon to hold the
Soon the platoon
observed a large German formation
approaching. Lt. Bouck called for artillery on the German forces but
was told there was none available. When the main body of the German
column stopped in front of the platoon, Bouck's men opened fire and the
fight was on.
initially tried a frontal assault on
the American position. They attacked over an open, gently rising field
over 100 yards long with a fence cutting across it. The 18 Americans of
the I&R platoon leveled their rifles and automatic weapons on the
attackers with devestating results. Lt. Bouck's men replused three
seperate attacks in the battle which raged all day long.
artillery support, Lt. Bouck was
told there was none to be had and that he must hold at all costs.
During this last radio communication, enemy fire disabled the platoon
radio, destroying the handset as Lt. Bouck held it to his ear.
this close call, Lt. Bouck ordered
two men to reach regiment for reinforcements and ammunition or orders
to withdraw. Before they got to headquarters, however, the regiment had
withdrawn to other defensive positions and the two men were eventually
captured by the Germans. Finally, at dusk, the German forces
managed to flank the platoon and storm the position. With their ammo
exhausted, every man in the platoon was taken prisoner.
In this one day
of fighting, the 18 men of this
I&R platoon inflicted between 400-500 German casualties, nearly
destroying a battalion of the German 3rd Parachute Division. The German
attack plan in this sector was seriously disrupted to the point that
they were delayed roughly 24 hours. In those 24 hours, Kampfgruupe
Peiper was to have reached the Meuse River. Instead, they had only
advanced a few miles, and the 99th and 2nd Infantry Divisions had time
to set up defenses at Elsenborn Ridge, where they stopped the Germans
Since the entire
platoon was captured, their
exploits did not come to light until much later. Eventually the
platoon was awarded a Presidential Unit Citiation for Extraordinary
Heroism. Lt. Bouck and three other men received the Distinguished
Service Cross, five men received the Silver Star and the remaining men
received the Bronze Star with a Valor Device, thus making this platoon
the most heavily decorated unit for a single action.
Lt. Lyle Bouck
Survivors of the
Platoon upon receiving their awards.