ON THIS DAY
26 September 1944: Airborne troops retreat from Arnhem. British and Polish soldiers withdrew from Arnhem last night south across the Rhine. Those still trapped in the Dutch town have surrendered, according to the Germans. They had held the northern end of the bridge that crossed the Lower Rhine for nine days, the last three without water. British reinforcements have not been able to secure the south bank of the river and a German counteroffensive has managed to take the town of Elst to the south of Arnhem. The failure of the daring airborne operation designed to take the rivers Rhine, Waal and Maas and open the way for an Allied assault on Germany itself has ruled out an early end to the war. Nevertheless the Allies hold crossings over the River Waal at Nijmegen and the River Maas at Eindhoven, securing the defence of the port of Antwerp liberated earlier this month. There were high hopes of success when on 17 September two US and one British airborne division flew out to the Netherlands in excellent weather conditions. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions landed north and south of the Meuse, and secured the crossings of the Meuse and Waal as well as the road south into Belgium. The British 1st Airborne Division dropped 10km (six miles) west of Arnhem, the most northerly of the three positions, aiming to secure the road bridge in Arnhem and the rail bridge to the west of the town. They were to wait for reinforcements from the 12th, 30th and 8th Corps of the British Second Army – but their progress was held up by German flank
attacks all along the narrow Eindhoven-Nijmegen road. By the time the Polish airborne brigade was dropped on the south bank the British at Arnhem were completely outflanked and were running low on ammunition and supplies. Most supplies that were dropped by the RAF have landed in enemy-held territory. The German news agency reported 600 British surrendered today in a small village west of Arnhem and that, over the last few days, had given up 1,400 wounded men to the Germans. It said: “Of the remnants of the airborne troops west of Arnhem five officers and 120 men have been made prisoners. These were still amply supplied with weapons but in a state of complete physical exhaustion and hunger.” It went on to say that a small group of airborne troops were still defending themselves in the ruins of the village. (Source: BBC)
27 September 1996: Afghan forces routed as Kabul falls. The capital of Afghanistan has fallen to opposition militia after three days of fierce fighting. Taleban forces consolidated their grip on Kabul after storming the presidential palace – the country’s seat of government – 24 hours ago. Ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani, his prime minister and his military chief are being hunted by the radical Islamic group who branded them “national criminals”. The former president, Mohammed Najibullah, and his brother have already been murdered by the militants. One-eyed opposition leader Mullah Mohammed Omah and his student fighters had been repulsed from the city twice before, but this time it appeared government forces lost the will to fight. Hundreds were killed and many have fled for the protection of the Jabal-us-Seraj base north of Kabul. They leave a ruined, war-torn city deserted by almost all the aid agencies that were working there until a few days ago. “There was so much panic in the city, so much tension, that everyone who could, fled,” said Azad Singh Toor, an Indian diplomat. But many of the citizens in Kabul are waiting to see if the Taleban can unite the country under one faction after decades of internal conflict. And the murder of the last communist ruler of Afghanistan, former president Najibullah, was a grim warning to anyone who wished to oppose their version of Islamic rule. The “Soviet puppet” and Taleban hate figure was dragged out of the UN compound where he had sought refuge in 1992 and was beaten, shot and hanged in front of the presidential palace.