The true story of an American paratrooper who had a unique encounter during Operation Market Garden and his experiences as a prisoner of war.
Presumed dead in Nijmegen recalls the larger-than-life experiences of an American paratrooper, Gene Metcalfe, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. From recruiting him into the army at Camp Grant to training him with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa, it wasn’t until D-Day itself that he first arrived in England to join the 508th. PIR.
As Metcalfe boarded the C-47 that would drop him off at Groesbeek Heights, outside Nijmegen, the Netherlands, an overconfident British lieutenant handed him a box of twelve dozen condoms. He was going 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 gun emplacements.
As he jumped into a hail of exploding bullets and shells, he saw his plane flip and plummet to the ground. It was at that moment that he realized that the condoms had been a bad joke or the planners of Operation Market Garden he had seriously underestimated German resistance. Gene was listed as KIA and presumed dead by his patrol, who assumed the worst when they saw his injuries from a shell explosion.
The rest of his story is equally gripping, as he became a prisoner of war being held outside Munich, being shuttled between several disease-ridden camps and a severely malnourished population. Finally, after trying to escape and being captured within sight of the snow-covered Swiss mountains, American troops liberated his camp in April 1945.
Gene’s story is notable both for his highly unusual encounter and his subsequent experiences.