Military history

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SS STURMBANNFÜHRER (MAJOR) SEPP KRAFFT did not intend to move again if he could avoid it. In the past few weeks his under-strength SS Panzer Grenadier Training and Reserve Battalion had been ordered back and forth across Holland. Now, after only five days, the unit was being ordered out of the village of Oosterbeek—and not by a superior of Krafft’s, but by a Wehrmacht major.

Krafft protested vehemently. The main body of his three companies of men was billeted in the village, with the rest in Arnhem, and another 1,000 SS recruits were due to arrive momentarily for training. The Wehrmacht major was adamant. “I don’t care about that,” he told Krafft bluntly, “you’ve got to get out.” Krafft fought back. The ambitious thirty-seven-year-old officer took orders only from his SS superiors. “I refuse,” he said. The Wehrmacht officer was not intimidated. “Let me make things clear to you,” he said. “You’re moving out of Oosterbeek because Model’s headquarters is moving in.”

Krafft quickly calmed down. He had no wish to run afoul of Field Marshal Walter Model. Still, the order rankled. Krafft moved, but not very far. He decided to bivouac his troops in the woods and farms northwest of Oosterbeek, not far from the village of Wolfheze. The spot he happened to choose was alongside the Wolfheze road, almost between the zones marked on maps in England for the men of the British 1st Airborne Division to land, and blocking the route into Arnhem itself.

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