By Jon Diamond Look at a map of Holland. At the extreme southwest corner, connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, is a peninsula known as Walcheren Island jutting into the North Sea. Think of Walcheren Island as a bowl, with raised edges and a depressed center (in this case, below sea level). Flowing south of Walcheren Island is the estuary of the River Scheldt that leads to the huge, deep-water port of Antwerp, Belgium. The port of Antwerp is and was one of Europe’s largest, with 10 square miles of docks, 20 miles of waterfront, 600 cranes, and the capacity to handle 1,000 ships at weighing up to 19,000 tons each at a time. Ever since overrunning Holland in the spring of 1940, and knowing the island’s importance, the Germans had held Walcheren Island. And they had had plenty of time to heavily fortify i At the end of August 1944, after the calamity of Normandy, the Falaise Pocket, and the disintegration of the German Western Front, Hitler relieved General Helmuth von Salmuth of command of the Fifteenth Army, replacing him with General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen. Wehrmacht headquarters on Walcheren were in Middelburg, the island’s capital, while the navy’s (Kriegsmarine) command center was in Flushing. The remaining German defense in Walcheren consisted of the second-class 210th and 810th Battalions of the 70th Infantry Division, commanded by Generalleutnant Wilhelm Dasser, a 60-year-old static coastal division commander in Normandy prior to the invasion the


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