Paul J. Katonik was born 22 January 1918. He was inducted into service on 2 December 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served with HQ/3, 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division.
On 20 September 1944 the Third Battalion of the 504th PIR was tasked with making an amphibious crossing of the Waal River in Nijmegen, Holland, in an attempt to encircle German forces holding the Nijmegen railway bridge.
At 1500 hours, approximately 280 men, led by Third Battalion commander Maj. Julian Cook, launched 26 plywood and canvas boats from the southern shore of the Waal River. After reaching the middle of the 400 yard wide river they were exposed to withering 20mm, 88mm, and small arms fire from the German defenders on the far shore.
This first wave of assault troops suffered over 50% casualties, including 43 soldiers who were killed in action (Katonik being among that number). Only 11 boats were seaworthy enough to return to the southern shore to reload for the second assault wave.
This river crossing was graphically depicted the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far,” with Robert Redford playing the role of Maj. Julian Cook.