Battle of Arnhem: The catastrophic failure
From contradictory tactics, faulty intelligence and appalling execution of the offensive, the defeat of the Allied forces at the Battle of Arnhem consequently prolonged the war.
On September 2, 1944 (Antill), Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery proposed a diplomatic offensive along the Southern Rhine River, thus beginning the preparation for Operation Market Garden, it raised various problems among Allied generals with regards to the execution of such an attack.
- Chief among the problems of the Allied general was the conflicting malevolence between Eisenhower and Montgomery (Fortuna’s Corner).
- Montgomery thought Supreme Commander indecisive with “no experience for the job”, while Eisenhower considered Britain’s popular Field Marshal “an egocentric who never made a mistake in his life” (Qtd in Cornelius, 94).
- Despite the conflict between the generals, in a letter later sent to General George C. Marshall, Eisenhower wrote: “[The] basic plan of attacking both north and east to help Montgomery seize tremendously important objectives in the northeast” (Qtd in Antill).
Once the political issues were dealt with, the attack on Arnhem during Operation Market Garden was instantly outset for failure.
- Due to Major General “Roy” Urquhart unawareness of a heavy German Panzer Division established at Arnhem Bridge, he was forced to land the British 1st Airborne six to eight miles off their L.Z. (Cornelius, 96).
- Because of the loss of communication, Lt.-Col John Frost’s 600 men within the 2nd Battalion unknowingly marched on Arnhem, instantly being surrounded, being forced to skirmish for a position at the bridge (Peeters).
Following the appalling initiation of the assault on Arnhem, the lack of acknowledgement of the forecast allowed the devastating weather to postpone the further deployment of troops and supplies.
- On Monday, 18th of September, the predictions from Allied Meteorologists proved optimistic that the weather would drastically disrupt the second wave of paratroopers (Antill).
- Due to these weather conditions over England, the reinforcements for the Arnhem perimeter were under the command of Brigadier John Hacket, who failed to back through enemy lines to reach and support Frost. (Peeters)
- In addition to devastating weather postponing the deployment of troops, Browning’s failure to arrange RAF and USAFF liaison officers for the British 1st Airborne Corps and Brereton’s insistence that aircraft in Belgium remain grounded while the second wave was supposed to launch, proved that Allied commanders were not prepared for such an offensive (Antill).
Due to the postponement of the second wave of paratroops, it allowed time for the Luftschutz to advance and fortify the British and Polish 1st Airborne Division’s L.Z.’s, forcing the allied troops into further, less tactically advantaged landing zones, across the Waal River.
- Major General Sosabowskie’s Polish 1st Parachute Brigade was assigned to the most northern of all crossings, Arnhem, also known as “The Prize” (Cornelius, 90-91)
- With the loss of the British L.Z.’s on the northern bank of the Rhine, on the 21st of September, the Polish Brigade were forced to land on alternate L.Z.’s on its southern bank, attempting to reinforce the British, but failed with disastrous results (Nation WWII).
In addition to the destructive weather and the Allied Generals unknowing assaulting the German Panzer forces at Arnhem, once the British/Polish Division’s reached the city, they faced the ruthless SS divisions, skirmishing for their lives.
- The last stand of the British 2nd Parachute Battalion at Arnhem, stubbornly fighting from burning building to burning building as the monstrous German assault obliterated them from their positions (Fortuna).
- Using brutal and efficient tactics, the StuGs would knock down a house with cannon fire or set it ablaze with phosphorus, supported then by infantry sealing off the exits, allowing little to know opportunity for the soldiers to escape the museum with their lives (Clark).
- The British and Germans now played a deadly game of hide and seek between the buildings, but in devastating defeat, at about 1050 the PIAT ammunition in the museum area gave out, extinguishing any chance of re-supplement (Brooks).
Despite the original LZ being overturned by German forces, 101st established a supply line into the heart of the German forces in attempt to relieve and support the paratroopers.
- Allied tanks could not maneuver off-road due to the marshy terrain, such that a a narrow corridor was desperately needed, but was extremely vulnerable to the inevitable German counterattacks, thus obtaining the name “Hell’s Highway” (Fortuna).
- After the Allied tank division, XXX Corps, passing into the 82nd Airborne sector of the operation, the 101st obtained the responsibility to hold “Hell’s Highway” for a supply column to reach and support the British spearhead of the assault (National Museum).
These troops failed to reinforce and defend Hells Gate, thus failing to resupply the needed paratroopers at Arnhem.