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Operation Market Garden

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Operation Market-Garden was an attempt by combined Allied airborne and ground assault troops to capture bridges over Dutch waterways in order to open a rapid northern route for the Allied advance into Germany. It was the largest Allied airborne operation of the war and the most costly. The third of the airborne landings, at Arnhem, proved to be a complete failure as British troops landed too far from the Arnhem bridges and the Germans quickly recovered from the surprise of the aerial assault. Of 10,000 British troops at Arnhem, 1,400 were killed while over 6,000 were taken prisoner.

As mentioned, within Holland the Germans had positioned their troops in a very strong position. Dislodging them would be a most difficult operation. British Field Marshall Montgomery decided that the Allies would have to undertake a bold military strategy if they were going to have any chances of vanquishing German forces in Holland. What he devised was something which would be called Operation Market Garden. Had it worked Holland would have been liberated in weeks and the European war would have been over by 1944. But Operation Market Garden failed. Through bad luck, bad weather, bad planning. It is not in the scope of this lecture to go into the details and those interested in it, are recommend to seek out Cornelius Ryan's famous book on the subject: A Bridge

On 17 September 1944 thousands of paratroopers descended from the sky by parachute or glider up to 150 km behind enemy lines. Their goal: to secure to bridges across the rivers in Holland so that the Allied army could advance rapidly northwards and turn left into the lowlands of Germany, hereby skirting around the Siegfried line, the German defence line. If all carried out as planned it should have ended the war by Christmas 1944.

Unfortunately this daring plan, named Operation Market Garden, didn't have the expected outcome. The bridge at Arnhem proved to be 'a bridge too far'. After 10 days of bitter fighting the operation ended with the evacuation of the remainder of the 1st British Airborne Division from the Arnhem area.

This website tells the complete story of this historical operation and is a tribute to all those men who fought and died in September 1944.

This map shows the intent of Operation Market Garden. 'Market' was the code name for the airborne actions, and 'Garden' was the code name for the ground troops. The 1st Allied Airborne Corps was set up in August 1944 and consisted of the American 18th Airborne Corps (82nd and 101st Airborne divisions) and the British 1st Airborne Division. Later the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade was added. The Airborne Corps' job was to clear the way for the British XXX (30th) Corps situated near the Belgian city of Neerpelt. The U.S. 101st Airborne Division had its drop zone near Eindhoven, Best, Son, St-Oedenrode and Veghel. The 101st had to secure the bridge over the Wilhelmina canal in Son, the bridge over the Dommel in St-Oedenrode and the bridges over the Aa and Zuid-Willemsvaart canal near Veghel. The bridges over the Maas at Grave and the Waal at Nijmegen were the targets of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division; they were dropped near Groesbeek and Overasselt.

Finally, the British 1st Airborne Division had to secure the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. All this led to a small corridor, so that the British XXX Corps could make their advance towards Arnhem. Both the XII (12th Corps) and the VIII Corps (8th Corps) were to give side cover to the advancing XXX Corps. This corridor (the red line on the map) was named 'Hell's Highway' because this route was very poor. Sometimes as narrow as one road!

Arnhem was the main target of Operation Market Garden because it was a good place from where the Ruhr could be assaulted. Also attacking the Ruhr out of Arnhem would bypass the Siegfried line, (see map on previous page) situated near the border in southwest Germany. From Arnhem the Allies could also continue the liberation of the Netherlands, such as the advance to the IJsselmeer lake.

When Montgomery revealed his plan to General Brereton and General Browning, Browning asked how long it would take for the tanks to reach Arnhem. "Two days" answered Montgomery. "We can hold it for four days" replied Browning, and then he added, "although I think we could go a bridge too far", not knowing how right he was.

In August 1944, American Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton was given command over the 1st Allied Airborne Corps. The Corps was set up because Eisenhower believed the parachutists and airborne groups would be of greater value under one command.

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