Operation ‘Market Garden’ is usually considered a complete failure, but was it? Certainly in it’s entirety, the operation, the largest daylight airborne drop ever mounted, failed to achieve it’s overall objective. But American forces, although hampered by setbacks, did secure all the bridges and crossings allotted to them. A substantial German force was also tied up for the remainder of the war.
In our blog series this week, we will seek to explain what happened during 4 crucial days in September 1944.
Unlike D-Day, which was 2 years in the planning, Market Garden was hastily put together in a matter of days. It involved the largest parachute drop of the war.
|Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery|
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, fresh from his success in Normandy, believed he could 'walk on water', and this buoyed optimism led to an audacious, but hasty and ill prepared operation.
The operations were split into two phases, 'Market' and 'Garden.' 'Market' was the code name given to the massive Allied parachute drop and 'Garden,' the ground offensive.
Two American Airborne Divisions, the 82nd and the 101st, were to seize bridges and hold road crossings between Eindhoven and Nijmegen, and take control a stretch of highway between the two cities, while the British 1st Airborne were to drop on the Northernmost town of Arnhem and take control. Arnhem was the final barrier to entry into the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr.
As the various airborne divisions landed and took control of their objectives, British XXX Corps an armored and infantry force, waiting on the Belgian side of the Dutch border, were to jump off from their start point, rush up the newly seized highway and cross the Rhine river at Arnhem, opening a spearhead into Germany thus ending the war by Christmas 1944.
|Market Garden Operational Map ©Livingbattlefield.org|
As with all hastily planned operations, very little notice was taken of intelligence reports. The Dutch resistance had repeatedly informed the Allies there were German SS panzer divisions resting and re-equipping in the Arnhem and Nijmegen zones. Even RAF reconnaissance had photographed camouflaged tanks, but the line fed to the airborne troops was entirely different. They would be facing a force of "old men, boys and walking wounded" with no stomach for a fight.
The largest allied parachute drop of WWII took place in broad daylight on September 17th 1944.
|101st DZ at Best|
Transport aircraft and gliders carried the 502nd and 506th regiments of the 101st airborne to their drop zone in the southern sector, North of Eindhoven, while their sister regiment the 501st were dropped further up the highway at Eerde. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when the aircraft roared into view over their respective zones.
Three regiments of the 82nd Airborne were transported to their zones in the Nijmegen and Grave areas. The British 1st Abn were dropped some 8 miles from their objective at Arnhem. The drops were virtually unopposed, most units landed on target and the Germans were clearly taken by surprise, but they soon regrouped.
By the end of Day 1, The 504 82nd Airborne had taken and secured their objective, the Grave bridge. The other regiments had landed unopposed on their drop zone at Groesbeek and were making probing attacks towards Nijmegen.
|British XXX Corps|
After crossing the border, XXX Corps had come under heavy artillery fire from elements of German paratroopers and SS artillery, who were well dug in . After a vicious fight the British columns ground to a halt and rested for the night. The operation was already falling behind.
German Paratrooper Eckhert Schucany describes the attack.