Operation Market Garden | World War II

Operation Market Garden | World War II

Overview

Operation Market Garden was a World War II Allied military operation in the Netherlands from 17 September to 25 September 1944. Its goal was to carve a 64-mile salient into German territory with a bridgehead across the Rhine, opening a northern German invasion route for the Allies. Two sub-operations were to be used to accomplish this. First, airborne forces from the United States and the United Kingdom seized nine bridges, quickly followed by land forces.

The First Allied Airborne Army planned and executed the airborne operation, while the British Second Army's XXX Corps handled the land operation. Despite being the war's largest airborne operation to that point, Market Garden's ultimate conclusion is still debated. The process liberated the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen and some towns and a few V-2 rocket launch facilities. However, it did not prosper in securing a bridgehead across the Rhine, and the advance was halted at the river.

Geography

Highway 69 (later renamed Hell's Highway) ran through the proposed route and was two lanes wide, partly elevated above polder or floodplain land. The Nederrijn at Arnhem is 300 feet long, and the Nederrijn at Arnhem is 300 feet long. Plans were devised to grab bridges across all of these barriers almost simultaneously; failure to do so would result in a significant delay, if not outright defeat. To that purpose, a massive amount of bridging material was gathered and 2,300 vehicles to transport it and 9,000 engineers to put together.

Even though the terrain is mostly flat and open, with no more than 30 feet of elevation change, Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks, commander of XXX Corps, recalled that the region was wooded and marshy, making any outflanking manoeuvre impossible. Each 300 feet high, two significant hill sections represented some of the Netherlands' highest ground.

Allied Preparation

Instead of driving over a conquered bridge to Arnhem, where British paratroopers were still holding the bridge's north end, the XXX Corps had to seize the bridge itself. The British 1st Airborne Division met stiff resistance at the northernmost point of the airborne operation. It took to capture the Nijmegen Bridge and build a Bailey bridge at Son allowed German forces to plan their counterattack. A small British force captured the north end of the Arnhem road bridge, preventing German soldier’s access to the bridge. The British paras at the Arnhem Bridge were surrendering, unable to hold on any longer, at the exact moment as the XXX Corps' tanks went over the Nijmegen Bridge, 36 hours late, after seizing it from the Germans. The rest of the British 1st Airborne Division was stuck in a small pocket west of the Arnhem Bridge, evacuated on 25 September with heavy casualties. On 30 September, the Germans launched a counter-offensive against the Nijmegen salient but could not regain any of the allied gains.

Background

After catastrophic defeats in Normandy in 1944, German forces withdrew across France and the Low Countries by the end of August, heading for the German border. The British 21st Army Group, led by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, sent its British Second Military, ordered by Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey, proceeding on a line stretching from Antwerp to Belgium's northern border in the first week of September, while its First Canadian Army, led by Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar, was following its mission of recapturing the ports of Dieppe, Le Havre, and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

To the south, the US 12th Army Group, led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, was approaching the German border and had been instructed to align with Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges' US First Army within the Aachen gap in support of Montgomery's Ruhr push.

Logistics Problems

The Brittany ports, which the Germans still resisted, were equally inappropriate because they were located along France's western coast and were overrun by the Allied drive to the east. Montgomery's men essentially conquered the large port of Antwerp on 4 September, but the Scheldt Estuary leading to it, remained under German control. Some contended that the capture of Le Havre and Antwerp rendered the original goal of clearing French ports further south obsolete. The Canadian Army could have opened Antwerp sooner if Montgomery had prioritised clearing the approaches, but Eisenhower and Montgomery stuck to their original goals to conquer more French ports.

The failure to open Antwerp's harbours has been dubbed one of the war's greatest tactical blunders. The "Great Mistake" also included failing to cut off the Fifteenth German Army, which was stranded on the shore west of Antwerp and was evacuated north through the Scheldt Estuary and east along the Beveland Peninsula. Instead, all supplies for the forces had to be transported by truck, and there weren't enough trucks to go around. The 12th Army Group's advancing divisions left all of their heavy artillery and half of their intermediate artillery west of the Seine, freeing their vehicles to transport supplies to other formations. Two of the 21st Army Group's divisions were demobilised, and four British truck companies were loaned to the Americans.

The Red Ball Express was organised to help alleviate the effects of transportation scarcity. However, it was unable to fix the situation. As the Associated quest across France and Belgium progressed, distances were too great for a single truck to cover, necessitating fuel transport in those trucks to refuel the logistics further away from the ports.

Strategy

Eisenhower relied on speed, which was reliant on logistics, which he admitted were stretched to the breaking point. His commanders, particularly Montgomery, claimed that, with the supply situation deteriorating, he would not be able to reach the Ruhr but that a reorganisation of our current resources of all kinds would be sufficient to get one push to Berlin. Accordingly, Montgomery received increased resources from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, primarily additional locomotives and rolling stock, and priority for air supplies.

Montgomery originally proposed Operation Comet, a tiny airborne coup de main, to be undertaken on 2 September 1944. The British 1st Airborne Division's divisional headquarters and the 1st Airborne Brigade and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were scheduled to land in Nijmegen, the British 1st Parachute Brigade Arnhem, and the British 4th Parachute Brigade in Grave, Netherlands. However, because of terrible weather and Montgomery's concerns about rising German resistance, the operation was postponed and eventually cancelled on 10 September.

Comet was followed by Operation Market Garden, a more ambitious plan to hook around the Siegfried Line's northern end, allowing the Allies to cross the Rhine with substantial forces and trick the German Fifteenth Army by progressing from Arnhem to the IJsselmeer's shores.

German Preparation

It has 23,019 killed in combat, 198,616 missing or taken prisoner, and 67,240 wounded between 6 June and 14 August. By the end of August, many of the Wehrmacht forces that had started the Normandy operation had been decimated or reduced to skeleton formations. As the German Army retreated towards the German border, they were frequently harassed by Allied air attacks and bombing raids, which caused deaths and destroyed vehicles. Attempts to prevent the Allied advance often seemed futile, as hasty counterattacks and blocking positions were pushed aside, and there appeared to be too few German soldiers to hold any position. By early September, things were starting to look up.

On 4 September, he brought back Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, who had been in retirement since Hitler discharged him as Wehrmacht Commander-in-Chief West on 2 July, and restored him in his ex command, replacement Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, who had taken control only 18 days before and would now command only Army Group B. Rundstedt began planning a defence against what Wehrmacht intelligence estimated to be 60 Allied divisions at full strength, despite Eisenhower having only 49 divisions at the time.

The model's mission was to halt the Allied advance. He envisioned a line that would run from Antwerp to Metz to Maastricht, then follow the Albert Canal to the Siegfried Line and the Meuse. Colonel-General Kurt Student, commander of the German airborne forces, got instructions from Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Missions Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, to move from Berlin immediately and proceed to the Netherlands, where he would gather all available units and build a front near the Albert Canal that would be held at all costs. The new First Parachute Army, a euphemism term for a paper formation, had this front. Out of the turmoil, leadership, initiative, and a competent staff system formed a defence. The 719th infantry division began digging in along the Albert Canal on 4 September and was shortly joined by forces led by Lieutenant General Kurt Chill. A chill had assumed command of the remnants of the 84th and 89th Infantry Divisions en route while only formally commanding the 85th Infantry Division, which had suffered tremendous casualties during the withdrawal from Normandy.

Intelligence

Rundstedt and Model feared a major Allied onslaught was on the way after receiving numerous intelligence reports describing a "continuous stream" of troops to the British Second Army's right side. Army Group B's top intelligence officer expected the Second Army would start an offensive in the direction of Nijmegen, Arnhem, and Wesel, with the primary goal of reaching the Ruhr river's industrial region. The Army's northern flank would be covered by the left-wing, which would move up to the Waal at Nijmegen and isolate the German 15th Army stationed on the Dutch coast.     

Montgomery ignored Smith's objections and refused to change the 1st Airborne Division's Arnhem landing plans. Aerial images of Arnhem acquired by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire XI from the RAF's No. 16 Squadron and intelligence from members of the Dutch resistance gave more information on the whereabouts of the German Panzer Divisions at Arnhem. Major Brian Urquhart, the Division's chief intelligence officer, scheduled a meeting with Browning and briefed him of the armour presence at Arnhem, fearing that the 1st Airborne Division would be in great danger if it landed there.

Battle

Day 1

Reports reported German flak as "heavy," but false. Except for the massive Nijmegen Bridge, all river crossings were in allied control by the end of the first day, or German troops were barred from using them. The 101st experienced little resistance in the south, capturing four of the five bridges allotted to them. Gavin planned to take control of the Grave and Maas-Waal canal bridges before the Nijmegen Bridge. Unfortunately, most of the SS regiment, including the commander, was slain while attempting to cross the bridge. The 508th was given the duty of crossing the 600-meter Nijmegen highway bridge if at all possible, but due to a misunderstanding, they did not begin until late in the day. The attack failed, and the Germans took control of the Nijmegen Bridge. It was critical to capture this bridge. The Nijmegen and Arnhem bridges covered two arms of the Rhine that could not be easily bridged, unlike other bridges to the south that were across smaller rivers and canals that engineering units could bridge.

The Survey Battalion of the 9th SS Panzer Division was allowed to cross the Arnhem Bridge and drive to Nijmegen and the bridge across the Waal branch of the Rhine five hours after the initial landing, believing the British were trapped in Arnhem. If they wanted to take a gun out of service, they had to patrol and do it man to man. Small German soldiers of a training battalion halted two of the 1st Parachute Brigade's three divisions, which had swiftly constructed a thin blocking line covering the obvious ways into Arnhem.

Because they were separated by 13 km and the main radio had a Type 22 set with a 5 km effective range, some communication loss was predicted between the bridge and divisional headquarters in one of the drop zones. The British radios were useless at any distance. The radios had been adjusted to different frequencies, two of which matched with German and British public broadcasting channels, which were discovered after landing. Other concepts have been proposed to explain the substantially limited range of 1st Airborne Division radio equipment.   

Horrocks received confirmation that the operation would take place on 17 September. Horrocks received word about 12:30 p.m. that the first wave of airborne forces had departed their bases in the United Kingdom, and he scheduled the ground assault for 14:35. At 14:15 hours, 300 Corps artillery units opened fire, launching a rolling barrage 1 mile wide and 5 miles deep in front of the XXX Corps start line. Seven squadrons of RAF Hawker Typhoons assisted the barrage by firing rockets at all known German positions along the road to Valkenswaard. Irish Guards tanks and infantry led the attack, and it began on schedule when Lieutenant Keith Heathcote, commanding the lead tank, gave his driver the order to advance. By 15:00 hours, the Irish Guards Group's spearhead units had broken free of the XXX Corps steppingstone on the Maas-Schelde canal and crossed into the Netherlands. After passing the border, the Irish Guards were ambushed by infantry and anti-tank weapons dug down on both sides of the main road. The artillery barrage was improved, and new waves of Hawker Typhoons were dispatched.

The Guardsmen advanced to clear the German fortifications, manned by personnel from two German parachute troops and two teams of the 9th SS Panzer Division, and quickly routed the German flanking forces. Interrogation of captured German soldiers resulted in some of them willingly revealing out remaining German locations, while others only did so after being intimidated. The firefight subsided quickly, allowing the advance to resume. When the British began landing in the area west of Oosterbeek, Model stayed at the Tafelberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, a village west of Arnhem. He quickly recognised the attack's likely target and put together a defence after evacuating his headquarters. The model had a thorough understanding of the situation by midnight and had prepared the defence of Arnhem.

Day 2

On the morning of 18 September, Allied weather forecasters were correct in predicting that England would be blanketed in fog. The Second Lift was delayed for three hours, and thick low clouds developed over the southern half of the battle zone, expanding throughout the day and obstructing supply and air support. Early morning, the 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalions moved towards the Arnhem bridge and made considerable progress, but they were repeatedly halted in battles as it grew light. The Second Lift was detained by fog and jumped onto a landing zone being attacked, but it landed with full strength with the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment's C and D Companies.

The Irish Guards Group started their advance at 06:00 hours, under stiff resistance from German infantry and tanks. Around noon, the 101st Airborne was greeted by the XXX Corps' lead reconnaissance troops. Engineers from the XXX Corps, assisted by German POWs, built a class 40 Bailey bridge across the Wilhelmina Canal in less than 10 hours. The British VIII and XII Corps, which were supporting the main attack, had forged bridgeheads across the Meuse-Escaut Canal while facing stiff German resistance during the day; the 50th Infantry Division was transferred from XXX Corps to VIII Corps to relieve XXX Corps of the responsibility of securing the ground gained so far. German attacks on the XXX Corps and the freshly won bridgeheads over the Meuse–Escaut Canal were unsuccessful throughout the day. 

Day 3

The commanders of the 2nd Battalion and the 1st and 11th parachute battalions gathered around 3:00 a.m. to organise their attack. The 1st Parachute Brigade launched an attack on Arnhem Bridge at 4:30 a.m., before daylight, with the 1st Battalion in the lead, supported by remnants of the 3rd Battalion, the 2nd South Staffordshires on the 1st Battalion's leftward edge, and the 11th Battalion following. According to Frost, the surviving soldiers sought to remove into a self-protective pocket at Oosterbeek and clasped a bridgehead on the north bank of the Rhine despite overwhelming German resistance, who led the only Battalion that had completed it to the Arnhem Bridge.

The entrance of 35 gliders containing a portion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and its anti-tank battery, deployed in a Landing Zone still controlled by the enemy, supported the British 4th Parachute Brigade's withdrawal at 16:00 hours, killing all but a small contingent of the reinforcements. The 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assigned to attack the south end of the bridge again, with backup from the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who would cross the River Waal in boats 2 kilometres downstream of the bridge before attacking the north end.

Day 4

Frost's unit at the bridge held and established communication with the 1st Division via the public telephone system around midday, knowing that the Division had little hope of relieving them and that XXX Corps was halted to the south in front of the Nijmegen Bridge. After XXX Corps' Irish Guards tanks captured the bridge, assisted by troops of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiments from the south, German forces retreated from both ends of the bridge at 19:30, D4. Single-shot, disposable anti-tank Panzerfausts were fired at the tanks as they crossed the bridge, and grenades were thrown on them by German troops in the bridge girders. The girders yielded 180 German dead, with several unaccounted for dropping into the river below.

Only a few 82nd infantry met the first tanks as they crossed the bridge after they were across. Afterward crossing the bridge, one tank was destroyed, and another was heavily damaged but still driving, and was moved to the village of Lent on the north side of the bridge by the lone survivor of the attack, Sergeant Knight, who had faked death to survive. After clearing away SS troops from the village and setting the church fire, the Guards tanks encountered the bulk of the 82nd troops north of the bridge at the village of Lent, one km north of the bridge and in night. For 45 minutes, one tank, manned by Capt Lord Carrington, sat alone at the northern end of the bridge, waiting for XXX Corps infantry relief, who were battling Germans in the rafters as they moved across the bridge.

Day 5

Around 3,584 survivors of the 1st Airborne Division took up residence in the buildings and forests surrounding Oosterbeek to establish a bridgehead on the Rhine's north side until the arrival of the XXX Corps. During the day, the 64th Medium Regiment of the XXX Corps' artillery made radio contact with the 1st Airborne Division's guns, which had advanced with the ground forces and were allocated to the Division for assistance. The Irish Guards Group moved south to Eindhoven to see additional attack. The Grenadiers had just seized the approaches to the bridge with the help of the 82nd Airborne paratroopers. They had five tanks across to provision safeguarding the northern end of the bridge, and the Welsh Guards were in standby for the 82nd Airborne.

The catastrophe of Gavin's 82nd Airborne to take the Nijmegan bridge on 17 September, according to historian Robin Neillands, was a significant contributor to the defeat of the entire Arnhem operation, and it will not do blame the British or Captain Lord Carrington for that failure. The Germans were able to fortify the defences already in place at Ressen due to the delay, which was facilitated by the usage of the bridge following their control of its northern end. The Guards' advance was quickly halted by a German solid defensive line, hampered by wetlands that precluded off-road mobility.

Day 6

The Germans evacuated 2,400 troops from Oosterbeek, fearing a Polish assault to regain Arnhem Bridge or, worse, an effort to cut the road to the south, trapping the 10th SS Panzer Division and missing the Guards Armoured Division's route to Arnhem. On both banks of the Rhine, British and Polish engineers had worked all day to build a crossing using small boats connected by communications cable. Still, the line broke, forcing the Polish forces to row against the fierce current. Only 52 troopers from the 8th Polish Parachute Company survived the crossing before a halt was called at dawn due to German observation and fire. Even though most of the corridor was in Allied hands, German counterattacks continued along its length.

Day 7

The Germans had found out what the Poles were planning, and they spent the remainder of the day attempting to cut the British off from the riverside at their northern bridgehead. Both sides sustained significant losses, but the British could hold on. The Germans also invaded the Poles on the south side to encircle them, but the German onslaught was repulsed thanks to the arrival of many tanks from the XXX Corps. On the same day, boats and engineers from the Canadian Army arrived, and the Polish 3rd Parachute Battalion landed 150 troops on the Rhine's north bank that night. From their vantage point astride the road, several further German attacks were repulsed to the south, but the route remained cut. The XXX Corps then sent a Guards Armoured Division unit 19 kilometres south to retake the course. The rest of the Army to the north, remaining a few kilometres south of Arnhem, waited for soldiers to march up. The 325th GIR was ultimately sent on 19 September to augment the 82nd Airborne, and while it was 75 percent effective right once, it was far too late to alter the battle in that region.

Day 8

Another German unit cut the road south of Veghel and set up nighttime defensive positions. The Allies didn't know how great of a threat this posed at the time, but the main goal of Operation Market Garden, namely the Allied crossing of the Rhine, was abandoned on this day, and the decision was taken to go defensive with a new front line in Nijmegen. Despite this, the 4th Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment, attempted to reinforce the 1st Airborne Division on Sunday night. Two companies were sent across the river, but the crossing spot was poorly chosen, and the Dorsets landed amid German positions. Only 75 of the 315 men crossed made it to Oosterbeek after being shattered by their landing and instantly held down. The rest were apprehended and imprisoned. As a result of this failure, the 1st Airborne Division was ordered to retreat from its bridgehead on the Rhine's northern bank.

Day 9

The 1st Airborne Division received orders to withdraw across the Rhine at dawn and used every ruse possible to give the Germans the impression that their positions had not changed. The 1st Airborne Division began its removal at 22:00, using every manoeuvre possible to provide the Germans with the belief that their roles had not changed. They had withdrawn 2,398 survivors by early the following day, leaving 300 soldiers to capitulation on the northern row at first light when German fire blocked their rescue. As a result, 1,485 men from the 1st Airborne Division and other forces who fought north of the Rhine died, while 6,414 were taken prisoner, one-third of whom were wounded. The recently arrived 50th Infantry Division attacked the Germans defending the route to the south and seized it the next day. On the other hand, Elst fell to the 43rd Wessex on 25 September, following several days of fierce street combat. Meanwhile, the 5th East Yorkshire Regiment took the village of Bemmel on the same day.

Further Fighting

Due to delays in the 2nd SS Panzer Korps' preparations, they were repelled because they were not effectively supported by the XII SS Korps, although carrying out some small diversionary operations across the Neder-Rijn towards Doorwerth and Wageningen, which were also repulsed.

Hitler ordered the destruction of the Nijmegen bridges with the hopes of obstructing supplies and reinforcements to the Allies, as well as allowing a German counterattack to recover the bridgehead. Various attempts to demolish both bridges proved costly failures, especially for the Luftwaffe, who conducted numerous missions in one day and lost forty-six fighters to RAF and anti-aircraft fire. The frogmen then attempted to return to their lines by swimming against the river's current. The mission was only partially successful. The railway bridge was blown up, and a span broke away from a portion and fell into the river, rendering it useless, while the road bridge was only mildly damaged due to the mine's poor placement. Three of the twelve men were killed, seven were taken prisoner, and two made it back to their lines. Royal Engineers were able to extent a Bailey bridge both over the railway bridge and the damaged section of the road bridge, although temporarily.

Casualties

Compared to the 8,000 casualties experienced by the 1st Airborne Division, the XXX Corps suffered fewer than 1,500 casualties. The flanking British Corps made touch with paratroopers before the XXX Corps on multiple occasions and battled to support them until the end of the operation. The 101st Airborne Division's higher death toll reflects the fact that they also had to deal with German troops retreating from the XXX Corps advance in addition to fighting local German resistance.   

Due to incomplete records, determining German casualties is more complicated. Rundstedt gave an official figure of 3,300, but historians have questioned this. Estimates of the number of people killed and injured range from 6,400 to 8,000. Kershaw listed the German combat order, with casualties ranging from 6,315 to 8,925. Cornelius Ryan estimated an additional 7,500 to 10,000 casualties to those reported by Rundstedt in his book A Bridge Too Far, for a total of 10,800–13,300 deaths. According to a report published by the 21st Army Group, 16,000 German prisoners were taken during Operation Market Garden. During the operation, 159 German aircraft were destroyed, as well as 30 tanks or self-propelled guns, according to the report.

Honours

Victoria Cross

During Operation Market Garden, five Victoria Crosses were awarded. Following King's release from the prison camp, the entire circumstances of the incident were revealed, and Lord was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross (VC) on 13 November 1945, the only VC awarded to any member of Transport Command during WWII. The Dutch administration awarded Harry King the Netherlands Bronze Cross in May 1949. John Hollington Grayburn controlled his soldiers with remarkable bravery and commitment from 17 September to 20. There is little question that the Arnhem bridge would not have been held for this long if it hadn't been for this officer's inspirational leadership and personal bravery. The Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded to John Grayburn, who was also promoted to captain.

Captain Lionel Queripel after being injured in the face and both arms, remained as a lone rearguard after ordering his men to retire despite their objections on 19 September. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield's outstanding bravery on 20 September is beyond praise. He shunned risk, overlooked pain, and infected anyone who observed his deeds with the same aggression and unwavering commitment to duty that characterised his activities throughout. Sergeant Baskeyfield of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Major Robert Henry Cain South Staffordshire Regiment, displayed exceptional bravery on 25 September. His serenity and bravery in the face of constant danger could not be matched. Major Cain was the battle's sole Victoria Cross recipient who made it out alive.

Medal of Honor

Two American soldiers were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On 19 September the 101st Airborne Division, who was under fire and had both arms bandaged to his body, yelled grenade and put his body over the grenade, which exploded, killing him. On 21 September the 82nd Airborne Division sprinted roughly 125 yards over grazing enemy fire to an exposed position from where he could hit an enemy half-track with his rocket launcher, despite being under fire. Pvt. Towle was fatally wounded by a mortar shell while crouching in preparation for firing on the enemy vehicle. Pvt. At the cost of his life, Towle's courageous perseverance saved many of his comrades' lives, and he was directly involved in breaking up the enemy counterattack.

Military Order of William

Two regiments won the highest Dutch military honour, the Military Order of William, for their bravery during Operation Market Garden. HM Queen Wilhelmina bestowed the Knights 4th class honour on the US 82nd Airborne Division on 8 October 1945. In addition, the Division was permitted to add "Nijmegen 1944" to its battle honours. HM Queen Beatrix bestowed the Knights 4th class honour on the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade on 31 May 2006.

Aftermath

German Counterattack

The model sought to reclaim the Nijmegen bridgehead to contain the allied onslaught and push them off the Betuwe, popularly known as "the Island." In the counter-offensive, Bittrich led the II SS Panzer Korps in retaking Nijmegen and its bridges. The Germans were repulsed by 3 October, sustaining considerable losses in the process, including numerous heavy tanks. On October 4 and 5, British forces from the 50th Division launched a counter-offensive, recapturing much of the lost land and the villages of Bemmel and Haalderen, providing additional strength to retain the bridgehead. The 10th SS Division had suffered such heavy losses that it was rendered unable to engage in any offensive operations. This time, the Germans made one more push against the American 101st Airborne Division, which had relieved the 43rd Wessex near Randwijk, Driel, and Opheusden. During the conflict, the 363rd Division was annihilated. Martin B-26 Marauders of the 344th Bomb Group, USAAF, bombed and destroyed Arnhem Bridge on 7 October.

Argument on Allied Strategy and Tactics

Operation Market Garden has remained a contentious conflict for numerous reasons. The tactics and methods of the Allies have been hotly contested. The operation resulted from a strategy dispute at Allied command's highest levels in Europe. As a result, much postwar study has focused on the alternatives that were not pursued, such as prioritising protecting the Scheldt estuary and thereby opening Antwerp's port. Even though the docks had been damaged and would not be navigable for some time, Montgomery ordered that the First Canadian Army clear the German garrisons in Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkirk first. Admiral Cunningham cautioned that Antwerp would be as useless as Timbuktu until freed the approaches. Admiral Ramsay told SHAEF and Montgomery that the Germans might quickly shut the Scheldt Estuary. The ports of the French Channel were firmly defended, and Antwerp was the only option. However, the Germans rebuilt their island garrisons. The Canadians suffered 12,873 casualties in an operation that could have been carried out at a low cost if launched soon after Antwerp was taken. This setback dealt a severe blow to the Allies' preparations as winter approached.

Debate on the Outcome

According to Charles MacDonald's postwar American official history of the campaign, the operation achieved much of what it had been meant to do, but the attempt to start a bridgehead crosswise the Neder Rijn and turn the northern edge of the West Wall had failed. While the operation's declared goal was not to bring the German force to its knees in the Netherlands, MacDonald noted that few could deny that many Allied commanders had hoped for it and that the operation failed to deliver.

The mission failed, although the British gained an important salient and a bridgehead across the Waal, which had no immediate effect on the Allies' advance into Germany, according to the official British war history. According to the German official account, the operation was a complete failure in the Allies' intended aims. According to Atkinson, the acquired terrain led nowhere. The process failed to fulfil its goals due to an epic blunder of weak planning, faulty intelligence, clumsy execution, and apathetic generalship. Carlo D'Este argued that the operation had failed to build a bridgehead north of the Rhine, notwithstanding the heroics at Arnhem Bridge. Wilmot cited the commander of the First Parachute Army as saying that the weather was the main reason for the operation's failure.

According to John Warren, the largest airborne operation of the war had failed, with all objectives except Arnhem being won, but the rest is meaningless without Arnhem. After ten days of gruelling battle, Gerhard Weinberg stated that the attempt to 'bounce' the had failed by a razor-thin margin in the face of resurgent German resistance.

Subsequent Combat in the Netherlands

Following the failure of Operation Market Garden to build a bridgehead across the Rhine, Allied forces started offensives in the south of the Netherlands on three fronts. They proceeded north and west to safeguard transport to the crucial port of Antwerp, with the Canadian First Army securing the Scheldt Estuary in the Battle of the Scheldt. In Operation Aintree, Allied forces advanced eastwards to ensure the banks of the Meuse as a natural boundary for the formed salient. This attack against the German bridgehead west of the Meuse near Venlo was a long and drawn-out affair for the Allies, culminating in the Battle of Overloon. Following the completion of Aintree, on 20 October, Operation Pheasant was initiated, which saw the Market Garden salient develop westward and ultimately in the liberation of's-Hertogenbosch.

Allied forces marched from the Groesbeek heights, taken during Market Garden, into Germany in February 1945, passing the Rhine in March during Operation Plunder. After two days of battle, the city of Arnhem was successfully liberated by I Canadian Corps as a result of Operation Plunder on 14 April 1945. On 5 May, the surviving German forces in the west of the Netherlands signed a surrender document.

Commemoration

Memorials and Remembrance

The treasured Arnhem Bridge, which the British had battled so bravely, was destroyed during the war. On 7 October, when the front line south of the Rhine stabilised, B-26 Marauders of the 344th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Forces destroyed it to prevent the Germans from using it. In 1948, it was replaced with a bridge with a similar appearance, and on 17 December 1977, it was renamed John Frost Bridge. The Freedom Museum in Groesbeek, Wings of Liberation Museum Park in Best, and Airborne Museum Hartenstein in Oosterbeek are dedicated to Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. Each year on the first Saturday in the month of September, tens of thousands of people gather in Oosterbeek for a commemoration walk.

"Enthusiastic to the public of the Corridor by the veterans of the 101st Airborne Division, in grateful recognition of their heroism, compassion, and friendship," reads the inscription on the monument, which is written in English. The airborne route is a 225-kilometre footpath that runs from Lommel to Arnhem and is built by the Dutch hiking alliance "Ollandse Lange Afstand Tippelaars" as a permanent memory of Operation Market-Garden. A Commemorative Project plaque was revealed on 23 June 2009 to celebrate the unique military and historical ties between Canada and the Netherlands. It was formally opened in September 2004, during the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Liberation.

Last updated: 2022-January-13
Tags: History World War II
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