Operation Market Garden: Battle For Arnhem

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Battle For Arnhem
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  135 scholar warrior SPRING 2014 ä ä scholar warrior Operation Market Garden: Battle For Arnhem  V GANAPATHY  Thus, ended in failure the greatest airborne operation of the war .... All objectives save Arnhem had been won, but without Arnhem, the rest were as nothing. Introduction  A number of us would have seen the World War II epic film, “A Bridge Too Far” . The film narrates the failure of Operation Market Garden  during World War II,  which was the Allied attempt to break through German lines and seize several bridges in occupied Netherlands, including one at Arnhem. The name of the film is said to be a comment attributed to British Lt Gen Frederick Browning, Deputy Commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Mshl Bernard Montgomery, the operation’s architect, before the operation: “I think we may be going a bridge too far.” This article will discuss the conduct of operation Market Garden , with particular emphasis on Arnhem, in the backdrop of the events leading to the operation, and finally conclude with the possible reasons for the failure of the operation.  136 scholar warrior SPRING 2014  ä       ä scholar warrior Background  After the Normandy landing in June 1944 and up to September 1944, the Allied Armies pushed the Germans, now disorganised, almost completely out of France and Belgium. It appeared that World War II was soon reaching a conclusion, the Allied frontline now at the border of Belgium, short of the Dutch border. The Allied Commanders decided to exploit the advantage and many ambitious plans were drawn up to push this idea, most notably Operation COMET. Field Mshl Bernard Montgomery, Commander of the British forces in Europe, 21 Army Group, suggested a limited airborne operation to be launched  137 scholar warrior SPRING 2014 ä ä scholar warrior on September 02, 1944, with 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade securing several bridges over the Rhine to enable speedy advance into the North German Plain. However, it was not approved by Gen Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the  Allied Forces. Montgomery’s persistent argument that an operation of such magnitude would lead to the war ending by December 1944 made Eisenhower accede; thus, the stage was set for Operation Market Garden,   the most ambitious airborne operation and air-ground strategic operation till that time. Another significant reason behind this operation was possibly the chance to enter Germany and capture Berlin before the Russians did from the east. Montgomery planned to enter Germany over the Rhine, circumventing the Siegfried Line (the German defensive line) from the north. The Allied forces would cross the river Maas (Meuse river) and two branches of the Rhine (river  Waal to the south and the Lower Rhine further north) and encircle Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr from the north. Operation Market Garden The operation was to be executed by 21 Army Group in two parts – Operation Market (the plan for the airborne forces) and Operation Garden (the plan for the ground forces). D-Day was set for Sunday, September 17, 1944. ã Operation Market:   1 Airborne Corps (under Lt Gen Frederick Browning) to employ 101st US Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division  and British 1st  Airborne Division  in the vicinity of Eindhoven, Grave-Nijmegen and Arnhem, respectively, to seize bridges across several canals and the Maas, Waal and Lower Rhine rivers to enable opening of a corridor more than 80-km-long leading from Eindhoven northward upto Arnhem. m 101st US Airborne Division:  To capture two canal bridges and one small river bridge in area Son-Eindhoven and assist the ground forces to capture Eindhoven town. m US 82nd Airborne Division:  To capture the Groesbeek heights near Nijmegen, and capture major bridges over the rivers Maas and Waal in area Grave- Nijmegen and a series of five other smaller bridges between the Maas and Waal. m British 1st Airborne Division:  To capture, along with the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, the main road bridge, a railway bridge and pontoon bridge at over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem. Operation Market Garden was possibly the chance to enter Germany and capture Berlin before the Russians did from the East.  138 scholar warrior SPRING 2014  ä       ä scholar warrior ã Operation Garden: XXX Corps to advance from the Belgian- Dutch border to the Zuider Zee along Axis Eindhoven-Nijmegen-Arnhem linking up with all the airborne forces above. Operations of XXX Corps, 101st Airborne at Eindhoven and 82nd Airborne at Nijmegen  XXX Corps was to reach Arnhem in two to three days. There was only one 64-mile single road leading to Arnhem with the logistical nightmare of passing 20,000 vehicles along it in just three days. The road was only wide enough to allow two vehicles to move abreast and the terrain was ideal for rearguard and delaying actions by even a small enemy force. Even with minimal opposition, frequent blockages and delays were expected. On September 17, at 1330 hours, the Guards Armoured Division spearheaded the advance of XXX Corps. It was expected that XXX Corps would link up with 101st Airborne in Eindhoven after just a few hours; however, at the end of the day on September 17, they had only advanced seven miles, half the distance. The Irish Guards halted overnight, stalling the advance for twelve hours. Isolated pockets of German infantry, armour and anti-tank weapons, using excellent cover along the road, ambushed and delayed XXX Corps. The vanguard entered Eindhoven at noon on September 18. Here, the advance was hindered by local Dutch people blocking the streets in celebration, and in a greater setback, due to the bridge on the Wilhelmina canal having been destroyed by the Germans before 101st  Airborne could capture it. Bailey bridges were constructed and the canal bridged by September 19 morning, and the advance resumed; however, XXX Corps was now 36 hours behind schedule, 40 miles short of Arnhem. The leading elements, the Grenadier Guards, arrived in Nijmegen by 1000 hours on September 19.82nd    Airborne had to capture intact the road bridges across the rivers Maas and Waal, both on the single road to Arnhem. The bridge on the Maas at Grave was captured quickly. However, 82nd   had prioritised capture of Groesbeek Heights, a large high ground overlooking the entire region, critical for the unhindered advance of XXX Corps. Due to this, only 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)  was spared for the capture of Nijmegen bridge and proved inadequate for the task. 82nd   awaited XXX Corps before making a serious attempt to capture the bridge, by which time the German 10th   SS Panzer Division secured the northern bank and gained a foothold on the southern bank. Finally, on September 20 afternoon, the Grenadier Guards and 505 PIR captured the southern end of the bridge after repeated attacks. 504 PIR, crossing the river in improvised boats, despite heavy
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