In 1944, after breaking out of Normandy, Allied forces were planning to quickly reach the pre-war borders of Germany. Americans, under general Patton, were rushing through the France, while at the same time British, under Field Marshal Montgomery, were planning the operation through Belgium and Holland. The rivalry between Patton and Montgomery has started year earlier in North Africa and during invasion on Sicily. Patton was using, just like right now in France, the more risky approach to offensives, throwing his forces to every gap the enemy left, which was gaining a lot of ground quickly and did not let enemy to form defensive lines, but at the same time was causing larger losses among his own troops. Montgomery was more cautious in his actions, although among other British officers he had reputation of being adventurous.
While Patton pushed his forces to the limits of their endurance and also to the limit of supplies (especially fuel for tanks), Montgomery wasn’t gonna let the American to win their duel that easily and prepared a daring plan, called Market-Garden, to surprise Germans and quickly reach the Rhein River. The operation was set of two parts - Market (which was airborne drop of troops near the strategic bridges in Holland) and Garden (swift push of armoured forces towards the bridges taken over by paratroopers). From the beginning many officers had doubts about the plan - it was daring, it would be surprising to enemy, it could reach the target without months of fights, but at the same time each element of the plan had to be perfect so the whole thing would not collapse.
40,000 of paratroopers (mostly British, but also American and Polish) were chosen to fulfil the Market part of the plan - taking over strategic bridges in Arnhem, Nijmegen and Eindhoven. During this part of operation first flaws became obvious - the troops were often dropped away from originally planned positions and without sufficient transportation their operations were delayed. Unfortunately Field Marshal Montgomery ignored the rumours about German armoured division being close to the bridges and paratroopers armed only with light weapons had to face the German tanks.
Another problem was the second wave of paratroopers, which was delayed due to poor weather and thus the troops that were already in Holland had to deal with enemy without reinforcements. The Garden part of the operation also was delayed, again due to over-optimistic assumption of the plan, since it turned out that road used by the armoured division is simply too narrow. It would be fine for simple transportation, but in battle each damaged or destroyed tank that blocked the road forced the whole column to stop.
When second wave of paratroopers was finally dropped (with 4 days delay) the whole operation was already hanging by a thread. Although most of the targets of Market were reached - the bridges were taken over by paratroopers, and held against the heavy German counter-attacks, the Garden part of the plan, which was arrival of armoured forces, had too much delay and after 8 days Operation Market-Garden was called off.
The losses among paratroopers were high, about 8000 men, the operation was failure due to over-enthusiastic planning, poor coordination and underestimation of German forces in the area. For example, when Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade was dropped on 21 September 2/3 of 1000 men were landing under heavy fire near Driel, while rest landed near Grave, 12 miles away. Their equipment and supplies landed 15 miles away... on the other side of the river.
Up to this day Operation Market-Garden is remembered as shining example of bravery, relentlessness and courage of the paratroopers, but the operation was a logistical and tactical disaster.
Operation Market-Garden, the daring plan of General Montgomery to break into Germany with help of paratroopers goes wrong. Based on real events.
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