Operation Market-Garden, 1944
On 17 September 1944, 500 gliders and 1,500 aircraft advanced towards the Netherlands. On the ground the soldiers of XXX corps were on their way in tanks and trucks. As the aircraft drew near, Allied guns began to bombard the Germans guarding the road ahead. The allied airborne troops landed and started towards their target bridges, but were held up by defending enemy infantry. The road to the bridges was very narrow. This gave the small German force defending it the upper hand. The Germans picked off the first nine vehicles in the advancing column. This slowed down the whole Operation. The second problem was that British paratroopers had been issued with faulty radios. These radios were vital to coordinating their advance. Despite all of this, one British battalion did find a way through the German perimeter around Arnhem.
By the end of day one, the northern end of the bridge across the Rhine had been captured, but the Germans had blown up most of the other bridges rather than allow the British any chance of capturing them. On day two, British tanks covered 20 miles to join the Americans at an intact bridge near Grave. On day three they reached Nijmegen, to assist American troops who were trying to reach the bridge across the River Waal. Once they had captured Nijmegen bridge, only Arnhem would remain in German hands.
Crossing Nijmegen Bridge was easier said than done. American troops attacked across the River Waal towards the German end of the bridge, but half the men crossing the bridge were killed or wounded. The survivors who successfully reached the far bank, used it as a base to attack the Nijmegen bridge. The route to Arnhem was now in Allied hands.
Continual problems such as poor radios, bad weather and inefficient Intelligence all contributed to the ultimate failure of this operation. British commanders had not allowed for any delays, however small, and the success of the operation depended on nothing going wrong. Montgomery’s plan did not work, and the German artillery still had total control of the river. There was no alternative but to retreat. Only 2,000 men (out of the original 10,000 taking part in Operation Market-Garden) reached the village of Driel. The rest were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Four months later Allied forces crossed the Rhine in their advance into the heart of Germany.