This Month in History: Operation Market Garden

By Bl2 on October 19, 2011
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Time for a little history, troops.

Imagine for a second, September 17th, 1944. You and your comrades wait at the side door of your C-47. The light overhead turns green and it's go time. Out of the plane and parachuting behind enemy lines, you look to your side and see paratroopers fill the Dutch sky; it's the largest airborne operation of all time. Operation Market Garden is in full effect.

The plan was to land in Holland, capture key strategic bridges, and then make way straight into the German lowlands. If everything worked as planned, our troops would have bypassed the damned Siegfried line and made it to the heart of Germany. Once in Germany, our boys would end the war and be home in time for Christmas. Operation Market Garden was our road to victory, but somewhere along Hell's Highway things took a turn for the worse.

It was a joint operation with troops from the US, United Kingdom, Poland, Canada, and fighters in the Dutch Resistance. The plan was to fly in from Britain and then parachute behind enemy lines and seize the bridges that lined the Maas River and two arms of the Rhine. By doing this, our troops would then be able outflank the Germans and capture the Ruhr. With the Ruhr under our control, we would have thrown a massive sized wrench into Germany's industrial productions.

In the two months prior to Operation Market Garden, the Wehrmacht had more than 20,000 K.I.As, a little under 200,000 missing, and more than 60,000 injured. Operation Market Garden could have been a nail in their coffin, but the Wehrmacht wasn't ready to lie down. Their ability to restructure their troops and refill their lines was beyond anything we imagined. After restructuring, German troops began moving north to the Netherlands and dug in deep, awaiting our arrival.

Once Operation Market Garden was in full swing, a lot of things went right, but even more went wrong. There were mishaps in intelligence, bad luck with the weather, and severe delays in our advances, but perhaps the biggest setback was a highway through our planned route that we later dubbed Hell's Highway. It was a two-lane path composed of soft polder and elevated above the surrounding terrain. Not only did Hell's Highway make transporting large vehicles difficult, but it also left our soldiers standing on the high ground like sitting ducks. The Germans saw this and used it to their advantage.

Outside of Hell's Highway, Arnhem Bridge was another key strategic point that we were unable to control. The Germans got word of an impending strike and made sure that they would be ready to defend their territories. The British fought valiantly at Arnhem Bridge, but the German Wehrmacht simply overpowered them. A small group of British troops were able to hold one end of the Arnhem Bridge for a while, but when reinforcements did not arrive, they too were overpowered.

Continuous setbacks and unforeseen tragedies meant that Operation Market Garden never got the momentum it needed to succeed. What could have ended the war, instead turned into one of the biggest Allied operational failures. A lot of controversy still exists around the planning and execution of the operation and whether the right strategic points were attacked, but all we can truly do now is to learn from our mistakes. Operation Market Garden took place in 1944 and lasted from September 17th to the 26th.