By late summer of 1944 the German forces in France were in full retreat into Holland and Belgium. In the south, Patton was racing towards the Rhine. In the north, Montgomery's Army had pressed through Belgium to the Dutch border with little resistance.
Eisenhower was in overall command and Montgomery convinced him that instead of advancing on a broad front, a single thrust could be made through Holland and into the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland. The German Army was disorganized and demoralized, ready to surrender. The war could be over by Christmas.
The assault was hastily mounted in an attempt to catch the Germans before they could get their act together. The assault, known as Market Garden, was massive and intricate, with everything depending on everything else.
There was a good road stretching from the British lines to the German border but it crossed many dams and rivers. The bridges across these waterways was to be captured by American, Polish, and British paratroopers, and the infantry led by armored columns would dash to the final bridge at Arnhem, ready to invade Germany. There were eight bridges between the Allies and the German border and every one of them had to be captured intact, in accordance with a strict timetable, if the plan were to succeed. The airborne had to hold not only the bridges but the road that connected them. If the road were cut, the attack would fail.
A daring plan, especially coming from Montgomery. It didn't work because of poor planning, unhelpful weather, a disregard of intelligence, a failure of communications, an underestimation of German resilience, and sheer bad luck.
As the airborne troops began their descent the fifty-mile-long armored column charged along the single flat road, only wide enough for one vehicle. The road was sixty miles long. The column was stopped by a handful of German soldiers with hand-held anti-tank weapons after an advance of only three miles. The column pushed on and was stopped for good only eight miles short of Arnhem. Casualties were appalling. The game was up and evacuation was ordered.
The failure was tragic -- for everyone, not just for "our side." Had Market Garden succeeded, millions of lives would have been saved.
This is a courageous series, by the way. The history books are written by the winners, and here is Holmes guiding us through a monumental failure. Another episode, Bombers, explores a strategy that remains controversial to this day. The remaining episode describes a victory that wasn't worth the price. Good, candid work.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?