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Posted on Sep 30, 2007 in Front Page Features, War College

Operation Market Garden – Part 1

By Wild Bill Wilder

The Fates Play a Role

The Allies believed that the area that Market Garden would attack to be held by only remnants of German units. They did not foresee any immediate opposition of serious consequence. They did not know the extent of enemy units in the area. Two Panzer Divisions, the Ninth and Tenth, had been badly depleted during the summer battles of 1944 in Normandy. They had been sent north into Holland for rest and refitting.

General Model had ordered the 10th SS to move on into Germany, where the rebuilding process could be accomplished more swiftly. The 9th SS was then ordered to proceed south to counter the possible enemy assaults at Aachen. By the time the Allied airborne troops were loading, these two panzer divisions were both in the area around Arnhem. One was headed south; the other, north. Thus, without either the Allies or the Germans being aware of the others intentions, the foundations for a real battle was being put into place.

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Also during the early days of September, the German High Command, totally unaware of Market Garden, had seen the danger in Holland and rushed what reinforcements they could into the area. The first large enemy to settle into the area was a group of retreating German units under the command of General Kurt Chill. As he passed through Holland, he perceived the seriousness of the situation along the Albert Canal.

Acting with dispatch, he himself initiated a defense that incorporated any troops that were coming through. In his net he caught a conglomeration of Navy, Luftwaffe, and military government troops and men from every conceivable branch of the Wehrmacht. In a very short time, he converted this hodgepodge of men into a strong defensive fighting force. It was enough to stop the first British probes toward the canal in the first week of September.

The major Army group to settle in and take over the defense was the First Parachute Army, under General Student. His forces included five new parachute regiments, and new parachute antitank battalion, some 5,000 service troops, and battalion of the 2nd Parachute Regiment and the veteran 6th Parachute Regiment. This latter group had distinguished itself admirably in the fighting in Normandy, acquitting itself with the impact of a full division. By the end of the first week, therefore, the German position in Holland had improved considerably.

Enemy Reaction to the Invasion

At 10:25AM on September 17th, 18 transports left England with the Pathfinder teams who would mark the landing zones. Behind them, 1,545 planes and 478 gliders took to the air from 24 different airfields. What a sight that must have been! Very few were lost in route. All of the initial airdrops proved to be a huge success. It would prove to be perhaps the most efficient airdrop in history.

It was from this point, however, that thing began to deteriorate. A glider, shot down near the First Parachute Army’s Headquarters, carried on board the complete operational orders for all airborne activities. Within two hours General Student had it in his hands, and was aware of all landing zones and objectives of the sky troopers.

Within a short period of time, General Model had barked out orders to the various units under his command in the area to contain the invasion. It would be the task of the First Parachute Army to contain the advance of XXX Corps, and to neutralize the activities of the 101st Airborne around Eindhoven. To handle the situation at Nijmegen, the Corps Feldt and 406th Division were to hold key positions until reinforcements from the II Parachute Corps could arrive.

The situation at Arnhem seemed the least dangerous. This was due to the fact that so many powerful units were at his disposal to control the situation. Model called upon Division Tettau, a collection of various units thrown together under General Hans von Tettau, to immediately attack from the northwest. Orders were then issued to General Bittrich’s II SS Panzer Corps with the 9th and 10 SS Panzer Divisions to move toward Arnhem. Once the bridge there was secure, the 10th SS was to proceed to the south to Nijmegen.

Be sure and watch for part two of this article dealing with the 3 airborne divisions and their participation in Operation Market Garden.

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