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Posted on Oct 31, 2007 in Front Page Features, War College

Operation Market Garden – Part 2

By Wild Bill Wilder

Stretched to the Limit

On D+5, the Germans were striking the corridor at various places in an attempt to sever the lifeline northward. It was bitter fighting for the British and Americans trying to hold the road open. A few recon units took long twisting routes and made some contact with the Red Devils on the north side of the River. Their advance was not of any consequence to the Germans, who now seemed to control the situation at Arnhem. By now the "Garden" part of the operation was still halfway between Nijmegen and Arnhem.

One last effort to resupply was made by XXX Corps. A long column of tanks and DUKWS (amphibious trucks) made its way to Driel, just southwest of Arnhem. They attempted to cross the Neder Rijn, but the mud on the banks was too deep. At last some 50 Polish soldiers made it across on rafts.


General Horrocks, Commander of XXX Corps was still determined to establish a bridgehead. He ordered the 43rd division to cross the river a few miles to the west at Renkum. A British armored brigade had established a strong position there. Hardly had he given the order, when the realization of its futility set in. He quickly rescinded these instructions, finally admitting the impossibility of the task.

On D+8, September 25, the orders were sent to General Urqhart and the remnants of the 1st Airborne Division to abandon his position. The wounded were to be left behind. Mercifully it was dark, with a heavy rain to protect their movements. A steel curtain of protective fire was given by artillery of XXX Corps to protect the survivors. As daylight came, some 300 men were still stranded on the north side of the river. Most of them would never make it. Of the 9,000 Allied soldiers who had fought on the north side of the river, only about 2,300 would return.

After the Fact

How should Operation Market Garden be classified? In the attaining of all of its objectives, it was a failure. There were, however, many positive contributions. A 65 mile salient had been created in German lines. Many key river crossings, cities and air bases had been taken. German units badly needed in other places, were now tied down in the Netherlands. The German forces around Arnhem, already debilitated from the fighting in Normandy suffered further horrendous losses. They had taken 3,300 casualties, including over 1,000 killed in action.

On the debit side, the beginning of an immediate German collapse was not achieved. Losses for the Allies were extremely high. The air borne units had been used up. The 101st and 82nd would not be able to extricate themselves from the fighting for weeks. The British First Airborne Division had suffered catastrophic losses. Of the original 10,000 man force, it had suffered 1,200 dead and 6,642 missing wounded or captured. It had, in fact, been almost wiped out. So grim had been its suffering that its "number" was retired. The British First Airborne Division was taken from the order of battle table and has never been reconstituted.

Whatever the verdict on the effort, the noble fighting spirit of both sides has been written indelibly into the pages of history. As in all desperate situations, the courage and tenacity of the human will was demonstrated time and again. One Dutch civilian who had been witness to that which transpired in Arnhem wrote of the event, "…at the end of this hopeless war week the battle has made an impression on my soul. Glory to all our dear, brave Tommies and to all the people who gave their lives to help and save others."  Any one who had the honor to participate in this operation would never have to be ashamed of his part in the endeavor, or consider his contribution useless.

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  1. In studying Market Garden, even with some bad weather it does not explain why there was so little Allied air support, against visible German tanks for example. Does anyone know why, was it not effective or practiced by this late point in the war?

  2. It seems to me the article fails, as do most on the subject, to deal with the primary actor in the operation, the XXX Corps. Airborne operations were secondary to the ability of the ground troops to traverse the distance with appropriate speed.

    The answer to the previous question is that the American air support coordination teams sent into Arnhem had non-functioning sets, and one was killed due to direct hit by a mortar round. Since Browning ordered that pilots do not attack without requests from the ground due to expected confused situation on the ground, they followed orders, and did not, hence no air support.