A Magnificent Disaster
The Failure of Market Garden, The Arnhem Operation, September 1944
“Reveals much of what history has tended to gloss over . . . should be a must read for all who have an interest in this operation” (Airborne Quarterly).
After Normandy, the most spectacular Allied offensive of World War II was Operation Market Garden, which planned to join three divisions of paratroopers dropped behind German lines with massive armored columns breaking through the front. The object was to seize a crossing over the Rhine to outflank the heartland of the Third Reich and force a quick end to the war.
The operation utterly failed, of course, as the 1st British Airborne was practically wiped out, the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions became tied down in vicious combat for months, and the vaunted armored columns were foiled at every turn by improvisational German defenses. Some have called the battle “Hitler’s last victory.”
In this work, many years in the making, David Bennett puts forward a balanced and comprehensive account of the British, American, Polish, Canadian, and German actions, as well as the strategic background of the operation, in a way not yet done. He shows, for example, that rather than a bridgehead over the Rhine, Montgomery’s ultimate aim was to flank the Ruhr industrial area from the north. The book also deals as never before with the key role of all three Corps of British Second Army, not just Brian Horrocks’ central XXX Corps. For the first time, we learn the dramatic untold story of how a single company of Canadian engineers achieved the evacuation of 1st Airborne’s survivors back across the Rhine when all other efforts had failed. Also revealed is the scandal of how Polish Gen. Sosabowski was treated by the British military authorities, and how the operation would have failed at the outset but for the brilliant soldiery of the two American airborne divisions.
Respectfully nodding to A Bridge Too Far and other excellent works on Market Garden, the author has interviewed survivors, walked the ground, and performed prodigious archival research to increase our understanding of the battle, from the actions of the lowliest soldier to the highest commander, Allied and German.