Operation Market Garden: European Theatre Phase II. US History. Review. Operation Overlord launched Allied European offensive June 6 – August, Allies advanced to the Seine River in Paris and had pushed most Germans out of France
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Review • Operation Overlord launched Allied European offensive • June 6 – August, Allies advanced to the Seine River in Paris and had pushed most Germans out of France • Eisenhower and command looked for quickest and smartest way into Germany • Allied goal was to defeat Hitler by Christmas 1944
Market Garden Background • September 17-25, 1944 • Fought in Netherlands (Holland) and Germany • Largest airborne operation of World War II • Goal was to capture bridges across strategic canals and rivers that would allow for a single entry in Northern Germany • German forces had withdrawn from France across the “Low countries” (Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium)
Background • British General Bernard Montgomery presented Market Garden to Eisenhower in early September • Allocate vast majority of European supplies toward forming a single entry into Germany • Go through “Low countries” to push around the defensive Siegfried Line and to surround the industrial center of Germany, the Ruhr • Move tanks into Germany on this path • Eisenhower favored a broad front, as did rest of top American commanders • Decision was made to push forward on all fronts but to give Montgomery limited supplies to move ahead with his plan • Eisenhower wanted to keep pressure on Germans on all fronts, but he was being pressured by FDR to use airborne ASAP • 18 airborne drops had been planned before Patton and other US generals kept overrunning drop zones
Geography • Highway 69 – Hell’s Highway was the main road in the planned path • Ground on each side of the highway at many places was low and too soft to move heavy equipment • Six major water obstacles in the path and bridges needed to be secured over all, ideally at the same time • Also two hills overlooking the highway that would need to be taken • One west of Arnhem, one called Groesbeek Ridge in 82nd’s zone • Failure to take this high ground would result in defeat
Attack • Largest airborne operation in war • 34,600 men from US, Britain, and Poland • Carried out in daylight as it was a “new moon” time – no light • Overlord drop was trained and practiced numerous times • No training, no practice for Market Garden • 82nd General James Gavin in his diary: • “It looks very rough. If I get through this one, I will be very lucky.”
German Preparation • Hitler was worried of an attack through Low countries • Stationed forces of Army Group B and First Parachute Army in region • Already had SS divisions, Panzer divisions, and anti-aircraft groups in the area • Germans had solid intelligence about the Allied want to take bridges at Arnhem specifically
Battle • Some early successes for Allies • 82nd and 101st were able to secure cities of Eindhoven and portions of Nijmegen • Shown in “Replacements” episode of B.o.B. • British were struggling to control Arnhem • Far northern sector of the attack • Possibly most important as this was closest to German border • Distance from command post cut off Eisenhower from communicating with commanders in operation • Entire operation would fail if Germans cut the highway at any point • German counterattack managed to cut the road at various places forcing Allied units to retreat • 101st ended up stranded on an island near Nijmegen on October 2, 1944 and was there in a stalemate until November 25 • Shown in “Crossroads” episode of B.o.B.
Aftermath • American leaders furious at perceived ineptitude of British leaders, especially Montgomery • Market Garden took resources from other advances, namely Patton, and “wasted” them • Plan was a gamble and it failed • Least experienced airborne force, the British 1st Division, was given Arnhem as their task • 101st dropped too far from bridge at Son and thus Germans had time to destroy bridge • This delayed the advance and allowed Germans to regroup in Son, Nijmegen, and Eindhoven • Intelligence said German forces in area were “bottom of barrel”, mainly old men and teenagers • This proved inaccurate
Aftermath (cont.) • Dutch citizens aided Allies heavily in campaign, after Allied retreat Germans worked to starve the Dutch population • Called “Hongerwinter” • Victory by Christmas did not happen • Weakened Allied forces enough that they did not see Hitler planning a counterattack near Bastogne region of Belgium and the Ardennes Forrest • Battle of the Bulge, largest battle in history of the US Army