You’ve all heard of D-Day, but how many of you have ever heard of Operation Market Garden? If Operation Market Garden had worked as planned, Allied forces would have marched into Berlin and ended the war by Christmas 1944. Instead, it was Russian forces that first reached Berlin in May of 1945 and ended up claiming East Germany and East Berlin for themselves. It’s quite possible that had Operation Market Garden worked, that Germany and Berlin may not have been divided and so many families separated and destroyed by the communist rule of the Russians.
British General Bernard Montgomery, Commander of British Forces in Europe, was the mastermind of Operation Market Garden. Planned for several months after D-Day, Montgomery planned to use some 30,000 Allied troops to take key bridges over the Rhine that would allow Allied forces to slice deep into Germany.
The plan involved three divisions of paratroopers along with many of the tanks, artillery and troops that landed at Normandy on D-Day. Montgomery figured the Allied forces involved in D-Day should have made their way across France to the Netherlands and prepared to cross the bridges into Germany.
However, Operation Market Garden did not go as planned. It was discovered late that there weren’t enough planes and gliders to transport the 30,000 paratroopers and other troops into the Netherlands to secure the bridges. Only 1 of the 3 divisions were transported for the initial drop. The other two divisions would be brought in immediately afterward. However, weather prevented the second and third drops of troops.
Additionally, it took the Allied forces longer than expected to fight the Germans in France and make their way across to the Netherlands. The Allies learned only a few days before the execution of Operation Market Garden that the Germans had sent reinforcements to the bridges crossing the Rhine.
On September 17, 1944, Operation Market Garden was launched when 500 gliders and 1,500 planes carrying paratroopers and ground troops flew into the Netherlands. Operation Market Garden was under way. Due to the information on the German troops, the Allied troops were delivered 7 miles from their target at Arnhem, Netherlands and the Germans were waiting for them.
On September 18, 1944, the Allied tanks were delayed by the narrow road leading to Arnhem. Heavy German shelling had destroyed the leading Allied vehicles, delaying the advance of the rest of column.
On this day, September 26, 1944, Operation Market Place had completely failed. Instead of the Allies capturing and securing the key bridges, the Germans had destroyed all but one road bridge crossing the Rhine into Germany.
Of the first 10,000 troops flown into the Arnhem area, only about 2,000 to 2,700 escaped and made their way safely to Allied lines. The rest were either killed or captured by the Germans. Many described what happened as a slaughter of Allied troops caused by a number of things that all went wrong at the same time, costing many lives.
In September 2012, the body of a British paratrooper was discovered in a field along with two hand grenades. He is believed to be a member of the 4th Parachute Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division. The body was discovered by a man with a metal detector.
The failure of Operation Market Garden delayed the Allied invasion into Germany which allowed Russian forces to be the first to reach Berlin and end the fighting and thus allowing them to claim large sections of Germany for themselves.
Sources for the above includes: Allies Slaughtered by Germans in Arnhem; The Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden); Battle of Arnhem: Dropping In On A Bridge Too Far; Battle of Arnhem; British Paratrooper’s Body Found in Holland 68 Years After Battle of Arnhem; Arnhem