Operation Market-Garden September 1944

The Fall of Paris on August 25, 1944 ended the Normandy campaign, but the Allies were still dependent on the port of Cherbourg for supplies. This caused a reevaluation of the “broad front” strategy that Eisenhower followed, advancing everywhere, rather than Montgomery’s advocacy for narrow thrusts through weak points in the German lines.

US Army General George S. Patton’s Third Army, driving hard, had run off the French maps and were advancing on the German city of Aachen, the first German territory to come under attack. Hitler was determined to hold the city, but the Allies’ increasing supply problems stopped Patton cold. He was sure that given more gas, he could advance on Berlin.

Montgomery was given authorization to try his narrow advance. Holland had been under German occupation for four years, and he believed that the German forces there were weak. If airborne units could land and hold key bridges, he could send a heavy armored force racing through Holland and sweep around to take Berlin before the end of the year.

The plan called Operation Market-Garden, for the largest airborne drop in military history. Three Allied divisions would be involved. The US Army 101st Airborne would drop on Eindhoven and take the canal crossings at Veghel. The US Army 82nd Airborne would land on bridges over the Maas and Waal Rivers. 60 miles behind the German lines, the British 1st Airborne, then later the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade, would be dropped on the Rhine bridges at Arnhem. This was the “Market” plan.

UK General Brian Horrocks, commanding the XXX Corps, would dash up these Allied-held river crossings to relieve the 1st Airborne in the “Garden” phase of the operation. Montgomery’s planning did not take into account any of the lessons learned in Normandy, or even the German landings in Crete three years before.

Also, the Germans were beginning to stabilize their western forces. German paratroopers and SS panzer units were moved into Arnhem, and while British intelligence was aware of them, their presence was discounted. Also, for such a large operation, less time was taken than the Normandy landings.