Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied campaign during World War 2. The operation took place in the Netherlands. It’s goal was to encircle the German Ruhr area with a pincer attack. After the battle of Normandy, the operation was began with a massive airborne attack, Operation Market, whose goal was to capture key locations in enemy territory, and continued with the British XXX Corps assault, codenamed Operation Garden. However the Allied forces failed to achieve their objectives due to a strong German defence.
Having obtained Eisenhower's agreement to using the Allied airborne divisions, Montgomery decided on an operation in which two American and one British airborne division were to secure a series of river crossings, with the American 82nd and 101st seizing the southern two and the British 1st Airborne, reinforced by the Polish Parachute Brigade, the northernmost at Arnhem. The British 3oth Corps would strike forward to cross and join the seized bridges and thereby establish the Allies in one daring move across the lower Rhine.
The British field marshal Bernard Montgomery was the Supreme Commander of the operation. The commander of the British First Airborne Army was Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton. Despite the fact the British contributed only one division, they dominated Market Garden’s planning as well as command positions. The man selected to plan and command Market Garden was an immaculate guardsman, Lieutenant General Frederick “Boy” Browning.
The most important single factor holding back the Allies was the supply situation. As they had advanced rapidly, the Allied armies had been unable to seize additional ports. Cherbourg and Marseilles had been badly damaged, while other ports could not be taken from the Germans. Antwerp was the only port at the time that had been captured intact but could not be used because of the precarious tactical situation of the Allied troops in the region. This situation forced the Allies to rely on trucks to supply the front lines. These trucks used well established routes. The "Red Ball Express" was both the most famous and the most effective of these.
The heavy fighting in Normandy and then the combat after the August rush created a massive need for replacements. As a result the British begun to break up some divisions in order to strengthen others. The American army had concentrated on building divisions for combat and had shipped these to Europe as rapidly as possible. Now that these divisions were in combat, providing an adequate stream of replacements was complicated not only by the tight shipping situation but by what most would consider defective replacement policies. The Germans on the other hand, still had the ability to reform and reinforce their units.
The Allied thrust was weakening at the very time that massive German reinforcements built up a new defensive line in the West. As Hitler had explained long before, the defensive depth available in the West was not great; here the Allies could reach Germany's industrial heart. It was, therefore, to this front that most of the new divisions were sent. It was the German hope that new weapons and new formations would now enable them to strike such blows at the Western Powers as to drive them off the continent. Such a German victory could be the prelude to either a compromise peace or a renewed offensive in the East.
To add to Allied bad luck, the Germans located a number of key headquarters in the area immediately north of Antwerp. The Generals Walter Model, Kurt Student and Wilhelm Bittrich were all in and around the area of operations. Thus, the Germans had a number of experienced commanders in the area who by training and inclination would respond effectively to Market Garden.
At the beginning parts of the airborne operation ("Market") and accompanying land drive ("Garden") appeared to go well. American paratroopers entered Eindhoven and Nijmegen. But the british suffered heavy casualties. After 10 days of fighting the Allied advance had stopped, and the Allied forces were forced to pull back. The attempt to "bounce" the Rhine barrier had failed by a narrow margin in the face of a reviving German resistance, but it had failed nonetheless.
The 101st and the 82nd Airborne Divisions captured most of the bridges that were their targets or replaced them when blown. The British pushed a battalion onto the north side of the Arnhem bridge. But then things went very wrong very quickly. In Arnhem, Waffen SS troopers, whose presence in the area Browning had so casually dismissed, blocked movement into the town from every direction after one British battalion had slipped past. Thus, the Germans had isolated the 1st Airborne Division from its target. The 1st Airborne Division’s casualty figures were twice as high as the combined totals of the 82nd and the 101st Divisions. It was, nonetheless, to be the British Army’s last defeat.
If Market Garden suffered from faulty assumptions at the outset, its actual execution quickly revealed larger strategic and operational weaknesses in Montgomery’s thinking. From the first, German resistance was tenacious and effective. The commanders on the spot—Model, Student, and Bittrich—reacted in the coordinated, aggressive fashion called for by German doctrine.
Allied ground forces were facing the harsh realities of a supply crisis, occasioned by their rapid advance. The problem lay not only in the distance from Normandy but in the damage their own air campaign had inflicted on the French railway system. The Allies not only had to funnel supplies to their forces on the German frontier but also had to feed much of the Belgian and French civilian populations— a task rendered more difficult by the four years of extensive expropriations made by the occupying Germans. The Germans managed to stave off defeat for the moment.
What became known jointly as Operation Market Garden used up scarce Allied resources, manpower and petrol at precisely the moment that Patton was nearing the Rhine without insuperable opposition. Once the Allied armies stalled for lack of supplies, however, they
would be unable to cross the borders of the Reich for another six months. The Germans meanwhile used the breathing space bought by their temporary victory in Holland to rush defenders to the Siegfried Line, which had previously been under-defended.
During October, Hodges’s First Army carried much of Twelfth Army Group’s effort. The XIX Corps, led by the 30th Infantry Division
and followed by the 2nd Armored Division, launched an attack aimed at encircling Aachen from the north; attacking forces planned to meet VII Corps advancing from the south at Würselen and envelop the ancient Roman city.
Farther south, First Army had launched a series of ill-fated attacks into the Huertgen Forest. Unfortunately, from the beginning,
operations in the Huertgen reflected little credit on American commanders at any level except the front lines. Senior American generals failed to recognize that dams south and east of the forest on the Roer River would allow the Germans to flood any advance U.S. forces made in the north. The 9th Infantry Division’s intelligence staff, who did recognize the danger the dams represented before the attack, was too junior to have any influence.
Patton launched a major attack against Metz south of the Ardennes. The Third Army had attempted to take Metz by a coup de main in September. American troops had actually stormed onto the top of Fort Driant, a major fortress guarding the city, but German defenders had fought tenaciously within the fort and called down heavy artillery fire on themselves. After heavy fighting, the city was encircled, and in December the Germans surrendered.
To Patton’s south, General Jacob Devers, commanding the newly created Sixth Army Group, which was formed from forces landing in southern France in August, successfully attacked in support of Patton’s Third Army. French troops drove through the Belford gap and within four days reached the Rhine. General Leclerc’s 2nd French Armored, fighting under Lieutenant General Alexander Patch’s Seventh Army, liberated Strasbourg.
Hopes that the war might be over in 1944, which had been surprisingly widespread earlier in the campaign were comprehensively extinguished when Field Marshal von Rundstedt unleashed the greatest surprise attack of the war since Pearl Harbor. In Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), seventeen divisions – five Panzer and twelve mechanized infantry – threw themselves forward in a desperate bid to reach first the River Meuse and then the Channel itself. Instead of soft autumnal mists, it was to be winter fog, snow, sleet and heavy rain that wrecked the Allies’ aerial observation, denying any advance warning of the attack.