|Operation Market Garden remains the largest airborne operation in military history, and it will probably remain so, as helicopter transports have almost entirely ended the necessity for parachute drops in large-scale conflicts. It was also one of the most daring military endeavors of World War II. |
30,000 brave British and American soldiers who were to be dropped behind enemy lines. Their mission was simple, to capture the primary eight bridges that spanned the large network of rivers on the Dutch and German border. British tanks and infantry were to push up from the Allied front line, relieve the fatigued airborne troops, then cross the bridges themselves.
As the initial thrust of the assault was to be made by highly skilled light infantry, who were to parachute behind enemy lines, the operation fell under the remit of the First Allied Airborne Army. This force comprised of two American divisions and one British, who had been training for the attack back in England. Dropping by parachute, they would land near the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Eindhoven, and Nijmegen and swiftly secure all eight of the key crossing points across the waterways. While preparing to drop, however, British intelligence reported there may be two elite panzer divisions stationed near Arnhem, which was considered highly dangerous to lightly armed airborne troops, heavy tanks, and armored vehicles.
Ultimately, despite the warning from intelligence officials, the airborne commander General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague Browning made the decision to go ahead with the operation.
September 17th 1944 A huge airborne force of around 1,500 aircraft dropped the British and American paratroopers near their targets. The British landing near Arnhem is met by heavy German resistance. The American 82nd Division captured its targets at Waals but met heavy resistance at Nijmegen.
September 18th 1944 A German counterattack stopped the Americans entering Nijmegen. The British landing zone near Arnhem was heavily attacked by Bittich's SS in an effort to stop further British landings.
September 19th 1944 The leading elements of the British 30th Corps reached the Americans at Nijmegen but all efforts to break through to the British at Arnhem fail.Flt Lt David Lord is killed along with all but one of his crew on a re-supply mission over Arnhem winning the VC.
September 20th 1944 The bridge at Nijmegen was captured by a combined US/GB assault.
September 21st 1944 The British paratroopers defending the northern end of the bridge at Arnhem were heavily attacked. Those British troops who did not get through to Arnhem formed a defensive barrier west of Oosterbeek.
September 22nd 1944 The advance of British tanks to relieve Arnhem was again delayed as a result of German attacks.
September 23rd 1944 Attempts by the Poles and troops of 30th Corps to cross the river at Arnhem failed.
September 25th 1944 The surviving British and allied troops were evacuated but nearly 6000 were captured. Over 1,200 British troops were killed in a plan that went a 'bridge too far.'