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Main 1st AIrborne force reaches Arnhem Bridge

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Jet, May 11, 2003.

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  1. Jet

    Jet Member

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    Could the Arnhem bridge have been held if the main force of the 1st Airborne reached the bridge? Or would the two German divisions just be able to throw the British Airborne Troops out of Arnhem ?

    I would say that if the main force reached the bridge then it would not of made a difference. Really the two Panzer divisions stationed in Arnhem were good quality troops and the 1st Airborne would have been well outnumbered.

    Even if the entire 1st Airborne reached the bridge and did hold it, it would not of mattered because XXX Corps could not break through the German resistance outside Arnhem.

    What do you think ?
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Interesting thought, Jet - I'm sure there will be plenty of argument !

    Just a couple of points I'd make, to think over.

    1st Airborne Div. safely landed 10,095 men and 96 guns west of Arnhem.

    Of those, only 700 men and 4 guns made it to the bridge area.

    Just maybe, if a far stronger force had landed near, or made it to, the bridge :

    a) They could have 'held' it longer ?
    b) XXX Corps would have been more highly motivated to get through ?
     
  3. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Big if, but forgetting supply, forgettin airlift capabilities etc...If whole or main of 1st airborne had secured bridge early on...

    Faced with a force of that strengh at bridge, the knowledge of the other airborne landings..and the knowledge of forward movement of 30 corps, would not the whole German defence be changed...Their may well have been the fait accompli feeling beyond the bridge..and a defence line drawn up to hold any advance in front of 1st airborne.

    Movement of German troops or command and the morale of those facing 30 corps and Americans might well have been drastically changed knowing that behind them one of the main bridges and possible routes of retreat/reorginisation had been taken by an imovable force at that stage...dispositons would surely have been changed accordingly.

    May even have led to additonal pressure on Americans of 82nd on closest to German border being overwhelmed by German force movements not wishing to push on to Nijmengan and up to Arnhem when they could take an easier route out through these troops?

    This leading to German forces facing Americans and 30 corps re alligning their devensive/attackinglines even maybe withdrawing to new strategic rather than local defence lines?
     
  4. De Vlaamse Leeuw

    De Vlaamse Leeuw Member

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    It would have been a close fight, but in the end the Germans would have won. Because their troops were more experienced.
     
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    But were they ?

    If one reads Robert J Kershaw's view of Arnhem from the German point of view, 'It Never Snows In September ' , it would appear that the balance of experience favoured the Airborne Divisions.

    From pages 310/311 : -

    'Allied regular armoured and airborne formations....had essentially been fought to a standstill by untrained or partly-trained troops that had quickly been formed into ad hoc combat groups consisting of 16 and 17-year old teenagers, old and infirm men taken from NCO schools and logistic organisations ; soldiers had been summoned from HQ staffs, defunct airfields and coastal defence batteries and were required to fight in units where only an average of 10 percent had any previous combat experience. SS-Lt Col Walther Harzer wrote 20 years after Arnhem : -

    'It is with personal pride that I regard this German victory, because it was achieved not by regular units, but by railway workers, Arbeitsdienst and Luftwaffe personnel who had never been trained for infantry work and were actually unsuitable for house-to-house fighting. '

    In the Arnhem area the only truly veteran ( or regular ) formation in the vicinity was IISS Panzer Corps undergoing refitting and refurbishment. Both 9th and 10th SS were only at between 20 to 30 percent of their established strengths....

    What is generally forgotten ..is the appalling cost in human terms that the commitment of such untrained forces brings. SS-Kampfgruppe Gropp, an air defence unit employed as infantry, formed up with 87 men on 17 September. By the end of the battle it had seven men left'.
     
  6. Jet

    Jet Member

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    Even if the two units were understrength they had tanks and other heavy armour against a force of 700 men armed with rifles, machine guns and Piats. So if the entire 1st Airborne division reached the bridge they would still be up against tanks and artillery and a force that greatly outnumbered htem.

    On the other hand though if you think about it if 700 men could hold off attacks by 2 SS divisions for about 5-6 days before finally being overcome by superior forces, then an entire division numbering thousands of professional soldiers could of maybe taken the bridge, hold it and then wait for XXX Corps to arrive. Quality over Quantity ;) .
    That is just my way of looking at it.
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Here's another anomaly - IISS Panzer Corps didn't have that many tanks available, certainly in the early stages of the assault. Mostly they were using StugIII Assault guns and some Panzer IVs plus a motley array of Renault or Char B tanks. Still a tough proposition when faced with light infantry weapons, I agree. ( But don't forget that some of those 96 British guns were 17-pounders )....

    True, some King Tigers and Panthers did arrive later in the battle. The Germans also didn't have much in the way of artillery at Arnhem - mainly relying on fearsomely effective infantry mortars in considerable strength.

    [ 11. May 2003, 07:55 AM: Message edited by: Martin Bull ]
     
  8. Jet

    Jet Member

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    True but the armour that was available was deadly and there was very little to stop them. It is not easy to stop armoured cars and tanks with rifles and machine guns.
    Also, again if the 1st Airborne had reached the bridge, the Germans had a real advantage. All the Germans had to do was level the buildings 1 by 1 (which they did with devastating effect).
    It makes you wonder though. What if there were no tanks. Imagine that the entire 1st Airborne division reached the bridge, and the Germans had no armour. I know it is not all about tanks but it could be possible that with no tanks oppossing the British Troopers then the 1st Airborne might have had a better chance of taking the vital Arnhem bridge.
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Don't forget that in close-quarter or house-to-house fighting the humble PIAT and Gammon Bomb in determined hands ( and the Airborne troops, on the whole, were very determined ) could be surprisingly effective against armour ; late in the battle a King Tiger was successfully put out of action in Oosterbeek.
     
  10. Jet

    Jet Member

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    I always thought that the Piat had a very short range and wasnt all that effective against tanks. And with the Gammon Grenade that wouldnt really make that much of a difference against a tank as it would bounce off of the armour.
    Really the only thing that the 1st Airbore division had to stop tanks was the 2 inch mortar (the airborne's 2 inch mortar was a little different from the standard 2 inch mortar) which was effective in street to street fighting but little else, and the 17 pounder guns which were deadly, however there were very few in the Arnhem area. So with tanks opposing them the 1st airborne could not have suceeded in my view.
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The PIAT was very short-range indeed, but at that range ( ie in built-up areas ) was remarkably effective. And the Gammon was effective against armour when, as happened at Arnhem, it was thrown or even dropped from an upstairs window onto the engine decking. Being 'soft' in design, the grenade did not bounce under such conditions.

    I'll have to look up how many 17-pounders were there, but don't discount the 6-pounder in close-confines fighting....

    ( Just found it. At Arnhem/Oosterbeek were :

    52 x 6-pr a/t
    16 x 17-pr a/t
    16 x 75mm how. )

    And a little bit more ! The PIAT had a maximum range of 350 yards, with maximum effective aimed range of 100 yards. It was particularly good for use from buildings due to it's lack of tail-blast - it did not set the building alight ( as tended to happen with the bazooka, for instance ) and was difficult for the enemy to spot.

    [ 12. May 2003, 01:00 AM: Message edited by: Martin Bull ]
     
  12. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    "those damn PIATs!" Made enough of an impression for my grandfather to remember them.
     
  13. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    My knowledge on the Arnhem battle is limited, but...

    On the subject of the German tanks/ PIATS... the German tanks had the distinct disadvantage during Market Garden of fighting almost entirely in urban areas, correct? For one thing, this alone would greatly decrease the combat effectiveness of any tank unit. Tanks (especially heavy Tiger IIs and Panthers) were best suited to fighting in open terrain.
    From this... along the lines of Martin's points about PIATs and Gammon Grenades... in an urban setting, almost ANY anti-tank weapon's effectiveness is greatly increased. Range- no longer matters. Soldiers could simply hide in a building, waiting for the tank to go by, then... boom. Weapon power- also matters alot less now. For one thing, a soldier who is as close as a building allows can more or less successfully aim at almost any part of the tank. Best example would again be the one Martin provided- dropping a Gammon bomb onto the rear engine grates of a tank. This was an almost-unoversal weak spot on WW2 tanks... a weak spot easily hit by someone firing from a building.

    In my opinion, the german armored strength was not one of the major factors in the Allied defeat at Arnhem. The major problem (I know, AGAIN) was logistics for the allies. The chaos of the air drops and the distance the armor had to travel left far to little room for ANY delays. IMO the allies just stretched too far. Had they been able to depoy in greater strength- and with quicker timing- I'd say at least the allies could have made Market Garden much more of a fight.
     
  14. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    One thing that i think should be borne in mind is that not all of the 2 SS divs were deployed at arnhem. some faced the foces at oosterbeek and the route down to nijmengen.
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Just to turn the argument around a little - the German armour did have a significant impact on British morale and the flame-throwing tanks were greatly feared.

    But, as Crazy points out, if somehow those other 9,300-odd men had been at the Bridge instead of eight miles downriver it would have been interesting......
     
  16. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    Although my knowledge is limited here, I've always found Market Garden very interesting. An interesting operation, and probably the most open to "What If" scenarios. Neat stuff to study...

    On the issue of the German armor... I would imagine that the amounts of german armored forces in the area could have very well limited the gains of Market Garden. The presence of the German armor could have probably done a number on the paratroops, but tanks would have trouble keeping determined men pinned down in a city setting. Because of the mainly urban terrain, I don't think the tanks could have stopped the allies IF the allies had been able to deploy in a more concentrated/ organised manner. Even with armored forces and SS troops to back them up, I think that 9000+ allied troops could have battled through the bridges and secured them. BUT- the German armor could probably have held up the allied armor for long enough to ensure that the allies could at BEST hold a precarious bridgehead over the Rhine. And this would be a best-case scenario...

    If the allies had been able to effect a better deployment and get more of the paratroops into combat, could they have held the Arnhem bridge? One thing that crosses my mind would be the likely German counterattack. When the Americans did finally get a bridgeehad over the Rhine (Remagen), the Germans tried furiously to destroy it. Would not the same thing have happened with a bridgehead at Arnhem?

    btw... I did find a pretty nice looking website on Market Garden.

    http://www.rememberseptember44.com/

    [ 13. May 2003, 09:04 AM: Message edited by: CrazyD ]
     
  17. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Agree with you there, Crazy - Market-Garden is endlessly fascinating on many levels.

    After much thought and study over the years, I'm sure myself that, even if the Bridge had been held and XXX Corps had got through, a breakthrough to the Ruhr & 'knock-out blow' wasn't feasible.

    As I've said before ( & will again ! ;) ) the whole plan was based on the theory that 'the Germans were finished' : understandable in the context of 'Dolle Dinsdag' and the headlong retreat through the Low Countries.

    But of course they weren't..... :(
     
  18. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    (Martin- Good Market Garden books for future purchase? Maybe something not costing a year's salary? I get the idea that you have a couple nice sources...)

    That was the impression I have gotten from abbreviated studies- even had Market Garden "succeeded", the Allies still would not have acheived any real major "breakthrough".

    Quick question- "understandable in the context of 'Dolle Dinsdag'"
    ?? "Dolle Dinsdag"?

    One other thing that has always gotten to me aout Market Garden. In my (admittedly brief- Ryan and little more...) readings on Market Garden, I got the idea that the allies really "dropped the ball" as far as Intel was concerned. Weren't the allies being told by the Dutch underground that there in fact were strong German forces in the area? I remember some little anecdotal story of a resistance member on the radio (or something) being told by allied command about the lack of significant german forces in the area- right as a column of Tigers drove past.

    Did the allies ignore as much intel as this suggests?

    (Hmmm.... Crazy sees some extra reading on Market Garden in the near future... [​IMG] )
     
  19. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Crazy, there is so much written and web stuff out there on Market Garden, Im sure myself and Martin share the same written materials etc.

    It is indeed one of the biggest what ifs with so many determining factors that could have wont the bridge at Arnhem, some of the works on Arnhem miss out more than what they put in sometimes so its best to lock onto a good source, Martin in my view knows of the good ones from what I have seen s his scources.

    One thing I will disagree on with many is that, the bridge at Arnhem could have been secured and in numbers needed to hold it with the aid of 30 corps who could have and should have made the date and not missed the love fest that could have been. But that is a big what if that was not met becuase of ineptetudes involved at the time.

    Not many what ifs actually go further though and look at what if we took all the bridges..what then? I agree with Martin there...No easy ride from that point on.

    Never seen Bridge too far..Gemans portrayed in movie as in a panic to get back across Rhine with allies moving rapidly through to Dutch border..Sunday wasnt a good day..Martin speaks German better than me..I can only order a beer..He knows days of the week..
     
  20. Jet

    Jet Member

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    The thing is about books written about Market Garden is that most of them focus on the Arnhem area and what the 1st Airborne went through. There are very few books that write about what the 101st Airborne went through and the heroism of the 82nd Airborne who took Nijmegen Bridge.
    What I find fascinating about Market Garden is how both sides had a great respect for one another. One German soldier is quoted as saying 'they fought like lions....towards the end they defended themselves with pistols and jacknives'. The 1st Airborne also said how 'the Germans allowed us to fetch our wounded from the other side of the line asking us not to give away their position'.

    I do feel sorry for XXX Corps. I think that they are criticised for not being able to reach Arnhem. XXX Corps were up against fierce resistance against well entrenched defenders, also they had traffic jams for miles and under the circumstances I feel that XXX Corps coped rather well under the circumstances. However, they did know to some extent what the 1st Airborne were up against, and they should of had the determination. They were fellow Britishmen fighting and dying, that alone should have driven XXX Corps to reach them. But with infantry still fighting it was (in the words of some) not possible to get to Arnhem without waiting for them :confused: .
     
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