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What went wrong with Operation Market Garden?

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by tovarisch, Feb 2, 2010.

  1. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I doubt it. The Germans were robbing Peter (the eastern front) to pay Paul (the west), and vice versa.

    I think it's a sound argument that Eisenhower might have been on better ground to allocate to the south for a rush on the Saar, or the central for a breakthrough from Aachen to Cologne, but a breakthrough to the Ruhr (even if stopped there), would have put either drive in a better position with fewer Germans opposite them.
     
  2. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    Market-Garden needed another airborne division and some clear directions to the airborne regarding their primary objectives. The tasks assigned to the 82nd were too large for a single division (something originally recognized during the Comet planning). The Airborne boys wanted to prove their theories.
    I think too many people assume that even if the paratroopers had dropped on either side of all the key bridges on day 1, the bridges would have been taken intact. It was sheer luck (and Model's orders) that the Nijmegen bridge was taken intact and nearly as much luck that the Arnhem highway bridge was taken intact. The Germans did have a say in it after all. Why did it take so long for the bridging equipment to reach Son? 43rd division had two companies of DUKWs (80-100 vehicles), why were these so far back? Why were the other crossings (as at Best) and routes not planned for? Plenty of bad planning, bad decisions, lack of drive and lack of attention to detail for all involved.
     
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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The limiting factor was not so much Airborne troops, but the ability to land them. Remember the Polish Brigade could not go on Day ! because there simply were not enough aircraft available (even if what did get used impressed the German commanders). There were some serious planning oversights, but this was a hastily put together offensive, unlike Normandy, and lets be fair, with over a year to prepare, Overlord did not go as smoothly as expected in a variety of areas.

    There was a belief by Allied commanders that Germany's Army in the West was a shattered beast and that Allied supply issues had as much or more to do with stiffening German resistance. I am sure at West Point and Sandhurst the motto is "Plan for the worst and hope for the Best" , but in the real world leaders take gambles, and when they miscalculate, it cost lives.

    American Hurtgen Forrest offensives were not models of great strategic thinking either.

     
  4. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    There weren't enough aircraft to lift all of any of the three divisions on Day 1, this was one of the fundamental problems. the airborne commanders were simultaneously trying to secure the LZ/DZ and seize the bridges, and in the case of the 82nd, the Grosebeck heights. Even if there had been enough lift aircraft, or tow lifts on Day 1, 82nd airborne still would have been hard pressed to accomplish all the missions assigned to it.
    The Hurtgen Forrest battles suffered from "just happening", there doesn't appear to have been any strategic thinking behind them at all. However they did inflict a surprising number of German casualties, more than M-G did in relation.
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I think too many people assume that even if the paratroopers had dropped on either side of all the key bridges on day 1, the bridges would have been taken intact.

    I agree nothing is certain, but all the evidence is favorable. The one direct attack on a bridge in Market-Garden, at Grave, was successful, as was Pegasus Bridge in Normandy and Primasole bridge in Sicily, although that was lost in subsequent fighting. It's a small database, but the record is 3-0.

    Getting back to M-G, about half the bridges were captured intact even the way they did it, attacking several hours after landing; and it was that time that allowed the Germans to improvise defenses or demolitions at the others. A couple of them were blown up literally minutes before the paratroopers arrived; the British actually saw a German working on Arnhem railway bridge as they approached. So, repeating the caveat that nothing is certain, the best guess is that the bridges could have been taken.

    Another division would have strained the airlift capacity, but the key limitation was gliders. In total, M-G used approximately 1300 paratroop and 2500 glider flights, of which 1049 and 478 were on the first day. It was probably not feasible to stage and fly more than one glider mission in a day, but it might have been possible for paratroop transports to make a second trip (ideally to the same drop zones) if more troops were available. Otherwise adding a division would just stretch out the time it took to deliver them, especially with the weather delays which occurred after the first two days.

    On the American side, glider operations using the CG-4 Waco required more aircraft than paratroopers, approximately 260 for a regiment, while an airborne regiment used 117 C-47s plus 12 gliders and tows for jeeps and equipment (in M-G four gliders/regiment were landed on the first day, eight on the second).

    The US 17th Airborne Division had just arrived in Britain August 26; it included two parachute regiments, 507th and 513th, which could go on a second lift, either with a headquarters element or attached to the 82nd or 101st. The rest of the division, including the 193rd and 194th Glider Infantry, would have to get in the queue (assuming there were additional gliders available).
     
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  6. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    Thanks for the good info on the carrying requirements!

    I think the Germans actually tried to blow the Nijmegen bridge as the Guards tanks rolled across but the lines had been cut somehow. No guarantees on getting the bridges intact means that the professional people should expected them to be blown and to have been ready when they were blown (Son, Arnhem railway bridge) or to place a bridge in a good spot (could Driel have been used as a bridging point?).
    The lack of enough transport aircraft and gliders for the troops assigned, and that there should have been more assigned, is another of the fundamental weaknesses of M-G and the "if we hope hard enough, it will happen" mentality that plagued the operation. It never should have happened, the whole operation was too dependent on the Germans cutting and running as they had in August adn generally following allied expectations.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    You're welcome, and thanks for your info, though I was curious about one thing, most sources I've seen list the RAF groups as No. 38 (bombers converted to glider tugs) and 46 (transports).

    Right about Nijmegen; no one seems to know for sure why the bridge didn't blow. We also don't see much information about Nijmegen railroad bridge - have you?

    I don't disagree in theory about preparing for the possibility of bridges being blown, but considering the numbers of bridges and the timetable, it would be difficult to include sufficient bridging trains in the Guards column or to bring them forward when needed. They were lucky that the canal at Son was narrow enough to be crossed by a Bailey bridge; a crossing at Nijmegen or Driel would probably have required a pontoon bridge. So by default I'd say the best thing they could do was make the maximum effort to secure the bridges intact at the outset.
     
  8. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The man who won his MC at Nijmegen Bridge for dealing with the demolition charges - later Major-General Tony Jones RE - didn't know why the bridge wasn't blown. However, he'd been dealing with bridges all the way from Normandy and said that there could be numerous reasons ; a broken cable, faulty electrics, a damaged junction box or simply someone awaiting orders........
     
  9. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    Ohhhhh! Extreme embarrassment!:eek: You are correct, the RAF Groups were 38 and 46, although both seemed to have done far more glider towing than paratrooper dropping, even the 46 Group Dakotas. 38 Group seems to have been entirely equipped with converted bombers.

    The railroad bridge at Nijmegen was taken at the same time as the road bridge. Note that no one appears to have considered capturing the rail bridge at Mook (subsequently blown by the Germans), making the Grave bridge a single choke point. The Arnhem rail bridge was of course blown in the face of the British paratroopers.

    That the plan was predicated on grabbing a number of bridges intact was just another sign of the optimistic (wishful?) thinking behind the plan. That any (or all) of the bridges could be blown, meant that planning should have proceeded on the basis that they would be blown. If there was not enough bridging capacity, or room in the column, then it would have been prudent to consider the chances of success.
     
  10. denny

    denny Member

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    I always, kind of, saw it as The Allies "Battle Of The Bulge".
     
  11. Cas

    Cas Member

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    I think if Monty had concentred on clearing the estuary of the Westerschelde en the province of Zeeland (Netherlands) and thus had a secure port (Antwerp) for embariking supplies for the western front. With a shorter supply route, the British along with the Americans could have pressured the German front line even more and the MG plan would be succesfuller
     
  12. John S

    John S Member

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    Allow me to answer you first question. The Dutch railway workers went on strike on Sept 17th and this together with the anger that the Germans had for the Dutch helping the British was a factor. There was no way for the food that was grown in the east to get to the west and the Germans didn't offer to help.

    Re: King Kong. If he did have prior knowledge of OMG, then the Germans would have been better prepared. Truth was they were caught off guard. However, they reacted with typical German efficiency. See `It Never Snows In September'.

    The main reason OMG failed, besides bad luck and the weather, was that it was a bad plan. It was thrown together too quickly and it overlooked a number of things like two panzer divisions in the area. SHAEF knew of their presence, but Monty took the gamble anyway. Still, if XXX Corps had any life to it, the plan might have worked.
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    A lot of things went wrong, but that's typical of every battle.

    One thing that keeps jumping out at me is the British failure to use the intelligence and local knowledge of the Dutch underground. For example, during the first days of the battle at Arnhem, the ferry at Driel continued to operate. Dutch cars, wagons, people were crossing the river to go shopping and otherwise conduct business. Meanwhile, Frost's men were dying in droves trying to fight across that broad bridge, and thousands were dying trying to fight their way from the drop zone down the north bank to relieve Frost.

    None of that needed to happen. It's the fog of war or tunnel vision or simply lack of leadership with Urquhart missing in that vital first day - they could have flanked the enemy almost without a fight by simply crossing the river and marching down the south bank. By the time the ferry came to their attention, the tow cable was cut by a shell and it had drifted it away.

    It's the same with the comms. The Dutch were calling the 82nd on the telephone and updating them on the progress of the battle. Yet, the British continued to try and communicate with radios that would not work. Using the Dutch underground phone network, they could have called Browning directly, or the 82nd or even Horrocks and XXX Corps at any town on the route.

    It isn't like the Dutch were being secretive about any of this, but they were rebuffed at every turn. Nobody would listen to them.
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Could it have been anything to do with earlier Dutch Intelligence failures or rather British intelligence failures whereby German Intelligence stuffed us with turning some of our Dutch friends....Maybe we just did not trust this area of intelligence after our British failures with agents n the past....As to the ferry..I agree wholeheartedly.
     
  15. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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  16. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I'm aware of that earlier debacle with the Dutch agents, but that doesn't mean you can't use the people at hand even if you do so cautiously. Anyone at the drop zone could have called Frost directly on the telephone, at least during the first 2 or 3 days before the lines were cut with shelling. They could have called anywhere in the Netherlands.

    Not only the underground, but regular Dutch citizens kept wondering why they simply didn't cross the river by ferry instead of throwing more and more men into the street fighting on the north bank. They seemed to have paid no attention whatsoever to their own liaison officers, much less the local underground or citizens. In this aspect, the Americans were well ahead of the British. They used their Dutch Liaison Officers and the local underground to great effect.

    Even if they had used the south bank to reinforce Frost and control both ends of the bridge, they still might have lost as the germans poured more men and armor into the area, but at least they'd have had a fighting chance.
     
  17. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I think this will die with the last surviving guys in the know....As you say...we had Jedberg Phantom teams go in with all the divisions...One wonders what the full story is.
     
  18. John S

    John S Member

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    Frost's men weren't dying in droves trying to cross the bridge. After the flamethrower blew up the pillbox on the bridge, Frost's men were basically on the defensive.
     
  19. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    I think Montgomery should have taken greater control of the battle and pushed XXX Corps harder. Just as Wavell should have taken command at Singapore, and Auchinleck at Gazala.
     
  20. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    In strategic terms Market Garden was initiated too late. If it started 1-2 weeks ago ( say 7th Sept) it might have a much better chance of success at least in getting a defensible bridgehead on Rhine. German Army in West was in chaos and constantly retreating back then. Ten days later well it was too late. Germans regrouped. 15th Army managed to save itself from Scheldt (an unbelieveble oversight and mistake whose responsibilty starting from Sir Brian Horrocks commanding 30th Corps to General Miles Dempsey and Montgomery. If 30th Corps isolated Scheldt on the 2nd or 3rd of September everything would be different ) , 1st Parachute Army formed under Kurt Student covering aproaches to Eindhoven and Nijmegen. It means suddenly Germans had 80.000 more additional troops to counter Market Garden on third week of September.

    Adding that distances covered by 30th Corps proved too optimistic. Germans as I mentioned were not in disarray anymore and could pressure airborne corridor from both east and west. Wehrmacht OB West would never tolerate an Allied bridgehead on Rhine so close to Ruhr and optimism in 21st Army Group to SHAEF ignored that.

    In airborne component so many things went wrong it is impossible to list. 1st Airborne landed too far from bridge due to hesistancy of RAF Troop Transport Command and lost element of surprise. ( Leigh-Mallory should be blamed here. If you took risks you shoulds take risks in everywhere not just land forces ) Leigh Mallory was afraid of heavy losses in transports (he did that worrying trick prior to Overlord too constantly bedevilling Ike to cancel 82nd and 101 Airborne landings because he was afraid of heavy losses again until Ike decisevly said airborne operations on Normandy should go ahead. Montgomery should have intervened prior to MG and said that 1st Airborne should land close to bridge damn the potential losses. Instead he was isolated in his field HQ at Brussels whole time ) Entire point of lightly armed airborne divisions are shock and surprise.

    Radios of 1st Airborne were calibrated to desert and didn't work well in Holland. So air resupply and air cover advantages were lost for Red Devils.

    Intelligence reports about existance of 2nd SS Panzer Corps in Arnhem area were ignored.

    Not enough jeeps arrived with gliders in first wave.

    So my conclusion is Market Garden should not have been initiated at all in middle of September. After that chance lost 21st Army Group should have focused on attacking Westwall from Belgium frontier and reach Rhine on Wesel as Miles Dempsey intended. Dutch Railway Strike would not happen and Hongerwinter would be less severe in occupied Holland. MG despite its territory gains (Netherlands south of Maas was liberated. That is something at least. Mobile V-2 lanchers were also driven 70 miles further north which limited their efficiency and made them easier targets against Allied air forces on flat and narrow Netherlands. Otherwise V-2 assault on London might have been much more heavier ) extended 21st Army Group front too long unnecesserily. (though capturing Nijmegen airhead close to Groesbeek Heights was again a definite plus for Allies overflank West Wall from north )
     

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