Operation Market Garden was a battle during World War II. The Allies attempted a war-winning offensive through the Netherlands, across the Rhine River, and into the open country in northern Germany. The operation failed when the Allied armor was delayed and the paratroopers were unable to hold the last bridge.
It has sometimes been called "a bridge too far", which is a bit misleading because the main point of the offensive was to establish a foothold on the German side of the Rhine. Without that last bridge, all the other bridges became much less useful. In the end, Market Garden liberated some Dutch cities and reduced German V-2 missile attacks, but it also diverted resources from other parts of the front.
Following the Allied victory in Normandy, the American and British armies fanned out and rapidly advanced through France and towards the German border. During this time the supply lines still ran back to the beaches and Cherbourg. Critical shortages in gasoline and other supplies caused the advance to slow. At this point General Patton argued for a continuation of the advance along the whole front, with whatever supplies available, so as to keep the Germans off-balance and to prevent them from entrenching. General Montgomery, on the other hand, argued for a narrow front strategy, where all resources would be focused on an airborne operation to seize the bridges leading into northern Germany, followed by a armored thrust that would result in a breakout once across the river. Eisenhower eventually sided with Montgomery, and Market Garden was planned.
The Allies were fortunate to capture Antwerp, the largest port in Europe, but needed a few weeks to clear the approaches along the Scheldt estuary before it could become operational. If they could secure a route from the Antwerp region to northeastern Germany, they could capture the Ruhr region and deprive Germany of much of its war industry. This route would also put them across all natural obstacles and in good position to fan out across Germany and end the war quickly, saving many lives.
The primary objective was to secure a route from northern Belgium through the Netherlands, across the Rhine estuary, including the Waal River and Nederrijn River, and into northern Germany. This required advancing along a two-lane highway, and capturing the cities of Einhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem with their bridges intact.
Secondary objectives included liberating Dutch territory and disrupting German V-1 and V-2 terror rocket operations.
Market Garden is one of the most studied and debated battles in military history. Many reasons for the Allied failure have been offered.
- Radio malfunctions
- British airborne dropped too far from Arnhem
- American airborne failed to take Nijmegen bridge quickly enough
- British armor (XXX Corps) failed to advance aggressively enough after crossing the Waal at Nijmegen.
- Bad luck with German SS panzer units resting in vicinity of Arnhem.
- German counterattacks along the tail of the salient discouraged the Allies
- Two lane road insufficient for such a large movement, easy for the Germans to defend.
- Germans failed to blow the bridge at Nijmegen