Operation Market Garden
At a time when most of France and Belgium had been liberated, Operation Market Garden (September 17-25, 1944) was to create a 103 km (64 miles) push from the Belgian/Dutch border into enemy occupied territory over 'Highway 69'. After reaching Arnhem, the next step would be to create an Allied corridor into the industrial Ruhr area of Germany, avoiding the strongly fortified Siegfried defensive line.
The operation consisted of an airborne component (called 'Market'), undertaken by the First Allied Airborne Army (US, English, and Polish parachute regiments, more popularly known as Paras), and a land operation (called 'Garden') headed by XXX Corps of the British Second Army.
Operation Market - Airborne
The airborne component of the operation was the largest ever military air offensive. It involved of a whopping 34.600 soldiers (American, British, and Polish - 14.589 troops were landed by glider and 20.011 by parachute), 1.438 Douglas C-47 Skytrain (also known as Dakota, an acronym for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft) and 321 converted RAF Lancaster bombers. Additionally there were 3.990 glider planes: 2.160 American Waco CG-4A and the 916 Airspeed Horsas (812 RAF and 104 U.S. Army). The gliders also brought in 1.700 military vehicles and 263 artillery. The transfer of all troops was planned to take three days.
Operation Garden - Ground
The ground operation -headed by XXX Corps of the British Second Army- had to travel along ‘Highway 69’ and quickly relieve the Paras that by then would have seized control of key bridges along the way.
A bridge too far
Operation Market Garden was a failure and cost the lives of many soldiers and civilians. It also ended up being quite the controversy. Historians are aware of the politics and egos at play in the design and approval of the operation on the side of the allied forces. Whilst Operation Overlord (Normandy landings) took over six months to plan, Market Garden was the result of other rejected plans, an ego clash between Patton and Montgomery, and the race between the British, Americans, and Russians to reach Berlin first. It is said the operation was planned in less than 7 days and therefore had too many loose ends and interdependencies that success was very much also based on being partly lucky.