Operation "Market Garden"
September 17 The 1944 of the year began one of the most risky operations of the Second World War. The paratroopers of the three airborne formations of the Anglo-American forces, consolidated into a new 1-th Allied airborne army, landed in several areas of the German-occupied East Holland with the aim of seizing bridges over the main water forces of the Allies to strike to the rear German army. If everything went according to the planned scenario, the outcome of the war could be completely different. Peace would come in December of 1944.
Blitzkrieg from Field Marshal Montgomery
By the end of August, 1944, the Anglo-American command was completely confident in his victory. After fierce fighting in France, the retreat of parts of the German army seemed to confirm the predictions of the Allied statesmen that until the end of the resistance of the Nazi troops remained quite a bit. The enemy is driven into his lair, and you just need to take the final decisive step to finish him off completely. From the heights of today's days, of course, it is difficult to believe such statements, but at that time most of the British and Americans believed that the war in Europe would end in a few months. And they had very good reasons for this.
The pace of the offensive in the three summer months has stunned even the most impregnable skeptics. When planning Operation Overlord (the Allied landing in Normandy and the opening of the Second Front), it was assumed that it would take at least six months to reach the Franco-Belgian border. And this program managed to execute in less than 100 days. Moreover, the success of the offensive of the Red Army in Belarus and Romania did not allow the Wehrmacht to transfer reinforcements from the Eastern Front.
By early September, the Allied armies, advancing with a “wide front strategy,” liberated the southern regions of Belgium, Holland, and even entered German soil, where, however, they immediately stopped. Offensive exhausted - began to affect supply problems. As often happens, the rear wagons could not keep up with fast moving forward units. Therefore, the forces and means could be enough to strike only in one direction. And here in the command of the allied forces differences arose. As they say, everyone was pulling the blanket over himself.
American General George Smith Patton Jr. and English Field Marshal Sir Bernard Lowe Montgomery Alameinsky proposed to the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the combined Allied forces in Europe General Dwight Eisenhower the original plans for the final destruction of the German army. Patton believed that the best place for the final strike would be the Metz, from where he planned to break through the line of German fortifications, better known as the “Siegfried Line”. Montgomery, on the contrary, proposed to avoid a frontal attack on the German fortifications, bypassing them from the north, freeing Holland, to enter the Ruhr area - the main industrial forge of Germany. From Berlin to hand set. The second option could also solve the problem with rear support, which every day became more and more tangible. He was eventually chosen.
At a meeting of the allied command of 10 in September, Field Marshal Montgomery demonstrated his plan to strike Germany in the rear, with the final goal of ending the war before Christmas - Operation Market Garden (Vegetable Garden).
The name of the operation itself meant two of its components. Phase “Market” and phase “Garden”.
According to the plan, which received the name “Market”, the parachutists were to land by a narrow “carpet” in the southeastern part of the Netherlands on the Eindhoven – Arnhem section. Removing outliers from the front line - 60-90 km. The main goal is to seize bridges across the Dommel, Aa, Meuse rivers, the Wilhelmina Canal, the Meuse-Waal Canal and further to the Rhine. On the captured crossings from the bridgehead that was available in the Neerpelt region on the north bank of the Meuse Scheldt canal, they were to rush to the German border of a section of the XXX British Corps. This part of the operation was called "Garden."
Three sectors - one task
The American 101 Airborne Division of Major General Maxwell Taylor was to land north of the front line, in the largest sector, Eindhoven, which was nearly twenty-five kilometers long to take bridges north-west of Eindhoven and near the city of Veghel.
The 82 Airborne Division, Major General James Gavin, the youngest division commander in the US Army, was assigned the Nijmegen sector. In the area of about 15 kilometers, it was necessary to take control of three important facilities for the Allies - a large road bridge across the Meuse River near the town of Grave, any of the four bridges across the Maas-Waal Canal and a road bridge across the Waal River in the center of Nijmegen. In addition, the Gavin paratroopers were to occupy an elevation southeast of Nijmegen, known as the Grusbik Heights.
The northernmost and most remote Arnhem sector should have cleared the German “Red Devils” of Major General Robert Erquart from the Germans. Here, the main purpose of the landing was a road bridge in the center of Arnhem - the last water barrier on the way to Berlin. All the efforts of the paratroopers were to be aimed at seizing and holding this modern, built in 1935 year facilities. During the German occupation of the bridge was blown up and almost the entire war was in inoperable condition. However, it was restored a few weeks before the operation.
It should be noted that each of the sectors had its own specifics, respectively, the distribution of forces and equipment was also individual.
According to the plan, the paratroopers of the 101 division were to be united with the forces of the 20th corps during the first day. Therefore, quantitatively landing in the Eindhoven sector was less than in other sectors.
In Nijmegen, it was important to retain the strategically important Grusbike heights, therefore artillery and engineer-sapper units were additionally assigned to units of the 82 division.
The forces of the British, who were to last the longest, were several times greater in strength than the strength of both American divisions combined. In addition, the 1 Parachute Division was reinforced by soldiers of the 1 Polish Separate Parachute Brigade of Major General Stanislav Sosabovsky.
A total of about 35 000 people were supposed to go to the dropout area.
Who does not take risks ...
Before the “Market Garden”, all large parachute operations were carried out at night or early in the morning. It was assumed that the dark time of the day allows the parachutists to provide the necessary effect of surprise. However, after the release of troops in Normandy, they decided to reconsider this issue. At night, often the pilots of the aircraft lost their course and landed troops in the wrong places. Moreover, at this time it was difficult to gather units on the ground. It was decided to make a landing in the afternoon.
A large number of troops required a corresponding number of vehicles. In the rear of the enemy had to land not only soldiers, but also equipment and cargo. For the implementation of such a transfer it was necessary to use all the Allied transport aircraft. The only way out management decided to carry out landing in two waves.
At the same time, no one wanted to listen to the argument that part of the forces of the first wave, instead of starting to perform the main task, would have to guard the drop zone of paratroopers of the second wave. That is the day idle. But here the main stake was made on the fact that the Wehrmacht, after suffering defeat and a long retreat from France, was disorganized and could not provide decent resistance.
Meanwhile, the Germans, on the contrary, did not lose time in vain. By order of Hitler, the 1 I Luftwaffe Parachute Army (about 18 thousand people), as well as the 2 Panzer Corps of the SS (about 7 thousand people), were additionally sent to the area that the Allies had to storm. Of course, their combat training was far from perfect, but due to the fatal coincidence of circumstances, these units were at the right time in the right place. In addition, several days before the operation, units of the Wehrmacht conducted combat-firing exercises to prevent recruits from losing ground in battle.
By the way, German preparations to point-blank did not want to notice British intelligence, despite incoming information from members of the Dutch Resistance on the concentration of a large number of tanks and infantry in the area of Arnhem.
Surprise "Market Garden"
Official data show that 17 of September took 1344 transporter, 491 landing glider (with a corresponding number of tugs), 1113 bombers and 1240 fighters from different takeoff fields to carry out the Market Garden plan. The second wave, launched the next morning, consisted of 1360 "Dakot" and 1203 glider with towing vehicles. In total, 34876 soldiers and officers, 568 artillery shells, 1926 vehicles were landed in the enemy rear. For the entire operation, 5227 tons of cargo were delivered to the location of the three airborne divisions.
To eliminate the threat of air defense weapons on the night of September 17, Allied bomber aircraft delivered an intensive attack on North German airfields, dropping more than 800 tons of bombs. In the morning, about a hundred British bombers accompanied by fighters bombarded German coastal batteries in the area of the proposed flight routes.
In 12.30, the first parachutist units arrive in the landing sectors. Scouts must set signals for gliders. Smoke bombs are lit, colored sheets are spread out.
From 13.00 to 13.30, the main forces are being ejected in all areas.
For the Germans, the appearance of Allied skydivers in the sky was a real surprise. This is how Yuri Nenakhov describes this in his book “Airborne Forces in World War II”.
“A senior model staff officer, Colonel von Tempelhoff, approached the telephone, which was persistently ringing. At this time, the house was suddenly shaken by powerful ruptures of heavy air bombs, shattered window fragments flew. After a moment of confusion, the generals and officers rushed to the floor, hearing the roar of the next wave of aircraft. It soon became clear that this was not a bombing - the sky over the city literally darkened from an armada of low-flying transport aircraft. Alarmed, Tempelhoff broke into the Model’s apartment with the words: “It’s disgusting - one or two paratrooper divisions over us!” By giving the order: “Everybody get out is a gathering in Terborg!”, Model hastily jumped into his heavy headquarters vehicle. Rushing at full speed a dozen kilometers, he safely escaped from the landing zone of the enemy assault and soon arrived at the headquarters of the 2 SS tank corps, where he immediately began organizing opposition to the Allied attack.
Like the Model, a surprise attack from the air took by surprise other German top commanders in the Netherlands: the commander of the troops in Holland, Christiansen, was having lunch at an Amsterdam restaurant at the time; The commander of the 1 Parachute Army, Air Force General Student, was deep in the rear, in Essen.
The commandant of Arnhem, Major General Kussin, realizing what had happened, found the situation so alarming that he personally left for a reconnaissance, during which he was intercepted by a group of British paratroopers. ”
Not everything goes smoothly in Arnhem
For 15.00, all the forces of the assault force were grouped and began to perform tasks.
The main forces of the British landed in the region, remote from its main goal - the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem - more than 10 kilometers. The time spent on the collection of troops and the march to the object of attack, deprived the British of the main benefits of the airborne operation - the moment of surprise.
Half an hour later, the Red Devils had their first serious problems. Radio stations give unexplained crashes. Communication has been lost with almost all divisions. On the way to Arnhem, the vanguard of the division was ambushed - a reconnaissance squadron moving in jeeps. The offensive was also stopped by two other battalions. Only the paratroopers of the 2 Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, managed to achieve the main goal - an automobile bridge in Arnhem and begin to prepare for defense. At this key point, several 57-mm anti-tank guns were immediately installed, shooting through the bridge and the approaches to it on the opposite bank of the Rhine.
The second echelon of the assault force, landed at noon on September 18, could not improve the situation. At night, German forces managed to pull up additional forces in the Arnhem area. This forced the paratroopers to go on the defensive, they finally lost the initiative. On September 19, the main forces of the division, leaving a weak barrier blocked by the Arnhem bridge, retreated to the bridgehead in the Osterbek district on the north bank of the river. Here, divided into two parts, which do not have enough anti-tank weapons, at the cost of heroic efforts, paratroopers managed to repel the massive attack of the SS 9 Panzer Division.
Help is coming. Leisurely
The Americans did much better. Despite the head-on fire, the paratroopers of the 82 Division succeeded in capturing the bridge over the Meuse near Grave, and by evening the bridge in Nyumen would come under control. But because of the delay in the landing zone for stripping adjacent territories, the main goal was not fulfilled - the bridge in Nijmegen was not taken.
In the Eindhoven area, units of the 101 Division, without encountering resistance, took control of the bridge at St. Udenrode and entered Weghel.
At this time, after receiving information about the successful outcome of the landing, the commander of the XXX British Army Corps, Lieutenant General Brian Horroks, whose forces doubled the enemy in terms of infantry (for tanks and aircraft, the numerical advantage was absolute), launched an offensive from the Neerpelt springboard. In 14.00, four hundred heavy guns began shelling enemy positions, and after half an hour the convoy, which included 20 thousands of vehicles, moved to the northeast.
The offensive of the British troops (Guards armored and two infantry divisions) developed along a single highway, since the terrain on the right and left of it was impassable for tanks. Horrocks did not expect serious resistance from the Germans. In practice, everything turned out differently. The destruction of one tank ahead led to the formation of a traffic jam and the halt of the entire column. Each time it took a lot of time and effort to clear the road and continue the march, so the British traveled 17-6 kilometers on September 8, and the vanguard of the corps approached the southern edge of Eindhoven only by the end of the next day.
The slowdown in the advancement of ground forces put the paratroopers in jeopardy.
Not for the plan
The overall position of the 1 division continued to deteriorate rapidly. September 19 during the day the British lost all radio communications and sprayed their forces, leaving some units without air guidance and support. In Arnhem, isolated groups of paratroopers were forced to conduct fierce street fighting. General Erkyuart spent 36 hours inactive, lying under fire in one of the low city lofts. British actions can only be assessed as total chaos.
At this time, the Allied ground forces made contact with the American paratroopers of the 82 division in the Nijmegen sector, forcing the previously captured bridges across the Zeid-Willemswart channel and the Maas river, thus passing only halfway to the Rhine. Together, the motorway bridge in Nijmegen was taken.
The remaining German units moved north and quickly began to establish a defensive line in the area of the town of Elst. In the first hours after the fall of the bridge in Nijmegen, the 17-kilometer stretch between Nijmegen and Arnhem was virtually unprotected. The road to the British tanks was blocked only by one anti-tank position, arranged behind the town of Lente. However, the offensive impulse of the Grenadiers of the Guard had already been exhausted. (After the successful capture of the bridge in Nijmegen, the main task of the 82 th parachute division - together with units of the XXX corps - was to guard the sector from German counterattacks, which, in principle, they managed to do better than anyone.)
The Allied High Command received from the Dutch underground a radiogram about the critical situation in the British landing area. Pulling up all the available forces, the British armored divisions prepared the next day for the final decisive attack on Arnhem, where they were supposed to arrive during the first day of the offensive.
Keep to the end
On the morning of September 20, the Red Devils, on the orders of the division commander, begin to move to Osterbake to create a defense area around the campus. Thus, attempts to break through to the Frost battalion, which holds the southern part of the bridge in Arnhem, cease.
The plan of General Erkyuart was simple: to control the coastal strip of the order of 2,5 km in length, which can later be used as a springboard for the XXX corps. Thus, the main objective of the operation - the transfer of troops across the Rhine - in spite of everything will be achieved. But this was not to be.
After seventy hours of heavy melee, the 120 survivors of the 2 battalion in the morning of September 21 were still knocked out of the Arnhem bridge.
The speed competition has begun. While the German model commander, General Model, concentrated all his efforts on eliminating the 1 airborne division, until the forces of the XXX corps approached her, the British non-stop attacked his barriers in the Nijmegen area to break through to their paratroopers fighting ferries, and take the same Osterbek bridgehead. To reinforce the units fighting in the vicinity of the city, on the same day, a reserve was dropped near Elst and Dril - the 1 of the Polish Parachute Brigade. The weather allowed landing approximately 1000 people.
September 22 German units stopped attacking besieged in the forehead and proceeded to the shelling of positions that did not stop all morning. Strengthened and sniper fire. Separate attacks allowed the Germans to partially narrow the area of defense over the next three days, but the losses incurred did not correspond to the results. Even the arrival of the Royal Tiger heavy tanks in Österbake did not fundamentally change the situation.
On the same day, the first contact of Market and Garden forces in the sector took place. Although the armor fist of the XXX corps was stuck near the town of Elst, the armored cars of the 2 Cavalry Regiment found a circuit path and met with Polish paratroopers in Driel.
At nightfall, the Poles attempted to cross the Rhine. All crossing means were put into operation - several rubber boats, rubber belts, rafts built from scrap materials. The Germans discovered and fired on an improvised crossing of machine guns and mortars. By Saturday morning, the entire 52 man had crossed over to the north bank.
September 22 has become a difficult day in the Eindhoven sector. Later, General Horrocks will call this day "Black Friday." Across the front, the Germans launched a series of counterattacks to find the most vulnerable spot in the Allied defense.
The first was attacked by Veghel. The units of the 501 regiment of the 101 division defending him were unable to stop the German offensive. The 44 Tank Regiment from the XXX Corps, as well as part of the 506 Regiment of the same parachute division, was sent to the aid of paratroopers. After many hours of battle, the Germans ’counteroffensive was stopped, but the situation northeast remained dire. The road from Eindhoven to Nijmegen, nicknamed “Hell’s Highway”, was blocked.
On Saturday, the Germans again tried to repel the Wegel, but were rejected. However, part of the road was still under their control.
For the resumption of traffic on the highway, General Horrocks recalled the 32 th Guards Brigade from under Nijmegen to attack part of the enemy from the north and open a corridor. Initially, this brigade had to go to Dril and ensure the installation of floating bridges over the Rhine, but not even having managed to concentrate forces for a strike to the north, it was forced to return to the south again. The brigade returned to Uden around 17.00 23 September. A joint attack from two directions allowed to reopen the corridor.
Despite significant losses on Saturday, on the morning of Sunday 24 September, the Germans again attempted to cut the Hellish Highway, which is vital for the Allies.
At the small village of Erd, west of Vegel, German paratroopers entered the battle. With difficulty this settlement was able to defend. But to the south, at the town of Couvering, at the junction of 501 and 502 of the parachute regiments, the corridor was again blocked. By evening, German troops went directly to the highway, burned a convoy of British trucks and completely stopped traffic on the highway. The allies again had to divert forces from the main direction of the strike in order to patch holes in the defense (but this was only possible by September 27).
Failures in this sector were one of the decisive factors in the fate of Operation Market Garden.
September 23 situation in the Arnhem sector has not changed. The paratroopers thawed. However, they continued to violently repel German attacks.
In the afternoon, planes with supplies of supplies for the 1 parachute division appeared in the sky. It was the last mass departure of transport aircraft. Having lost 8 machines, the pilots, however, did little to help the parachutists. The bulk of the dumped cargo was again the Germans.
Yet a week later, the British command, who had bled the two sides of the battle, had abandoned plans to hold bridgehead at Osterbek. 25 September. Erkyuart received an order at night to leave their positions and retreat across the river to Nijmegen. The crossing over the Rhine was carried out in landing boats under the cover of darkness.
Operation Market Garden ended on the morning of September 26, when after eight days of the most severe 2400 battles, exhausted soldiers — the remnants of the 1 Division — reached Nijmegen. The failed plan, on which so many hopes were pinned, cost the life, health or freedom of 7212 to English paratroopers and 378 Poles from the 1 separate parachute brigade (about 1130 and 6450 died, including more than five thousand wounded, were captured) out of ten thousand, gone into battle. These were the darkest days of the Red Devils. In fact, the 1-I British Parachute Division ceased to exist.
In addition, more than 3500 people from the British XXX Army Corps and nearly as many American paratroopers were killed and wounded. The amount of losses reached 15 thousands of people, the Wehrmacht destroyed or captured almost all the heavy weapons of the English landing force. The Germans at Arnhem lost a total of 3300 people, a third of them - killed.
Who is guilty? Results of the operation
Due to the fact that in September 1944 of the operation, called the “Market Garden”, ended in an obvious strategic failure, Montgomery in the post-war memoirs acknowledged:
"Berlin was lost for us when we were unable to develop a good operational plan in August 1944, after the victory in Normandy."
The reason for this was both the objective circumstances (skillful actions of the opposing side) and a number of errors and omissions made when planning the operation by the high command (the intelligence data on the presence of German tank units in the landing area were ignored; for which the operational plans, including the landing sites and technical services, fell into the hands of the enemy. For example, the plans of Great Britain’s General Roy Urquart’s 1 Airborne Forces ’plans were disrupted by the absence or inoperability of the necessary means of communication and off-road vehicles with special weapons and SAS equipment at the landing site, which deprived the troops of maneuver and combat coordination numerically and technically by enemy forces.
In general, the Allies clearly neglected the enemy and overestimated their capabilities.
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