Undoubtedly, the failure to secure Arnhem was not the fault of the Airborne force who, as stated before, held out for far longer than planned and produced one of the most astonishing feats of the second world war. It would appear that the fault lies mainly with the planning and conception of the entire Market Garden operation. From its very inception, allied administrative staff cut corners and disregarded reports of enemy activity in the Arnhem area, which would prove to be fatal. Indeed, right up until the operation had started, Montgomery believed that the “Germans in Holland…had little strength”. Reports streaming in from all over Holland, and in particular Arnhem, from the Dutch resistance regarding several Panzer divisions in the Arnhem area were disregarded, and any concerns raised by troops or generals were merely shrugged off.
It could also be argued that the entire operation was unnecessary. Patton’s drive into the Saar with the American 3rd Army was perhaps just as worthy of more resources and equipment, and considering his advance was ‘checked’ to allow for Market Garden to take place, it seems the idea of an all out Airborne attack had taken preference over everything else. It could be argued that the thought of an all out airborne attack was too enticing for Eisenhower. He had been encouraged to use the Airborne more and more ever since its success on D-Day and the haste at which the Market Garden operation was conceived could be a result of this. Yet it could also be argued that after several failed attempts at airborne invasions, Eisenhower feared that they would not be put to use before the apparently imminent end of the war. It would therefore appear that rather than lay the blame simply at the feet of Field Marshall Montgomery, it should be shared throughout the entire command.
Montgomery, however, maintains in his memoirs that, “if the operation had been properly backed from its inception, and given the aircraft, ground forces, and the administrative resources necessary for the job – it would have succeeded in spite of [his] mistakes, or the adverse weather….I remain Market Garden’s unrepentant advocate.” It is indeed hard to ignore that the operation was mostly successful, and that the Allies’ failure to secure a bridge over the lower Rhine was the only unsuccessful crossing, while all other objectives were achieved. Indeed it is clear that the Allies were attempting to capture ‘a bridge too far’.
Contributed by Tim Edgar