Market-Garden White Washing History

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alf
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Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by alf » 28 May 2008 05:41

Market Garden failed for a number of reasons. One of the major ones was the failure of the US 82nd Airborne to capture the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal River on the first day. This fact is deliberately hidden when Market Garden is discussed, standard US procedure is to blame Montgomery for everything , yet this is the single major point of failure of the plan.

That Hollywood whitewash of a movie A Bridge to Far carefully doesn't examine that fact and sadly that movie seems to be be the main reference source for so many :roll:

How to take a bridge? General Gavin of the 82nd Airborne himself said "both ends at once" , sort of duh! Airborne Troops can be dropped over natural obstacles like rivers, duh again. So airborne troops placed on both sides of a bridge by parachute or glider is the standard method of attack. Gavin DID this method for the attack on the Graves Bridge by the 504th.

Yet Gavin did nothing like this for Nijmegn, all his troops were dropped on the south side of the Waal river. From the very start HIS plan had no means to take the Nijmegen bridge other than by frontal assualt. He packed a bulldozer for his trip but no boats, so the option of a river crossing was non existent either till XXX Corp came along.

I have not seen any reasonable explanation for the failure of the 82nd Airborne NOT to have captured the Nijmegen bridge on the first day (<--- core question :D ) . German resistence was minimal at the time of the Landing, The 82nd Division's own GS-2 reported "landed against almost no opposition". The 504th Regiment had the Graves Bridge captured in under a few hours, the 505th losses for the entire first day was 63 men killed, wounded or injured (out of 3000 men).

The 504th had taken their bridge successfully, the 505th task, was to clear the Groesbeek 's Heights and send patrols into the Reichswald ( Gavin's obsession). The 508th tasks were to block the road at Mook and then move on the Bridges at Hatert and Honinghutje and THEN the main bridge at Nijmegn.

I stress again, the only option his plan had was a frontal assualt, unless speed and surprised was used quickly upon landing. Speed and surprise were non existent either.

On Day One, the 1st Battalion of the 508th Regiment was tasked with the capture of the road bridge. Here confusion starts to creep in, Gavin said afterwards they were to attack immediately, the Regimental Commander , Colonel Lindquist said the battalion was not to attack till all other Regimental objectives were attained.

The battalion commander Lt Colonel Warren said his objective was the to prepare a defensive position near De Ploeg and then move onto the bridge itself. It was not till 1830hrs he sent a patrol forward, a single platoon and a radio section. The Dutch had reported there were only 19 Germans guarding the Bridge.

At 2000 hrs Warren moved two rifle companies to take the bridge, A & B,. B Company got lost, so only A Company moved forward. They moved slowly and at around 2200 hours, came under fire from elements of the 9th SS Panzer Divison Reconnaissance Battalion who had just arrived. From that point on, the 82nd Airborne did not have the capability to take the Bridge unaided. They had failed.

That delay is not speed and surprise by any means and is the major reason why Market Garden timetable fell apart.

One of the myths the US puts out about Market Garden is how XXX Corp was "late".
XXX Corp said they would be at Arnhem in 48 hours (2 days). XXX Corp left their start line at 1400 hours on the 17th, they linked up with the 82nd Airborne at 0830 hours on the 19th. They were still six hours in hand and 8 miles from Arnhem. They were on time at that point. The myth is deliberate to shift blame, it reoccurs constantly.

Here is where the Arnhem plan collasped, it took 36 hours of hard fighting to take the bridge, that should have been taken on Day 1.

The fault here lies with Gavin and his plan. He did not plan an attack from both ends at once. he did not have the means to do so once he landed. His plan meant his only option was a frontal assault. He only said after the event the bridge was a priority, yet his commanders below him said otherwise. He later attacked Horrocks of XXX Corp for being to slow to bring up boats when he had brought none himself.

His behaviour post battle was one of self justification. He believed he had to take the Graves Bridge and the high ground (the Grosebeek Ridge) as his priority. Those was not his orders, his orders from US General Brereton were to take the bridges with "thunderclap surprise". He didn't.

To make matters worse Gavin obsessed over the Grosebeek Heights and the Reichwald, that zone became his Divison's objective and not the Bridges. A clear case of forgetting what he was there for. He claimed at one point 1000 tanks could be in the Reichwald, the Dutch said "no" and his own patrols said "no", (a patrol of the 505th Regiment on the 18th reported no German armour). In his memoirs he blames the British for his preoccupation there. He manages to blame everyone else but himself.

Lt Colonel David Frost of the 2nd Parachute Battalion at Arnhem Bridge said post war

The worst mistake of the Arnhem plan was the failure to give priority to capturing the Nijmegn bridge. The capture would have been a walkover on D-Day, yet the 82nd Divison could only spare one Battalion as they must at all costs secure the Groesbeek Heights where the Corps HQ was to be sited"


The most distasteful thing to come post war, is the myth put out by the Americans that the British XXX Corp stopped after capturing the bridge and its their fault for that the operation failed. Not the fact the 82nd Airborne failed and caused the delay itself. XXX Corp had to reassemble, rearm, resupply after very heavy fighting before moving on again, only 5 tanks were across the Bridge, (commanded by Captain Lord Carrington, a senior Govt Minister under Thatcher later in life.) His version of events over the bridge differ markedly to the American events, so it comes down to who had the best reason to try and pass the blame? Who spreads inaccurate myths on other aspects?

A post script- The 3rd Battalion 504th Regiment river assault is rightly described as brillant. In the British XXX Corp boats, as they had none of their own, that fact clearly shows Gavin's initial plan was a failure. Its only fair to remember though that with them went the British 615 Field Squadron and 11th Field Company of the Royal Engineers. They have been whitewashed out of history to sadly. Further during the actual crossing , the Grenadier Guards Tanks along with the US 505th Regiment were attacking the south end of the bridge, so the assault whilst highly dangerous was not done in isolation.
Last edited by alf on 31 May 2008 00:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by The_Enigma » 28 May 2008 14:43

Ive read differing accounts of what happened once across the bridge. I don't remember the exact details since it has been a while since i've read them but i believe it goes along the lines of the American paratroopers being shocked that once the British tanks (and i would presume motoried infantry) were across the bridge they sat there a view not shared by the British chaps.

Since the topic is focusing on Nijmegen and what really happened there, is it possible someone with more knowledge on this could also address this question?
Last edited by The_Enigma on 28 May 2008 18:05, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by tonyh » 28 May 2008 17:11

alf wrote:Market Garden failed for a number of reasons. One of the major ones was the failure of the US 82nd Airborne to capture the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal River on the first day. This fact is deliberately hidden when Market Garden is discussed, standard US procedure is to blame Montgomery for everything , yet this is the single major point of failure of the plan.

That Hollywood whitewash of a movie A Bridge to Far carefully doesn't examine that fact and sadly that movie seems to be be the main reference source for so many :roll:

How to take a bridge? General Gavin of the 82nd Airborne himself said "both ends at once" , sort of duh! Airborne Troops can be dropped over natural obstacles like rivers, duh again. So airborne troops placed on both sides of a bridge by parachute or glider is the standard method of attack. Gavin DID this method for the attack on the Graves Bridge by the 504th.

Yet Gavin did nothing like this for Nijmegn, all his troops were dropped on the south side of the Waal river. From the very start HIS plan had no means to take the Nijmegen bridge other than by frontal assualt. He packed a bulldozer for his trip but no boats, so the option of a river crossing was non existent either till XXX Corp came along.

I have not seen any reasonable explanation for the failure of the 82nd Airborne NOT to have captured the Nijmegen bridge on the first day (<--- core question :D ) . German resistence was minimal at the time of the Landing, The 82nd Division's own GS-2 reported "landed against almost no opposition". The 504th Regiment had the Graves Bridge captured in under a few hours, the 505th losses for the entire first day was 63 men killed, wounded or injured (out of 3000 men).

The 504th had taken their bridge successfully, the 505th task, was to clear the Groesbeek 's Heights and send patrols into the Reichswald ( Gavin's obsession). The 508th tasks were to block the road at Mook and then move on the Bridges at Hatert and Honinghutje and THEN the main bridge at Nijmegn.

I stress again, the only option his plan had was a frontal assualt, unless speed and surprised was used quickly upon landing. Speed and surprise were non existent either.

On Day Zero, the 1st Battalion of the 508th Regiment was tasked with the capture of the road bridge. Here confusion starts to creep in, Gavin said afterwards they were to attack immediately, the Regimental Commander , Colonel Lindquist said the battalion was not to attack till all other Regimental objectives were attained.

The battalion commander Lt Colonel Warren said his objective was the to prepare a defensive position near De Ploeg and then move onto the bridge itself. It was not till 1830hrs he sent a patrol forward, a single platoon and a radio section. The Dutch had reported there were only 19 Germans guarding the Bridge.

At 2000 hrs Warren moved two rifle companies to take the bridge, A & B,. B Company got lost, so only A Company moved forward. They moved slowly and at around 2200 hours, came under fire from elements of the 9th SS Panzer Divison Reconnaissance Battalion who had just arrived. From that point on, the 82nd Airborne did not have the capability to take the Bridge unaided. They had failed.

That delay is not speed and surprise by any means and is the major reason why Market Garden timetable fell apart.

One of the myths the US puts out about Market Garden is how XXX Corp was "late".
XXX Corp said they would be at Arnhem in 48 hours (2 days). XXX Corp left their start line at 1400 hours on the 17th, they linked up with the 82nd Airborne at 0830 hours on the 19th. They were still six hours in hand and 8 miles from Arnhem. They were on time at that point. The myth is deliberate to shift blame, it reoccurs constantly.

Here is where the Arnhem plan collasped, it took 36 hours of hard fighting to take the bridge, that should have been taken on Day 1.

The fault here lies with Gavin and his plan. He did not plan an attack from both ends at once. he did not have the means to do so once he landed. His plan meant his only option was a frontal assault. He only said after the event the bridge was a priority, yet his commanders below him said otherwise. He later attacked Horrocks of XXX Corp for being to slow to bring up boats when he had brought none himself.

His behaviour post battle was one of self justification. He believed he had to take the Graves Bridge and the high ground (the Grosebeek Ridge) as his priority. Those was not his orders, his orders from US General Brereton were to take the bridges with "thunderclap surprise". He didn't.

To make matters worse Gavin obsessed over the Grosebeek Heights and the Reichwald, that zone became his Divison's objective and not the Bridges. A clear case of forgetting what he was there for. He claimed at one point 1000 tanks could be in the Reichwald, the Dutch said "no" and his own patrols said "no", (a patrol of the 505th Regiment on the 18th reported no German armour). In his memoirs he blames the British for his preoccupation there. He manages to blame everyone else but himself.

Lt Colonel David Frost of the 2nd Parachute Battalion at Arnhem Bridge said post war

The worst mistake of the Arnhem plan was the failure to give priority to capturing the Nijmegn bridge. The capture would have been a walkover on D-Day, yet the 82nd Divison coild only spare one Battalion as they must at all costs secure the Groesbeek Heights where the Corps HQ was to be sited"


The most distasteful thing to come post war, is the myth put out by the Americans that the British XXX Corp stopped after capturing the bridge and its their fault for that the operation failed. Not the fact the 82nd Airborne failed and caused the delay itself. XXX Corp had to reassemble, rearm, resupply after very heavy fighting before moving on again, only 5 tanks were across the Bridge, (commanded by Captain Lord Carrington, a senior Govt Minister under Thatcher later in life.) His version of events over the bridge differ markedly to the American events, so it comes down to who had the best reason to try and pass the blame? Who spreads inaccurate myths on other aspects?

A post script- The 3rd Battalion 504th Regiment river assault is rightly described as brillant. In the British XXX Corp boats, as they had none of their own, that fact clearly shows Gavin's initial plan was a failure. Its only fair to remember though that with them went the British 615 Field Squadron and 11th Field Company of the Royal Engineers. They have been whitewashed out of history to sadly. Further during the actual crossing , the Grenadier Guards Tanks along with the US 505th Regiment were attacking the south end of the bridge, so the assault whilst highly dangerous was not done in isolation.



The main reason why Market Garden failed was because of the sterling defence put up by the German divisions that happened to be in the area and were simply not planned for.

Tony

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by LWD » 28 May 2008 19:56

alf wrote:... standard US procedure is to blame Montgomery for everything ,...

Hardly. I know I've never even seen his name in conjunction with Pearl Harbor.
The fault here lies with Gavin and his plan.
And Monty had no comments on it?
He did not plan an attack from both ends at once. he did not have the means to do so once he landed.

If it wasn't planned why would he have the means to do so? Airborn divisions are not noted for thier extra baggage capacity especially when jumping.

Does it really help to go from one extreme to the other?

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by JonS » 28 May 2008 22:32

LWD wrote:
The fault here lies with Gavin and his plan.
And Monty had no comments on it?

Are you acknowledging that Montgomery deserves the credit for COBRA?

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by JonS » 28 May 2008 22:36

LWD wrote:
He did not plan an attack from both ends at once. he did not have the means to do so once he landed.

If it wasn't planned why would he have the means to do so?

Contingency planning.

Airborne divisions are not noted for thier extra baggage capacity especially when jumping.

Granted, but there were a fair few gliders available, and rubber boats - or the canvas and wood affairs they eventually used - aren't terribly bulky.

Does it really help to go from one extreme to the other?

Probably not, but it's a POV worth considering. In the end result, 82nd added nothing at Nijmegan that XXX Corps couldn't have done by itself after arriving ahead of schedule. That being the case, what were they doing there?
Last edited by JonS on 29 May 2008 11:00, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by Pips » 29 May 2008 00:36

A very interesting thread. I can't comment on it as my field is really air actions. However I do have several questions.

It's mentioned that Gavin said that the best way to take a bridge is both ends at once (I think Robert Redford's character said that in the movie). Certainly makes sense. Given that the race to Arnhem was based on possession of the key bridges along the route, how did all the other bridegs get taken? By both ends at once? So did the other parachute drops fall on both sides?

And what mention is made of Gavin's tardiness in the book "A Bridge Too Far" by CR? That would seem to be the most popular book on the subject.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by The_Enigma » 29 May 2008 00:54

Well 1st Airborne thought it would wise to not go for a coup de main on Arnhem bridge. I think Ryan brings it up, that they didnt due to the believe that the ground was to soft to land gliders or actualy drop there - prehaps Gavin also thought the same or had intel suggesting such regarding proposed drop zones on the opposite bank of the Nijmegen bridge?

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by alf » 29 May 2008 01:34

Good, a debate is going :D

I have yet to see any reason for such tardiness in not even attempting to take the bridge on the first day till it was to late. Even First Airborne at Arnhem orginal plan was to send jeeps immediately to the bridge to hold till troops arrived. The jeeps didnt arrive, the 2nd Battalion did though. That is offtopic though, the focus is the Nijmegen bridge and why it was left alone for so long during that first day.

Strip the myth away about XXX Corp being late (its in the US Official History, a wonderful contradiction). At one point it says XXX Corp was 33 hours late, on another it gives the times I quoted, showing XXX Corp arriving at Nijmegen with 6 hours to get to Arnhem. The myth promoted actively still is that XXX Corp being late is why Arnhem failed, when the reality is the failure to take the Nijmegen Bridge on the first day is the root cause of the breakdown in the timetable.

The POV argument doesnt make sense, as Gavin didnt land any forces north of the river, then he needed boats to cross the river. He brought a bulldozer, he should have brought boats. His only option was a frontal assault. A waste of good men's lives. Again as he didnt land troops either side of the bridge, his only chance of success to avoid costly frontal assaults was speed, this wasnt attempted. A single battalion in the early evening, many hours after landing, advancing cautiously was a receipe for failure.

We move into "what if's" though and thats dangerous, but suffice to say if the bridge had been taken at Nijmegen, the battles fought there would have simply happened at Arnhem. They may have been successful, they may not but it will never be known. IMHO The Nijmegen failure should be aired more openly in discussions on Market Garden, it gets hidden away.

Offtopic, In A Bridge to Far, its never mentioned why when XXX Corp arrive the bridge is still in German hands, the story line switches to who has the bluest eyes, Robert Redford or Ryan ONeal. Hollywood at its best. That movie clearly points the finger at Monty as to blame for the failure . Patton the movie, even more so, even Saving Private Ryan,, Woody the Toy Story doll and Sam the barkeeper from Cheers, have a single line on non US forces at D-Day, that single line? They attack Monty as being over rated. Thats a seperate topic and done to death in the forum.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by The_Enigma » 29 May 2008 01:54

Just to add to that last paragraph - my pet peeve about Band of Brothers is that all through the series, the British arnt mentioned (which is prefectly fine) but when they are its in a negative light. The out of the blue - oh did you know the Brits lost an entire division at arnhem - at the end of one episode, after having complete incompent tankers support them during the episode :roll:

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by alf » 29 May 2008 01:55

The_Enigma wrote:Well 1st Airborne thought it would wise to not go for a coup de main on Arnhem bridge. I think Ryan brings it up, that they didnt due to the believe that the ground was to soft to land gliders or actualy drop there - prehaps Gavin also thought the same or had intel suggesting such regarding proposed drop zones on the opposite bank of the Nijmegen bridge?


The main reason at Arnhem was concern by the Air Forces that German anti aircraft defences over the river were to dangerous for slow moving transport planes. Parachutists can land on soft ground (im an ex para long ago when the Wright Brothers were around). Heavy equipment can't land but its a gamble, take an objective for a short time and holding vs trying to take it later when the defenders are prepared. Nijmegen shows what happens, and Arnhem to, shifting prepared defenders from a bridge is difficult.

Operation Comet, Monty's original plan called for Glider Troops to land on or by all bridges to seize them immediately. That got massaged out in the final plan for Market Garden, incidently Operation Comet , the final bridge was to be Wessel. Again the Air forces argued about defences there and in Market Garden, Arnhem was subsituted.

The question still remains, if Gavin thought he couldn't land troops over the river, then he had to a alternative plan, Jeeps to race ahead and take the bridge ala Arnhem plan. Boats as insurance (night crossings) , even bicycles, something to get troops on the bridge as quickly as possible. Taking the bridges was the entire rationale for the operation. Not taking them, the operation was pointless.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by The_Enigma » 29 May 2008 10:56

Intresting points :)


Edit: Just to pick up what you said, about heavy equipment being a gamble to land on soft ground and AA Defences.

Would'nt a night time coup de main by experianced pilots be able to do the job (landing on the near western bank of the Rhine in regards to Arnhem) and trump the German AA defences?

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by alf » 31 May 2008 00:02

Tony wrote

The main reason why Market Garden failed was because of the sterling defence put up by the German divisions that happened to be in the area and were simply not planned for.

Tony


That is exactly right about the sterling defence, anyone who under estimated the capacity of German defences in late 1944 was a fool. But the fact remains XXX Corp was on schedule when it reached Nijmegen, and the 2nd Battalion of the Paras, held out for another day at Arnhem past then. Those facts alone start to question the unexpected German division "myth", thats simply part of the excuses after, not the major reason why, Market Garden failed. It becomes a what if really. What if the bridge had been captured on the first day and XXX Corp moved straight on through Nijmegen towards Arnhem? Would those arriving forces tip the balance so the British would still hold the bridge? Its just a what if, nothing more.

To allow the Germans ,most of a day to prepare defences to defend a primary objective you need, beggars belief. That is what happened, 19 German troops defending the bridge until the 9th SS Panzer rushed in during the evening of the first day. The first attempt to capture the bridge began at 2000hrs by a single rifle company of the 1st Battalion 508th. At 2200hrs they met the 9th SS Panzers and the rest is history.

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by Delta Tank » 31 May 2008 02:32

To all,

The abbreviation POV is used above, what does it mean? Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), that is what it meant in the US Army when I was in, but that does not seem to fit! :D

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Re: Market-Garden White Washing History

Post by Moltke d. J. » 31 May 2008 04:52

IITYWYBMAB: AFAICR it's a TLA for point of view
SCNR

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