Editor: Michael Spilling and Consultant Editor: Chris McNab
On 17 September 1944, the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group and the First Allied Airborne Army initiated Operation Market Garden. An audacious ground offensive augmented by the dropping of three Allied airborne divisions into the German rear.
Operation Market Garden Strategy
The plan envisaged that as XXX Corps thrust rapidly north, Allied airborne forces would land in the Zon-Veghel, Nijmegen-Groesbeek, and Arnhem-Oosterbeek areas in southern Holland to secure key bridges, including that over the Rhine River at Arnhem. The German Army Group B reacted swiftly to these landings, redeploying numerous battlegroups of garrison troops, backed by the 5000 survivors of the elite II SS-Panzer Corps. That day, the British 1st Airborne Division began landing at Oosterbeek, northwest of Arnhem. Subsequently, the 1st Parachute Brigade advanced on Arnhem. LCol Frost’s 2nd Parachute Battalion pushing south to seize the northern end of the key Rhine road bridge. However, the improvised SS battle groups Krafft and Spindler blocked 1st Brigade’s advance from reinforcing Frost’s positions at the bridge.
The 2nd Parachute Battalion Storms the Rhine Bridge
The next morning, Frost’s unit destroyed an SS recce battalion that stormed the bridge. Then dug it in, waiting in vain for XXX Corps to arrive. In the meantime, the Germans had rushed another 10 battalions to the Arnhem-Oosterbeek area. Then a further 24 to contain the American landings and block XXX Corps’ advance. During 19–20 September, II SSCorps units repeatedly attacked Frost’s positions, inflicting severe casualties. Eventually, at noon on 21 September, after four days of heroic resistance, these attacks overwhelmed Frost’s few remaining un-wounded soldiers. XXX Corps was then still 16km south of Arnhem bridge. Subsequent German attacks forced 1st Airborne Division’s remnants at Oosterbeek to withdraw, ending Market Garden.
The German and British forces suffered 4000 and 7500 casualties respectively in the Arnhem-Oosterbeek area.
Dr. Chris McNab is the editor of AMERICAN BATTLES & CAMPAIGNS: A Chronicle, from 1622-Present and is an experienced specialist in wilderness and urban survival techniques. He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere. An encyclopedia of military and civilian survival techniques for all environments. Special Forces Endurance Techniques, First Aid Survival Manual, and The Handbook of Urban Survival.