??? Every military operation has essential elements that must be executed on time and with effect, otherwise chaos and even collapse occurs. The risk that such might occur should not be so overwhelming that no action is taken, however. The Western Allies were facing the prospect of a difficult winter with few options unless the evident weakness of the Germans post-Normandy were to be exploited. There were many proposals involving the use of 1st Airborne Army in order to unhinge the German defenses of the Reich and continue the exploitation that had taken them to the frayed limits of supply lines. The risks remained great but if the Germans could be turned again out of their positions the gains more than offset them. Crossing the Rhine was unavoidable and it had to be done somewhere, sometime and the sooner the better.
Absolutely correct, as far as the internal logic runs. However, there comes a time when one has to recognize that resources and opportunities don't match up. The opportunity with Market Garden could only be taken if all of the bridges could be seized and held within the first few hours. Let's set aside the fact that Germans didn't demolish the bridges historically -- they easily could have, and that had to be a planning consideration. If the Allies couldn't put enough force on the ground to take the bridges quickly and meet all of the other operational requirements, the operation wasn't an acceptable risk.
The only way the risk could be accepted was if the Allies were willing to lose an airborne division (at some nexus in the operational area, not necessarily at Arnhem, though that was always the most likely place) and take heavy casualties in the others, on the off chance that:
- The Germans would somehow not manage to demolish the river crossings at either the Waal or Rhine (unreasonable to hope for),
- Sufficient logistics routes could be captured and quickly put into operation so that the Waal and Rhine crossings were the only choke points (possible, but only by expanding the operation to take in a lot more of the road network in Southern Holland), and
- Supposing that the contemplated successor operations could be supported over that logistics network (Van Creveld doesn't think so, and I agree with that assessment).
Or the Allies could convince themselves -- which they did do -- that they were facing a collapsing army unable to turn and fight, and equally unable to blow bridges behind itself as it ran.
It just doesn't seem that the operation could possibly have worked more than it did, and it seems more likely that with all of their failures and frustrations, the Allies actually wound up with a pretty reasonable outcome, given the real opportunities in hand.
WWII was not won by looking for the easy way. The airborne forces did prove themselves again with Operation Varsity in the 21st AG Rhine crossings. These were also fraught with considerable risk, errors were made but their accomplishments invaluable to the overall effort.
Varsity was much better prepared for, the airborne element was landed within ten miles of friendly troops crossing the Rhine, and they were landed in much denser clusters. This was a case of the resources available being matched to the opportunity.
We should not be beguiled by A Bridge too Far and other notions that presume a flawed plan. Every plan has flaws yet to be revealed, and these can and will be exposed upon contact with the enemy. The Allies held numerous advantages over the Germans in September and the enemy was still in the field and had to be defeated.
The plan had its flaws. But the killer was a concept of operations that simply couldn't be accomplished with the troops and support available.
Edited by Tony Evans, 22 September 2014 - 1733 PM.