Why did operation Market Garden fail?

Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by TMO, May 7, 2020.

  1. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Interesting. My estimation above (turn-around times for a double drop) are not totally wild guesses, I used to work as ramp agent during my studies, so I know what's possible, from a technical PoV.

    While modern loading + boarding (of large civilian planes) require a lot more infrastructure/effort nowadays, parking, refueling, loading and lining up again still required a concerted effort on the apron back then, already (just think about the number of petrol tankers that had to be employed or the time needed to attach new gliders - which could be stretched, though, as the returning planes didn't come in at once) - my estimation assumed that well trained ground crews and tankers were available in numbers.
    I thought that wasn't too far-fetched, since the RAF had organized the first "1,000 bomber attack" during Operation Millenium as early as May 1942 (night of May 30/31), and as the RAF had collected more experiences during the subsequent and similarly sized (2) raids on Bremen and Essen.

    The high degree of organization (and revised flight formations) reduced the TOT (time over target) to 90 minutes (even to 20 mins. later on) for the entire bomber force. The RAF collected a lot of information/experiences during Millenium, and the experiences gained then heavily influenced several types of large-scale operations, including the launch and formation of transport armadas.

    Imho, the refusal of double-towing, and the missing imagination (lack of mental flexibility) in the leadership that say at least 2 weeks of training/testing for double-towing could have established a better (informed) base for a decision, deprived Gavin's unit and the Paras near Arnheim of vital fire power. If I am not mistaken, 2 vital AT guns didn't make it to Frost's group, because the particular glider crashed (?). Double-towing gliders could have enabled the troops to compensate such losses with additional/backup EQ. The double-tow training was then ordered for Op. Varsity. There was a lot of bad luck involved, but the whole OP was tailored around a risky/ambitious/bugged plan, where then the decisions of some leaders (in HQs in the UK and on the ground in the NL) hampered the ill-fated plan even more, imho.
     
    #21 GoodGuy, May 19, 2020
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
  2. Agema

    Agema Member

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    My two pence:

    Fundamentally, the operation worked except for the Arnhem bridge. The question is why the Arnhem bridge failed. I think we can talk about the delays, chiefly at Nijmegen, but one way or another, the British 1st Airborne failed to secure the bridge in sufficient force. And I would argue that failed because they were dropped too far from the target and over the course of two days (not including the Poles, who were dropped even later). Half the drop on the first day had to secure the next day's LZ; the remainder infiltrate into Arnhem, lacking the manpower to take it by force. Day 2, the other half of the division drops, and the division assembles and moves into position. It's only D3, ~48h after the first drop, the main part of the division ends up having to assault its way into Arnhem against what was by then heavy opposition. Paratroops are lightly armed; they depdend on using surprise to take an objective against relatively weak opposition, and then holding it until the regular army gets there to relieve them. It's inexcusable to be trying to take the target that late.There's also the ignored intel reporting the shattered remnants of 2 SS Panzer divisions in the area, but I don't think they'd have been too huge a problem if the airborne had taken Arnhem immediately as theory would suggest.

    If we look at how the 2nd battalion held the bridge, and how the division held on around Oosterbeek despite being shattered on day 3, we can see that had the entire division captured the city on the first day with all the advantages of defensive terrain, cover, etc., there's a fair chance it could have held even with XXX Corps well behind schedule.

    The division was dropped over two days because, IIRC, the air force was worried about the resources committed to do it, and it was dropped far from the city due to concerns about flak. I sort of get that, but those compromises undermined the requirements for what paras should do far too much.
     
  3. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    1) There are some valid points, but the 1st Bn was unlucky on the first day, it consecutively ran into 2 Kampfgruppen (1st into Weber's then into Allworden's KG). The 3rd Bn was joined by Lathbury and Urquhart who wanted to speed up/monitor the push to the bridge - an understandable but also a pretty bad idea, as the CO of the 3rd Bn then didn't dare to push aggressively/early anymore, with those 2 VIPs in his force.
    Also, while the British para equipment was lighter than the equipment of the Airlanding Bde, they still had the means to fight German armor (PIATs and AT guns) and they had LMGs and mortars. A number of AT guns was flown in with gliders on Day 1, along with 24 75-mm pack howitzers. If I am not mistaken, 2 of those AT guns were lost, because the particular glider(s) crashed. The max. range of the PIATs was somewhere between 320 and 350 meters, the effective range against tanks 100 or 105 meters, and it could also be used against infantry (as the round also created a significant HE blast around the shaped charge). The PIATs were potent weapons, but in Arnhem, their small ammo stocks couldn't be replenished.

    2) The Germans didn't sit on their hands, and the Arnhem area wasn't devoid of German troops. Some German early-reaction units blocked the British advance or even ambushed British troops. The plan ignored the presence of the SS troops and the general possibility of stiff local resistance. The planner was not just overambitious, he was actually arrogant. Most if not all details in the Arnhem plan were based on the assumption that there'd be light resistance only and that German key units would be absent or understrength after the tremendous losses in France. With that basic premise, the Germans were considered to be unable to put up a decent fight. The possibility that there could be one or another day with bad weather wasn't considered, either.

    3) If I am not mistaken, the Brits had to put 85% or 90% of their trained glider pilots on the baize table for the projected 2-day glider landings/waves and they didn't have a problem to put all available transport aircraft on the table for a double drop either, just the latter idea got turned down. According to TMO lack of trained ground crews prevented a double drop, and - additionally/evidently - fear of midair collisions prevented double-towing. On top of that, the fear of a strong German AA setup made the Allies choose far DZs and LZs. I don't think that it was about a lack of commitment (regarding the use or risk of resources) on the part of the Air Force.

    The theater leadership did not collect enough intel. Thorough recon would have revealed that the German AA in the area was virtually in a deep slumber, in some key areas even non-existent on Day 1. With limited intel and logistics at hand, the Air Force had to come to a certain conclusion.
    The Air Force can be blamed for the misjudgement regarding German AA cover and for failing to insist on gathering more/better intel, though.
    Also, the Air Force flew a myriad of preliminary sorties against identified targets (AA, bunkers, etc.), but failed where German positions were camouflaged properly.
     
    #23 GoodGuy, May 29, 2020
    Last edited: May 29, 2020

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