Allied disaster at Arnhem
German troops placed on the Western Front, defeated in Falaise, initiated a move to withdraw beyond the Seine. Allied commanders did not hesitate to pursue the fleeing German forces but by a series of mistakes that would prove fatal, have been unable to cross the Rhine and into the first time in Germany.
The Siegfried Line, one of the German defenses, act as a dam in the progression of the Allies and, by order of Hitler, was from there that the German forces would launch a counter-offensive aimed at regaining the upper hand on the ground.
In the diary of SHAEF, dated August 26, 1944, could read: The bulk of the German armies in the West sector, was destroyed. France regained Paris and the Allied forces advanced rapidly toward the German border.
This document is mirrored and exaggerated optimism, the feeling of war already won, that dominated the minds of commanders and soldiers of the Anglo-American forces.
By the Rhine, non-stop
The invasion plan drawn by SHAEF initially stated that they possessed the troops along a line bounded on the north by the south by the Loire and Seine, delaying the assault on Germany until the Brittany ports were operating again.
The heavy defeat of the Germans in Normandy would completely change the plans, since no one considered the possibility that the walk victorious Allies could be weakened by German troops fought. The goal was not the Seine but the Rhine, 400 miles distant from the point they were in the Anglo-American forces.
Despite the euphoria, the truth is that the allied logistics excel at improvisation and fragility. The August 19, for example, the single port available was Cherbourg, with supplies to effect was also through the beaches and Dragon Overlord. The fragility of logistics was not, however, sufficient for the Allied command ordered a pause in operations. The only controversial point was, after all, know what strategy to follow to reach the new targets.
Montgomery proposed Eisenhower, at a meeting held on 23 August, a plan based on a progression to be made towards a single point of the Rhine, counting on the power and effectiveness of a mass military formed by four dozen divisions. These were to advance north of the Ardennes by forming a tenacious isolate the Ruhr basin.
The idea was not accepted by Eisenhower, whereas this maneuver, to concentrate all their forces into one single point, would leave exposed flanks in case of a possible enemy counterattack. The solution advocated by Eisenhower passed, as he explained to Montgomery, the traditional advance in parallel columns.
At the same time, the U.S. General Patton Bradley argued with the project of an attack directed to the east, going towards the Saar to the Rhine, taking Frankfurt This was the South, according to Bradley, the most efficient plan for moving the bulk of the troops.
The commander in chief was seen, then, forced to serve as a moderator between their military leaders, and ultimately adopt a solution which is a compromise, did not please anyone.
It would then be given priority to the advancement of Montgomery until it occupied Antwerp, moving forces of the U.S. First Army, commanded by General Hodges, to the north, covering the flank of the British troops.
Germans go to chaos
Meanwhile, the German side was given the order to retreat from the front, with the support and protection of the weak Panzer divisions. Hitler's intentions to transform the Seine in the most advanced line of defense ended up being disappointed, now leaving the Germans to retreat to the Siegfried Line along the German border, reorganizing his troops.
The Army Group B Model fraccionava Marshal himself, creating three lines of retreat: the North, the Fifteenth Army abandons Pas de Calais, the V Panzerarmee covered by the center, the removal of the decimated Seventh Army which moved towards the Somme , the South, the First Army retreated, avoiding being crushed by the progression of Franco-American forces coming from Provence.
As for the Army Group G, received orders for a rapid retreat, leading to the Rhône one of its combat units, namely the XIX Army.
Hitler ordered, then the troops effecting a first stop before the Siegfried Line, and then consolidate positions in that line. Simultaneously, the commanders of the forces still occupied the ports of Brittany - all under a tight siege by the Allies - were ordered to resist to the last man, preventing port facilities could be seized by the Allies.
Objective: The Netherlands
Montgomery's offensive in Belgian territory, run by Army Group commanded by Field Marshal, had the mission to capture and destroy the German Army XV - who escaped unharmed from operations in Normandy - and destroy the launching pads of the flying bombs used to attack UK.
Both goals were the responsibility of the Canadian First Army General Crerar, falling to the British Second Army Gen. Dempsey, acting as a front line, Anvers and pave the way to conquer the Netherlands to Ruhr.
On September 3, the Guards Armored Division of the Second British Army took Brussels and the next day, the 11th Armored Division conquest Anvers without the Germans have had time to destroy the port facilities. The Allies have not taken any precautions to guarantee the control of the Albert Canal bridges on the outskirts of the city, which would be blown up two days later by the Germans.
Another mistake that would prove decisive in the battles that followed, was to leave the peninsula of unmanned Beveland, by which he escaped what was left of the Fifteenth German Army used later times, to counter the Allied advance towards Arnhem, Holland.
The worst that could happen to the Allies in their progression to the Rhine was the pause that lasted 4-7 September, ie after the entry into Belgium. All officers and soldiers, then gave in after the war. On September 4, coinciding with the first rest day, German General Student, commander of the paratroopers, ordered to gather all the men he could with them and form a defensive line along the Albert Canal, with the points Reference Antwerp and Maastricht.
I would be this makeshift Army Parachute General Student's responsible for the difficulties encountered by the Allies during the two weeks following that, until September 17, little or nothing progressed in time.
In mid-September the Germans had strengthened almost all of their defensive line, especially in the fragile northern sector.
Reno: a river too far
This was precisely the sector chosen by Montgomery to launch new operation on 17 September, which should lead his troops to the Rhine taking Arnhem. Operation Market-Garden,provided a bout of airborne forces, the First Army, which should pave the way to the Second British Army.
The delay in clearing the estuary of the Scheldt and the opening of the port of Anvers delay the attack on Arnhem. Missed this last operation, so we decided to give priority to the first two.
The slowness with which they were eliminated in the pockets of German resistance and Breskens islands and the peninsula of Walcheren Beveland would eventually drag until early November, delaying many of the operations planned for that period.
Despite the setbacks, the Allies had taken important steps in its advance into the heart of the Reich. Important but not critical. It was not until the spring of 1945 to the disastrous effects of the errors of September would be dispelled.
When, in September 1944, the Allies faced with difficulties in the supply lines and the hardening of the German resistance, General Montgomery had imagined and run one of the most ingenious plans to wipe out before the new year, the German army.
After nearly two months of inactivity in the difficult terrain of Normandy, the Allies broke the German defensive line, initiating a rapid and brilliant progress that would lead the Army XXI to the Meuse-Scale Channel already on the border with Holland. The September 11, Montgomery found himself a little over 160 miles of Ruhr, one of the most important industrial regions of Germany. On the same date, the U.S. Third Army commanded by Patton, reached the Saarland, another industrial region vital to the German war effort.
Montgomery's plan, presented to Eisenhower on the 10th, was to use the service door closer - the Netherlands - with the support of airborne troops dropped behind German lines in, which would aim to achieve five strategic bridges road between Eindhoven and Arnhem.
Taken the bridges would fit, even according to the plan prepared by Montgomery, to clean the air force would advance the field where the British 11th Army, with the bridgehead at Arnhem, would have no difficulty reaching the Ruhr.
Seduced by the plan, though not entirely convinced of their effectiveness, Eisenhower gave the green light to Montgomery. This began at once preparations for the operation, christened with the code name of Market Garden, which should take place on September 17.
Arnhem Bridge: strategic objective
In England ultimavam the preparations for the largest airborne operation conducted so far, involving 5,000 aircraft and three divisions - the 1st Division British and 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions U.S. - counting on the support of the brigade of paratroopers Poles. The number of men and means obliged to extend the transport operations for three days.
On the date scheduled for the beginning of operation, September 17, the 101st Division of the U.S. should take a position near Eindhoven, opening a southern front, the 82nd Division should ensure that positions located halfway between Eindhoven and Arnhem, and shall take Nijmegen Bridge. The key point of the whole operation, the bridge of Arnhem - a hundred kilometers north of the positions of ground forces - would be left for the men of the 1st British Airborne Division, commanded by General Robert Urquarth.
The mission entrusted to Urquarth and his Red Devils did not excel in ease, as it should conquer and hold the position until the arrival of infantry and cavalry, at the risk of being isolated if the latter were caught by the enemy forces.
Unable to carry all the men and material in one day, Urquarth was forced to choose a location away from the Arnhem bridge to drop his men, losing the advantage of surprise and risking to suffer some casualties in the progression to the target. Upon learning that the Germans had installed a line of air defense near Arnhem, the RAF chose Renkum, twelve miles west of the target, such as launching station of the paratroopers. From there it launched the attack on Arnhem.
Halfway through the morning of September 17th, a Sunday, 4,700 British planes left their bases. At 13 hours and 30 minutes that day, the first paratroopers touched Dutch soil, and almost without resistance, advancing towards its goal.
At first everything went according to plan. The gliders and paratroopers reached the ground without any trouble, finding here and there a feeble resistance from the Germans, hailed its passage by Dutch civilians who offered them flowers, fruit and milk.
Then, contrary to expected, were forced to face two armored divisions of the SS, to understand the intentions of the Allies, has embarked on a rapid advance towards Arnhem Bridge.
Side of the Allies, caught by surprise by the value of German troops on the ground, the British 1st Airborne Brigade struggled to maintain supremacy in the areas chosen for the arrival of the second wave of assault, scheduled for tomorrow morning.
The second unpleasant surprise came when they reached the first urban and densely wooded areas, these sites, with consequences that were to prove tragic, the radios did not work, depriving the 1st Brigade of contacts among themselves and with other forces.
The huge German fire prevented the men from the 1st and 3rd Battalions to progress on the main road from Arnhem, forcing them to choose roads, a move that would waste time and mobility on the ground. Fewer problems were the men of the 2nd Battalion, under the command of John Frost, who moved along the road.
Shortly after, the calm would result in a violent battle. The onslaught of paratroopers on the south side of the bridge would prove fruitless, with German troops to repel one after another, Allied attacks. The only positive note was the inability of the commander of II SS Panzer Group, Wilhelm Bittrich, send one of its divisions to reinforce the defenses of Nijmegen.
The cargo of the SS
The night was marked by the renewed outbreak of violence. One after another, in consecutive waves, the German units were launched to attack the positions defended by the British.
The arms that the British soldiers had proved insufficient to halt the German advance. Still, in unequal combat, the Germans eventually lost 22 armored cars.
Caught by the Germans, General Urquarth - hidden for 40 hours on a farm inside the German lines - has been unable to coordinate and participate in one of the most critical and decisive phase of the battle.
Later, already installed in the Hartenstein Hotel - which was headquartered in command of the troops - took Urquarth finally aware of the plight that they lived in the front. To make matters worse, the second assault wave arrived four hours late and was spread over too wide an area. And as if that was not enough, the paratroopers were forced to defend themselves from attacks by enemy tanks providing only small arms.
Tuesday the scenario became even more complicated. Frost still waiting for the reinforcements needed to win the bridge only the fog that was felt prevented the transport of the Polish Brigade to Arnhem. Urquarth in turn was deprived of supplies.
Given this grim scenario, Urquarth, aware that his forces were hopelessly lost, would ultimately make a decision that was so difficult as inevitable: to terminate the activities of conquest of the bridge, turning back the remaining battalions of his division until Hartenstein, leaving isolated men of the 2nd Battalion. In contrast, the return of these battalions would defend Hartenstein until the arrival of ground forces.
Tragedy in Arnhem
The men of the 2nd Battalion were exhausted. Wednesday, three days after they arrived in Arnhem, the chances of survival were slim to none. The German tanks crossed the bridge freely, forward time and again against the British positions which, at 21, would give final.
The reinforcements would arrive only at the end of the day. After a hard battle with German troops, two hundred men of the Polish Brigade arrived in Driel, and shortly after, crossing the river and join with the British paratroopers. On the following morning, a British cavalry unit connects to part of the airborne forces exhausted and ground forces.
On Saturday and Sunday, with the situation of men Urquarth getting worse from hour to hour, the British infantry reached the opposite bank to that in which they were paratroopers, completely deprived of means of subsistence and defense. The order for withdrawal of troops was given on the morning of September 25. On the evening of that day began the Berlin operation. Rows of soldiers, completely exhausted, walked quietly to the river, boats being collected by the British Second Army. It was over Operation Market Garden.
For the history was one of the most glorious pages of the British Army, written by men of the 1st Airborne Division. Done that, however, were not sufficient to prevent the failure of Operation Market-Garden.
Urquarth forces were virtually annihilated: the more than 10,000 soldiers who fought at Arnhem returned just over 2,700. On the German side, despite having run the battle in your favor, the casualties were also heavy, having lost over 10 days of fighting that lasted about three thousand men.
Once the battle, the Germans withdrew all civilians from Arnhem, leaving this town completely deserted Dutch.
The english version of this article will be available soon. In the meanwhile, the text above was the result of a Google translation from portuguese version to english.