This date in history 61 years ago
Blogger Don Singleton does a This date in history post to his blog every day. I usually read it to be reminded of what happened in the past. Since I was a child I was always a history buff.
Today I read Don's post, but without prompting I remembered what happened today in 1944. British and US troops led by Field Marshall Montgomery launched Operation Market-Garden. An invasion of Holland spearheaded by the dropping of 35,000 paratroopers in front of British ground forces. The Operation's goal was the seizure of the Rhine river bridge at Arnhem, first by the British 1st Parachute Division aka The Red Devils and later re-inforced by British Ground troops led by 30 corps.
The bold stroke by the usually cautious Montgomery to end the war by Christmas was an immense failure. Allied troops were not able to maintain a bridgehead over the Rhine and were forced to withdraw less than 10 days after the battle began. No British or American troops would again cross the Rhine till March of 1945.
A myriad of reasons were at fault for Market-Garden's. From faulty planning to 2 German panzer divisions resting in the Arnhem area to dropping the Red Devils 6 to 8 miles from their objectives. Monty deserves much of the blame, because much of what happened could easily have been foreseen. Maybe if his brilliant Chief of Staff Freddie DeGuinand hadn't been hospitalized at the time of MG, he could have possibly dissuaded his boss from undertaking this operation that was costly in American and British lives.
Military historians have been arguing about it ever since. The battle was chronicled in both book and film. Corneilus Ryan wrote A Bridge too far, published in 1974. In 1976 it was made into a star studded movie directed by Richard Attenborough. The book is a must for any military history buff. The film is good if somewhat flawed. Gene Hackman's try at a Polish accent being one problem with the movie.
Ever since seeing the movie in a Ft. Lauderdale theatre, I been a buff of this small bit of World War II. Reading Ryan's book multiple times, and viewing the film a similiar amount. At least when I was younger, I haven't touched the book in years. I did write a report on it for school, in the 12th grade I guess.
Later on I sifted through all three volumes of Nigel Hamilton's biography of Field Marshall Montgomery. Monty was a very complex man, probably the second biggest personality in 20th century British history only to Winston Churchill. The biography is well worth the read, but there is one problem. It only hints at Monty's homosexuality, something Hamilton wrote about 20 years after his first books were published.
If anything is learned from Market Garden, its that proper military planning is essential. Unpleasent facts can't be ignored for too many lives will end when they do. The British and US troops fought bravely even in failure. Lets never forget that.
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