Assess The Reasons For The Failure Of Operation Market Garden
The failure of operation market garden cannot simply be placed on one solitary factor, intelligence interpreters could most definately have improved the job they carried although it is unfair for them to shoulder most of the blame. There are various other themes that must be considered when deciding to what extent the failure of operation market garden, for example the tactics employed, insufficent planning, and the weather, as these are of equal importance to the failure of operation market garden.
Intelligence it could be argued was the most important reason for the failure of operation market garden. This is a view shared by the official german explanation of the failure , stating that the allied intelligence was unaware of the II panzer corps, in the area north east of arnhem. However Christopher Hibbert states “ the simple and tragic fact is that the British airborne division landed at arnhem without any clear idea of the german forces it would be likely to meet there although information on which a reliable estimate might have been made was available in london and at more than one allied headquarters on the continent” . Lloyd Clark comes to the conclusion that failures in terms of intelligenc e led to failures in other areas. For example, the belief that extortionate losses would result if the 1st Airborne Division were landed closer to Arnhem led to the dropzones and landing zones being a great distance from their objectives . This exaggerated intelligence meant that it gave the germans more time once the allied divisions had landed, in which to construct valuable defences that would take more time to destroy. This is important as one of the main reasons Operation Market-Garden was supposed to be succesful was due to the Airborne speed and suprise the attack was to be carried out with, meaning that befor e the attack had already started, it had been diluted as a result of intelligence. Another way in which the failure of operation market garden is shown through intelligence is the warning of the intensity of flak zones. However whilst this was down to intelligence, it was more the fact that the intelligence interpreters still chose to implement the attack even though the plotted flak circles were increasing greatly and before the attack had started, extended over the dropping and landing zones . Philip Bradley states that adequate information was available but that it was overlooked due to Euphoria brought on by recent success. There is however a view shown by Lloyd Clark that the intelligence supplied to the 1st Airborne division was actually extremely good in terms of quantity of troops and armour both in and around Arnhem however the flaw was in the fact that the intelligence knew nothing about the quality of the troops around Arnhem. This led to the Allied forces being over confident of the chances of success being based on poor quality of troops. This shows a varied view on the intelligence, and it is extremely unfair to blame the outcome of the whole operation on this, as it was a series of factors combining with other factors that led to the failure.
Many historians disagree with intelligence being the main factor for the failure of operation market garden. Lyman Kirkpatrick for example in captains without eyes, amongst many other factors blames poor planning as the main reason for the failure at Arnhem. He writes “we were wrong in supposing that the II S.S Panzer Corps could not fight effectively” . This ultimately shows poor planning and Montgomery’s hastiness to attack and gain the decisive victory that he so craved and had various efforts been put into gaining intelligence about the II panzer corps ability then perhaps the attack might not even have happened. Flying in broad daylight is also a factor in why Operation Market-Garden failed. The United States Airforce understandably didn’t agree to a night drop and therefore it was agreed to drop during the day. The combination of slow aircraft and the drop being carried out in the day, gave the German defence too much time to enable them to gather a suitable defence that could ultimately end the battle. Planners of Operation Market-Garden were also blind to the fact that the operation was so large that when the attack was unleashed it was under resourced in a great deal of areas, this is shown through the fact that the operation was supposed to be based on speed and surprise, as it did not have heavy weaponry or a great deal of vehicles . Had careful and precise planning taken place the outcome could have been far different. One of the main problems of the planners of the operation was that in order for the mission to succeed it would be essential for every uncontrollable variable to swing in favour of the allied forces. It also placed over optimism in the forces, for example the XXX corps were placed on an incredibly tight schedule. This schedule broke down on the first day showing failure to almost begin from the outset of the Operation. The 1st Airborne Division were supposed to aid the advance of XXX corps and with the drop and landing zones being so far away from their objectives this made it almost impossible to accomplish. This as shown earlier meant that the Germans could establish considerable defences that took time to defeat therefore setting XXX corps even further behind on a schedule that they needed to be extremely tight to. Another error that the Planners made was that the drops made into Holland were spread ou
t over three days which was important as troops were needed to fight for the all three of the main bridges.
Another extremely important factor that must be considered is that of the commanders and various leaders of battalions. General Browning had a desire to impress his superiors, as it was possibly his last opportunity to lead his airborne corps into battle. Browning made the mistake of taking up valuable transportation by moving his headquarters which were more useful in England to Holland. Another senior officer who could be partly blamed for the failure of operation Market-Garden was Horrocks. He was hesitant when he needed to be decisive and constantly changed the angle of his attack, however Horrocks was working with extremely limited supplies of munitions and also had an extreme lack of air support which he needed, which had proved decisive in other battles and success in North West Europe in 1944, and was a decisive blow that the air support wasn’t present in Operation Market-Garden. There was support for five days of the operation however the missions were relatively small: ninety seven sorties for the 82nd Airborne division on the first Monday; 119 for the 101st Airborne Division on Friday; a few for the British again on Saturday; 22 for the British again on Sunday and a further 81 for them on the last Monday . This shows it to be a considerable factor in the failure of Operation Market-Garden.
In conclusion, in terms of intelligence there was clearly a problem in co-ordinating with the Dutch forces in finding an alternative route to Arnhem that could have prevented fighting and provided more soldiers for the attempt on the Bridges. It is extremely difficult to blame one factor for the failure of Market-Garden however most of this blame must go to planners who were so convinced they should carry out this attack, most of all Montgomery was so urgent to make sure it was Britain that gave the knock out blow to the Germans and so was too Hasty.
Badsey, Stephen, operation market garden and the politics of the British army.
Lloyd Clark, Arnhem
Christopher Hibbert, Arnhem
Philip Bradley, Market garden, was intelligence responsible for failure?