Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Why did Operation Market Garden fail so spectacularly and yet general Bernard Montgomery was not removed from command?

Even Montgomery caught 'victory disease'.  They all thought that they were chasing a routed German Army at this point and that illusion only ended with the Battle of the bulge.

As it was, this might well have worked if no serious German resistence was encountered.  all those mistakes disappear behind an advancing front.  Instead they ran into recuperating German divisions that were in peak fighting condition having been rotated out of the front.  this was not going to end well even if the original plan had been conservative.

Seven days of planning boggles the mind though and says a lot about the real readiness of the forces at hand.

Why did Operation Market Garden fail so spectacularly and yet general Bernard Montgomery was not removed from command?

Originally Answered: Why did Operation market Garden fail so spectacularly and yet general Bernard Montgomery was not removed from command?

Montgomery, Eisenhower, and Bradley confer.

“General, I think you’re going a bridge too far,” was the comment of one of the officers shown the incredibly ambitious plan plan conceived by Montgomery that depended on seizing several bridges on the way to Arnhem.

The operation was tremendously rushed. Montgomery first proposed it to Eisenhower on September 10, 1944, and the operation kicked off on September 17 — seven days to plan and prepare the biggest airborne operation of the war.

And it was Montgomery’s plan. Obviously he could not control every detail and could not personally lead the many different units and elements involved, but it was his idea and he proposed it vigorously to Eisenhower.

The concept was so radical that Omar Bradley said he would have been less surprised if the famous teetotaler Montgomery had shown up at Eisenhower’s headquarters roaring drunk, rather than proposing such a plan.

Historians tend to agree with Bradley. Anthony Beevor, a prominent British historian, published a thoroughly researched book on the operation in 2018 entitled “Arnhem 1944: The Battle for the Bridges,” which was a best seller in Britain and earned glowing reviews. In an interview, he described Montgomery’s plan like this:

“It was a very bad plan, right from the top and right from the start. Montgomery tried to impose his plan against the instructions of Eisenhower and his own War Office. In any airborne operation, the British Army left the planning to the Royal Air Force or consulted them. Montgomery refused to do that and was convinced that the RAF was cowardly. He had no idea about airborne operations but he laid down the law. General “Boy” Browning then told the American air force commanders the plan but they pointed out that it couldn’t be done.

“This was because the airborne distances were greater than the calculations Browning had made and that they couldn’t stick two gliders behind each tug aircraft. The days were also shorter and, crucially, this meant that they couldn’t have two lifts on the first day. All of the assumptions were completely turned upside down and Browning should have said to Montgomery, “We must re-think the whole thing.””

Beevor published a scathing summary of Montogmery’s slipshod planning of the operation in the BBC History Extra website in 2019:

Why Did Operation Market Garden, The Allies' Battle for Arnhem, Fail?

A month earlier, the mood among the Allies had been very different, as their forces routed the Germans in the concluding phases of the Battle of Normandy. As they advanced towards the Reich, the Allied commanders now had to decide on the next step to take. It was here that the disastrous plan was born. At the heart of the failure in preparation lay the ambition of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who had commanded the Allied ground forces in Normandy. He wanted to seize control of Allied strategy by being first across the Rhine so that General Dwight D Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, would have to give him full priority in supplies and command over American formations. The prospect of ‘jumping the Rhine’ with an airborne operation leading all the way to the bridge at Arnhem, the northern route into Germany, would force the First US Army to support him on his right flank. To do this, Montgomery needed the First Allied Airborne Army, formed on 2 August 1944 on the order of Eisenhower, who thought a single agency was required to coordinate airborne and troop carrier units. Despite Eisenhower’s devotion to balanced Allied relations, its leadership was lopsided. US general Lewis Brereton’s staff consisted mainly of US air force officers. The only senior British officer was Brereton’s deputy, Lieutenant General Frederick Browning. Matters were not helped by a strong mutual dislike between Brereton and ‘Boy’ Browning. The only characteristic the two men shared was vanity. More like this Browning, a hawk-faced Grenadier Guards officer with the air of a matinĂ©e idol, was married to the author Daphne du Maurier. Although brave, Browning was highly strung. He was desperate to command an airborne corps in action. His barely concealed ambition, combined with a peremptory manner, did not endear him to American paratroop commanders. On 3 September, Montgomery met General Omar Bradley to discuss an airborne operation in south Belgium across the river Meuse. They agreed to cancel it, as Bradley wanted the troop carrier aircraft to deliver fuel to Patton’s Third Army. But Montgomery had not been straight with Bradley. He promptly ordered his chief of staff to organise an airborne operation “to secure bridges over Rhine between Wesel and Arnhem”. This was to be called Operation Comet, an idea in keeping with Montgomery’s ambition to lead the main push into Germany. Needless to say, Bradley was furious when he discovered that Montgomery had tricked him. The crossing at Arnhem, which the Allies destroyed in the autumn of 1944. (Photo by Pen & Sword /SSPL/ Getty Images) Freezing out the air force ‘Boy’ Browning was far from alone in his desire to use paratroop and glider forces in a decisive way. American generals longed to try out the new airborne army. Churchill also wanted the operation to boost British prestige. Victory euphoria following the rapid Allied advance from Normandy to Belgium fuelled a mood of optimism. Unfortun

Nevertheless, Eisenhower felt he couldn’t say no to a plan that gave the western Allies a chance to seize Berlin and end the war by Christmas. Since Ike had approved it, he couldn’t very well fire Monty for proposing it. Besides, Monty was the most famous British combat commander, and sacking him would have caused an uproar.

The Allies had plenty of failures and fiascos during World War II. The Americans had Kasserine Pass, Anzio, Rapido River, and the Hurtgen Forest, among others, on the negative side of the ledger. Failure didn’t necessarily result in the officer responsible getting sacked. (Although it sometimes did.) Ike accepted Market-Garden as a good try gone bad, and got on with the war.

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