The plan was bold and aimed to end the war
by Christmas. Three Allied airborne divisions parachuted into history near the
cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. They were to secure a corridor 60
miles (96km) from the Dutch border to the crossing over the lower Rhine River
at Arnhem. They needed to capture the vital main bridges at Son, Grave,
Nijmegen and Arnhem.
Further south, the British XXX Corps (30th
Corps) would punch through the German defences on the border and speed to
Arnhem, linking up with the paratroopers along the way.
The operation began exactly as planned. The
paratroopers all landed on target and most managed to secure their objectives
quickly. Meanwhile, XXX Corps smashed through the German crust and raced up the
However, cunning German counterattacks
delayed the tanks from reaching Nijmegen on time. Kampfgruppe Walther and the
107th Panzer Brigade launched limited attacks along the road aimed
at disrupting the British advance. The American 101st Airborne
division fought hard to relieve the pressure, running up and down the road to
meet threats as they appeared. It was the paratroopers of the 101st
‘Screaming Eagles’ that would christen the road ‘Hell’s Highway’, a testament
to the hard fighting.
After securing the Grave bridge, the
American 82nd Airborne Division fought the tenacious German
defenders in Nijmegen. When XXX Corps finally arrived, the two launched a
concerted assault, capturing the bridge in a brilliant assault. But Market
Garden had already fallen seriously behind schedule.