Master Sergeant Kenneth B. Drury
United States Army Sergeants Major Academy
07 January 2015
Operation Market Garden was the largest Joint Airborne Combat Operation of World War II. The operation was arguably one of the worst failures in the planning and execution of offensive operations against Germany during the war. Fortunately, the lessons learned from this operation are still applicable for today’s leaders serving in Joint Military Operations. At the strategic level, leaders must understand that their personal, national and political interests may not always coincide with that of their partnered leadership. At the operational level, coordinating with and taking into account the recommendations of each element of the Warfighting Function Cells is essential to mission success. At the tactical level, leaders must fully understand the conditions of mission success and keep the focus and momentum of their Soldiers directed at the accomplishment of those goals. Joint Force Leaders in today’s military can still benefit from the lessons learned in Operation Market Garden.
Market Garden: Joint Lessons Learned On 17 September 1944, Operation Market Garden commenced with an Allied airborne offensive attack against the Germans in Holland. The initial operation conducted by the 1st Allied Airborne Corps, consisted of two American Airborne Divisions (82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division), the 1st Airborne Division from England, and one Polish Airborne Brigade. In total, over 34,000 Airborne Paratroopers jumped onto drop zones throughout Holland in an effort to secure bridges along the Rhine River. Simultaneously, the plan was to reinforce the airborne units at the bridge locations with the British XXX Corps as the armored unit marched eastward along the Rhine River. The goal was to push the Germans out of Holland and provide a secured Allied approach into the German industrial city of Ruhr. There paratroopers of this operation performed heroically and the Allied forces experienced some success early on in the campaign. However, as the XXX Corps reached Nijmegen, they stalled due to heavy enemy contact, lack of resupply, and rugged terrain. This stall prevented the XXX Corps Armor to reach the 1st Airborne Division in a timely manner and resulted in heavy casualties and the eventual defeat of the Allied offensive operation in Arnhem (Badsey, 1993). This paper will analyze the failures of Operation Market Garden and provide lessons learned for future military leaders conducting operations in a joint environment.
Events Leading to Operation Market Garden According to MacDonald (1963), on 06 June 1944 Operation Overlord of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy began. During this operation, the Allied Army gained a logistic foothold in France used to build up forces. From this time through the end of July 1944, progress into the European theater of battle was slow because of heavily fortified German positions and rough terrain along the coastline of France. The slowness of progress did however provide an advantage to the Allied Forces. The Allies were able to reconstitute much of the equipment, armor, and personnel that was lost on the initial invasion. It also bought the Allied Forces time to organize and establish a command and control plan going forward. At the end of July 1944, the Allied Forces were in favorable shape with 25 Divisions commanded by United States Army General Omar Bradley and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Overall in command was General Dwight D. Eisenhower serving as the Supreme Allied Commander (1963). General Eisenhower developed an offensive plan to attack the Germans and drive them back into Germany where they would secure victory. The plan involved Field Marshall Montgomery moving east, securing Belgium and eventually seizing the Ruhr Valley of Germany.