Operation Market-Garden




PLANNING OPERATION MARKET GARDEN
 THE BATTLE OF ARNHEM 17-25 SEPTEMBER 1944
(An abject command disregard of established battle-proven doctrine?)


15 February 2002
(Last revised 2 June 2013)

As a naval intelligence officer and student of military history I became intrigued with the World War II epic action of the British 1st Airborne Division at the Battle of Arnhem, also known as Operation Market-Garden, 17-25 September 1944. I have studied the battle, acquired substantial original source documentation, including Operation Orders and After Action Reports, and toured the actual battlefields in Arnhem, Oosterbeek and adjacent dropping and landing zones at Ginkel and Renkum Heaths, all over a span of nearly forty years. The Battle of Arnhem provides a classic case of the momentum of war, exacerbated by the inordinately extreme egos of the command leadership, exercised in the face of incontrovertible and detailed intelligence and in comprehensive violation of well established, battle-proven strategy, tactics and doctrine. Although the battle ended in defeat for the British paratroopers and glider-borne airlanding troops, their heroic stand at the Arnhem Bridge earned them an undying place in military history, paralleling the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in 200 BC. Basically one half of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, with extremely limited additional elements of the Division (approximately 740 all ranks), withstood the onslaught of elements of the II SS Panzer Corps (9th and 10th Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions) plus other significant German troop elements, for the better part of three days and nights. Under the command of then LtCol John D.Frost MC (later Major-General John D. Frost CB DSO MC) this monumental defense, holding the north side of the main road bridge, was sustained twice as long as that which was planned for the entire division, comprised of some 10,231 personnel, including 2 Wings of the Glider Pilot Regiment whose officers and NCOs were all dual trained as pilots and as combat infantrymen.

Fortunately the Spartans did not have to contend with the military genius of Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount of Alamein, KG GCB DSO PC, OC 21st Army Group and LtGen Frederick Arthur Montague "Boy" Browning GCVO KBE CB DSO, OC 1st Allied Airborne Army. As competent and successful as both these officers may, or may not have been, in other endeavors, neither was familiar to any depth in the hands-on knowledge of actual combat airborne operations. Unfortunately neither was MajGen R.E. Urquhart CB DSO, commanding the 1st Airborne Division. However he had certainly acquitted himself in North Africa serving as GSO1 51st Highland Division, and in direct command of the 231st  Brigade Group through some very hard fighting in Sicily. He did have the good fortune to command 1st Airborne Division for nine months prior to Arnhem, gaining valuable insight into their operation and tactics through several major exercises. But I believe it was MajGen Urquhart’s lack of direct combat experience in airborne operations which precluded his raising more adamant objections during the planning, as certainly MajGen Richard Gale, GCB KBE DSO MC, would have done, and in fact did, albeit without consequence.

Montgomery’s and Browning’s apparent combined ignorance of this new type of warfare was only exceeded by their pompous arrogance, recalcitrance and unbelievably engorged egos. It has been stated that if Montgomery had advanced his concept for Market-Garden as a young staff officer attending the Royal Dutch Military Command College, he would have been cashiered out of the course, and very possibly the army. (Single axis of attack and logistics, lack of infantry support of armor, limited maneuver room (single road on raised embankment) and bad trafficability (flat and marshy) for armor, three major rivers and three canal systems (six bridges), length of time before linking up with the airborne elements, to cite but a few fatal flaws.) Admittedly this is a fairly strong indictment of these two leaders, however I believe an overwhelming case can be made based upon an obscure, thin but incisive, official publication of the British Army which was patently ignored and categorically violated by both these high ranking officers.
Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery

Lieut General Frederick A.M. "Boy" Browning
  The document is entitled, AIRBORNE OPERATIONS, Pamphlet No. 1, GENERAL, 1943 (Provisional), May, 1943. Prepared under the direction of The Chief of the Imperial General Staff. In its 49 pages the pamphlet details "considerations" (read battle proven axioms) regarding the planning and execution of airborne operations. The contents of this document were subsequently further codified and discussed in greater detail in a major volume entitled AIRBORNE FORCES, LtCol T.B.H. Otway DSO, Army Council, HMSO, London, 1951 (Confidential). As some may recall LtCol Otway commanded the 9th Bn, 6th Airborne Division at Normandy. The battalion's mission to neutralize the Merville Battery was decisive and successful, for which he was awarded the DSO.When the overall strategy and planning for Operation Market-Garden are compared with the contents of the pamphlet, it is as if each one of the fundamental elements was reviewed, then categorically ignored or violated. Only four significant individuals questioned the planning, Crown Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, titular CinC of Dutch Forces in exile, MajGen Stanislaw Sosabowski, OC, 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade and Maj Brian Urquhart, Browning's intelligence officer (later Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations). Each was ignored and/or rebuked, and in Maj Urquhart's case, relieved for alleged "battle fatigue". In addition, and most significantly, LtGen Browning reviewed the plan with MajGen Richard "Windy" Gale, OC, 6th Airborne Division, who had commanded that division during highly successful D-Day operations at Normandy, only a few months earlier. MajGen Gale expressed serious reservations regarding the plans for Operation Market-Garden. LtGen Browning chose to totally ignore his adamant recommendations. It is truly ironic that although not classified. the cover of the pamphlet contains two strongly worded admonitions; NOT TO BE PUBLISHED, The information given in this document is not to be communicated, either directly or indirectly, to the Press or any person not holding an official position in His Majesty's Service and THIS DOCUMENT MUST NOT FALL INTO ENEMY HANDS. Apparently it didn't even fall into the hands it should have, let alone those of the enemy.

Returning to the planning and operational instructions detailed in the pamphlet AIRBORNE OPERATIONS compared with the actual planning for Operation Market-Garden, it should be acknowledged that the errors which were made have been extensively defined and analyzed in several extremely well researched and written books. These include definitive works by eminent authors, Cornelius Ryan, Peter Herclerode, Martin Middlebrook, Max Arthur, Robert J. Kershaw, John Fairley, Lloyd Clark, A.D. Harvey and Maurice Tugwell, to name just a few. In addition, ranking actual participants, MajGen Roy E. Urquhart CB DSO OC, 1st Airborne Division, MajGen John D. Frost CB DSO MC OC, 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, as well as key subordinates, have also authored excellent books. However, to the best of my knowledge, no one to date has specifically cited how every significant part and article of the pamphlet was either categorically ignored or violated. In order to do this in a structured manner the pertinent Part number, subordinate article and sub-article will be cited as they sequentially appear. For those who may not be familiar in detail with the actual planning and execution of the operation, a short statement of the acknowledged historical facts will follow each notation, (in bold print enclosed in parentheses). The entire pamphlet is not reproduced herein, so the reader will have to rely on the integrity and objectivity of the author that all pertinent elements are included, and that in the opinion of the author the omitted text would not provide either opposing or mitigating information.
Contemporary Map of the Operational Area of the British 1st Airborne Division during
Operation Market-Garden, September 17-25, 1944 (Reproduced from British Directorate
of Military Survey Map GSG4427 Sheet 6 NW (Arnhem) (click on map to enlarge)

The same map showing the planned drop and landing zones,
the intended major unit perimeters, and other points of interest

AIRBORNE OPERATIONS PAMPHLET No.1 GENERAL 1943 (PROVISIONAL)

PART I.- GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
1. Introduction

2. Characteristics
The characteristics of airborne are their: ---
(a) Great strategical mobility, but comparatively small tactical mobility once landed. (This factor was categorically ignored in the selection of dropping and landing zones.)

(d) Ability to operate for a limited time without ground communications. (See below.)

(e) Vulnerability to tank attack. (This factor was totally ignored in the overall planning of the operation, as well as in the selection of dropping and landing zones.)

(f) Dependence on the RAF for support, supply and transport. (See 8. Below.)

(j) Complicated preparations necessary. (This factor was also ignored, in that three separate lifts were incorporated into the plan.)

6. The ability to operate for a limited time without ground communications
   When used on major operations they should not be expected to operate unsupported by other arms for longer than is absolutely necessary. Airborne troops should not be called upon to act for more than three days unsupported by other troops. (As indicated above, LtCol Frost with a fraction of the division heroically held the north end of the Arnhem main road bridge for almost three days and nights.)

7. Vulnerability to tank attack
   Airborne forces possess few anti-tank weapons. Except in good tank hunting country, they should not be ordered to operate near enemy armoured reserves. (See comments under 38. Intelligence below. In addition Maj B. Urquhart had imagery from a photo-reconnaissance mission he had ordered showing significant elements of the II SS Panzer Corps refitting in the immediate area. LtGen Browning rejected these photographs virtually out of hand.)

8. Dependence on the RAF
   Since the RAF carry, protect and support the airborne troops, no airborne operation can be a success unless the soldier and airman plan, prepare and train for every stage together. There must be complete identity of purpose. The two services must not be thought of as two bodies acting in harmony but as one force with one object and one commander. (RAF Staff planners were extremely conservative, bordering on contentious, throughout the planning process, particularly in regard to the critical choice of dropping and landing zones. In addition, repeated requests for close tactical air support transmitted by 1st Airborne Division from the 19th to the morning of 23 September were either denied or went unanswered. Close air support from the RAF did not occur until the afternoon of 24 September, by which time the battle had already been lost. A combination of factors contributed to this failure including, weather conditions either in the target areas or at the airfields in England, lack of coordination between RAF Transport Command and 2nd Tactical Air Force, disrupted and ineffective communications between ground and air forces, and the lack of effective liaison between HQ First Allied Airborne Army (LtGen Browning) and 2nd Tactical Air Force. There were no liaison officers of either formation in the other's headquarters.)

11.Pre-operational organization
   In order to undertake an airborne operation of any magnitude it will be necessary to release bomber aircraft from their normal tasks. A large number of airfields, of adequate size, must be set aside for airborne forces, gliders, and aircraft. Large scale fighter and bomber diversions and escorts will be required to ensure a measure of safety to the troop-carrying aircraft. In addition, further bombers and fighters will be needed to give direct support to the actual operation on the ground. (See preceding discussion.)
   The object to be achieved by the airborne troops must justify such large scale diversions of air effort. (If Operation Market-Garden had succeeded, it certainly would have justified the diversion of the air effort.)

12. Difference between parachute and air landing troops
In planning operations the differences between parachute and air landing troops must be given due weight. Their special characteristics are described in the following paragraphs.

13. Characteristics peculiar to parachute troops
(a) Dispersed arrival.--Even in the most favourable circumstances parachute troops arrive on the dropping zone dispersed. A stick usually requires not less than 500 yards in which to land. The majority of troops drop some distance from the containers carrying their weapons. Time is necessary for collecting weapons from containers and for the assembly of units and sub-units. A company may take from 15 to 30 minutes from the time it drops until it is ready for action as a whole. The troops are very vulnerable to attack throughout this period.
   Furthermore, through errors in locating the correct dropping zone or through enemy action the units may be scattered over a wide area. Allowance for this factor must be made in allotting troops to each task.

(c) Necessity for acting without ground reconnaissance,--Parachute troops achieve their maximum effect by rapid action. After dropping there will rarely be time for commanders to reconnoitre the ground before issuing detailed orders.  The plan must be decided upon, and the orders to implement it issued, before departure from the base. The care with which personnel are briefed and the accuracy of the information on which the plan is based will largely determine its success. (Having summarily rejected the intelligence and photo-reconnaissance imagery on the II SS Panzer Corps (9th and 10th Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions), LtGen Browning failed to convey this information to 1st Airborne Division.)
"A rather rude surprise", early prisoners taken by British
glider pilots en route to Arnhem are from elements of the
II SS Panzer Corps (note insignia and camouflaged smocks) 
(d) Wide choice of dropping zones.- Parachute troops can be dropped in a great many places where gliders and aircraft cannot be landed. (Consideration of this factor was ignored.)

14. Characteristics peculiar to air landing troops

(b) Support weapons carried. - Gliders or aircraft can bring supporting weapons and certain vehicles to the battlefield. Air landing troops thus have greater hitting power than parachute troops in the attack and greater power of resisting air and ground attack in defence. They are a very valuable reinforcement to parachute troops. (The deployment of LtGen Boy Browning's headquarters on the first day of the operation resulted in the use of thirty-eight Horsa gliders which could otherwise have flown in an air landing infantry battalion (nominally 1064 additional combat personnel) or an anti-tank unit (an air landing anti-tank battery (minus) i.e., less the 8 massive 17Pdrs. This would have meant 16 additional 6Pdr A/T guns, including gun crews, support personnel, prime movers, ammunition trailers and basic ammunition loads.)

15. Rules for employment
   Before considering the possible roles of airborne forces it is necessary to specify, from a close study of the above characteristics, certain rules which must influence their employment: --

(a)Intervention by airborne forces must have a strategic or major tactical effect on operations. (This is one of the very few items which was correctly assessed, and had the operation been successful, certainly would have been accomplished.)

(b)Airborne troops must be employed concentrated: brigade or battalion tasks will be normal for both airborne and air landing troops. Only in rare circumstances will airborne troops operate as companies. (RAF senior officer's diary entry; 'The air plan was bad. All experience and common sense pointed to landing all three airborne divisions in the minimum period of time so that they could form up and collect themselves before the Germans reacted. All three divisions could have been landed in the space of twelve hours or so but FAAA [First Allied Airborne Army] insisted on a plan which resulted in the second lift (with half the heavy equipment) arriving more than twenty-four hours after the Germans had been alerted.')

(c)Airborne forces must not be landed in the face of immediate and alert ground opposition. (Unfortunately the second lift flew directly into fully alerted German antiaircraft defenses adjacent to the dropping and landing zones. Although the fire from small arms up to half-track mounted flak 'Vierling' 20mm quadruple anti-aircraft guns was not devastating, significant unnecessary casualties were incurred by both the 4th Parachute Brigade and the glider borne divisional support elements.)

(d) Night operations are preferable. In any case surprise must be achieved and exploited fully. (The element of surprise was totally lost after the first lift landed.)

(e)The initiative must be retained as long as possible by operating in an offensive manner. Airborne forces suffer a serious disadvantage when forced on a defensive role, because the strength of the force can soon be determined by the enemy and methodically attacked. (This is precisely what the German forces were able to accomplish, around the perimeter at the north end of the main road bridge and the Oosterbeek perimeter around the Hartenstein Hotel.)

26. Allotment of aircraft
   The number of aircraft finally available will influence the number of waves in which the airborne troops are carried. In order to take the fullest advantage of surprise, the first wave should be as strong as possible. A percentage of aircraft and gliders in subsequent waves must be allotted from the outset for the transport of supplies. (35,000 men of the US 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as the British 1st Airborne Division with the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade attached, had to be dropped or landed in three separate areas. The combined assets of 38 and 46 Groups of RAF Transport Command, along with the US 9th Troop Carrier Command, could only carry 16,500 personnel in a single lift. In order to deliver the three and one half airborne divisions comprising the 1st Airborne Corps required a total of 3,790 transport aircraft (2,495 for paratroops, 1,295 as glider tugs). Because of their greater size and objectives being further south in the Eindhoven-Grave area and near Nijmegen, the two US Airborne Divisions were allotted the greater number of aircraft on the first day's lift. To his credit Air Vice Marshal Hollingshurst was willing to commit the two RAF groups to two sorties on the first day. Unfortunately MajGen Paul Williams commanding the US transport element would not agree, citing aircrew fatigue and aircraft maintenance requirements. In addition while the number of aircraft under his command had recently doubled, he was still waiting for added ground crews, and his flight crews were not as experienced in night flying as the RAF. This meant that the 1st Airborne Division would have to be delivered in three lifts over three successive days. This was clearly unacceptable. Not only did LtGen Browning not object to this plan, due in part to a recent heated argument he had with his immediate superior, US LtGen Lewis S. Brereton, Commander, First Allied Airborne Army, but persisted in the allocation of 38 Horsa gliders for the lift of his Headquarters staff, instead of combat troops in the first lift. What is absolutely amazing is the fact that when Field Marshal Montgomery reviewed his copy of 1st Airborne Corps operation order, even he objected! He immediately sent his Acting Chief of Staff, Brigadier David Belchem, to LtGen Brereton's headquarters in order to seek a modification of the lift plan allowing the 1st Airborne Division to be delivered in two lifts at most. In this case Brereton exceeded Montgomery in absolute recalcitrance, citing his own previous edict of no changes once decisions had been made.)

PART II - PLANNING AND PREPARATION

31. Time of  Attack
   In daylight, airborne forces, particularly those in gliders are very vulnerable to attack by fighters and anti-aircraft fire. To ensure a satisfactory measure of safety, a very high degree of air superiority must be gained or the operation must take place at night. Airborne operations carried out at night have the following advantages:- (a) The chances of surprise are greatly increased, because the exact areas of the land and the strength of the forces employed cannot quickly be determined by the enemy. (b) Serious attacks by bomber and fighter aircraft against our troops after landing are unlikely. (c) Aircraft and gliders are then less vulnerable to attack by fighters and aimed light anti-aircraft fire. (d) The final preparations for take-off can be concealed from the enemy. Operations at night have the following disadvantages:- (a) A slower rate of landing must be accepted, especially in the case of gliders. (b) Some inaccuracy in the dropping or landing is inevitable. On a dark night special arrangements must be made for guiding aircraft and gliders. In many circumstances a compromise solution must be adopted. The landing places and objectives may be seized by night and reinforced in daylight. Alternatively, if a heavy surprise attack can be delivered in daylight against areas ill-provided with fighter defence, then the arrival of enemy fighter reserves may necessitate airborne reinforcements and supplies being sent by night. Given good timings, a combination of a daylight assembly and take-off, followed by a landing in darkness, will often be desirable. Dusk is often a favourable time for gliders to land. It gives them a measure of protection, but enough light to arrive in mass. Troops can then assemble and operate in the dark.

The RAF was willing to fly two lifts per day, one at dawn, the other at dusk, but LtGen Brereton and MajGen Williams overruled this. The overriding factor in the eyes of the planners and decision-makers was that most of the aircrews of the U.S. IX Troop Carrier Command, who provided the majority of the airlift, lacked night operational hours, therefore the requisite night navigational and formation-keeping skills. This was probably exacerbated by the distances, density of sorties and the complex timings required by the air plan. In addition to probable pilot fatigue this apparently was also the deciding factor in limiting the aircraft to one lift per day.

LtCol T.B.H. Otway DSO, in his book Airborne Forces, indicates, " In this connection it is interesting to note that the original air plan suggested by 38 Group was for the first lift to arrive over the target area before dawn, thus permitting a second lift to have been made the same day. The land marks were good and there should have been little difficulty in identifying the dropping and landing zones. However, the proposal was not accepted by First Allied Airborne Army because the IX US Troop Carrier Command was not trained up to the standard of night work required".

In his book "Call to Arms", General Sir Richard Gale GCB KBE DSO MC further discusses: "In so far as training techniques and operational procedure were concerned [between British and American Airborne Divisions] we and the Americans were in harmony, and such differences as there were of negligible importance. In air matters, however, there were greater divergencies. These resulted from two related causes; the rapid build up of their Troop Carrier Command and their techniques for navigation, itself the outcome of their rapid expansion. Their pilots came for the most part from the great civil airlines in the United States; they were men of very considerable experience in civil flying, but they lacked knowledge of operational flying in the face of flak and flying at low altitudes on visual pin-point navigation on unknown routes. For these reasons Troop Carrier Command concentrated on flying in formation and flying by day. The British technique, on the other hand, was based on the experience of Bomber Command. Pilots were trained to navigate individually and not to rely on formation flying and all were trained to do so at night. Precise individual navigation at low altitudes was constantly practised."


33. Intelligence
   The plan must be based, and orders given, upon the latest possible information. Intelligence personnel must build the information up in advance and keep it up to date. A balance must be struck between the amount of information needed and the time available for getting it. The intelligence branch must be given detailed instructions as to what information is needed and the dates by which the various items are required. Information will be required about the following:-

(a) Dispositions, strength, armament and morale of the enemy's air and land forces. (Examination of top secret ULTRA code intercepts from 1 to 17 September gave detailed information regarding the disposition of German troop elements in the Eindhoven and Arnhem area, specifically including the ordered movement of the II SS Panzer Corps, on 4 September, to an area notheast of Arnhem. When Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, MajGen Walter Bedell Smith conveyed this information to Field Marshal Montgomery, he belittled the information and dismissed any possible modification to his plan. This fact is further exacerbated by the visit to Montgomery on 6 September by His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands with extensive details of German troop deployments around Arnhem and elsewhere in Holland. Field Marshal Montgomery was again dismissive of this intelligence, even though it was corroborated by the ULTRA data. In addition, and to reiterate, Maj B. Urquhart had imagery from a photo-reconnaissance mission he had ordered showing significant elements of the II SS Panzer Corps in the immediate area, right where Ultra had said they were. LtGen Browning rejected these photographs virtually out of hand.)

In all truth and objectivity the 9th Waffen-SS Hohenstaufen and 10th Waffen-SS Frundsberg Panzer Divisions, comprising the II SS Panzer Corps, were a mere shadow of their former selves, both in equipment and effective troop strength. Both divisions had been badly ravaged by the Allies from the initial D-Day landings in June to the time of the commencement of Operation Market Garden, on 17 September 1944. However, even at reduced strength (approximately 6,000 to 7,000 personnel per division), elements of both divisions, as well as other Waffen-SS units in the immediate and proximate areas of both Oosterbeek and Arnhem, responded to the massive British parachute and glider-borne attack with alacrity, efficiency and resolve. Specifically the immediate and tactically effective “Sperrlinie” (Blocking line) established by SS Oberstrumbannf├╝hrer (Lieut Colonel) Ludwig Spindler (Kampfgruppe Spindler) and SS Hauptstrumf├╝hrer (Captain) Sepp Kraftt actions, proved decisive.

(b) Location of his mobile reserves, especially tanks. (See previous comments)


A particular nemesis to the airborne forces was the Strumgeschutz III,
an assault gun very effectively employed by the German forces as an
infantry support weapon in the urban environment of both Arnhem
and Oosterbeek (click on photo to enlarge)       
(c) Appreciation of the times when intervention by the enemy reserves can be expected if their moves are unhindered.
       
(d) Details of possible objectives

(e) Dispositions of enemy anti-aircraft defences (RAF planners at 38 Group (Transport Command), commanded by Air Vice Marshal Leslie Hollingshurst had failed to obtain current available intelligence on the flak defenses at Deelen airfield, seven miles north of Arnhem. Anti-aircraft batteries as well as all aircraft had been removed after a RAF bomber attack on the airfield on 3 September had rendered it inoperative. These facts were confirmed by a photographic reconnaissance mission flow by No. 541 Squadron RAF on 6 September. Because of this critical lapse Hollingshurst adamantly refused to consider any airborne drops in the immediate area of the Arnhem main road bridge. His argument being that troop carrying or glider tug aircraft after making their run-in would have to turn north directly over heavy flak, and if they turned south there was the danger of collision with aircraft dropping the US 82nd Airborne Division over Nijmegen.)

(f) Any weaknesses in enemy's defensive system.
(g) Location and description of possible dropping and landing zones.
(h) Possibility of capturing transport intact.
(j) Possible use of enemy cable or wireless communications.
(k) Attitude of local inhabitants.
(l) Local supplies available, including water.
(m) Meteorological forecast.

Much of the above information is of the greatest interest to the RAF and both the Army and RAF intelligence personnel must work in close co-operation. (As can be seen from the above discussions there was an abject failure of co-operation between 1st Allied Airborne Army (LtGen Browning), 1st Airborne Division, and the RAF.)

An Expanded Discussion of Intelligence Lapses before Operation Market-Garden

Even using a rudimentary manual pattern recognition analysis, sorting on the single word 'Arnhem' within the massive volume of intercepted and/or decrypted message traffic, an intelligence analyst could gain a fair insight as to the threat in the immediate objective area (underlining added). The following are two examples:

6 September - ULTRA Intercept No. XL9245:…'(2) Headquarters 2nd SS Panzer Corps subordinated Army Group B, to transfer to Eindhoven to rest and refit in co-operation with General of Panzer Troops West and direct rest and refit of 2nd and 116th Panzer Divisions, 9th SS Panzer Division and 217th Heavy Assault Gun Abteilung. (COMMENT: Elements these divisions and 10th SS Panzer Division ordered 4th to area Venlo-Arnhem-Hertogenbosch for refit in XL9188.'

15 September - ULTRA Intercept No. HP242: 'Allies in German reports: (A) addressed to unspecified on evening 9th. 30 British Corps (2nd Br Army) between Antwerp and Hasselt. Bringing up further corps possible. Eleven to fourteen divisions with eight to nine hundred tanks. Photo recce tasks (COMMENT: presumably known from intercepts) indicate probable intention is thrust mainly from Wilhelmina Canal on both sides Eindhoven into Arnhem (COMMENT: further specification of area incomplete but includes "west of Nijmegen and "Wesel") to cut off and surround German forces western Netherlands.'

Quoting Harclerode, '21st Army Group was one of the formations that received ULTRA intelligence. The Chief of Intelligence, Brigadier Bill Williams, was sufficiently concerned about the presence of 2nd SS Panzer Corps, and more particularly that of 9th SS Panzer Division north of Arnhem, that he drew it to the attention of Montgomery on 10 September, after the latter's meetings with Dempsey and Eisenhower on that day. He failed, however, to persuade Montgomery to alter his plans for the airborne landings at Arnhem. Undaunted, Williams tried again two days later with the support of Brigadier General Staff (Operations) in Montgomery's headquarters, who was standing in as Chief of Staff in the absence of Major General Francis de Guingand who was on sick leave. Unfortunately, their warnings fell on deaf ears.

Three days later a further attempt was made to warn Montgomery. Eisenhower's Chief of Staff', Major General Walter Bedell Smith, received a report from SHAEF's Chief of Intelligence, Major General Kenneth Strong, concerning the presence of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions in the area to the north and east of Arnhem. Bedell Smith immediately brought this information to the attention of Eisenhower and advised him that a second airborne division should be dropped in the Arnhem area. Eisenhower gave the matter urgent consideration but was wary of ordering any changes to the operational plan at the risk of incurring Montgomery's wrath. He decided that any alteration could only be decided upon by Montgomery himself and accordingly sent Bedell Smith and Strong to HQ 21st Army Group at Brussels. At his meeting alone with Montgomery, Bedell Smith voiced his fears about the presence of German armour in the Arnhem area, but was waved aside; indeed, Montgomery belittled the information and dismissed the idea of any alteration to his plan.'

One of a series of RAF reconnaissance photos taken 6 September 1944
 (The shadow of the tresses of the Main Arnhem Road Bridge, top center,
can be discerned when this image is enlarged) (click on photo to enlarge)
In addition to Major Brian Urquhart's aerial photo-reconnaissance evidence, which was summarily dismissed by 'Boy' Browning on 15 September, Harclerode cites another individual at HQ First Allied Airborne Army. 'While Browning's staff received only a limited amount of ULTRA intelligence, an RAF air intelligence officer, Wing Commander Asher Lee was alarmed at what he discovered when studying evidence of enemy activity in the area of Arnhem. Lee had previously worked in Section AI3b of the Air Staff, a department which received a large volume of ULTRA material as part of its work in assembling and updating the Luftwaffe's order of battle. Subsequently posted to First Allied Airborne Army, Lee nevertheless had managed to retain access to another ULTRA source and a visit to it produced material which confirmed the presence of enemy armour in the vicinity of Arnhem. On informing Lieutenant-General Lewis Brereton, the American commander of First Allied Airborne Amy (Browning's immediate superior), Lee was ordered to raise the matter with 21st Army Group. He visited Montgomery's headquarters but could find no one who would listen to him.'

Again from Harclerode, 'It was not until 16 September that SHAEF reported the presence in the Arnhem area of elements of 2nd SS Panzer Corps. Intelligence Summary No. 26, published on that date, states: '9th SS Panzer Division, and presumably the 10th, have been reported withdrawing to the Arnhem area in Holland; there they will probably collect new tanks from a depot reported in the area of Cleves'.

In summary, even setting aside the intelligence data developed by the Dutch Resistance (possibly still partially tainted by Abwehr penetration, but corroborated by ULTRA) and presented personally by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands on 6 September, Field Marshal Montgomery personally received, and more importantly summarily dismissed, the following inputs between 10 to 16 September:
• Two face to face direct warnings by his own 21st Army Group Chief of Intelligence, one combined with his own Brigadier General Staff (Operations) acting Chief of Staff.
• A face to face direct warning by SHAEF's Chief of Staff and Chief of Intelligence.
• A further attempted warning by an RAF air intelligence officer from HQ, First Allied Airborne Army (In fairness never delivered, probably because he was of the lowly rank of mere Wing Commander seeking an 'audience' with Montgomery, or for that matter any member of his staff.)

The immediate and repeated dismissal of this intelligence data, is only exceeded by the arrogant and derisive manner in which it was conducted. Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that this attitude precluded any flow-down of available information to field commanders at the division and brigade level. This assessment applies equally to Lieut-General Browning's rejection of a parallel set of information. It is curious that to the best of author's knowledge Browning chose not to document his recollections in a book.

36. Choice of Dropping Zones and Landing Zones
   There are three aspects to be considered in the selection of dropping and landing zones: tactical, technical and RAF.
(a) Tactical aspects

(i) The troops, whether parachutists or air landing, must have a reasonable chance of arriving and forming up before having to fight. (The second lift jumped and landed right in the middle of an ongoing battle.)

(ii) Dropping or landing zones must not be so far from the objective that all surprise is lost before the troops reach them. (Dropping and landing zones ranged from five to eight miles from the primary objective, the main road bridge in Arnhem. In an attempt to land closer MajGen Roy Urquhart and Col George Chatterton, OC, The Glider Pilot Wings recommended that a glider element be used in a coup-de-main attack on both the north and south bridge approaches. The 6th Airborne Division had successfully carried out the exact type of attack on the Orne River Bridge (Pegasus Bridge) at Normandy, a few months before. The following is the ensuing conversation with LGen Browning as related forty years later by Col Chatterton, and contained in Peter Harclerode's excellent book, ARNHEM, A Tragedy of Errors:
        'I went to see General Browning and suggested to him that we were landing too far away but he said that it was out of our hands. It was an RAF decision because they said that the bridge was so well defended by anti-aircraft guns that they wished to keep their tugs away from it. I nevertheless suggested that my pilots could land their gliders near the bridge and although there would be more casualties on landing due to the size and unevenness of the enclosures, it would surely be preferable to landing miles away. When Gen Browning said that no doubt there would be more tugs shot down this way, I suggested that this could be avoided by a remote release, so allowing the tugs to turn back for home well before the bridge. He replied, "George, it's too late. It has all been decided"')

(iii) Care must be taken that the troops are not diverted from their object by having to overcome enemy posts between the dropping or landing zone and their objective. (MajGen Richard "Windy" Gale, OC, 6th Airborne Division, in his meeting with LtGen Browning, strongly advised that at least one parachute brigade should be dropped as a coup-de-main force immediately adjacent to the main road bridge, securing the primary objective until the balance of the division arrived. MajGen Gale was adamant, stipulating that he would have pressed for that condition 'to the point of resignation'. LtGen Browning would not budge, and asked MajGen Gale not to report the conversation to MajGen Urquhart. MajGen Gale verbally conveyed this meeting to Maj Geoffrey Norton, Curator of the Airborne Forces Museum at Aldershot, in the early 1970's; with the stipulation that the information not be made known during the lifetime of any of the personalities involved.)

(iv) In landings by day there should be cover close at hand for the assembly of forces. Covered approaches to the objective are also desirable.

(v) Owing to vulnerability of the troops to tank attack they should be landed in country free from an immediate threat of one. (Again, photo-reconnaissance showing major elements of the II SS Panzer Corps in the immediate area was discounted, and virtually rejected out of hand.)

(vi) Whenever possible alternative dropping and landing zones must be selected beforehand. Arrangements must be made to divert subsequent waves to them if necessary. This is a safeguard in case the initial zone is found to be heavily defended or is otherwise unsatisfactory. (To the best of the author’s knowledge this factor was not taken under consideration during the planning.)

 (b)Technical aspects

(c)RAF aspects

38. Operation orders. Experience has shown that plans hastily prepared during the course of operations lead to a serious loss of effort. Therefore detailed orders or instructions will be prepared for all operations planned a considerable time ahead. These will cater for the original landings, the alternative plan, and for all tasks in which airborne troops are likely to be used in subsequent operations. Nevertheless, airborne troops must be trained to produce the orders and instructions needed for a plan prepared at short notice.
   The details of the plan are usually settled at a series of conferences between commanders and the various staffs. A written record of decisions will be kept. This may take the form either of orders issued from time to time or of minutes of the meetings. These written decisions will prevent confusion in a necessarily complex plan. (The planning for Operation Market-Garden, the largest airborne assault in history, including three Allied airborne divisions, the Polish 1st Independent Airborne Brigade Group, two wings of The Glider Pilot Regiment, British Army 30 Corps, two major RAF Transport Groups, the US 9th Troop Carrier Command and substantial additional supporting elements, was limited to only seven days. Unfortunately the fluidity of the entire tactical situation in the Netherlands, and rapidly solidifying German defenses, demanded rapid action in any event.)

41. Liaison with the main forces.
   When airborne troops are co-operating with major military forces, close touch must be maintained between them. Liaison officers, provided with adequate means of communications, should be exchanged. It will sometimes be desirable for airborne officers to be detailed to accompany the leading armoured or other formations. Patrols must be sent out, both by the airborne forces and the main forces, to make contact at the earliest opportunity along previously agreed routes. In some circumstances it may be possible for inter-communication aircraft to be used between the airborne and the main forces. Nothing which would add to the liaison between the forces must be neglected. (The Wireless Sets No. 19HP, (limited to two because of weight and dimensions) included in 1st Airborne Division’s communications plan were intended to provide linkage to 30 Corps artillery units. These sets were jeep mounted and provided voice communications over a nominal 25 mile range with a power output of 30 watts. By about 1000 hours on 19 September one of the division’s No. 22 sets (also jeep mounted), after previous intermittent receive-only traffic, was able to pass to 30 Corps via a forward Canadian unit that the main Arnhem bridge was intact and held at the north end. Given the range of the No.22 set this transmission had to be not more than 20 miles.
  In his excellent book, Echoes From Arnhem, William Kimber and Co. Ltd., London, 1984, then Capt Lewis L. Golden, OBE (Adjutant, 1st Airborne Divisional Signals) states, ‘Market showed that all the signals’ fears over the inadequacy of their radios in the special conditions were justified. The extended dispositions of 1st Airborne Division, its distance from 1 Airborne Corps Main at Nijmegen, the difficult communication characteristics of the area in which the fighting was taking place, and heavy radio interference had often resulted in sporadic contact at best, and sometimes even no communication at all, on particular links. What was suffered through insufficient power was made worse by fierce enemy action. Ad hoc arrangements, both for air support and in the formation of 1 Airborne Corps Signals, had contributed to the failures.’

 Although it had no apparent impact on communications, and it is not even mentioned in Captain Golden’s book, it is of passing interest that the No. 38 sets of the XXI Independent Company (Pathfinders), were withdrawn just two weeks before the operation, and replaced with early production models of the vastly superior Wireless Set No. 42. Some experts contend that this radio was the finest wireless set to come out of WWII. Configured as either a manpack or vehicle mounted unit, the set had a 10 watt output and was operable on the march, with a nominal range of 25 miles.

 To the best of the author’s knowledge no alternative/redundant provisions for communications via aircraft-borne communications links were provided, or even considered during the planning. In addition please see the discussion under PART IX – Intercommunication.

42. Preliminary training and rehearsals
   Before an operation of any magnitude can be undertaken, a period for preparations and rehearsals is necessary. Each service will first require a short time in which to settle domestic details. Special training will be required for pilots in dropping parachutists and for towing gliders. Training with the RAF will then be carried out. (There were no rehearsals of consequence.)

43. The importance of simplicity.
   The plan must be as simple and flexible as possible. The following pitfalls and complications should be avoided:-

(g) A plan completely dependent on the arrival of any one sub-unit. (In order to compensate for the distances from the dropping and landing zones to the Arnhem main road bridge, a critical element of the planning was to deliver the armed jeeps of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, commanded by Maj Freddie Gough, in the first lift. The entire squadron in a coup-de-main would then make a dash to the bridge, seize and hold it, pending the arrival of the 1st Parachute Brigade. While relatively well armed with rapid fire Vickers K-guns the jeeps were not armored, thus extremely vulnerable to ambush, which is exactly what occurred approaching the Wolfheze railway station.)

PART III - ASSEMBLY OF FORCE AT TAKE-OFF AIRFIELDS

PART IV - THE APPROACH

PART V - THE LANDING
61. Choice of landing and dropping zones
See Part II, Para 36.
PART VI - ACTION AFTER THE LANDING
66. Defence of dropping zones and landing zones
   The methods of defending the dropping and landing zones depend upon the comparative importance of taking an immediate advantage of the surprise obtained by the landing and that of conducting more deliberate operations.
If the landings are made near to the enemy, it will be essential to attack and surprise the enemy in the vicinity before he has time to discover the presence of airborne troops and launch a counter-attack. To succeed in this, companies must be landed in separate areas around their objective.
If landings are made in areas remote from the enemy positions, it may be necessary to concentrate the unit before beginning the approach to the objective. The concentration will be protected both by troops allotted by division or brigade and by each unit providing for its local defence.
Areas used for landing reserves and supplies will be protected under divisional arrangements. An assaulting parachute battalion will be severely handicapped if ordered, in addition to its main task, to defend a dropping zone. (The entire 4th Airlanding Brigade, delivered in the first lift, was relegated to this task, with the consequence being a significant splitting of the attacking force at a critical initial point of the battle. This specific critical factor was reiterated by Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H. Otway, in his official history entitled, AIRBORNE FORCES, Imperial War Museum, London, 1990, p.292; 'Lessons…88. An airborne division is designed to fight as a whole, but if, as at Arnhem, it is split and part carried in a second lift some 24 hours later, the effective strength for immediate offensive action will be reduced to that of a brigade, which is what happened.' This statement is taken virtually verbatim from Major-General R.E. Urquhart's Report on Operation "MARKET', LESSONS, PLANNING; 223.)

68. General
   Differences between the tactics of airborne and other troops are due to the relatively weak strength of airborne forces, their lack of heavy supporting weapons, shortage of mechanical vehicles and to the fact that airborne troops have to fight the entire battle exposed to enemy attacks from every direction. (This consideration was further exacerbated by the requirement for the bulk of the 4th Airlanding Brigade to maintain a defensive perimeter around the initial dropping and landing zones awaiting the second lift. This division of forces substantially diminished the weight of the initial attack eastward from the landings at Ginkels and Renkum Heaths, through Oosterbeek, and on into Arnhem. This ended in the resultant defense of two perimeters, one at the main road bridge, the other at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek.)
        It is important that they should be used for tasks where:-

(a)The enemy defences are weak. (Had the available critical intelligence data on German forces, specifically in regard to the II SS Panzer Corps, been appreciated and utilized, the decisions regarding selection of the dropping and landing zones, as well as the number of lifts, might well have been different.)

(b)Heavy air support can be given. (See discussion in 8 above and 77 below.)

©Motorized mobility is not needed. (See 43 (g) above regarding the planned use of the armed jeeps of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron in a coup-de-main dash to the main road bridge.)

69. Movement between the dropping or landing zones and the objective
To avoid the loss of time between the dropping or landing zones and the objective, enemy defences between them will be avoided where possible. (Given the distances which had to be covered, primarily on foot, rendered this virtually impossible.)

PART VII - AIR SUPPORT OF AIRBORNE OPERATIONS
75. Advance on Objective
During the advance, in addition to bombardment of the objective, enemy mobile reserves must be pinned to the ground.

77. Impromptu targets for air attack will be engaged through the normal army air support control methods. The control will be with the RAF commander in the base area. Demands for support will be made through the tentacles with airborne headquarters. Direct communication between the troops on the ground and aircraft in the air is required. (Effective close tactical air support ranged from at best sparse to virtually non-existent. See the Discussion in 8 above.)
        Full use will be made of ground/air recognition.

PART VIII - ADMINISTRATION
(There does not appear to be any obvious command disregard for the directives contained in this part of the pamphlet.)

PART IX - INTERCOMMUNICATION
(Although communications throughout Operation Market-Garden were, and remain historically, a highly contentious issue, there does not appear to be any obvious command disregard for the directives contained in this part of the pamphlet. It is instructive to note that the lack of continuous effective communications in the operational environment (distances, built-up urban areas, polder and copses) of Holland has been cited by many of the commanders as a major problem. This specifically includes MajGen R.E. Urquhart, as well as LtGen F.A.M."Boy" Browning. Capt Lewis Golden, OBE, again in his book, addresses communications during the entire operation in extremely well researched detail. It suffices that LtGen Browning's contention as late as Friday, 22nd September that "the picture of Urquhart's situation was apparently very vague", cannot be supported by signals' records or the full context of message traffic originated by his headquarters or received from 1st Airborne Division. This purported "ambiguity" resulted in LtGen Browning's declining the offer on the 22nd by MajGen Edmund Hakewill Smith, OC, 52nd Lowland Division (Airlanding) to fly glider-borne elements of his command into the immediate battle area in an attempt to relieve the beleaguered troops.

A Retrospective on Intercommunications during Operation Market-Garden from the Perspective of Modern Telecommunications Technology and British Army Communications Procedures

In February 2004, on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, John Berry, the Managing Director of  radiocommunications specialist ADTI, Ltd., conducted an in-depth technical analysis and published a White Paper entitled, ‘Communications at the battle of Arnhem: A modern day technical analysis’ which can be found at: http://www.atdi.co.uk/content.asp?id=56&pageid=2&subpageid=7. Subsequent to the publication of that analysis, and drawing upon its findings, Maj John W. Greenacre of the British Army, while in attendance at the Advanced Command and Staff Course, published a paper entitled, ‘Assessing Reasons for Failure: 1st Airborne Division Signal Communications during ‘Operation Market Garden” in the journal, Defence Studies of Autumn 2004 which can be found at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a714000101&db=all.

It is hoped that most readers will acknowledge that ranked even higher than logistics and intelligence, effective communications has been and remains, the most important element of warfare.

Without going into the in-depth details of each author’s excellent analysis (which those interested certainly can do using the cited URLs), two fundamental concluding points are made.
The first, by Perry, being that the technical performance capabilities of the two major wireless sets employed, the Wireless Sets No.22 and No.68 were capable of achieving a range of  > 6 to 10db signal to noise ratio (modern military communications planning uses a 13db ratio as excellent) sufficiently adequate for reliable voice communications from the on-set of operations on September 17, 1944.

Maj Greenacre’s analysis concurs with this assessment, He attributes the failure to lack of implementation/maintenance of correct communications procedures by commanders and signals staff of the 1st Airborne Division. He further states, ‘Many risks were accepted during the planning of Operation ‘Market Garden’. One of those risks was that communications for 1st British Airborne Division would be stretched. Deane-Drummond advised Divisional HQ of the difficulties that were likely to be encountered and the risk that this represented. ‘It was known, it was explained, it was recognised, it was accepted.’ The signals plan therefore had to be formed in the knowledge that they would be operating at the very limit of their resources. There was little flexibility available in the signals plan and adequate safeguards against breakdown either were not available or possible or were negated by the situation during the battle. Consequently when procedural mistakes were made the plan did not stand up to the situation.’ In conclusion he cites a prophetic quotation, ‘No signal plan [is] an isolated affair’.

In a addition to a background in intelligence, which initiated my original interest in the Battle of Arnhem, I have a reasonably extensive background in systems engineering. Essentially systems engineering is the discipline used to integrate total systems in order to achieve a given quantifiable level of performance, as well as maintaining, reliability (redundancy), maintainability (ease/speed of repair), availability(operability) and survivability also at given measured levels, all achieved within what is called a life cycle cost. It  incorporates, the total operational environment, human operator(s), hardware subsystems, software subsystems, data transfer, normal operational, as well as alternative (casualty), modes of operation/ procedures, and most importantly the specific detailed interfaces between each of these elements. It includes the use of operational research, computer modeling/simulation, systems analysis, and various other engineering knowledge. In most final system  design configurations a carefully balanced compromise of all these factors must be struck. With that as a background I would like to draw an analogy to the delicate and demanding task of airborne operational planning as it evolved in World War II, and more specifically in the case of Operation Market-Garden.    

With that perspective I would like to discuss what can be termed comprehensive negative synergy or ‘the perfect storm’. It is my personal opinion that this is precisely what resulted from the planning leading up to Operation Market Garden. Any one erroneous planning factor can impose a risk factor. However, when almost a comprehensive set of planning factors are in error, this does not constitute a balanced compromise. It is a preordained recipe for failure. My contention is that planning decisions that were made resulted in the following:

        Loss of the element of surprise
        Loss of mass (Effectively down to brigade strength for 2 days, due to having to hold the DZ/LZs)
        Degradation in communications (Impact of DZ/LZ distances to objective on range of available communications equipment)
        Loss of command and control at all levels (Due to lack of communications)
        Severe degradation in logistics, loss of re-supply including spare wireless sets and batteries(Due to lack of communications)
        Degradation in concentration of  available firepower (Due to lack of communications) However the superior level of training and implementation of communications procedures within the Light Regiment, Royal Artillery overcame any technical difficulties, and consistently provided exemplary fire support during the entire course of the operation.
        Loss of available limited maneuver element (Due to lack of communications)

Conclusion
In all fairness to Field Marshal Montgomery, in his autobiography, he attributes the failure of Operation Market-Garden to four factors. First that the operation was not regarded at Supreme Headquarters, i.e. by General Eisenhower, “as the spearhead of a major Allied movement on the northern flank designed to isolate, and finally to occupy, the Ruhr – the one objective in the West which they the Germans could not afford to lose”. Second that the airborne forces at Arnhem were dropped too far away from the vital objective – the bridge (he takes full blame for this mistake). Third was the weather. Fourth was the fact that “the 2nd SS Panzer Corps was refitting in the area, having limped up there after its mauling in Normandy. We knew it was there. But we were wrong in supposing that it could not fight effectively; its battle state was far beyond our expectation.”

Given the fluidity of the European Theatre of Operations extant in late August of 1944, compounded by the extreme stretch of logistical support confronting the Allied Forces, a great deal of latitude must be afforded the field commanders in the conduct of combat operations at both a tactical and strategic level. The overall concept of Operation Market-Garden was if not brilliant, certainly unique. As regards the planning and execution, it can be said, "the devil was in the details". Unfortunately those details contained in a seemingly obscure pamphlet of the British Army, in the opinion of the author, were categorically ignored and violated. The elements, which appear to have substantially contributed to this disregard, are in nominal ranked order of importance as follows:

• Violation of basic axioms of airborne warfare by senior commanders (specifically multiple lifts versus a single lift thus dividing the mass of the1st Airborne Division, and losing the element of surprise for follow-on elements.)
• The lack of knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of airborne troops, and/or the application of that knowledge, by senior commanders (specifically the selection of DZs and LZs of excessive distance from the division's objective, given its inherent limited mobility. Taken in combination with multiple lifts the two factors produced a compound negative effect.)
• The inordinate egos and inflexibility of senior commanders (this factor permeated the entire planning process)
• The repeated abject rejection of critical intelligence by senior commanders
• Total disregard of advice and counsel from combat proven airborne commanders by senior commanders
• Lack of interoperability between the Airborne Forces and the RAF and USAAF Troop Carrier Commands
• Disregard for the resilience, defensive operational capabilities and tactical improvisation of German Forces by senior commanders
• The momentum of combat operations

Taken in totality the compounded errors were overwhelming, if not synergistic to a negative effect, in guaranteeing failure. It is only at the top that commanders, and as importantly their staffs, can integrate all the requisite elements of victory. When it is achieved it is the commander who receives the laurels; conversely in failure he has to take the mantle of responsibility. In the case of Operation Market-Garden it is my personal opinion that Field Marshal Montgomery and Lieut-General Browning failed on both counts.

As a result of all these factors it was indeed, as LtGen Browning is purported to have commented, perhaps "A Bridge Too Far".