The American Side of a Bridge Too Far
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Review by Edward M. Coffman
By early September 1944, after the breakout from Normandy, the Allies began to think that they might wind up the war within months. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery believed that a single thrust under his command could quickly seize Berlin. He outlined his plan to the Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who accepted it for a different reason. Anxious to shorten the distance of the supply line from Omaha Beach, Ike thought that the port of Antwerp, which Monty had seized, would serve that purpose. However, Monty did not tell him that he did not control the land entrance to that port.
The British planned and commanded Operation Market Garden, which depended on the seizure of bridges across several rivers by the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions so that British armor and infantry units could make a quick advance to help their airborne division take Arnhem. The assumption was that the Germans were in disarray and would be unable to put up much resistance. There were, however, more German troops in the area than Allied intelligence realized until shortly before the battle.
When the American division commanders, James M. Gavin (82nd) and Maxwell D. Taylor (101st), received their plans, they were astounded by the huge areas and several bridges they were expected to take and hold for the British advance. In this book, the author concentrates on the efforts of the two American divisions during the intense fighting in the first four days of the battle—September 17th through the 20th.
The under-strength American divisions went into action without artillery, which came in later with additional troops on gliders. The first-day jump was from a low altitude. Gavin broke two vertebrae when he landed, but continued in active command. Indeed, the author goes into extensive detail about his part in this campaign. The young general had a good understanding of tactics and inspired his men by often leading from the front and taking part in fire-fights. He also recognized the importance of the high ground in his sizeable area and made appropriate placement of his troops to protect it.
The Americans cleared the way for the British ground troops, but they arrived too late to rescue their airborne division in Arnhem. Until mid-October, the Americans continued to fight the Germans as Monty held them in position for another month. His hope, however, for taking Berlin was shattered. Meantime, Canadian troops and the American 104th Division did force the Germans out of the 60-mile estuary inland from Antwerp. Ike’s desire for a supply port was achieved in time to set up the supply line to the troops the day before the German attack that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Hardcover Book : 512 pages
Publisher: New American Library ( June 05, 2012 )
Item #: 13-582235
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 inches
Product Weight: 24.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)