Antony Beevor, using many overlooked and new sources from Dutch, British, American, Polish and German archives, has reconstructed the terrible reality of this epic clash. Yet this account is about much more than a single dramatic battle; it looks into the very heart of war.
The British fascination for heroic failure has clouded the story of Arnhem in myths, not least that victory was possible when in fact the plan imposed by Montgomery and General ‘Boy’ Browning was doomed from the start.
On 17 September 1944, General Kurt Student, the founder of Nazi Germany’s parachute forces, heard the growing roar of aeroplane engines. He went out on to his balcony above the flat landscape of southern Holland to watch the air armada of Dakotas and gliders carrying the British 1st Airborne and the American 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. He gazed up in envy at this massive demonstration of paratroop power.
Operation Market Garden, the plan to end the war by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond, was a bold concept: the Americans thought it unusually bold for Field Marshal Montgomery. The cost of failure was horrendous, above all for the Dutch, who risked everything to help. German reprisals were pitiless and cruel, and lasted until the end of the war.
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‘Complete mastery of both the story and the sources’ Literary Review
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