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Posted: 1/8/2006 8:34:18 AM EDT
Now you know, and knowing's half the battle.

Why Bridge Too Far attempt was doomed
MURDO MACLEOD mmacleod@scotlandonsunday.com

IT WAS the Bridge Too Far which was the last British defeat of the Second World War. The audacious attempt to race through the Netherlands from Arnhem and sweep into Germany failed to shorten the war and cost 8,000 Allied lives.

But today Scotland on Sunday can reveal the secret which doomed some of Britain and Poland's finest soldiers and gave rise to a series of myths about the ill-fated battle.

High levels of iron in the soil around the Dutch town of Arnhem and its infamous bridge caused radio interference and prevented the beleaguered Allied soldiers from communicating with their headquarters. Previously it was though the problem was caused by faulty radios.

That meant vital supplies fell into German hands and Allied soldiers were killed or captured because they had run out of ammunition.

Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Arnhem, took place in September 1944, following the June invasion of Normandy, and involved parachuting thousands of British and Polish troops deep into occupied Holland.

The Allies by this time had advanced deep into Belgium almost to the Dutch border but the advance suddenly slowed due to their out-running supply lines. Supplies were still being transported from the Normandy beachheads, 500 miles away.

The plan involved dropping paratroopers at strategic bridges in the Netherlands such as The Son, The Grave, Nijmegen, and the main prize, Arnhem.

This was to be taken and held by elite British paratroops and once all the bridges were captured, the British 1st Army would be able to drive up the road linking them, providing a springboard to the Rhine and Germany.

Had the plan succeeded, the war might have been over by the end of 1944. But unexpectedly strong German resistance, including the presence of Nazi Panzer divisions, meant the Paras were surrounded and defeated before the Allied ground forces could reach them.

The heroic attempt was immortalised in a 1977 film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

The geological secrets which doomed the British operation were discovered by chance by a local historical expert, Adrian Groeneweg, who helps run the Dutch museum related to the battle, the Airborne Museum Hartenstein.

Groeneweg said: "We have been involved in studying every aspect of the battle and why the Allied forces had such problems. A friend told me that from medieval times there was a large iron-ore industry in the area and there was a lot of iron in the soil and that got me thinking. Then someone else told me that even today our army's signal units cannot communicate by radio from one end of the area to the other when they are on exercise here.

"We decided to conduct some tests using the same type of radios as they had at the time and sure enough, the interference was so strong that they were unable to communicate."

In September 1944, the radio interference meant the scattered British units could not tell their commanders that the areas where their supplies were dropped were under Nazi control. All the supplies were falling into the hands of the Germans, meaning the Allies soon ran low on ammunition.

The Germans co-ordinated attacks on the Paras using tanks and artillery and called in extra soldiers.

In desperation, the stranded British sent messages by carrier pigeon or by runners who risked death or capture to get messages through enemy lines.

But the Allies could not hold out long enough for their main army to relieve them. The Battle of Arnhem was lost.

In the aftermath of the battle a host of myths emerged about the radios, including the suggestion that they had the wrong kinds of crystals or faulty batteries.

Groeneweg said: "One of the problems was that the British troops and their weapons were dropped in three initial phases, meaning they had to wait for all their equipment to arrive, which meant they lost that element of surprise.

"It doesn't take away anything from the heroism and bravery of the men. And in the Netherlands today we are very thankful for their sacrifice."

Laurie Milner, a senior researcher with the Imperial War Museum and an expert on Arnhem, said: "Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The plan was full of flaws. [Generals] Eisenhower and Montgomery failed to agree and failed to kick it off until it was almost too late. The two German SS Panzer divisions which had been moved into the area meant that the parachutists were pinned down. And to make matters worse they had been dropped into an area regularly user by the Germans for training and so the German commanders knew the place very well."

The doomed mission meant that the British lost some of their finest troops. Milner said: "In the run-up to Arnhem they scoured the army for the best soldiers they could find."

The film, A Bridge Too Far, was the only one to deal with the failed strategy to liberate the Low Countries. It had a galaxy of stars including Dirk Bogarde as General "Boy" Browning.

It was General Browning who is reputed to have uttered the immortal line about Arnhem, saying, "But sir, I think we may be going a bridge too far" when he met the Allied top brass to oversee the plan which he had to execute.

news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=32722006
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 1:11:54 AM EDT
Thats a damned interesting read.

The best laid plans........
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 1:32:26 AM EDT
tag for sobriety.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 1:50:08 AM EDT
So the Limeys are still making excuses for that clusterfuck?
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 5:58:01 AM EDT
Maybe if Montgomery hadn't been so damn slow in getting on with it they might not have been left out in the cold. Always worried about his flanks, never willing to just push forward, overly cautious.

What a waste. GB should have replaced/retired him to "commander of training" or something after North Africa.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 6:07:47 AM EDT
Great read!

Link Posted: 1/22/2006 6:09:14 AM EDT
The regrouping SS Panzer formations in the area had a little something to do with it.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 6:11:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Sukebe:
So the Limeys are still making excuses for that clusterfuck?



+1.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 7:15:41 AM EDT
with all the stars in the movie, they only mention Dirk Bogarde in the article
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 7:23:11 AM EDT
Interesting, but from what I have read there were more problems than that. From what I have read, I would conclude the operation was a failure for several reasons.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 7:29:47 AM EDT
Hubris is what doomed Market Garden.

There is a good reason Monty was cast aside by Eisenhower after this.

Note: Any man who signs his name for the ONE battle he won outright is a jackass.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 8:36:31 AM EDT
Bullshit.

That operation would have been a dismal failure even if the fucking radios worked perfectly.

Of all the Allied screw ups in WW II, this was likely the worst since it came so late in the War with us in virtual total control and pushing the Axis back badly on all fronts.

Here are just a couple of "other" more salient reasons Market-Garden failed"

-Unbelievably bad intel...and the criminally negligent ignorance of that intel that was available. NO op like that should be undertaken until the geographic layout of the target area is better known and the composition of the enemy forces in the area are better known.

-Intel indicating a sizable force of SS Panzers WAS ignored. That is a FACT.

-Because of the physical structure of the Low Countries, there was only ONE road into the area through which an entire 30 Corps had to travel to reach Arnhem. Since it was the only road, the defending Germans could concentrate their men and weapons to hold up the Brit advance. This they did very effectively.

-The radios did screw up. Communications were not adequately tested before the battle.

-There were no "joint" comms. The Allies didn't communicate over radio circuits worth a damn

-There were no adequate DZs or LZs near the major objectives...the bridges. The paras had to hump too far to reach their objectives. The gliders were just as much of a problem.

-TACAIR resources were inadequate.

-Thinking that lightly armed paratroops could achieve the goals, within the time constraints given and HOLD those bridges was ludicrous. NO plan remains static. The genius of a general is really how well he adapts to the ever-changing battlefield. "NO PLAN SURVIVES FIRST CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY!"

-There was a sizable German force in the Arnhem area including a battle hardened 9th SS Panzer. No way paras take on a Panzer division alone.

And the biggest reason it failed? The damn thing was Monty's plan!


Patton was right...they should have given 3rd Army the gas. He'd have killed Germans and run nearly to Berlin with the resources wasted on Market-Garden.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 8:55:14 AM EDT
Let's see, speed is of the essence...

I've got an idea! Let's shove an entire armored corps down a single highway, with several sizable rivers that need to be traversed!

Iron in the soil my ass.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:08:19 AM EDT

Originally Posted By raven:
High levels of iron in the soil around the Dutch town of Arnhem and its infamous bridge caused radio interference and prevented the beleaguered Allied soldiers from communicating with their headquarters.


I've been involved with radio for a long time and this is quite amazing. I'm not going to call BS without more info, but in general, high ground conductivity IMPROVES radio propagation. If high ground conductivity prevented radio communications then it would be impossible for ships at sea to communicate. As it is, overwater paths are the most efficient.

There may well be some local anomaly that increases the RF noise level, but I would tend to doubt that it's the ground conductivity.
</hamgeek>
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:16:26 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:17:43 AM EDT

Iron in the dirt? Hmmm.

And all this time I thought it was Bush's fault.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:35:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 9:36:58 AM EDT by vito113]
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:42:31 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Gamma762:
I've been involved with radio for a long time and this is quite amazing. I'm not going to call BS without more info, but in general, high ground conductivity IMPROVES radio propagation.



+1. No ham radio operator EVER complains about having soil that is TOO conductive!

However, the article makes several references to "interference", which imples the generation of electrical noise or radio signals on the same frequency. How a pocket of Iron ore would accomplish that, is anyone's guess.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 9:51:20 AM EDT
Monty refusing to release the 101st AB back to U.S. command so they could re-form, re-arm and REST will forever damn his as a self important ass-covering elitist.

Yes the Brits lost more men than we did BUT we rarely used men as cannon fodder the way Monty and the other decendants of "Nobles" did...

P.O.S then and now,
Pete
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 10:32:33 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 10:36:27 AM EDT by Rockdoc]
I have been interested in Market Garden ever since reading A Bridge too Far in 1974. As a radio nut, I was also facinated with the issue of radio comms.

Since this article is written by journalists (not known for their comprehension of technical topics) we will have to find the primary source to learn just what the "interference' was.

To add some technical details to understanding the fubar commo of Market-Garden, I cite the following sources.

Arnhem - A tragedy of errors by Peter Harclerode identifies the radio sets used by the Airborne units, primarily the manportable No. 68, 250 milliwatt, 1.75 to 5.2 mcs, with a range of 3 miles, and the No. 22 vehicle/static set, 1.5 w, 2-8 mcs, with a range up to 5 miles. Under battle conditions these ranges were probably optimistic.

The limitations of these sets were well known and better ones were supposed to be developed.

Unfortunately, these units were what where available and were inadequate for the job. From the 1st Airborne Division drop zone to the Arnhem bridge was 8 miles and 15 miles to Nijmegen.
See the website below for radio details.

home.wxs.nl/~meuls003/wireless/wireless.html

HF sets are very sensitive to antenna orientation, horizontal or vertical polarization, height, and ability to ground the set. I suspect these sets were operating via ground-wave propagation. Think about how well CB walkie-talkies operating at 250-500 mw work at any kind of distance. I suspect that the iron-rich soil simply compounded the problems at Arnhem.

I love radios that glow inside. I wish I had kept the boat anchors I used to have. Now they are 'collectors items' and are getting outrageous.

These books are on my want list.

home.wxs.nl/~meuls003/progress4.html


If you believe that the lessons of needing adequate commo were learned from Marked-Garden, remember what happened at Desert 1 and Grenada.

Another case of 'for want of a nail the battle was lost'.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 10:46:25 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 10:51:12 AM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By Tomislav:
The regrouping SS Panzer formations in the area had a little something to do with it.



Ya think...

And maybe a bad plan is just a bad plan. Maybe trying to move a whole Corp up a narrower corridor and hoping the bridges are still there is just not a good idea.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 10:55:46 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 10:58:04 AM EDT

Originally Posted By vito113:

Originally Posted By Max_Mike:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:
The regrouping SS Panzer formations in the area had a little something to do with it.



Ya think...

And maybe a bad plan is just a bad plan. Maybe trying to move a whole Corp up a narrower corridor and hoping the bridges are still there is just not a good idea.



Montgomery never did grasp the concept of armoured warfare. His tactics were ideal for the Western Front in 1918 but fatally flawed for 1944. Horrocks and Dempsey were far better Generals.

ANdy



Yea... and he was actually lucky with Market Garden.

Montgomery’s little disaster could have been far worse… if the German had blown all the bridges to start with and effectively trapped 2+ whole airborne divisions.
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 11:39:35 AM EDT
Hehe. I love all the arm-chair military stategists in these forums. Funny stuff!

Hind sight is 20/20. Always remember that. Always.

Monty wasnt a fool. He was just a bit over confident in his troops. While the British had fine infantry and airborne soldiers, they couldnt walk on water like Monty believed.

And... I'd be very willing to bet that Operation: Market-Garden would have been a success if the radios had worked. Looked at how close it actually came to working the way it was. If the British 1>would have gotten their supplies, and 2> the air support would have kept pounding the German positions around Arnhem... I do believe the Op: M-G would have been a "success".
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 11:53:09 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 11:53:57 AM EDT by Max_Mike]

Originally Posted By JRBL1A1:
Hehe. I love all the arm-chair military stategists in these forums. Funny stuff!

Hind sight is 20/20. Always remember that. Always.

Monty wasnt a fool. He was just a bit over confident in his troops. While the British had fine infantry and airborne soldiers, they couldnt walk on water like Monty believed.

And... I'd be very willing to bet that Operation: Market-Garden would have been a success if the radios had worked. Looked at how close it actually came to working the way it was. If the British 1>would have gotten their supplies, and 2> the air support would have kept pounding the German positions around Arnhem... I do believe the Op: M-G would have been a "success".



Armchair military strategists in these forums are not the only military strategists to condemn Market Garden for what it was… stupidity.

OK you want to play what if…

And what would have happen if the Germans happen to blow the bridges when the airdrops stated… as some of their commanders wanted to do. Then you have the better part 30,000+ trapped.

It was a stupid plan conceived by a second rate General… Montgomery was a piss poor offensive commander.

If the radios had worked that was not going to remove the 2 SS divisions that the paratroops had dropped on to. Market Garden was never going to be a success unless the Germans did something stupid that caused it to work.


Link Posted: 1/22/2006 12:07:53 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 12:08:52 PM EDT by vito113]
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 2:45:45 PM EDT
It's pretty damning when the biggest critic of Monty in this thread is a Brit himself.
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