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Operation Market Garden......Mission Impossible?

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Ref para 1, there was no time for thorough research and the 20/20 hindsight referred to by Pterandon shows there was no real need. MG was viable, as shown by how close they came to pulling it off, and most of the blame for its failure can be justifiably and provably laid at the door of various British commanders, and excluding Montgomery.

Ref para 2, sorry but this is an enduring myth based on the self-serving AAR by Krafft, commander of the SS Panzergrenadier replacement training battalion quartered near Oosterbeek; this was the only training unit in the Oosterbeek area, and the only German unit between the 1st Airborne Division's landing area and the Arnhem bridges on 17 September. I have carefully cross-referenced Krafft's account with the War Diaries of all the 1st Airborne Division units involved and none of the SS claims to stopping or even slowing the 1st Parachute Brigade's advance stand up to scrutiny. Also, IIRC the presence of Germans in that area was mentioned in the int reports used in the MG planning and briefings and was, quite rightly with historical hindsight, considered insufficiently important to merit special measures.

ExMercian (V)
Kraft' War Diary of the battle is littered with exaggerations of what he and his men are supposed to have done. Middlebrooke points it out in his book as does Bergström.
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
It is nowadays enerally accepted that Market Garden failed at Nijmegan rather than Arnhem.

Swedish Historian Christen Bergström makes a point of it in his two volumes on the operation.

For the last part, Glider Pilot Louis Hagen wrote in his memoirs that an SS-Division of the old order would have eliminated 1st Airborne at Oosterbeek quite easily so there is a lot in what you write.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that MG essentially failed initially at Oosterbeek/Arnhem due to poor planning & leadership and lack of urgency in the first twelve hours or so of the Operation, and that Nijmegen stymied any chance of pulling it back.

Ref the last para, while the Oosterbeek perimeter only got away with it for as long as it did because of the poor performance of all the ad hoc units on the west of the perimeter, the elements of 9 SS Panzer Division pushing in from the east did not really do that much better either; on at least two occasions they were within pissing distance of fragmenting the Airborne perimeter to be mopped up in detail, but stopped short due to a pattern of fighting by day and regrouping by night, which allowed those defending the Oosterbeek perimeter to do the same.

Ex-Mercian (V)
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
Kraft' War Diary of the battle is littered with exaggerations of what he and his men are supposed to have done. Middlebrooke points it out in his book as does Bergström.
Indeed, but Middlebrook still gives Krafft credit for the deed as does Kershaw, and another book cites Krafft's supposed actions as an exemplar of German operational efficiency; I suspect this is largely because there is a translated copy of Krafft's report in the archives at Kew. I haven't seen the Bergström work you refer to, but OTOH you don't seem to have seen my two books on MG, both of which cover this point and the general German dispositions around Arnhem on 17 September in some detail in support of my argument as to where the blame actually lay; the second one was published last year after eight years work, and seemed to go down quite well. :)

Ex-Mercian (V)
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Indeed, but Middlebrook still gives Krafft credit for the deed as does Kershaw, and another book cites Krafft's supposed actions as an exemplar of German operational efficiency; I suspect this is largely because there is a translated copy of Krafft's report in the archives at Kew. I haven't seen the Bergström work you refer to, but OTOH you don't seem to have seen my two books on MG, both of which cover this point and the general German dispositions around Arnhem on 17 September in some detail in support of my argument as to where the blame actually lay; the second one was published last year after eight years work, and seemed to go down quite well. :)

Ex-Mercian (V)


Can you tell me the name of your two books please? I am always looking to learn more on the subject.
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
Can you tell me the name of your two books please? I am always looking to learn more on the subject.
Sure, no problem. First was:

William F Buckingham, Arnhem 1944: A Reappraisal (Stroud: Tempus Publishing, 2002)

second, and I've just noticed it has a thread in the Book Club forum which I shall duck into directly:

Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation MARKET GARDEN, 17-25 September 1944 (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2019)

all the best,
exMercian (V)
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
Now I'm going to have to block him, as OC Domestic has already threatened me with divorce if I buy any more books this month...
Well there's always next month, and you can sell it to OC Domestic as a multi-purpose purchase as it's a bit of a tome, large enough for a doorstop. :)

exMercian (V)
 
Ref para 1, there was no time for thorough research and the 20/20 hindsight referred to by Pterandon shows there was no real need. MG was viable, as shown by how close they came to pulling it off, and most of the blame for its failure can be justifiably and provably laid at the door of various British commanders, and excluding Montgomery.

Ref para 2, sorry but this is an enduring myth based on the self-serving AAR by Krafft, commander of the SS Panzergrenadier replacement training battalion quartered near Oosterbeek; this was the only training unit in the Oosterbeek area, and the only German unit between the 1st Airborne Division's landing area and the Arnhem bridges on 17 September. I have carefully cross-referenced Krafft's account with the War Diaries of all the 1st Airborne Division units involved and none of the SS claims to stopping or even slowing the 1st Parachute Brigade's advance stand up to scrutiny. Also, IIRC the presence of Germans in that area was mentioned in the int reports used in the MG planning and briefings and was, quite rightly with historical hindsight, considered insufficiently important to merit special measures.

ExMercian (V)
My bold. In your opinion who stopped the 1st and 3rd Parachute Bn's from advancing down Leopard and Tiger routes respectively. I have always believed that Kraffts blocking line did this.

In all the books I have read on the subject of MG, they have all mentioned the blocking line as the reason those battalions were not able to advance.

IIRC the reason Frost's 2nd Batt were able to get into Arnhem along the bottom Lion route is because the blocking line didn't reach that far down.

Most of the books I have read have been first hand accounts, a few are by historians. I prefer first hand accounts.
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
My bold. In your opinion who stopped the 1st and 3rd Parachute Bn's from advancing down Leopard and Tiger routes respectively. I have always believed that Kraffts blocking line did this.

In all the books I have read on the subject of MG, they have all mentioned the blocking line as the reason those battalions were not able to advance.

IIRC the reason Frost's 2nd Batt were able to get into Arnhem along the bottom Lion route is because the blocking line didn't reach that far down.

Most of the books I have read have been first hand accounts, a few are by historians. I prefer first hand accounts.
Righto, two separate issues here, which are i. what Krafft actually got up to with his blocking line and ii. why the 1st & 3rd Parachute Battalions did not advance down the LEOPARD & TIGER routes. I'll come back to ii. later and deal with Krafft's alleged blocking line first if I may. Here is something I put together in another forum earlier this year [Warning - LONG POST]

Hauptsturmführer Sepp Krafft’s SS Panzergrenadier Ausbildungs und Ersatz Bataillon 16, sometimes referred to as Bataillon Krafft, was a replacement training unit billeted near Oosterbeek, three and a half miles east of Wolfheze and thus midway between the 1st Airborne Division’s landing area and Arnhem proper. With between 306 and 435 men organised into two infantry and one heavy weapons kompanien, Krafft’s command appears fairly formidable on paper but almost half its personnel were officially classified as not yet combat ready. On the morning of Sunday 17 September the preparatory pre-landing bombing around the landing area prompted Krafft to move his infantry units 2 Kompanie & 4 Kompanie out of their billets for impromptu training in the woods and heath land to the north-west of Oosterbeek while 9 Kompanie, the heavy weapons unit, remained at its billets. Krafft thus inadvertently placed two-thirds of his Bataillon between the 1st Airborne Division and its objectives and on observing the landings he moved west and set up a tactical HQ at the Hotel Wolfheze in the woods just east of LZ Z. From there he despatched 2 Kompanie to reconnoitre toward the landing area, called 9 Kompanie forward to act as a mobile reserve and set 4 Kompanie to establishing a line of outposts running inside the woods bordering the landing area centred on the Hotel Wolfheze. After becoming disoriented in the woods and briefly emerging onto the edge of LZ Z, from where they claimed to have hit four gliders with machine-gun fire, 2 Kompanie returned to the Hotel Wolfheze and assisted in establishing the outpost line. The timings are unclear but the outpost line appears to have been at least partially in place by c.15:45.



According to Krafft’s After Action Report (AAR) his Bataillon then held the line for the remainder of the afternoon until darkness fell in the early evening, inflicting significant casualties on the British Airborne troops before withdrawing north to the overall German blocking line to regroup; they were subsequently involved in the fighting on Tuesday 19 September against the British third lift on LZ L and the north face of the Oosterbeek Pocket. However, Krafft’s AAR was not intended to provide an objective record of events for posterity. Rather it was intended to ingratiate him with his SS superiors with an eye to personal advancement in standard National Socialist fashion, and is consequently somewhat as variance with the verifiable evidence, particularly with regard to supposedly blocking the 1st Parachute Brigade’s advance into Arnhem in the first hours of MARKET. However, Robert Kershaw’s It Never Snows In September credits Krafft with the deed in detail, James Lucas & Matthew Cooper’s Panzer Grenadiers cites Krafft’s AAR as an exemplar of German operational skill and efficiency and Middlebrook’s Arnhem 1944: The Airborne Battle, while pointing out the inconsistency between Krafft’s account and those of British participants, nonetheless gives the SS commander partial credit for the deed. Quite why Krafft’s account has been taken at face value is unclear, but I suspect it is because a translated copy of it resides in the UK National Archives at Kew (File AIR 20/2333 ‘16th SS Panzer Grenadier & Reserve Battalion Report’) and folk assume its presence there automatically lends legitimacy.



Be that as it may, the British participant accounts, and specifically unit War Diaries are actually the key to debunking Krafft’s account, by cross-referencing them across time and location. According to this the first British unit to make contact with Bataillon Krafft appears to have been Major John Winchester’s glider-borne 9th Field Company RE on the north-eastern edge of LZ Z which had an officer badly wounded by machine-gun fire on landing, likely from Krafft’s 2 Kompanie. The 9th Field Company was tasked to secure the Hotel Wolfheze a mile or so east of the LZ and moved off at 15:10 but the HQ element and half the Company was blocked by machine gun-fire and set in at a track junction in the woods c.500 yards east of the post-landing RV. The remainder of the Company reached the Hotel Wolfheze, which was serving as Krafft’s Command Post, at c.18:00 but were unable to secure it and lost one dead and two badly wounded in the attempt. At c.19:00 the Company HQ perimeter shot up a party of six SS who may have been seeking to outflank the Hotel attackers, killing three and capturing an MG42; the Sappers at the Hotel withdrew to the main Company position at c.19:30, possibly under cover of a shoot from the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment RA. In all, Bataillon Krafft’s initial move toward the landing area thus led to a three hour skirmish that cost both sides a handful of casualties and prevented the 9th Field Company from occupying its planned HQ location on the eastern perimeter of the landing area. While Bataillon Krafft was clearly responsible for blocking the 9th Field Company RE, the latter was not part of the 1st Parachute Brigade and it was not intended to advance into Arnhem, being part of the landing force tasked to hold the landing area for the second lift the following day.



The second contact was with the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, which was tasked to take the bulk of its complement of armed Jeeps and seize the Arnhem road bridge in a coup-de-main attack. The glider borne component was on the ground by 13:35 but the Squadron was not fully assembled until 15:30 and the twenty-eight Jeeps of the coup-de-main did not move off for Arnhem until 15:40, following a route into Wolfheze, across the railway level crossing there and then east along the Johannahoeveweg paralleling north side of the railway line. At c.15:45 the lead Section of two Jeeps triggered an ambush set just moments before by elements of Bataillon Krafft’s 4 Kompanie; The ambush knocked out both Jeeps, killed or wounded all those aboard and sparked a drawn out but inconclusive firefight during which another NCO from a party sent forward to investigate on foot was also seriously wounded. The Germans called down mortar fire on the stalled Reconnaissance Squadron from 16:00 and thirty minutes later the Squadron commander was summoned to Division HQ. Thereafter the Squadron remained in place for a further two hours, despite the supposedly vital status of the Reconnaissance Squadron’s mission there was no attempt to ascertain the strength and extent of the German blocking position or to find an alternate route around it to Arnhem, and then withdrew to the landing area at c.18:30. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the coup-de-main mission was shelved while awaiting the Squadron commander’s return, and then quietly dropped altogether when he failed to reappear. The precise reason for the Squadron’s lack of application is unclear, but its commander had previously expressed serious misgivings about the mission and this may have been shared by the unit as a whole. The key point is that a mission of potentially vital importance was stopped and then abandoned virtually on the edge of the landing area following a skirmish that cost two Jeeps from a total of twenty-eight and a dozen or so casualties; while Krafft may have passed off the incident as a full-scale attack by two full companies in his self-serving report, he can nevertheless be credited with blocking one part of the British advance on Arnhem, albeit for underlying reasons and not by part of the 1st Parachute Brigade.



In addition to this Bataillon Krafft did make contact with two of the 1st Parachute Brigade’s units. The first was with the 2nd Parachute Battalion as it was moving south-east across LZ L en route to its designated riverside LION route to Arnhem. Shortly after moving off at 15:45 A Company’s lead platoon was approached by three cars and two trucks from Bataillon Krafft moving along a track running south-west from the Hotel Wolfheze and across the landing area. All the vehicles were comprehensively shot, up killing fifteen of the passengers with a further fifteen being taken prisoner. The second unit was the 3rd Parachute Battalion, which made contact with Bataillon Krafft twice as it moved along is designated centre TIGER route toward Arnhem via Oosterbeek. At c.17:15 the lead platoon from B Company ran into a half-track mounted 20mm gun supported by infantry as it approached a crossroads just west of Oosterbeek; the vehicle disengaged by reversing into a side road and then it or another engaged again farther down the 3rd Battalion column before withdrawing again. In all the incident held up the 3rd Battalion’s advance for ten to fifteen minutes and cost the British two dead and five wounded. The second contact occurred at c.18:30 when elements of Bataillon Krafft opened fire on A Company at the tail-end of the 3rd Battalion column with machine-guns and mortars. As the head of the column was already on the move at this point A Company would likely have been content to return fire while advancing away from the attackers but the Brigade commander, who had been conferring with the Division commander nearby, had other ideas and ordered A Company to mount an attack. This sparked an arguably needless two-hour fight that in addition to precious time cost the paratroopers eighteen casualties including two dead and the SS forty dead and a dozen prisoners, the moreso as the Brigade commander ordered a halt for the night in Oosterbeek at 19:30. Thus while the 3rd Parachute Battalion’s advance was halted during the fight with elements of Bataillon Krafft, this was again not due to the SS attack but additional factors separate to it.



All this clearly rebuts Krafft’s claims to have blocked the 1st Parachute Brigade’s advance into Arnhem for several hours while inflicting considerable casualties. Krafft’s first contact was an extended skirmish with the 9th Field Company RE which was not even seeking to leave the landing area, while the second involved ambushing lead elements of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron followed by another extended skirmish where the ‘blocking’ was largely self-inflicted. With regard to interfering with the 1st Parachute Brigade, Bataillon Krafft had no contact whatever with the 1st Parachute Battalion and its sole contact with the 2nd Parachute Battalion appears to have been the ambush that eliminated Krafft’s motorised reconnaissance element on LZ Z; of the two contacts with the 3rd Parachute Battalion, the first held up the advance for less than an hour and the second occurred at the rear of the 3rd Battalion column while the head was actually on the move away from the attack toward Arnhem. The SS broke contact on both occasions and as such both incidents amounted to merely harassing rather than blocking the 1st Parachute Brigade’s advance.

Hope that helps, will respond to point ii. as soon as poss.

exMercian (V)
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
No mention of Brereton? (he said, raising a quizzical eyebrow, Roger Moore/Simon Templar stylie . . . )
Assuming you are alluding to the justified one lift per day business that originated with Williams at US 9th Troop Carrier Command, I'd argue that's not really relevant to what happened on the ground at Arnhem or on the GARDEN advance. Which is what I was referring to. :)

exMercian (V)
 
[snip]
I've just noticed it has a thread in the Book Club forum which I shall duck into directly:

Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation MARKET GARDEN, 17-25 September 1944 (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2019)
I just now read the to the end of the Amazon preview. I shall now have to do one of two things, in the following order:

Make my local library service buy a copy, with me at #1 on the waiting list, or (and heaven forfend, 'cos I'm a tight git ;-) ) put my hand in my pocket and buy my own.

You had me at the bit that includes "more like a peacetime exercise than war" and "arguably to the point of stupidity"*, which closely match a sense that grew on me over the years - yet I don't recall seeing such thoughts clearly expressed in any of the histories that I've read.

The only slack I can find to cut the bloke, is that he was (IIRC) a mere Captain at the outbreak of war, his name at that rank appearing on the wood panels bearing former student's names on the first floor landing of the Old Staff College at Camberley (where I occupied an office until leaving the army). I can't remember his year, but I'm plumping for 1936 because I am certain it was an even number.
- - - - - -
* Stonkernote: At a lower tactical level and more recently, the same reluctance to be properly critical of heroes still hangs - IMHO - around H Jones and his conduct of the near-debacle that was the Goose Green fight.
 
Assuming you are alluding to the justified one lift per day business that originated with Williams at US 9th Troop Carrier Command, I'd argue that's not really relevant to what happened on the ground at Arnhem or on the GARDEN advance. Which is what I was referring to. :)

exMercian (V)
Yes indeedy. I'm absolutely no expert on the logistical/support pressures facing the allied DC3 fleet in 1944 (any more than I am about latter-day airline operations), but Brereton's decision is presented almost universally (by my reading, anyways) as pusillanimity in the face of overly-imagined risks.

Whether or not that is fair, Urquhart was saddled with a 3-day buildup that would have challenged the planning abilities of far less pedestrian Divisional commanders, and I'm intrigued that you've not only kept him off the more-or-less-prescribed Brit sh!t list, but made it clear you side with him, and am keen to hear more
 
No mention of Brereton? (he said, raising a quizzical eyebrow, Roger Moore/Simon Templar stylie . . . )
Brereton didnt order Gavin to go for the Groesbeek heights, Browning did.
 

Pteranadon

LE
Book Reviewer
There is one point l must make with your otherwise fine argument.....

Would Adolf Hitler (still at that time one of the worlds richest and most powerful men, really have surrendered unconditionally surrendered to the Western Allies? He still had an iron grip on Germany and several million fighting men under his command.

I would go as far as to say that with better planning and preparation Market Garden could have succeeded but time was not on the Allies side as you (rightfully) pointed out.

Finally l do realise that Overlord was merely to seize the necessary Landing Beaches and inland areas for something much larger to come.
That was the $64 question.

The 20th July plot was evidence that support for Hitler was wearing thin enough for the Heer to revolt. In 1918 enough of the German army melted away to create the Durchstoss legend. Would the Germans fight harder for Hitler than for the Kaiser when the outcome was obvious? With hindsight the Germans would fight to the bitter end for the Nazi regime. But that wasn't known in August 1944.

The only way to test an enemy's resolve is to attack and see what happens.

Some of the works on Op Market Garden point out that during the first week of September the German will to resist was very low and there was nothing to stop the allies going anywhere. But, by 17th September the Germans had recovered their nerve. Had Op Market Garden been launched on the 7th rather than the 17th of September alles might have been kaput.
 
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