Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful British-American airborne invasion of the Netherlands (Holland) during World War II that lasted September 17-25, 1944. It was the largest airborne operation of the war, involving more than 34,000 airborne troops.
Operation Market Garden was intended to advance the Allies across the Rhine River into Germany’s industrial heartland. The plan was for three divisions of the First Allied Airborne Army to be dropped behind German lines in the Netherlands. They were to capture key bridges and towns to clear a 64-mile corridor into Germany through which the ground troops (the XXX Corps of the British Second Army) would pass.
The operation began on September 17, 1944, with Allied paratroopers and glider troops being dropped into various landing zones in the Netherlands. The first day was largely successful, and many of the bridges were captured (or destroyed by the Germans) by the second day.
However, the Germans reacted quickly, and their resistance proved much stiffer than expected. This meant the two bridges most important to success–at Nijmegen and Arnhem–were not captured when planned, delaying the advance of the XXX Corps. The bridge at Nijmegen was finally captured on the 20th, leaving the bridge at Arnhem as the only remaining objective.
Battle of Arnhem
At Arnhem, the British had been dropped on the first day about 7 or 8 miles from their objective, and only one British battalion made it to the bridge. Cut off from the majority of the British airborne troops (who became trapped at Oosterbeek), the battalion held the northern end of the bridge until the 21st, before being overwhelmed by the Germans.
With the bridge uncaptured and the XXX Corps unable to cross the Rhine, the Allies decided to abandon Operation Market Garden. The British survivors trapped on the far side of the Rhine were evacuated on the night of the 25th.
Although Operation Market Garden did not achieve its ultimate objective of getting the Allies across the Rhine and into Germany, the offensive did free parts of the Netherlands from German control. The operation is often remembered for the bravery shown by the Allied troops involved, despite the heavy casualties sustained by some divisions.
Learn more about Operation Market Garden through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.