The operation plan's strategic context required the seizure of bridges across the Maas (Meuse River) and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to outflank the Siegfried Line and encircle the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland. It made large-scale use of airborne forces whose tactical objectives were to secure a series of bridges over the main rivers of the German-occupied Netherlands and allow a rapid advance by armoured units into Northern Germany.
The plan was doomed to failure as the dependence upon a single road, one that could easily be cut (and was by ColGen Kurt Student's First Parachute Army for a short time). The Dutch had a contingency plan that would have used lighter forces (armoured car regiments, cavalry and mechanized infantry units) rather than the heavy armoured force that was the British XXX Corps.
The plan was two-fold, an airborne assault on the three major and 5 minor river crossings, 1st Airborne Army under the command of LtGen Lewis Brererton, while direct control of the battle was placed in the hands of LtGen Frederick "Boy" Browning (British). The First Allied Airborne Army consisted of
U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps
- U.S. 17th Airborne Division (reserve)
- U.S. 82nd Airborne Division (committed to M-G)
- U.S. 101st Airborne Division (committed to M-G)
- U.S. 13th Airborne Division (in 1945)
- British 1st Airborne Division (committed to M-G)
- British 6th Airborne Division (reorganizing after Normandy)
- 52nd (Lowland) Division (Air Transportable) (elements committed to M-G)
- British 1st Special Air Service Brigade
- Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. (committed to M-G)
- French 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
- French 2nd Parachute Chasseur Regiment S.A.S
- French 3rd Parachute Chasseur Regiment S.A.S
38 Group Transport Command RAF
46 Group Transport Command RAF
What was conceived as a brilliant idea...soon collapsed in poor planning as the British were forced to land as much as 12 miles from it's targeted bridge in Arnhem. They eventually took the bridge and actually held control of it's northern approaches for four long days. The destruction of the bridge at Son, and the inability to gain control of the bridge at Nijmegin until after the link up with the XXX Corps doomed the British force in Arnhem/Oosterbeek. The British 1st Airborne Division suffered 80% casualties of the roughly 10,000 men committed to battle, 8,000 were either killed, wounded or captured, one of the highest casualty rates of any allied unit in the war.
Market Garden was a risky plan that required a willingness to gamble at the tactical, small-unit level. Unfortunately, the detailed planning and leadership required at that level was not always present. The 1st Airborne Division, the least experienced working as a whole division was given the most difficult distant objective. XXX Corps was also criticized for its "inability" to keep to the operation's timetable although the delay at Son was caused by a bridge demolition and the delay at Nijmegen (having made up time, compensating for the delay while a Bailey Bridge was built at Son) was caused by Gavin's failure to capture the bridges on the first day. Its lead unit, the Guards Armoured Division, was led by a commander (Allan Adair) whom Montgomery had sought to remove prior to D-Day. This action was blocked due to Adair's popularity. Gavin regretted giving his division's most important tasks (Groesbeek ridge and Nijmegen) to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment rather than his best regiment, Tucker's 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.