Market Garden Collection: Hell's Highway
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Early afternoon on 17 September 1944 the 101st US Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles), who parachuted onto Drop Zones dictated by the air planners wish to avoid ‘unnecessary casualties from flak’ around Eindhoven, had been denied a coup de main against the first significant canal bridge at Son. With plenty of warning of the approach of the US paratroopers, the Germans blew the bridge arguably dealing Market Garden a potentially mortal blow.
Meanwhile, XXX Corps were having trouble of their own after a start at 1430 hours. A mixture of SS and Fallschirmjger troops despite a bombardment halted the breakout of the Guards Armoured Division in its tracks! However, by nightfall the Irish Guards were through the German defences and had reached Valkensward 10 miles along the 60 mile route to Arnhem.
The delay in reaching and bridging the canal at Son was significant but German resistance was hardening as troops were rushed to attack the airborne carpet and single route the British intended to use across Holland. With the bridging operation complete the Grenadier Guards Group covered the next 30 miles to Nijmegen in little over three hour. Market Garden looked as if it were back on schedule despite the setbacks and Arnhem was only ten miles further on.
It was one thing to reach Nijmegen in forty hours but for the American Paratroopers holding the route open proved to be a different matter! The road north across Holland quickly earned the well deserved nick name ‘Hell’s Highway’. The paratroopers had to constantly fend of the growing number of enemy troops who were mounting increasingly strong attacks from east and west. Lacking numbers on the ground and transport it was an unequal battle to keep the road open.
The Germans only had to get within firing range of the road elevated across the surrounding flat terrain to effectively close the vital highway and starve the troops fighting to reach Arnhem of all kinds of combat supplies.
The team will examine successes and failures on Hell’s Highway to find out whether the reasons for failure can be found on here or was it soldiers of two nations fighting alongside each other to execute a fatally flawed plan?