Free download of A Bridge Too Far by Bryan Britton. Available in PDF, ePub and Kindle. Read, write reviews and more. Free Download. PDF version of A Bridge Too Far by Bryan Britton. Apple, Android and Kindle formats also available. A Bridge Too Far, a non-fiction book by Cornelius Ryan published in , tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhemacross the river Rhine in the occupied Netherlands during World War II in September
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Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. Read "A Bridge Too Far The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II" by Cornelius Ryan available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off. A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan - The classic account of one of the most dramatic battles of World War II. By Cornelius Ryan. eBook. LIST PRICE $ Price may vary by retailer . brigades were prevented from operating and whole blocks were burned down. Get a FREE e-book by joining our mailing list today!.
The title of the book comes from a comment made by British Lt. Prior to Ryan's book, Market Garden had been a classic example of victors writing the history. Popular histories of World War II of the time usually tended to not mention the battle at all, mentioned it in passing or put Montgomery's spin on it as being a "partial success". Uploaded on December 6, Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. It appears your browser does not have it turned on. Please see your browser settings for this feature.
There were Panzer troops, minus tanks, in their black battle suits; Luftwaffe men, presumably all that remained of German air force units that had been shattered in either France or Belgium; Wehrmacht soldiers from a score of divisions; and Waffen SS troops, their skull-and-crossbones insignia a macabre identification. Looking at these apparently leaderless, dazed troops moving aimlessly along, young Wilhelmina Coppens in St.
Oedenrode thought that "most of them had no idea where they were or even where they were going. In the industrial town of Eindhoven, home of the giant Philips electrical works, the population had heard the low sound of artillery fire from Belgium for days. Now, watching the dregs of the beaten German army thronging the roads, people expected Allied troops to arrive within hours.
So did the Germans. It appeared to Frans Kortie, twenty-four-year-old employee in the town's finance department, that these troops had no intention of making a stand. From the nearby airfield came the roar of explosions as engineers blew up runways, ammunition dumps, gasoline storage tanks and hangars; and through a pall of smoke drifting across the town, Kortie saw squads of troops rapidly working to dismantle heavy antiaircraft guns on the roofs of the Philips buildings.
All through the area, from Eindhoven north to the city of Nijmegen, German engineers were hard at work. In the Zuid Willemsvaart Canal running below the town of Veghel, Cornelis de Visser, an elementary-school teacher, saw a heavily loaded barge blown skyward, shooting out airplane engine parts like a deadly rain of shrapnel. Not far away, in the village of Uden, Johannes de Groot, forty-five-year-old car-body builder, was watching the retreat with his family when Germans set fire to a former Dutch barracks barely yards from his home.
Minutes later heavy bombs stored in the building exploded, killing four of de Groot's children, aged five to eighteen. In places such as Eindhoven, where school buildings were set ablaze, fire brigades were prevented from operating and whole blocks were burned down.
Still, the sappers, in contrast to the fleeing columns on the roads, gave evidence of following some definite plan. The most frantic and confused among the escapees were the civilians, German, Dutch, Belgian and French Nazis. They got no sympathy from the Dutch. To farmer Johannes Hulsen at St. Oedenrode, they looked "scared stiff"; and they had reason to be, he thought with satisfaction, for with the Allies "snapping at their heels these traitors knew it was Bijltjesdag ['Hatchet Day'].
Nervously watching the fate of the Germans in France and Belgium, Seyss-Inquart on September 1 ordered the evacuation of German civilians to the east of Holland, closer to the Reich border.
The fifty-year-old Mussert followed suit, alerting members of his Dutch Nazi Party. Seyss-Inquart and Mussert were themselves among the first to leave: Mussert rushed his family even closer to the Reich, moving them into the frontier region at Twente, in the province of Overijssel.
At first most of the German and Dutch civilians moved at a leisurely pace. Then a sequence of events produced bedlam. On September 3 the British captured Brussels. The next day Antwerp fell. Now, British tanks and troops were only miles from the Dutch border. On the heels of these stunning victories, the aged Queen of the Netherlands, Wilhelmina, told her people in a radio broadcast from London that liberation was at hand. She announced that her son-in-law, His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard, had been named Commander in Chief of the Netherlands Forces and would also assume leadership of all underground resistance groups.
These factions, comprising three distinct organizations ranging politically from the left to the extreme right, would now be grouped together and officially known as Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten Forces of the Interior. The thirty-three-year-old Prince Bernhard, husband of Princess Juliana, heir to the throne, followed the Queen's announcement with one of his own.
He asked the underground to have armlets ready "displaying in distinct letters the word 'Orange,'" but not to use them "without my order. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, confirming that freedom was imminent. And within a few hours these broadcasts were followed by the most optimistic statement of all, from the prime minister of the Dutch government in exile, Pieter S.
He told his listeners, "Now that the Allied armies, in their irresistible advance, have crossed the Netherlands frontier I want all of you to bid our Allies a hearty welcome to our native soil Anton Mussert had long boasted that his party had more than 50, Nazis.
If so, it seemed to the Dutch that they all took to the roads at the same time. In scores of towns and villages all over Holland, Nazi-appointed mayors and officials suddenly bolted -- but often not before demanding back pay. The mayor of Eindhoven and some of his officials insisted on their salaries. The town clerk, Gerardus Legius, thought their posture ridiculous, but he didn't even feel badly about paying them off. Watching them scurry out of town "on everything with wheels" he wondered: Where can they go?
When Nicolaas van de Weerd, twenty-four-year-old bank clerk, got to work in the town of Wageningen on Monday, September 4, he saw a queue of Dutch Nazis waiting outside the bank.
Once the doors were opened they hurriedly closed accounts and emptied safety deposit boxes. Railway stations were overrun by terrified civilians. Trains leaving for Germany were crammed to capacity. Stepping off a train on its arrival in Arnhem, young Frans Wiessing was engulfed by a sea of people fighting to get aboard.
So great was the rush that after the train left, Wiessing saw a mountain of luggage lying abandoned on the platform. In the village of Zetten, west of Nijmegen, student Paul van Wely watched as Dutch Nazis crowding the railroad station waited all day for a Germany-bound train, which never arrived.
Women and children were crying and to Van Wely "the waiting room looked like a junk store full of tramps. Dutch collaborators fled on anything that would move. Municipal architect Willem Tiemans, from his office window near the great Arnhem bridge, watched as Dutch Nazis "scrambled like mad" to get onto a barge heading up the Rhine for the Reich.
Hour after hour the traffic mounted, and even during darkness it went on.
So desperate were the Germans to reach safety that on the nights of September 3 and 4, in total disregard of Allied air attacks, soldiers set up searchlights at some crossroads and many overloaded vehicles crawled by, headlights blazing. German officers seemed to have lost control. Anton Laterveer, a general practitioner in Arnhem, saw soldiers throwing away rifles -- some even tried to sell their weapons to the Dutch. Joop Muselaars, a teen-ager, watched a lieutenant attempt to stop a virtually empty army vehicle, but the driver, ignoring the command, drove on through.
Furious, the officer fired his pistol irrationally into the cobblestones. Everywhere soldiers tried to desert. In the village of Eerde, Adrianus Marinus, an eighteen-year-old clerk, noticed a soldier jumping off a truck. He ran toward a farm and disappeared. Later Marinus learned that the soldier was a Russian prisoner of war who had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht.
Two miles from Nijmegen, in the village of Lent on the northern bank of the Waal, Dr. Frans Huygen, while making his rounds, saw troops begging for civilian clothing, which the villagers refused.
In Nijmegen deserters were not so abject. In many cases they demanded clothing at gunpoint. The Reverend Wilhelmus Peterse, forty-year-old Carmelite, saw soldiers hurriedly remove uniforms, change to suits and set off on foot for the German border. Unruly gangs of soldiers stole horses, wagons, cars and bicycles. Some ordered farmers at gunpoint to haul them in their wagons toward Germany. All through the convoys the Dutch saw trucks, farm wagons, hand carts -- even perambulators pushed by fleeing troops -- piled high with loot filched from France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
It ranged from statuary and furniture to lingerie. In Nijmegen soldiers tried to sell sewing machines, rolls of cloth, paintings, typewriters -- and one soldier even offered a parrot in a large cage.
Among the retreating Germans there was no shortage of alcohol. Barely five miles from the German border in the town of Groesbeek, Father Herman Hoek watched horse-drawn carts loaded down with large quantities of wines and liquors. In Arnhem, the Reverend Reinhold Dijker spotted boisterous Wehrmacht troops on a truck drinking from a huge vat of wine which they had apparently brought all the way from France.
Sixteen-year-old Agatha Schulte, daughter of the chief pharmacist of Arnhem's municipal hospital, was convinced that most of the soldiers she saw were drunk. They were throwing handfuls of French and Belgian coins to the youngsters and trying to sell bottles of wine, champagne and cognac to the adults.
Her mother, Hendrina Schulte, vividly recalls seeing a German truck carrying another kind of booty. It was a large double bed -- and in the bed was a woman. Besides the columns straggling up from the south, heavy German and civilian traffic was coming in from western Holland and the coast. It flooded through Arnhem and headed east for Germany. In the prosperous Arnhem suburb of Oosterbeek, Jan Voskuil, a thirty-eight-year-old chemical engineer, was hiding out at the home of his father-in-law.
Learning that he was on a list of Dutch hostages to be arrested by the Germans, he had fled from his home in the town of Geldermalsen, twenty miles away, bringing his wife, Bertha, and their nine-year-old son. He had arrived in Oosterbeek just in time to see the evacuation. Jan's father-in-law told him not to "worry anymore about the Germans; you won't have to 'dive' now. Eusebius with a famed foot-high tower -- saw the Moffen a Dutch nickname for the Germans, equivalent to the English "Jerry" filing through the town "four abreast in the direction of Germany.
In the nearby village of Ede an aged German begged young Rudolph van der Aa to notify his family in Germany that they had met. They did not even react to the Dutch, who were yelling, "Go home! The British and Americans will be here in a few hours. Pieter de Graaff, forty-four-year-old surgeon, was sure he was seeing "the end, the apparent collapse of the German army.
Her husband, Johan, a respected and well-known sculptor, had been in Dachau concentration camp since for hiding Dutch Jews. Now he might soon be freed, for obviously the war was nearly over. Suze was determined to witness this historic moment -- the departure of the Germans and the arrival of the Allied liberators.
Her son Robert was too young to realize what was happening but she decided to take her daughter Sonja, aged nine, into town. As she dressed Sonja, Suze said, "This is something you have to see. I want you to try and remember it all your life. Dutch flags made their appearance. Enterprising merchants sold orange buttons and large stocks of ribbon to the eager crowds.
In the village of Renkum there was a run on the local drapery shop, where manager Johannes Snoek sold orange ribbon as fast as he could cut it. To his amazement, villagers fashioned bows then and there and proudly pinned them on.
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Johannes, who was a member of the underground, thought "this was going a bit too far. His sister Maria, caught up in the excitement, noted happily in her diary that there was "a mood in the streets almost as though it was Koninginnedag, the Queen's birthday. At St. Canisius Hospital in Nijmegen, Sister M. People brought out long-hidden radios and, while watching the retreat flood by their windows, listened openly for the first time in long months to the special Dutch service, Radio Orange, from London's BBC.
So excited by the broadcasts was fruit grower Joannes Hurkx, in St. Oedenrode, that he failed to spot a group of Germans back of his house stealing the family bicycles.
In scores of places schools closed and work came to a halt. Employees at the cigar factories in Valkenswaard promptly left their machines and crowded into the streets. Streetcars stopped running in The Hague, the seat of government. In the capital, Amsterdam, the atmosphere was tense and unreal. Offices closed, and trading ceased on the stock exchange. Military units suddenly disappeared from the main thoroughfares, and the central station was mobbed by Germans and Dutch Nazis. On the outskirts of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, crowds carrying flags and flowers stood along main roads leading into the cities -- hoping to be the first to see British tanks coming from the south.
Rumors grew with every hour. Many in Amsterdam believed that British troops had already freed The Hague, near the coast about thirty miles to the southwest. In The Hague people thought the great port of Rotterdam, fifteen miles away, had been liberated.
Rail travelers got a different story every time their trains stopped. One of them, Henri Peijnenburg, a twenty-five-year-old resistance leader traveling from The Hague to his home in Nijmegen, a distance of less than eighty miles, heard at the beginning of his journey that the British had entered the ancient border city of Maastricht.
In Utrecht he was told they had reached Roermond. Then, in Arnhem he was assured that the British had taken Venlo, a few miles from the German border. Others shared his concern -- especially the underground high command meeting secretly in The Hague.
To them, tensely watching the situation, Holland seemed on the threshold of freedom. Allied tanks could easily slice through the country all the way from the Belgian border to the Zuider Zee. The underground was certain that the "gateway" -- through Holland, across the Rhine and into Germany -- was wide open.
The resistance leaders knew the Germans had virtually no fighting forces capable of stopping a determined Allied drive. They were almost scornful of the one weak and undermanned division composed of old men guarding coastal defenses they had been sitting in concrete bunkers since without firing a shot , and of a number of other low-grade troops, whose combat capabilities were extremely doubtful, among them Dutch SS, scratch garrison troops, convalescents and the medically unfit -- these last grouped into units aptly known as "stomach" and "ear" battalions, because most of the men suffered from ulcers or were hard of hearing.
To the Dutch the Allied move seemed obvious, invasion imminent. But its success depended on the speed of British forces driving from the south, and about this the underground high command was puzzled: Checking on the validity of Prime Minister Gerbrandy's statement that Allied troops had already crossed the frontier was no simple matter.
Holland was small -- only about two thirds the size of Ireland -- but it had a dense population of more than nine million, and as a result the Germans had difficulty controlling subversive activity.
There were underground cells in every town and village.
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Still, transmitting information was hazardous. The principal, and most dangerous, method was the telephone. In an emergency, using complicated circuitry, secret lines and coded information, resistance leaders could call all over the country. Thus, on this occasion, underground officials knew within minutes that Gerbrandy's announcement was premature: British troops had not crossed the border. Other Radio Orange broadcasts further compounded the confusion.
Twice in a little more than twelve hours at The news spread rapidly. Illegal, secretly printed newspapers promptly prepared liberation editions featuring the "fall of Breda. He had his communications expert Johannes Steinfort, a young telephone-company instrument maker, check the report.
Quickly tying in to a secret circuit connecting him with the underground in Breda, Steinfort became one of the first to learn the bitter truth: No one had seen Allied troops, either American or British.
A Bridge Too Far-Cornelius Ryan
Because of the spate of rumors, many resistance groups hurriedly met to discuss what should be done. The time had come, they believed, to directly confront the enemy and thus aid the advancing Allies.
It was obvious that the Germans feared a general revolt. In the retreating columns, the underground noted, sentries were now sitting on the fenders of vehicles with rifles and submachine guns at the ready. Undeterred, many resistance men were eager to fight.
In the village of Ede, a few miles northwest of Oosterbeek, twenty-five-year-old Menno "Tony" de Nooy tried to persuade the leader of his group, Bill Wildeboer, to attack. It had long been planned, Tony argued, that the group should take over Ede in the event of an Allied invasion.
The barracks at Ede, which had been used to train German marines, were now practically empty. De Nooy wanted to occupy the buildings. The older Wildeboer, a former sergeant major in the Dutch Army, disagreed. We must wait. In Rotterdam, underground members occupied the offices of the water-supply company. Just over the Dutch-Belgian border in the village of Axel, the town hall with its ancient ramparts was seized and hundreds of German soldiers surrendered to the civilian fighters.
In many towns Dutch Nazi officials were captured as they tried to bolt. West of Arnhem, in the village of Wolfheze, noted principally for its hospital for the mentally ill, the district police commissioner was seized in his car. He was locked up temporarily in the nearest available quarters, the asylum, for delivery to the British "when they arrived. In general, underground units remained calm.
Yet, everywhere they took advantage of the confusion to prepare for the arrival of Allied forces. He sat, hour after hour, by the windows of an office in the neighborhood of the Arnhem bridge and, with a number of assistants, watched German units heading east and northeast along the Zevenaar and Zutphen roads toward Germany.
The vital information he noted down was sent to Amsterdam by courier and from there via a secret network to London. In suburban Oosterbeek, young Jan Eijkelhoff, threading his way unobtrusively through the crowds, cycled all over the area, delivering forged food ration cards to Dutchmen hiding out from the Germans.
And the leader of one group in Arnhem, fifty-seven-year-old Johannus Penseel, called "the Old One," reacted in the kind of wily manner that had made him a legend among his men. He decided the moment had come to move his arsenal of weapons. Openly, with German troops all about, he and a few hand-picked assistants calmly drove up in a baker's van to the Municipal Hospital, where the weapons were hidden. Quickly wrapping the arms in brown paper they transported the entire cache to Penseel's home, whose basement windows conveniently overlooked the main square.
Penseel and his coleader, Toon van Daalen, thought it was a perfect position from which to open fire on the Germans when the time came. They were determined to live up to the name of their militant subdivision -- Landelyke Knokploegen "Strong-arm Boys". Everywhere men and women of the vast underground army poised for battle; and in southern towns and villages, people who believed that parts of Holland were already free ran out of their homes to welcome the liberators.
There was a kind of madness in the air, thought Carmelite Father Tiburtius Noordermeer as he observed the joyful crowds in the village of Oss, southeast of Nijmegen. He saw people slapping one another on the back in a congratulatory mood. Comparing the demoralized Germans on the roads with the jubilant Dutch spectators, he noted "wild fear on the one hand and crazy, unlimited, joy on the other. In the drugstore on the main street in Oosterbeek, Karel de Wit was worried.
He told his wife and chief pharmacist, Johanna, that he couldn't understand why Allied planes had not attacked the German traffic. Frans Schulte, a retired Dutch major, thought the general enthusiasm was premature. Although his brother and sister-in-law were overjoyed at what appeared to be a German debacle, Schulte was not convinced. If the Allies try to cross the Rhine, believe me, we may see a major battle.
He had not expected a new command. Called abruptly out of enforced retirement, Von Rundstedt had been ordered to Rastenburg four days before. On July 2, two months earlier, Hitler had fired him as Commander in Chief West or, as it was known in German military terms, OB West -- Oberbefehlshaber West while Von Rundstedt, who had never lost a battle, was trying to cope with the aftermath of Germany's greatest crisis of the war, the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Before the invasion, appealing for reinforcements, Von Rundstedt had bluntly informed Hitler's headquarters OKW -- Oberkommando der Wehrmacht that the Western Allies, superior in men, equipment and planes, could "land anywhere they want to. The Atlantic Wall, the partly completed coastal fortifications which, Hitler boasted, ran almost three thousand miles from Kirkenes on the Norwegian-Finnish frontier to the Pyrenees on the Franco-Spanish border would make "this front impregnable against any enemy.
He summed up the Atlantic Wall in one word: To Rommel, the coastal defenses were a "figment of Hitler's Wolkenkuckucksheim [cloud cuckoo land]. On another point, however, they clashed. With the crushing defeat of his Afrika Korps by Britain's Montgomery at El Alamein in always in his mind, and well aware of what the Allied invasion would be like, Rommel believed that the invaders must be stopped on the beaches.
Von Rundstedt icily disagreed with his junior -- whom he sarcastically referred to as the "Marschall Bubi" "Marshal Laddie" ; Allied troops should be wiped out after they landed, he contended.
Hitler backed Rommel. On D Day, despite Rommel's brilliant improvisations, Allied troops breached the "impregnable" wall within hours. In the terrible days that followed, overwhelmed by the Allies, who enjoyed almost total air supremacy over the Normandy battlefield, and shackled by Hitler's "no withdrawal" orders "Every man shall fight and fall where he stands" , Von Rundstedt's straining lines cracked everywhere.
Desperately he plugged the gaps, but hard as his men fought and counterattacked, the outcome was never seriously in doubt. Von Rundstedt could neither "drive the invaders into the sea" nor "annihilate them" the words were Hitler's. What else can you do? He'll have to go. Von Rundstedt, the senior and most dependable field marshal in the Wehrmacht, was incredulous.
For the five years of war his military genius had served the Third Reich well. In , when Hitler cold-bloodedly attacked Poland, thereby igniting the conflict that eventually engulfed the world, Von Rundstedt had clearly demonstrated the German formula for conquest -- Blitzkrieg "lightning war" -- when his Panzer spearheads reached the outskirts of Warsaw in less than a week. One year later, when Hitler turned west and with devastating speed overwhelmed most of western Europe, Von Rundstedt was in charge of an entire Panzer army.
And in he was in the forefront again when Hitler attacked Russia. Now, outraged at the jeopardy to his career and reputation, Von Rundstedt told his chief of staff, Major General Gunther Blumentritt, that he had been "dismissed in disgrace by an amateur strategist.
Hitler, according to the Deputy Chief of Operations General Walter Warlimont, greeted his senior field marshal warmly, treating him with "unwonted diffidence and respect.
He was appalled by the situation. The briefings clearly showed that in the east the Red Army now held a front more than 1, miles long, from Finland in the north to the Vistula in Poland, and from there to the Carpathian Mountains in Rumania and Yugoslavia. In the west Von Rundstedt saw that his worst fears had been realized.
Division after division was now destroyed, the entire German line thrown helplessly back. Nazaire, forcing the Allies to continue bringing supplies in from the distant invasion beaches. But now, with the sudden, stunning capture of Antwerp, one of Europe's greatest deep seaports, the Allies might well have solved their supply problem. Von Rundstedt noted, too, that the tactic of Blitzkrieg, perfected by himself and others, was being borrowed with devastating effect by Eisenhower's armies.
And Field Marshal Walter Model, the fifty-four-year-old new Commander in Chief, West he took over on August 17 , was clearly unable to bring order out of the chaos. His front had been ripped apart, slashed in the north by tanks of the British Second Army and the U. First Army driving through Belgium toward Holland; and, south of the Ardennes, armored columns of the U. Third Army under General George S. Patton were heading for Metz and the Saar. To Von Rundstedt the situation was no longer merely ominous.
It was cataclysmic. He had time to dwell on the inevitability of the end. Almost four days elapsed before Hitler allowed Von Rundstedt a private audience. During his wait the Field Marshal stayed in the former country inn reserved for senior officers in the center of the vast headquarters -- a barbed-wire-enclosed enclave of wooden huts and concrete bunkers built over a catacomb of underground installations.
Von Rundstedt vented his impatience at the delay on Keitel, the chief of staff. Hitler had given Keitel no particular reason, short of an innocuous mention of the Field Marshal's health. Hitler seemed to have convinced himself of his own manufactured version for Von Rundstedt's dismissal on "health grounds" back in July.
To Keitel, Hitler had merely said, "I want to see if the old man's health has improved. Finally, on the afternoon of September 4, Von Rundstedt was summoned to Hitler's presence, and, uncharacteristically, the Fuhrer came to the point immediately. Despite his knowledge and experience, his distaste for Hitler and the Nazis, Von Rundstedt, in whom the Prussian military tradition of devotion to service was ingrained, did not decline the appointment.
As he was later to recall, "it would have been useless to protest anyway.
Once more Hitler was improvising. Before D Day he had insisted that the Atlantic Wall was invulnerable. Von Rundstedt, Hitler ordered, was not only to stop the Allies as far west as possible, but to counterattack for, as the Fuhrer saw it, the most dangerous Allied threats were no more than "armored spearheads.
Its vital port was to be denied the Allies at all costs. Thus, since the other ports were still in German hands, Hitler said, he fully expected the Allied drive to come to a halt because of overextended supply lines.
He was confident that the western front could be stabilized and, with the coming of winter, the initiative regained. Hitler assured Von Rundstedt that he was "not unduly worried about the situation in the west. Von Rundstedt had long regarded Model with less than enthusiasm.
Model, he felt, had not earned his promotion the hard way; he had been elevated to the rank of field marshal too quickly by Hitler. Von Rundstedt thought him better suited to the job of a "good regimental sergeant major. The situation was all but hopeless, defeat inevitable. On the afternoon of September 4, as he set out for his headquarters near Koblenz, Von Rundstedt saw nothing to stop the Allies from invading Germany, crossing the Rhine and ending the war in a matter of weeks.
On this same day in Wannsee, Berlin, Colonel General Kurt Student, fifty-four-year-old founder of Germany's airborne forces, emerged from the backwater to which he had been relegated for three long years.
For him, the war had begun with great promise. His paratroops, Student felt, had been chiefly responsible for the capture of Holland in , when some 4, of them dropped on the bridges of Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Moerdijk, holding the vital spans open for the main German invasion force. Student's losses had been incredibly low -- only men. But the situation was different in the airborne assault of Crete.
There, losses were so high -- more than a third of the 22,man force -- that Hitler forbade all future airborne operations. Ever since, the ambitious officer had been tied to a desk job as commander of an airborne-training establishment, while his elite troopers were used strictly as infantry. With shattering abruptness, at precisely 3 P.
His force of about ten thousand had almost no transportation, armor or artillery. Student didn't even have a chief of staff. Nevertheless, Student's men, Jodl explained, were urgently needed in the west. Weapons and equipment would be issued at the "railheads of destination.
It consisted of "semi-invalids and convalescents who, for convenience, had been grouped together in separate battalions according to their various ailments. Besides these units, he would get a grab bag of other forces scattered in Holland and Belgium -- Luftwaffe troops, sailors and antiaircraft crews -- and twenty-five tanks.
See a Problem?
To Student, the expert in paratroop warfare and supertrained airborne shock troops, his makeshift army was a "grotesque improvisation on a grand scale. All through the afternoon, by telephone and teletype, Student mustered and moved his men out.
It would take at least four days for his entire force to reach the front, he estimated. But his toughest and best troops, rushed in special trains to Holland in what Student called a "blitz move," would be in position on the Albert Canal, as part of Model's Army Group B, within twenty-four hours. Jodl's call and the information he himself had since gathered alarmed Student. It seemed apparent that his most seasoned group -- the 6th Parachute Regiment plus one other battalion, together totaling about three thousand men -- probably constituted the only combat-ready reserve in the whole of Germany.
He found the situation ominous. As yet no news of Von Rundstedt's appointment as his successor had reached him. His forces were so entangled, so disorganized that Model had all but lost control. He no longer had contact with the second half of his command, Army Group G in the south. Had General Johannes Blaskowitz, its commander, successfully withdrawn from France? Model wasn't sure.
The crisis was clearly in the north. With dispatch and ferocity, Army Group B had been split in two by armored columns of the British and Americans. Of the two armies composing Army Group B, the Fifteenth was bottled up, its back to the North Sea, roughly between Calais and a point northwest of Antwerp.
The Seventh Army had been almost destroyed, and thrown back toward Maastricht and Aachen. Between the two armies lay a mile gap and the British had driven through it straight to Antwerp.
Plunging along the same route were Model's own demoralized, retreating forces. In a desperate effort to halt their flight, Model issued an emotional plea to his troops. With the enemy's advance and the withdrawal of our front, several hundred thousand soldiers are falling back -- army, air force and armored units -- troops which must re-form as planned and hold in new strong points or lines. In this stream are the remnants of broken units which, for the moment, have no set objectives and are not even in a position to receive clear orders.
Whenever orderly columns turn off the road to reorganize, streams of disorganized elements push on. With their wagons move whispers, rumors, haste, endless disorder and vicious self-interest. This atmosphere is being brought back to the rear areas, infecting units still intact and in this moment of extreme tension must be prevented by the strongest means.
I appeal to your honor as soldiers. We have lost a battle, but I assure you of this: We will win this war! I cannot tell you more at the present, although I know that questions are burning on your lips.
Whatever has happened, never lose your faith in the future of Germany. At the same time you must be aware of the gravity of the situation. This moment will and should separate men from weaklings. Now every soldier has the same responsibility. When his commander falls, he must be ready to step into his shoes and carry on There followed a long series of instructions in which Model "categorically" demanded that retreating troops should immediately "report to the nearest command point," instill in others "confidence, self-reliance, self-control and optimism," and repudiate "stupid gossip, rumors and irresponsible reports.
In the confusion he was not even sure of the latest position of his disorganized and shattered units; nor did he know precisely how far Allied tanks and troops had advanced. And where was the Schwerpunkt main thrust of the Allied drive -- with the British and Americans in the north heading for the Siegfried Line and thence across the Rhine and into the Ruhr?
Was it with Patton's massive U. Model's dilemma was the outgrowth of a situation that had occurred nearly two months earlier at the time of Von Rundstedt's dismissal and Hitler's swift appointment of Von Kluge as the old Field Marshal's successor. With no preamble, and possibly because Von Kluge happened to be the only senior officer in sight, Hitler had named the astonished Von Kluge Commander in Chief, West. Von Kluge, a veteran front commander, took over on July 4.
He was to last forty-four days. Exactly as predicted by Von Rundstedt, the Allied breakout occurred. Overwhelmed by the Allied tide pouring across France, Von Kluge, like Von Rundstedt before him, found his hands tied by Hitler's insistent "no withdrawal" orders.
The German armies in France were encircled and all but destroyed. It was during this period that another convulsion racked the Third Reich -- an abortive assassination attempt on Hitler's life. Although only a small elite group of officers were involved in the plot, Hitler's revenge was barbaric. Anyone connected with the plotters, or with their families, was arrested; and many individuals, innocent or not, were summarily executed.
Some five thousand people lost their lives. Von Kluge had been indirectly implicated, and Hitler also suspected him of trying to negotiate a surrender with the enemy. Before leaving his headquarters the despairing Von Kluge wrote a letter to Hitler.
Then, en route to Germany, he took poison. I did everything within my power to be equal to the situation Both Rommel and I, and probably all the other commanders here in the west with experience of battle against the Anglo-Americans, with their preponderance of material, foresaw the present developments. Want more? Advanced embedding details, examples, and help!
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