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September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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“A riveting and deeply moving story of uncommon courage.” —Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Longest Winter
“A testament to men assigned the impossible who, through sheer willpower, almost pulled it off.”—The Wall Street Journal
“McManus’s extensive research allows him to tell the story with verve and authority.” —Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of An Army at Dawn
"McManus mines a rich and too-long-neglected vein of stories, many revealed here for the first time.”—Mark Bando, author of 101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy
“An absolutely riveting and vivid narrative that captures the full extent of the heroism of America’s troops in Operation Market Garden...Military history at its finest. ”—Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines
“McManus’s crisply written book tells of the campaign as seen through the eyes of the privates, sergeants, and captains who jumped into the Netherlands and the air crews who got them there.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
About the Author
John C. McManus earned a Ph.D. in American History and Military History from the University of Tennessee, where he served as assistant director of the Center for the Study of War and Society, helping oversee a project collecting the firsthand stories of American veterans of World War II. He is currently associate professor of U.S. military history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he teaches courses on the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, U.S. Military History, and Modern American Combat Experience. He also currently serves as the official historian for the United States Army’s Seventh Infantry Regiment.
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Top Customer Reviews
Relying on official after action reports, unit histories, and personal recollections, McManus concentrates on the planning for Operation Market Garden, tactical use of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in the plan of attack, and the contribution of the 104th Infantry Division in the seizure of the approaches to the vital port city of Antwerp. Before examining the tactical employment of the force, the author puts forth his conviction that logistics were the key to victory. Without a well-stocked force, the allies had limited military options. He recounts that the allies were handed a quick victory when they seized the city and port of Antwerp. The port had the capability to supply large segments of the allied army. But, field commanders failed to rapidly capture the Scheldt Estuary (the sixty-mile waterway leading from the city of Antwerp to the English Channel), immediately after seizing the port city. It is the author's contention that this was a stunning oversight with profound consequences to the allied effort.
Additionally, McManus holds that the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, failed to retain focus on his "broad front" approach to attaining his mission objective by acquiescing to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's call for a single thrust through Holland into the industrial heart of Germany. Supporting Montgomery's daring plan required the diversion of supplies and logistical assets from the American 12th Army Group's drive across France towards the German border. The plan that followed became Operation Market Garden, a high-risk operation that failed to contribute to the eventual allied victory. Montgomery's proposal was given additional support by the German rocket attacks on England. Prime Minister Churchill demanded that forces be dedicated to overrunning the German rocket sites and relieving the danger to the British home islands. This consideration influenced the approval of Operation Market Garden.
Operation Market Garden was a "deeply flawed plan" according to the author. "The sad truth," the author notes on page 43, "was that Market Garden could not be changed or amended into a better concept...(it was) based mainly on hope, stemming from the faulty premise that a single thrust into northern Germany could magically spell doom for Hitler." For the two American airborne divisions, the dye was cast. They were now thrust into an operation that required them to parachute deep into enemy held territory, seize several key bridges, and hold them against substantial German counterattacks while awaiting the speedy arrival of British troops.
Adding to the ground narrative, McManus comments on the contribution of Market Garden's troop carrier system. The author provides the reader an appreciation for the limits of allied aerial might. The large allied air armada was restricted by several factors during the operation. The air assets available to deliver the paratroopers and glider troops numbered some 1500 cargo aircraft. However, there were challenges to placing this large number of aircraft into the area of operation. Air traffic control required pilots to navigate long distances in order to avoid mid-air collision. This increased the arrival times for the two American and one British airborne divisions. Appreciating the limited experience level of the aircrews, air force commanders limited their fliers to executing one mission a day. They also reduced the number of gliders to be towed by each aircraft from two to one. This resulted in a diversion of aircraft from dropping supplies to moving the over 500 gliders into battle. The split second timing requirements of the aerial deliveries was further complicated by intense German anti-aircraft fire, abysmal weather conditions, and a deteriorating ground tactical situation.
Despite these shortfalls, McManus explains on page 100 that "This mighty host was an impressive demonstration of Allied power-the financial resources that made it possible, the industrial might that created it, and, most of all, the human beings who took the leading role in fulfilling its purpose." Additionally, his outstanding combat narrative addresses the myth concerning the capture of Market Garden's operational plan by the Germans. In McManus' opinion, the Germans did not need the allied plan to appreciate what was taking place. It was intuitively obvious that the airborne and ground invasion intent was to seize the bridges, cross the Rhine, and smash into Germany. It was an objective the fast moving German ground forces wished to frustrate.
McManus appreciates that Market Garden was a complex operation. In effect, he writes, Market Garden required the successful accomplishment of three missions. First, the airborne and ground forces had to keep the narrow corridor open in the face of fierce German attacks. Second, they had to retain key terrain throughout the entire 60-mile route through Holland. And, thirdly, the ground force had to make a timely entrance to relive the British airborne forces in Arnhem. Unfortunately, the allies failed to achieve these mission objectives.
McManus has written a compelling narrative that describes in detail such events as the 82nd Airborne's heroic crossing of the Waal River, the heartbreaking loss of the 101st's Medal of Honor recipient LTC Robert Cole, and the exploits of gifted and innovative leaders such as MGs James Gavin and Matthew Taylor. Amply supplemented by numerous maps, John McManus provides us a fast-paced narrative without a loss of essential detail. This is an engaging book that clearly blends personal recollections with operational aspects. It is a fitting tribute to those brave men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions as it is to the men of the 104th Infantry Divisions. As such, it should be a welcome addition to any professional library.
The only thing I would take Dr. McManus to task on is his assertion that XXX Corps should have made the move to Arnhem after the 504th cleared the bridge at Nijmegen. While I agree with the rage of the troops on the ground, I do not agree with the assertion that Horrocks, even knowing his situation, should have gone piecemeal down the road that evening. It had already been demonstrated that Market Garden was a failure, it makes no sense to compound a disaster with a bigger disaster by getting shot to pieces on the way to Arnhem. The American airborne and their commanders and followers should rightfully condemn that the Americans were made to clear that bridge for no other purpose, including a river crossing that cost too many lives, but the decision not to advance and get cut up in detail is I think one of the only prudent ones made in the entire British Northwest Europe campaign.
I think all the commanders get treated fairly. I think Ike gets his for giving final approval to the operation. I think Monty gets the appropriate approbation for coveting all the supplies. I think Browning is shown in his true light. Gavin is once again elevated, but his failings as a commander are also brought to light, which makes this account fair.
I would highly recommend this book, as it is a fast read. I feel it gets a tad preachy in places, and there are some odd tense shifts in the over-all narrative, but for those who want to read about the just laurels laid upon our American airborne in WWII this book is for you.
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