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September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far Paperback – June 4, 2013
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“A riveting and deeply moving story of uncommon courage.” —Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Longest Winter
“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
“A testament to men assigned the impossible who, through sheer willpower, almost pulled it off.”—The Wall Street Journal
“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.
Top customer reviews
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.
McManus' greatest strength is that he's a very good writer. He ably blends his historical narrative of the Market-Garden campaign and its aftermath with plentiful veteran recollections and his own analyses into a very enjoyable read.
"September Hope" is what its subtitle states it is: the American experience during the failed Market-Garden operation. In September 1944, the Allied high command trying to take advantage of German disarray as a result of their defeat in Normandy authorized a massive airborne operation in the Netherlands. The operation code-named 'Market-Garden' consisted of dropping behind German lines three airborne divisions (two American and one British) and a Free Polish brigade over a sixty mile length of Dutch highway in order to capture a number of bridges over Holland's many canals and rivers. At the end of this highway was Arnhem with its bridge over the Rhine River. With the bridges in Allied hands, a British armored column would punch through a thin German front line and drive up this highway all the way to and across the Rhine River. The architect of this plan, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, saw it as the first step to what would be a war winning advance into Germany for his 21st Army Group. Montgomery's boss, Dwight Eisenhower, saw it as an intriguing way to use his highly trained but underused airborne army and to get over the Rhine, but despite "Monty's" hopes he had no intention of abandoning his "broad front" strategy for defeating Nazi Germany.
McManus charts Market-Garden's high command inception and fully describes why it should have been "killed in its cradle." A product of unbelievable short-sightedness and wishful thinking, Market-Garden was a very bad idea. McManus takes to task both Montgomery and Eisenhower for their failing to see that having an operational port in Antwerp was more vital to Allied interests in September 1944 than a bridge across the Rhine because the latter was useless without the former. He also severely criticises Eisenhower's "hands-off" command style especially when it came to the very demanding and imperious Montgomery.
Although McManus does spend some time at the high command level, the vast majority of his narrative is spent with the American men who actually fought and died in the Market-Garden operation. Using combat diaries and numerous veteran interviews compiled from various sources, McManus weaves the story of 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions' experiences on what became known as "Hell's Highway." As set forth above, McManus is able to clearly describe the very chaotic events of the Operation Market-Garden campaign for these two American divisions. Due to poor planning and gross underestimation of the German Army's organizational and fighting capabilities, these two crack divisions suffered heavy casualties defending a slender corridor centered on a single road from German counter-attacks while at the same time trying to capture their assigned bridges.
Although many officers and men of the "All-Americans" and "Screaming Eagles" make appearances throughout McManus' narrative, it's the 82nd Airborne's commander, Brig. General James Gavin, who figures most prominently. McManus is obviously an admirer of the young general whose record of combat leadership was almost unsurpassed during WWII by any other general officer in the U.S. Army. On the other hand, Maxwell Taylor, the commander of the 101st Airborne, doesn't get as much "airtime." Nevertheless, McManus is critical of Gavin's failure to immediately order a coup de main for Nijmegen bridge and for his failure to delegate an assistant division commander to alleviate some of the command responsibilites that almost overwhelmed even the talented Gavin.
This is definitely a "human interest" military history book. McManus gives a decent narration of the battles mostly from company/battalion level, but this isn't a David Glantz-like campaign study. Nor is it lightweight Stephen Ambrose-esque pulp. Although McManus is primarily interested in relating the personal experiences of the American soldiers who fought and died in 1944 Netherlands, his narrative does give some heft to describing the actual military maneuvers in which these men fought.
McManus completes his book by describing the oft forgotten attritional struggle on the road to nowhere that Hell's Highway became after Market-Garden failed. He then describes the even less well-known struggle of Gen. Terry Allen's "Timberwolves" of the 104th Infantry Division to very belatedly help make Antwerp's port operational by clearing out pockets of German resistence.
"September Hope" is not without faults. I guess to lessen any allegations of hero worship as to Gen. Gavin, McManus throws in a useless factoid that he was having an affair with a young British woman. On several occasions, he makes references to "burp guns" without mentioning what those are. (It's GI slang for the German submachinegun, the MP40, but McManus should not assume his readers know that.) However, more problematic than the above quibbles are occasional research lapses. McManus implies that British corps commander, Lt. Gen. Frederick Browning, had no actual combat experience. McManus criticizes Browning's use of the word "party" to describe the upcoming operation as revealing "his inexperience and failure to appreciate the deadly realities of combat" which would have been news to Browning who was a highly decorated combat veteran of the trenches during World War I. Plus, McManus' heavy reliance on secondary source materials leads to gaps in the narrative such as the mysterous appearance and disappearance of Lt. Nick Mottola's platoon at battle for Best.
Despite some complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. McManus desciptions of what the Screaming Eagles, All-Americans, troop carrier and 8th Airforce personel, and Timberwolves experienced in 1944 Holland is riveting and, at times, moving. I especially enjoyed his recounting of the crossing of the Waal River by the 3/504 which was recreated so famously in the 1977 movie "A Bridge Too Far" with 40 year old Robert Redford playing 27 yr old Major Julian Cook.