September 17th to 24th 1944, marks the 76th anniversary of the start of the largest airbourne operation in history.
On the opening day, more than 1,500 Allied aircraft and 500 gliders landed 20,000 troops to capture strategic bridges behind German lines. Despite its boldness, a shortage of transport aircraft, poor weather, and slowness of the ground (relief) component ultimately doomed the operation.
Operation Market Garden was a failed World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944. It was the brainchild of Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery and strongly supported by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. The airborne part of the operation was undertaken by the First Allied Airborne Army with the land operation by XXX Corps of the British Second Army.
The objective was to create a 64 mi (103 km) salient into German territory with a bridgehead over the River Rhine, creating an Allied invasion route into northern Germany. This was to be achieved by seizing a series of nine bridges by airborne forces with land forces swiftly following over the bridges.
The operation succeeded in liberating the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen along with many towns, creating a 60 mile (97 km) salient into German-held territory limiting V-2 rocket launching sites. It failed, however, to secure a bridgehead over the Rhine, with the advance being halted at the river.
Market Garden consisted of two sub-operations:
Market – an airborne assault to seize key bridges, and;
Garden – a ground attack moving over the seized bridges creating the salient.
The attack was the largest airborne operation up to that point in World War II.
The combined force consisted of 1,438 C-47/Dakota transports (1,274 USAAF and 164 RAF) and 321 converted RAF bombers.
The Allied glider force had been rebuilt after Normandy and by 16 September it consisted of 2,160 CG-4A Waco gliders, 916 Airspeed Horsa gliders (812 RAF and 104 U.S. Army) and 64 General Aircraft Hamilcar gliders. Not all these gliders were used in the operation.
The U.S. had only 2,060 glider pilots available, so that none of its gliders would have a co-pilot but would instead carry an extra passenger.