Using often overlooked sources from Dutch, American, British, Polish, and German archives, military historian Antony Beevor reconstructs the dramatic failure of Operation Market Garden, the plan to end World War II by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond—weakening the Allied forces against Nazi Germany at a crucial moment.
Devoted readers of military history will enjoy the wealth of details—and will no doubt argue with some of Beevor's conclusions, both large-scale and small. Here as in all other tellings, Montgomery receives the lion's share of the blame for the disaster, although he astounded his allies by never actually accepting any of that blame ... Beevor concludes his book with a harrowing account of this “Hunger Winter,' when over 20,000 Dutch civilians died ... The Battle of Arnhem is a thrilling and deeply involving addition to that long discussion.
As a military narrative, the Arnhem operation ticks all the boxes, with violence aplenty and lashings of heroism, plus endurance, comradeship and stubborn pride. Above all, it has a cast of magnificently flawed protagonists and mud-splattered foot soldiers ... Beevor takes a rather different approach to the unfolding events, viewing them with the detached eye of a military observer. The analysis he has produced of the disaster is forensic ... Aficionados of military history will revel in Beevor’s microscopic detail, with every skirmish given its rightful place. Yet there are times when the sheer wealth of material threatens to engulf the narrative in a way it never does in Ryan or Atkinson. The author’s cover-all-the-bases approach is intended, perhaps, to accurately reflect the chaos on the ground. Yet I couldn’t help wondering whether fewer characters—and a tighter focus—might have brought greater clarity to this vast human drama ... Beevor’s prodigious research has nevertheless unearthed many treasures, particularly his record of the sufferings of Dutch civilians who risked their necks by nursing wounded allied soldiers. Also welcome is the author’s willingness to pass judgment on the main players ... Montgomery, in particular, comes across as an insufferable bore with a highly inflated ego ... Beevor blames Montgomery for the Arnhem disaster. 'It was quite simply a very bad plan right from the start.' It was, indeed, sheer balls.
In the meticulous narrative style he first employed in Stalingrad, he recreates the operation ... The outline of the story of Arnhem may be familiar, but Sir Antony’s unearthing of neglected sources from all the countries involved—British, American, Polish, Dutch and German—brings to life every aspect of the battle. The misjudgments of egotistical commanders are exposed by their own actions and words. The experiences of individual soldiers both appall and inspire ... The plight of trapped Dutch civilians, who took great risks to help their liberators, is never overlooked. At times the wealth of detail threatens to confuse the reader. But confusion is the very essence—the 'fog'—of war.