82d Airborne Division drop near Grave in the Netherlands during Operation MARKET-GARDEN. (National Archives)
Initially, all went according to plan. In the south the 101st, facing light opposition, quickly secured the bridges at Eindhoven and Veghel. Farther north, the 82d firmly established positions near Nijmegen. Problems did, however, begin to develop. The 1st British Airborne Division, having landed nearly eight miles from Arnhem, could take only the north end of the Arnhem bridge. Furthermore, German resistance began to stiffen rapidly. The Allies had severely miscalculated the German strength in the area. General Kurt Student's First Parachute Army held the general area of the southeastern Netherlands, and he quickly rushed several Kampfgruppen of the II Parachute Corps toward Nijmegen. An even graver German threat existed around Arnhem where, unbeknownst to the Allies, the II SS Panzer Corps was regrouping. Soon, the Germans began a coordinated defense under the direction of Field Marshal Walter Model, whose Army Group B also happened to have its headquarters near Arnhem. Additionally, the 30 Corps advance ran into heavier opposition than expected, making its progress up the narrow road to Arnhem, soon named 'Hell's Highway' by Allied soldiers, disappointingly slow. Furthermore, increasingly inclement weather helped to thwart Allied plans. For five days, poor flying weather delayed the reinforcement of the airborne divisions and cut the effectiveness of aerial resupply efforts to 30 percent.
By 23 September, it was obvious to the Allies that MARKET-GARDEN had run its course. German forces had stopped the advance of 30 Corps just short of Arnhem at Driel. The 1st British Airborne Division, cutoff and suffering heavy casualties, received permission to withdraw. On the night of 25 September, some 2,000 British soldiers slipped across the lower Rhine River into the Allied lines and safety; the other 7,000 who had fought in and around Arnhem were dead or missing. The British would not return to Arnhem until the following April.
The American divisions had also suffered their share of casualties. The 82d had lost 1,432 killed and missing, and the 101st sustained 2,110 casualties. The fighting for the two U.S. airborne divisions did not, however, end with the halt of the drive toward Arnhem. The Allies, faced with continued German pressure against the MARKETGARDEN salient, kept the two U.S. divisions in the line. Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin's 82d finally started withdrawing on 11 November, after incurring an additional 1,682 casualties; beginning on 25 November Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor's 101st would follow, having suffered 1,912 more losses.
To General Eisenhower the ramifications of MARKET-GARDEN were abundantly clear. The failure to reach Arnhem dashed any hope of seizing a bridgehead over the Rhine and outflanking the Siegfried Line before the onset of winter. Additionally, the annihilation of the 1st British Airborne Division, coupled with the need to retain the 101st and 82d U.S. Airborne Divisions in the field, denied SHAEF the immediate option of further airborne drops along the Rhine. Finally, the failure of MARKET-GARDEN reinforced in Eisenhower s mind the wisdom of his broad-front strategy.