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Aspects of Arnhem (Hardback)

The Battle Re-examined

Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Arnhem

By Richard Doherty, David Truesdale
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781399043915
Published: 4th July 2023


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Almost 80 years on the battle for the Arnhem Rhine crossing remains controversial. Opinion on its justification and success differs widely.

This superbly researched book, written by two acknowledged experts, takes a wide-ranging examination of Operation MARKET GARDEN from the strategic, operational and tactical level. The role of the Allied commanders involved is scrutinised with surprising results. For example, US General Brereton’s pivotal role has seldom been mentioned, yet he is revealed as responsible for choosing landing and drop zones.

The record of airborne forces, both German and Allied, prior to September 1944 raises questions and the doubt that many senior commanders, including Eisenhower, had as to their effectiveness is highlighted.

The parts played by VIII and XII Corps of Second Army and General Dempsey, its Commander are scrutinised, as are the actions of local commanders and troops on the ground.

Both those with a deep interest in military history and the layman will find much to inform and satisfy them in this valuable and at times provocative account.

I confess to being intrigued why distinguished historian, renowned author and MHS member, Richard Doherty had teamed up with acknowledged authority on the battle of Arnhem, David Truesdale, to add to the mountain of published works on this hugely controversial battle. Aside from the vast number of published accounts it is the epic war film of 1977, “A Bridge Too Far”, based on the book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, which has popularised the battle and turned millions of viewers into “Arnhem experts”. However, it is well known that the film takes liberties with the facts and that many of the published works over the years have not been thoroughly tested against an examination of primary source material. Rather the trend has been to either repeat factual errors from other works or focus on the minor tactical successes and the grit, determination and courage shown by those who did the fighting. It was a burning desire to unearth the true facts behind the battle of Arnhem, and the reasons for the outcome of the battle, which drove the authors to embark on their re-examination. As such they have produced a superlative, myth busting account, from the grand strategic to the sub-tactical level, which really does get to bottom of why Operation Market failed to achieve its objectives. As Brigadier Allan Mallinson, quoting JFK after the Bay of Pigs episode, comments in his masterful Foreword “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Thus it is with Arnhem with the blame for failure being levelled at most of the senior leadership and major participants from Montgomery, Browning, Urquhart, Gale and Horrocks down to the luckless Freddie Gough who having failed to catch up with his Divisional Commander, Urquhart, when summoned to report to him, was then unable to re-join his 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron before being captured. The authors reveal that a notable and serious omission from the list of senior commanders most frequently accused of having responsibility for the failure at Arnhem is Lt Gen Lewis Brereton, Commander of the First Allied Airborne Army. Brereton was an inexperienced US Air Force officer who Omar Bradley described as “marginally competent and fond of high living” and has been summarised as “a feeble, dismal little man.” The author’s assessment of Brereton’s incompetence is compelling and in many ways his demonstrable failures clear many others who are more often associated with the failure. The authors certainly do not shy away from uncomfortable, and perhaps to some, unpalatable, conclusions of their “forensic, formidable and scrupulously fair” analysis, as Allan Mallinson puts it. Aspects of Arnhem is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in getting under the skin of the battle and should be on the shelves of all who wish to be able to re-assess other accounts in terms of accuracy, balance and context. The text is accompanied by a wealth of superb contemporary photographs from a very wide range of sources, many of which are being published for the first time. Aspects of Arnhem will no doubt become the indispensable primer for all with an interest in the battle and it is most highly recommended.

Military Historical Society

"Aspects of Arnhem is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in getting under the skin of the battle and should be on the shelves of all who wish to be able to re-assess other accounts in terms of accuracy, balance and context. The text is accompanied by a wealth of superb contemporary photographs from a very wide range of sources, many of which are being published for the first time. Aspects of Arnhem will no doubt become the indispensible primer for all with an interest in the battle and it is most highly recommended."

Military Historical Society

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A look at the battle or operation called Market Garden. One of just many that gets looked at over and over. Here you have a more detailed look into the men planning it which after reading they should not have been the ones. Who comes up with dropping just part of your men on the first day expecting them to accomplish everything and hold for what turns out to be the rest of their troopers being dropped the next day? The top brass did not even listen to what the German troop movements were so when the drops did begin to happen the Germans were able to respond quickly. I know in reading other books people want to blame this person or that but what I do know is that my father who fought with the 82nd in WWII told me that they were under constant fire from the time they jumped from the planes and that they were fighting continuously when they touched the ground even spending the night in the river, including all of the officers Gavin as well, so the next few days they continued to fight off the Germans. British by not getting reinforcements which would have just brought them to their troop size were at a deficit as were the Poles from the time they touched the ground. I do agree with the author that Eisenhower should still take responsibility since he allowed this operation to be thrown together. Overall a good book.

NetGalley, Pat Lorelli

A well-written book about Operation Market Garden, the tragic airborne assault on Arnhem.
The author has clearly undertaken a massive amount of research, and for me, has filled in some historical gaps about the build-up to the battle.

NetGalley, Peter Coxall

I have read many books about Arnhem and Operation Market Garden and wondered what this book could tell me that is new, I was pleasantly surprised.
The authors briefly examine the American use of airborne divisions prior to Arnhem, and why Brereton was made commander of the Allied Airborne Army and Brereton's faults as a commander, positing that the reason the whole plan failed was due to Brereton and his lack of suitability for command. The authors also touch upon other commanders and their failures, Browning with his HQ, Urquhart dropping so far from the bridge and using the reconnaissance squadron in a role it was not designed for. What could have happened if it was used in its proper role scouting along the three routes into Arnhem?
Gavin's failure to make Nijmegen bridge a priority on the first day etc, even Montgomery comes in for criticism.
An excellent read, filled in a few gaps in my knowledge as the book is mainly looking at the operation from a operational level.
Well worth reading as it is not a regurgitation of books already on Market Garden, it makes you think and lays the responsibility of failure on the correct shoulders.

NetGalley, David Fleshbourne

The Battle of Arnhem is often written about, but it seems that there is always something new to uncover, or a new perspective from which to look at the events. Well written with concise arguments.

NetGalley, Spencer Wright

An intriguing look at the WW2 operation known as "Market Garden." The book looks at the errors and political in-fighting that took place and ultimately doomed this operation. An extremely informative review.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

About Richard Doherty

Richard Doherty, recognised as Ireland’s leading military history author, has thirty published books to his credit, plus many articles in journals and magazines. Included in his Pen and Sword titles are The Thin Green Line: The History of the RUC GC; Helmand Mission; Victory in Italy and Hobart’s 79th Armoured Division at War. He has worked on radio and TV historical series, including The Sons of Ulster and One Man’s War, as well as contributing to other programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? He is also in demand as a speaker and lecturer, speaking at venues such as the National Army Museum, the Tank Museum and the US Marine Corps Staff and Command College, Quantico, Virginia.

About David Truesdale

Taking early retirement in1998, David Truesdale has produced 18 books on military history, concentrating on airborne operations of the Second World War and the role of the Irish soldier in the wars of the Victorian period.

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