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Crossing the Rhine: Breaking into Nazi Germany 1944 and 1945-The Greatest Airborne Battles in History

Overview

"In September 1944, with the Allies eager to break into Nazi Germany after Normandy but conflicted about how to do so, Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower is forced to arbitrate a power struggle between two rival subordinates: Lieutenant General George Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army, and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who leads the British Twenty-first Army. Patton wants to continue his assault from the south, while Montgomery proposes a complex two-pronged attack on the lower Rhine - Germany's last great natural barrier in the west ...

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Crossing the Rhine: Breaking into Nazi Germany 1944 and 1945-The Greatest Airborne Battles in History

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Overview

"In September 1944, with the Allies eager to break into Nazi Germany after Normandy but conflicted about how to do so, Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower is forced to arbitrate a power struggle between two rival subordinates: Lieutenant General George Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army, and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who leads the British Twenty-first Army. Patton wants to continue his assault from the south, while Montgomery proposes a complex two-pronged attack on the lower Rhine - Germany's last great natural barrier in the west - that calls for thirty-five thousand American and British paratroopers to be dropped sixty-five miles behind enemy lines in the Netherlands, where they will be reinforced by a column of ground forces. After intense debate, Eisenhower approves Montgomery's plan, code named "Operation Market Garden," over a chorus of complaints by Patton and other U.S. officers." "The attack, immortalized in the classic book and film A Bridge Too Far, will go down in history as the most ambitious - and disastrous - airborne assault of all time. Allied soldiers outnumber Germans by two to one, but the plan breaks down when the ground forces encounter unexpected resistance and cannot reinforce the paratroopers, who find themselves lightly armed and isolated behind enemy lines. After nine days of brutal fighting, with heroic stands at the towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, and Nijmegen, the Allies suffer massive casualties and are forced to retreat. Several months later, after the Allies repulse Germany's last-ditch attempt to extend the war with the Battle of the Bulge, Montgomery orchestrates another airborne attack on the Rhine, with soldiers fighting around thetown of Wesel in Germany. This time they prevail and begin their march into the heart of the Third Reich." Lloyd Clark is at the forefront of the next generation of military historians, and in Crossing the Rhine he uses new firsthand research to chronicle both battles - examining them in relation to one another and in the larger context of the war - to show how the Allies' earlier audacity led to their later success. He places the attacks in context by recounting the events that preceded them: the heated disagreements between U.S. and British generals, the extensive training of airborne soldiers, and the growing disillusionment of German troops. And he argues that, contrary to popular opinion, these operations were the right offensives at the right times for the right reasons.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Two battles anchor this narrative of Allied efforts to cross the Rhine at WWII's climax. The first is the famous Operation Market-Garden, during which British paratroopers seized a Rhine bridge and were virtually wiped out by German counterattacks. The second is Operation Plunder-Varsity, a set piece crossing by a huge Allied force, including a superfluous airborne attack, that bulldozed through flimsy German defenses in the war's closing days. Although Plunder-Varsity lacked Market-Garden's drama, British military historian Clark (Anzio) tells both sagas well, including planning meetings, harrowing parachute descents and foxhole firefights; he sets the battles in the context of the bitter strategic debates between British and American generals. Less convincing is his rehabilitation of British general Bernard Montgomery's oft-criticized handling of the engagements. Clark describes Market-Garden as both "strategically and operationally sound" and, contradictorily, as "a plan too flawed to be a success." His appreciation of Plunder-Varsity-both "an outrageous success" and "a conservative operation" against "a terminally weak enemy"-is similarly halfhearted. But the courage and resourcefulness of ordinary soldiers, though not of their commander, comes through in this vivid war story. Maps. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

It is difficult to determine whether Clark (Anzio) meant to write a popular narrative or a scholarly, technical account of Operation Market Garden and Operation Varsity Plunder, the two major Allied airborne efforts to breach the Rhine following D-day; his book moves randomly from one style to the other, awkwardly oscillating between readable prose and text filled with difficult names, numbers, and statistics, interspersed all the while with extensive quotes from generals, soldiers, and politicians. The quotes themselves do not help the reader gain a clearer understanding of the battles or of the human consequences and often come across as pure filler. Clark includes important highlights from other World War II engagements but does not explain how they affected the two operations that are his focus. For instance, his discussion of the failed attempt on Hitler's life led by Claus von Stauffenberg does not show how it influenced later military strategy. Similarly, he is weak on how Market Garden and Varsity Plunder relate to the more famous Battle of the Bulge or to the end of the war. Operation Market Garden was made famous by Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far, itself made into a movie. Ryan's book is a classic of World War II history and remains the best choice for all collections. Clark's book is not recommended. (Maps and index not seen.) [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/08.]
—Michael Farrell

Kirkus Reviews
Well-told accounts of Allied airborne operations Market Garden and Plunder Varsity, conceived to break across the Rhine into Germany after the Normandy invasion. In September 1944, British Field Marshal Montgomery designed Operation Market Garden (made famous in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far), a bold plan to use parachute troops behind enemy lines to help secure bridges across the lower Rhine. Clark (War Studies/Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; Anzio, 2006, etc.) lays out the political headaches Allied Supreme Commander Eisenhower had in running a massive, multinational war effort whose principle battlefield commanders continuously lobbied to get their attack proposals approved. Clark ably disproves the widely held notion that Market Garden was Montgomery's wholly owned operation, which doomed thousands of soldiers' lives for leadership glory. On the contrary, many Allied field commanders had confidence in Market Garden as "a calculated risk which would be interesting and revealing, whatever happened." But the plan was fraught with logistical problems from the beginning, and the Allies underestimated German tenacity. Six months later, in March 1945, Operation Plunder Varsity proved they had learned from mistakes made with Market Garden's airborne assault. Better timing, clear supply lines and airborne troops kept in tight units made this push across the Rhine decisive. Nazi generals knew the end was near. "When the briefing had finished, the Field Marshal [Kesselring] asked, 'Is there any good news at all?' " recalls his Oberstleutnant. "The Staff officers looked at each other and shrugged. There was silence." Clark is best when narrating battle scenes at a rapid pace. Personalnarratives gleaned from soldiers on both sides of the battle lines bring home small-scale episodes of grunt fighting, heroism and pitiful death: "Slamming down the hill, firing from the hip and screaming at the top of our lungs," remembers the sergeant of a platoon that attacked several hundred German troops, "we acted like crazy Indians on the warpath."The fighting spirit of Allied paratroopers comes through with exciting clarity. Agent: Ivan Mulcahy/Mulcahy & Viney
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144300
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,380,825
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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