on July 14, 2004
This book is the gripping account of World War Two's most tragic battle and thats the story of the Red Devils(British Paratroopers) at Arnhem. This book covers in wonderful detail of the events of Operation Market-Garden. Ryan writes his masterpiece with hundredes of accounts from te soldiers who were accutally there. This book is packed from cover to cover with stories of heroism, courage,and bravery. Like the story of Col. Frosts small band of tough Red Devils who hold Arnhem for four days against two S.S. Panzer Divisions, or the story of the 82nd Airbornes crossing of te Waal river 2 take Nimejan Bridge in daylight. If I could i would give it a 7 star rating!
on June 21, 2003
A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan's third and final World War II epic, is a gripping and moving account of the ill-fated attempt by the Allies to vault over the Rhine River and into Germany before Christmas 1944. As in his two previous works, The Longest Day (1959) and The Last Battle (1966), Ryan relies on clear and crisp narrative, painstaking research, and hundreds of anecdotes from Allied, Dutch and German participants.
As the Germans retreated from France and Belgium in the late summer of 1944, the victorious Allies found themselves in a dilemma created by their own success. With most of the Channel ports either still in German hands or damaged too extensively to be of any use, the American, British, and Canadian armies outran their supply lines. Gas, fuel, and munitions had to be driven from the Normandy beaches to the front line, which in some places was 400 miles distant. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, desperately needed to capture the Belgian port of Antwerp, Europe's largest.
Another serious problem facing the Allies was British General (later Field Marshal) Bernard L. Montgomery. Montgomery - or Monty, as he was known to the public - was Britain's most popular general as a result of his victory over German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at El Alamein. Because Montgomery was considered a master of the "set-piece battle," Eisenhower had appointed him as the chief ground commander of the Allied forces for the duration of the Normandy campaign, with the understanding that Ike would then assume direct command on September 1, 1944.
Despite the mixed performance of Montgomery in Normandy (his British-Canadian forces had taken Caen - a D-Day objective - only after a month's worth of battles), the British general was reluctant to give up the ground forces command. Although a brilliant officer, Monty was also aloof and arrogant...and ambitious. He did not seem to understand that the Americans were fast becoming the predominant force in Western Europe, while Britain had reached the limit of her available manpower. He insisted - with the support of some of his superiors in Whitehall - that he be given command of all Allied ground forces, something that was militarily and politically unacceptable to the other partners of the coalition.
Montgomery also proposed a decisive "full-blooded thrust" to cross the Rhine River and take the Ruhr valley, Germany's industrial heartland. He proposed that Eisenhower give him command of forty divisions (pointedly excluding his American rival, Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. and his Third Army) to achieve this.
Eisenhower refused. But on Sept. 4, 1944, the British Second Army captured the port city of Antwerp. Soon after that, German V-2 rockets launched from Nazi-occupied Holland fell on London. This gave Montgomery a chance to propose a contingency plan that might, just might, lead to a bridgehead over the Rhine - and even into Germany itself.
Thus Operation Market-Garden was conceived.
Market-Garden was to be what is known as a combined-arms vertical envelopment. Market, the airborne element, involved the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 1st Airborne Division, and the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade. They were to be dropped - in history's largest airborne operation - in daylight onto a series of drop and landing zones near a series of bridges which linked a single highway from Eindhoven in the south to Arnhem on the Lower Rhine. Garden, the ground element, consisted of British Gen. Brian Horrocks' XXX Corps, a powerful armored force which was expected to make the 64-mile drive to Arnhem in two days. Ironically, this admittedly daring plan was the brainchild of one of the Allies' most cautious generals.
Ryan's book - later adapted by William Goldman into a screenplay for a not-too-popular movie version - describes the chain of events and tragic errors that culminated in Market-Garden's ultimate failure. A Bridge Too Far is full of episodes of skill and bravery on all fronts, but also exposes the failures of intelligence and tactical mistakes on both sides. Even 29 years after it was first published, this book remains one of the most moving and fascinating accounts about a mostly forgotten battle.
on February 1, 2003
This was Cornelius Ryan's last work which was published in his lifetime and his best. 'A Bridge Too Far' is the best account of Market-Garden ever written. And, just like his prior two works, 'The Longest Day' and 'The Last Battle' Ryan takes more of an interest in what happened to the people who experienced the greatest airborne operation of the war and its terrible aftermath.
I always gathered that 'A Bridge Too Far' is a monument to human courage and that Ryan used Market-Garden as his canvas to make his eloquent point.
The book starts of with the little town of Driel (as well as ends there) and we see the drama open and unfold as the Germans, having been routed from Normandy and France altogether, are withdrawing from Holland in chaotic fashion. The Dutch begin to wonder if the Allies are coming. The Germans eventually stabilize their lines in time to receive the landings. When the paratroopers finally land, they are in the fight for their lives as the Germans attack them ceaselessly.
You will read with wonderment at the bravery of the Dutch who aid both liberators and occupiers with humanity, the valor of the troopers of Julian Cook's battalion as they cross the Waal River in rickety boats under heavy German fire, the magnificent stand of John Frost's battalion at Arnhem Bridge, the steadfast determination of Roy Urquhart's Red Devils, the dedication of the troops of Bittrich's II Panzer Korps in protecting what they believed was the direst threat to their homes.
I can't praise this book highly enough. It completes an epic trilogy Mr. Ryan started with the Longest Day. It's tragic, but never weepy, it never engages in 'could have, should have' discussions, but let's the story do the talking (a sign of first rate reporting).
This is the finest monument of Market-Garden we are ever likely to have.
on December 25, 2001
Like Stephen Ambrose's books, I found Mr. Ryan's "A Bridge Too Far" hard to put down. Ryan has style in the way he weaves a story, especially one as complicated as that of Operation Market Garden. During the first few days of Market and the beginning of Garden the Germans generally believed that the British and Ami's were staging some big rouse - clearly an airborne drop of that size and magnitude could not have been planned by Montgomery, it was too daring, he was known to be (overly) cautious. But it was Monty's baby. It took Monty a lot of maneuvering to convince SHAEF and Eisenhower to make the dash for the Rhine (and Berlin as Monty's true objective). It had panache and daring and if everything that could have gone wrong hadn't it may have just been the end of the war. As it played out it was a huge set back for the Allies, and given the failure to clean up the Germans around Antwerp because troops were diverted to Garden, one could say that Hurtgen and The Bulge were direct fallouts from Market-Garden's failures. Military objectives aside Market-Garden was an amazing testament to the men who fought it, especially those lonely British airborne troops who held out so admirably in Arnhem. Mr. Ryan does their sacrifices justice with this work. A Bridge Too Far is a must read for all serious students of WWII and should be read by anyone interested in great battles.
on November 15, 2001
Ryan's brilliantly recapitulates the the biggest airborne operation in the history of war[Operation Market Garden].Unfortunately for the Allies the operation ended in a fiasco.With that Montgomery's bold plan of ending war in Europe by 1944 lay in ruins.Reasons for this costly debacle still continues to be debated by historians.I am inclined to the view that Market Garden failed due to conceit ,arrogance of Allied planners.It should be noted various intelligence inputs[reconnaissance photos,reports from Dutch resistance,Ultra decrypts]indicating the presence of crack, battle-hardened German IInd SS panzer corps in Arnhem area was either pooh-pooed or ignored by Allied planners.Bulk of British Ist airborne division which managed to land west of Arnhem were pinned down by SS armour.Only 2nd battalion under Col John Frost managed to reach northern end of Arnhem bridge.They continued to hold out repelling fierce German attacks.The proposed link-up with Gen Brian Horrocks XXXth corps ,advancing from the Belgian-Dutch border,failed due to stubborn defence conducted by German Army Group B under Von Model.After heavy fighting Germans managed to break the resistance of Frost's gallant battalion.To conclude scores of soldiers, due to faulty planning ,were needlessly sacrificed.And it shows how cruel war can be.The ordeal of Dutch civilians caught in the cross-fire has been highlighted by the author.The book is made more interesting by author's emphasis on individual soldier's experience of combat.The book contains series of good battle maps which helps the reader to comprehend the course of campaign better.Unquestionably this the best book on World War II that I have read.
on July 30, 2000
Famed author Cornelius Ryan has a unique and appealing way of telling a story that makes his books quite unique, and this huge best seller is no exception. He lets the disastrous story of the wrong-headed Allied decision to risk an immense day-light paratrooper drop with "thunderclap surprise" (catching the Germans with their proverbial pants down) for the first time in the European campaign unfold as an ill-conceived effort to capture a series of bridges critical to a fast and successful prosecution of the Allied thrust into the heart of Germany.
This tale retelling the Allied miscalculation of potential German resistance and the speed with which they could proceed up the one road needed to support the airdropped forces is a riveting tale. Its total cost in terms of human life and unnecessary destruction is a cautionary lesson for history. Like his other books, this is a story told at every level, but concentrating on the faithful recollections of the actual participants in the action. Thus, the reader is wept into the action as we get a voyeur's view of the moment-to-moment development of the story as it unfolds in all its horrific detail.
There is a cornucopia of information presented here, and Ryan's approach is scrupulously faithful to the facts, all of them, regardless of the source. Therefore, there is a great deal of attention paid to the recollections and experiences of the German armed forces and noncombatants as well as the Allied invaders. Unlike some other efforts on this subject, there is no apparent effort here to color the results and make the Allies more circumspect and less provocative in making and activating their ill-conceived plans. One gets the sense on reading this book that this is the whole story as best Ryan could determine it, and he makes an extraordinary effort to include as much relevant information by way of using both recollection and contextual data to bolster a comprehensive picture of the battles as they unfolded in the air, and then more fatefully on the ground.
Ryan was one of a handful of masterful storytellers and historians who emerged from the Second World War. Like John Toland, William Shirer, and a number of notable others, Ryan illuminated the human stories of war and destruction, and brought these otherwise unbelievable and incomprehensible experiences home to an entire generation of otherwise bewildered citizens. This is one of the best of the efforts, shining the light of truth on a still controversial and provocative Allied action that could have expedited the end of the war, but instead resulted in large scale death and destruction.
on July 18, 2000
"A Bridge Too Far" is the third in a series of books written by the late Cornelius Ryan about the major battles of the Second World War. In dramatic fashion, Ryan superbly tells the story of Operation "Market-Garden," biggest single airborne assault in history, and the largest and most costly Allied defeat since the earliest days of World War II.
It is late summer, 1944. Adolf Hitler's armies in Western Europe have been retreating steadily from France, Belgium and the Netherlands ever since D-Day, when Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France and began moving like a juggernaut toward the German border. All signs point to a completely demoralized German army, made up primarily of old men and young boys. The German occupiers flee through the Low Countries on bicycles, in carts, and on foot. By September 1944, it seems only a matter of time before the Third Reich collapses under the relentless assault of the Allies.
British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery persuades the Allied high command to adopt his bold plan to win the war in 1944. Called "Market-Garden," the plan calls for Allied forces to seize and hold a series of bridges spanning the Rhine River on the border between Germany and The Netherlands. The capture of these bridges will give the Allies the route they need for the invasion of the German homeland. If successful, "Market-Garden" could spell victory for the Allies in 1944.
The plan is ambitious and, on the surface, well thought out. It will have two parts: "Market" will be the airborne assault. Allied forces will land and seize the bridges along the Rhine. The key bridge - the linchpin of the whole operation - will be the bridge at Arnhem. The "Garden" portion of the plan is an armored ground assault by a column of tanks that will travel 80 miles to provide relief to the paratroopers holding each of the bridges. However, Monty's plan has a fatal flaw: Allied intelligence has failed to reveal the presence of a seasoned German armored division hiding in the area.
"Market-Garden" begins on September 17, 1944, and initially looks headed for success. Allied paratroopers quickly capture two of the four bridges, but the attacks on bridges at Nijmegen and Arnhem - the "Bridge Too Far" - soon run into trouble. The Nijmegen brige captured by Allied forces only after stubborn German resistance and heavy fighting. The British 1st Airborne Division lands in the wrong place and loses its communications. A British airborne battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost captures the Arnhem bridge after heavy fighting. German Field Marshal Walter Model, who is in the area almost by accident, observes the assault as it begins to unfold, and quickly guesses its objectives. He assembles all German troops in the area and counterattacks. Near Arnhem, the 1st Airborne quickly comes under siege miles away from its objective. Frost's battalion also comes under heavy siege. Ultimately, the successful German counterattack and siege nearly destroys both Urquhart's and Frost's commands. The British are forced to withdraw, and "Market-Garden" ends in defeat.
I found "A Bridge Too Far" to be one of the best books about World War II I've ever read - better, even, than Ryan's earlier book "The Longest Day." Ryan writes a masterful account of this tragic battle. His narrative is gripping and dramatic throughout. He incorporates many first-person accounts of the participants in the battle from all sides - Allied, German, civilian, and Dutch underground. With an historian's eye for factual interpretation, Ryan exposes the political wrangling which went on at the highest levels of the Allied command, and the false assumptions, miscalculations, blunders, and self-deceptions which marked the Allied planning and execution of "Market-Garden." With a journalist's unfailing eye for factual accuracy and detail, Ryan describes with spellbinding realism the fighing on the ground and in the air. Throughout the book, Ryan never loses sight of the human dimension - the sometimes superb and more often erroneous judgments made by Allied and German generals and colonels; the extraordinary valor of the ordinary soldier on both sides, officer and enlisted man alike; and the dedication and sacrifice of civilians and the Dutch underground.
"A Bridge Too Far" is a wonderful work of history, one which I heartily recommend to all readers!
on July 11, 2000
This is my second read of Cornelius Ryan's, the first being The Longest Day. Let me tell you, this man is a remarkable writer. WOW!
From reading his words, Mr. Ryan gives me the impression that everything he says, tells, or writes about is perfectly correct. The depth of research is astounding. The conviction to detail and to the exact words gave me the impression that he was there at all the events, no matter how small. From glider pilot seats to German General Staff meetings, he speaks with such authority it's as if he wrote the words, and everyone performed the play. Truly remarkable.
Needless to say, Operation Market Garden was doomed and under prepared. If not for strong egos needing gratification, a better planned, less destructive operation may have been realized. The men and women of this book live on it's pages, telling the story for all the angles which will allow you to read and make your own decision as to the value of the operation. The bravery of the soldiers underscores the term Military Blunder as presented by the General Staff. And how it all lives in the print of this book. The 88's live, the Tigers rumble and terrify, the smells and sounds are all there. The arrogance, egotism and ignornace are also there too. Once again, WOW!
If you haven't read this book, get it now. Don't see the movie, read the words. If you've read it before, then read it again. This is how history should be written, alive, strong and effective.
Finally, this particular edition is a good size book. Heavy enough, but not too. It feels good in your hands, solid and firm. A great experience all around.
on July 25, 1999
I have read A Bridege Too far twice because of the wealth of information and because I wanted to cross check it with another reference work. Mr. Ryan's work is superb. I have also read Christopher Hibbert's account of this epic battle and his story falls far short of the mark. I have also read General Roy Urquhart's story and he errs in only one area. That being how the entire set of battle plans falls into General Student's hands at the beginning of the battle. The footnote on page 255 in Mr. Ryan's book answers this question. When going from Mr. Ryan work to Mr. Hibbert work, I get the distinct impression that Mr. Ryan's book is fair and unbiased while Mr. Hibbert's is just the opposite. He blames General Eisenhower for the failure while the real blame for the failure should be at the doorstep of the 21st Army Group. Mr. Hibbert also says that the entire set of plans were found in the coat pocket of a dead American. This myth will easily be dispelled if you read the footnote that I mentioned above. Mr. Ryan's work is true and complete and he is also a marvelous storyteller. There were so many reasons for the failure of this battle that it is difficult to decide on the main reason. However, I truly feel that the main reason for the British failure at Arnhem was because they would not accept any information from the Dutch Underground, even after a visit to General Mongomery's headquarters by Crown Prince Bernhard who pleaded with him to re-evaluate the reports of Dutch Underground.They were polite but firm in their refusal to heed their information. Now I find that rather strange, because the British and Americans both listened to and rightly evaluated all of the other underground networks. The French, Polish, Norwegian..etc. why the fallout with the Dutch? Then I remembered reading a few years back a book by another famous author who explained why the British did not trust the Dutch Underground. Does anyone else know the answer to this riddle?
on February 20, 1999
This is Cornelius Ryan's masterpiece dealing with the ill-fated Allied invasion of Holland in 1944.Unlike most other works on the subject,which tend to focus primarily on the Battle of Arnhem and the role of the 1st Airborne Division,this gem of a book goes into tremendous detail about the whole affair,basically encompassing a three-week period in September 1944,from the inception of Operation "Market-Garden" to its bitter conclusion. All points of view are covered,from the Allied commanders who devised the attack and those who fought in the subsequent battle,their German counterparts,the ordinary front-line soldiers(who at times are bemused and then cynical regarding the decisions made by the "brass hats") and of course not forgetting the populace of Arnhem and Oostersbeek,who welcomed the paratroopers as liberators,only to be swiftly disillusioned and who would then bear the brunt of the Nazi reprisals in the bleak winter of 1944-45. Mr.Ryan skilfully blends narrative with first person accounts in order to keep the story flowing.His superb way of describing the scenarios encountered,in particular the arrival of the airborne armadas over Holland,will stick in the mind long afterwards.(My personal favourite is in the fourth part of the book,when in one awesome paragraph,beginning with 'From the smoking ruins of Arnhem...',he captures the moment when the second lift of the airborne forces materialises over the battlefront AND the psychological effect of this upon the combatants.Magnificent!). Naturally the book is not without its flaws.Mr.Ryan is somewhat overfond of the term 'bolstered' and sprinkles it around liberally.He also seems to lose count of the number of airborne troops involved,thus the total number of paratroopers mentioned seems well in excess of the 35000 who were actually dropped in over the nine days of the operation.Then there is the query over the odd fact or two(for instance,one of the recipients of the Victoria Cross,whom he describes as being killed in action,was actually captured and died later in a POW camp). However these are all minor quibbles and in no way detract from the storyline.To me though,the most staggering accomplishment about this book is that it was written while Mr.Ryan was terminally ill with cancer and towards the end,he was struggling to stay alive just to finish it.(He died shortly after its completion in 1974). By itself the book is excellent.Add to this that it was penned by a dying man(and was in fact his whole raison d'etre)and only one description will suffice:Pure Genius.Period