Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Dan M. Hockman


The Allied defeat at Arnhem, Holland in September 1944 marked the end of one of the most bold and audacious, ground and airborne operations ever undertaken. Many military historian have incorrectly labeled Operation MARKET-GARDEN an intelligence failure. This statement is true only in so far as the Allied intelligence structure failed to persuade their commanders to alter the planned invasion despite the voluminous intelligence data acquired. But did these commander have hidden agendas which made intelligence almost irrelevant?

The purpose of this research is to investigate the Allied, strategic and operational intelligence preparation for Operation MARKET-GARDEN and determine its adequacy. It also examines the political and military factors that caused the commanders failure to heed the intelligence warnings. The primary focus will be upon the British 1st Airborne Division and the battle for the Dutch town of Arnhem, however to properly examine operational situation one can not ignore the remainder of the First Allied Airborne Army and the ground forces of British XXX Corps.

Although there are numerous studies of MARKET-GARDEN, few have focused on the intelligence situation leading to the battle. This study examines political and personal influences in the military command process and it has as important implications today as it did over fifty years ago.

By September 1944, the Allies great march across Western Europe began to stall. With their logistical system tremendously overtaxed, the field armies struggled to continue offensive operations. The other great problem was a disagreement within the Supreme Command on how best to exploit their successes, and the apparent collapse of the German Western Group of Forces. The fundamental argument was between Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery, Eisenhower favoring a "Broad Front", while Montgomery was opting for a narrow flanking movement which would allow the Allies to roll-up the northern German forces and strike into the industrial Ruhr valley. It was out of this dynamic situation that Operation MARKET-GARDEN was born.

Hastily planned, Operation MARKET-GARDEN was to combine airborne (MARKET) and ground (GARDEN) assaults on German-occupied Holland. The plan called for the 1st Allied Airborne Army to seize bridges over major Dutch waterways up to Arnhem, after which XXX Corps would pass over these bridges and strike north. The operation was a failure because commanders at operational levels failed to heed the multitude of intelligence warnings indicating that the 2nd SS Panzer Corps had relocated to the vicinity of Arnhem.

The failure to properly direct the intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination can directly be attributed to the overwhelming desire to execute this operation, despite the apparent risks, held by British Generals Montgomery and Browning. Montgomery rightly believed that this was the last opportunity to attempt a "narrow front" approach to operations in the west. Driven by his belief in the narrow front strategy and a desire for personal and professional fame, Montgomery overtly ignored intelligence and allowed a hastily and inadequately planned operation to be executed, which resulted in the destruction of the British 1st Airborne Division.