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A Bridge at Arnhem
By Charles Whiting

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A Bridge at Arnhem

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A Bridge at Arnhem
By Charles Whiting
Magna Large Print Books, 2007
ISBN : 978-07505-2668-5
Genre: History - World War II

Reviewed by Herbert White - March 23, 2007

A Bridge at Arnhem, by Charles Whiting, is a popular history of the mission to take a key bridge across the Lover Rhine during Operation Market Garden. The bridge was located at Arnhem, Holland and the time was September, 1944. The bridge in question was held by the Nazis, and as the war began to wind to a close, the Allies launched a massive campaign to push through the German lines. The task of planning the push though Holland fell to Field Marshal Montgomery, and he organized a mission that was to become the biggest airborne assault of the war. As part of this assault, codenamed Operation Market Garden, the British planned to take five key bridges across the Rhine. This book is the story of the battle for one of these bridges, the one at Arnhem.

A Bridge at Arnhem is a 'light' history, told from the viewpoint of the men who saw battle, rather than a tome full of dry facts. While most of the bridges targeted during this assault where joint British and American ventures, it was the British, lead by General Roy Urquhart, that aimed to take the Arnhem bridge. Urquhart, along with the 1st Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade (combined, more than 10,000 men) were to be dropped behind enemy lines and take the enemy by surprise. Instead of being dropped in unison, the men were dropped into battle over a period of days, and instead of finding war weary German troops they were met by two, well-rested SS Panzer Divisions. The battle for the bridge was a give and take, with the paratroopers taking one end, only to be pushed off again by the Germans. Whiting ably captures the feeling of the men in battle: their fears and their fervor, and he tells a gripping tale about a battle lost before it began due to poor execution of an overly optimistic battle plan backed by incorrect intelligence.

This book starts with an overview of lead-up to the battle, then goes on to describe the battle itself. Then, Whiting tackles the hardest part of this battle, the British retreat. With reinforcements overly late, the paratroopers were down to a shadow of their original glory. Less than 2500 paratroopers made it back across the Rhine, leaving behind about 1500 that were captured by the Germans. The rest died. The paratroopers fought gallantly, and they may have had a chance of holding the bridge if their reinforcements had arrived as scheduled, but that was not to be. In the second half of this book, Whiting chronicles the retreat of the Red Devils, and the aftermath of the failure of Operation Market Garden.

>From beginning to end, Whiting has written a gripping account of the Battle of Arnhem. His pacing and narrative style makes this book read like a work of fiction, but it was all too real. The paratroopers sent into Arnhem fought heroically, and the failure of the plan was not theirs, and in this book Whiting gives these valiant men their due, honoring their mission, and their sacrifice.

For more information about this battle, and the men who waged it, I highly recommend the academically rigorous, but just as readable, book by Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far. As well as It Never Snows in September, by Robert Kershaw, which presents the battle from the German viewpoint.

A Bridge at Arnhem can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of Magna Large Print Books.

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