A bridge too far: Dutch and British commemorate Operation Market Garden

EDE, The Netherlands (Reuters) – Operation Market Garden, the ultimately failed attempt to liberate the northern Netherlands from Nazi Germany in September 1944, was commemorated on Saturday by veterans and members of Dutch royalty .

Under clear blue skies, Britain’s Prince Charles and Dutch Princess Beatrix watched over a thousand paratroopers reenact the landing of British, American and Polish paratroopers on Ginkel Heath on September 17, 1944.

The landing marked the start of Operation Market Garden, one of the largest Allied operations of WWII – famous in the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far”, starring Sean Connery.

Market Garden was supposed to pave the way for Allied troops in Germany, liberating the north and east of neighboring Netherlands, isolating German troops in the west of the country.

Tens of thousands of paratroopers were ordered to seize the bridges up and down the German-Dutch border, but after three days of fierce battles and initial successes they failed to take the city. from Arnhem.

About 15,000 Allied and thousands of German soldiers lost their lives in Operation Market Garden, which culminated in the loss of the Battle of Arnhem – extending WWII in Europe until the final liberation in May 1945.

“The battle has been tough, brutal and vicious,” said Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld during the commemoration of the battles.

“We all know that Operation Market Garden did not bring the freedom that everyone expected,” said Mayor of Ede, René Verhulst.

“But these were days of great courage, decisive for the future of our continent.”

Among the thousands of spectators present on Saturday were veterans who survived the heavy fighting of 1944. Some of them even participated in the memorial parachute jumps.

“It was terribly exciting,” 97-year-old veteran Sandy Cortman told Dutch TV after his jump. “I won’t do this again tomorrow.” “

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Ros Russell

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Terri S. Tomasini