The Battle of Arnhem was a complete disaster, where virtually everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. However for the men who fought there, it was one of the most courageous and determined stands in the history of modern warfare. The defence of Arnhem Bridge is a prime example of glory in defeat, though it is often highlighted to the detriment of the other units involved in the battle. Those who fought within the Oosterbeek Perimeter were exhausted, lacking food, water, ammunition and medical supplies, and they were almost constantly under attack from a force estimated to have been four times their number, well-equipped with armoured vehicles and artillery pieces. Yet they clung doggedly to their positions for a total of nine days, far exceeding the four days that it was thought that the entire, properly-fortified Division could have lasted in isolation. There is no doubt that the defeat at Arnhem was not in any way the responsibility of those that fought and died there. The conduct of those men is beyond praise.


Today, Operation Market Garden is commonly regarded as a misguided blunder that unnecessarily sent thousands of men to their deaths. Such views are made with the benefit of hindsight. In reality, given the conditions at the time, it was a perfectly reasonable operation to have attempted. It was a gamble whether or not it would succeed, but given the potential prize, it seemed worth the risk. Market Garden was designed to exploit the belief that the German armies were beaten and would collapse before a renewed Allied onslaught. If this assessment had proved to be true, then it is certainly possible that the war could have been over before the end of 1944, and the plan that brought it about would have been hailed as a piece of tactical genius on behalf of Field Marshal Montgomery. Instead, Market Garden proved to the Allies that the Germans were far from beaten. Not only were they still capable of organised resistance, but three months later they shocked the Allies again by launching a sudden offensive in the Ardennes.


It has been said that Germany's greatest ever mistake was to win the Battle of Arnhem. If they had lost and their will to fight collapsed, then the Western Allies would have entered and conquered Germany long before Stalin and the Red Army were anywhere near the Reich. If this had been so then there would not have been any of the hard fighting of 1945, which saw the utter destruction of Germany and the loss of so many lives, military and civilian. It is, therefore, questionable whether there would have been an East/West divide in Germany, and although the subsequent Cold War was inevitable, it may not have proved to be quite so perilous. When the Russians invaded Germany, they acquired knowledge of rocketry and nuclear weapons through plundered scientific research. Russia would have developed this technology eventually, but had the German research been denied to them, they would certainly have been many years behind the Americans, in terms of nuclear weapons and the space race. If Market Garden had succeeded, the World Politics of the last fifty years, for better or worse, would have been very different.