Traveling Tuesday: A Bridge Too Far
As I continually research WWII for my novels, I am constantly reminded at just how far reaching the war was. It was not called a world war for nothing. The conflict seemed to impact every corner of the globe. An area I have only recently begun to study is the Netherlands, also known as Holland. The European portion (there are three Dutch islands in the Caribbean) borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest. Invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940, the country remained occupied for nearly the entire war.
The Battle of Arnhem was fought in September 1944 with Operation Market (airborne forces who would take the bridges) Garden (ground forces) being the Allied plan of attack. It was a brutal and unsuccessful campaign resulting in nearly 20,000 casualties. The road bridge over the Lower Rhine was the final objective of the operation. Troops were to secure the rails, road, and pontoon bridges and hold them until they could be relieved by the XXX Corps. However, German resistance was stronger than anticipated, and they overwhelmed the Allied troops after eight days. A later assessment by military commentators and historians indicated that priority should have been given to securing Nijmegan Bridge.
The bridge was later destroyed during a bombing raid in October, 1944. Arnhem was liberated the following year, and a new bridge was erected shortly thereafter. Because it was a truss-style bridge, it was too low for ships to pass under and subsequently replaced. In 1977, it was renamed the John Frostbrug (literally John Frost Bridge) in honor of the Major General who commanded the British forces that reached and defended the bridge.
Although the operation was a failure, Arnhem became a byword for the fighting spirit of the British people. A Bridge Too Far was written in 1974 by Cornelius Evans, and adapted for film by William Goldman in 1977. The cast is a who’s who list in Hollywood including Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Liv Ullmann, Elliott Gould, James Caan, and Michael Caine. The book’s title is supposed to have come from an unconfirmed comment by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery: “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”
Initially received with mixed reviews, the film has since become a WWII classic. Have you seen it?