On 20 September 1944, a force of US paratroopers launched a desperate, near suicidal river crossing in an effort to reach their airborne brethren trapped at Arnhem, only to see their efforts squandered by British tank crews who, instead of racing ahead, sat down to drink tea.
The story of the Waal crossing – at least as it is told by American veterans of the operation and by many historians since – has become a part of the Arnhem legend, one of airborne heroism set against the timidity of the armoured forces sent to relieve them; of American professionalism wasted by British incompetence.
But what really happened? Why was the crossing even necessary? Using first-hand accounts and official records, Operation Market Garden examines the legend of the Waal Crossing – and the entire operation – revealing how a culture of elitism mixed with national and personal rivalries led to the most famous Allied defeat of the European war.