Airmen of Arnhem: The Heavy Lift Crews of Operation “Market, by Martin W. Bowman, Pen & Sword Books, Philadelphia, Pa., and Barnsley, U.K., 2020, $42.95

Much has been written about the heroism of Allied airborne troops during Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated September 1944 attempt to shorten World War II by capturing the German-held bridges across the Rhine River in the Netherlands. Indeed, the operation even inspired a major motion picture, A Bridge Too Far (1977). Far less has been recorded about the ordeal of the airmen who repeatedly risked their lives to supply those troops. Flying low and slow in unarmed transport planes over the course of nine days, they faced enemy fighters and intense flak to support their comrades on the ground. A large number were shot down, while many others returned wounded, their aircraft seriously damaged.

Author Martin Bowman recounts the extremely hasty preparations for Market Garden, the only large-scale airborne operation of the war for which there was no specific training or rehearsal. The Allies proceeded with the operation, he adds, despite knowing there were insufficient transport aircraft to simultaneously support three airborne divisions. The bulk of Bowman’s narrative is in the words of those who participated. In one poignant passage the pilot of a Royal Air Force de Havilland Mosquito relates his mission to knock out the main German telephone exchange in Arnhem on the morning of the airborne assault. He recalls his shock at flying over a yard filled with Tiger tanks that were not supposed to be there and realizing he had no chance to warn the airborne troops already on their way.

Airmen of Arnhem is invaluable to anyone interested in wartime transport operations or the ill-fated campaign in general.

—Robert Guttman

 

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