EDE, Netherlands (Reuters) – Operation Market Garden, the ultimately failed attempt to liberate the north of the Netherlands from Nazi Germany in September 1944, was commemorated by veterans and royalty in the Netherlands on Saturday.
Under a clear blue sky, Prince Charles and Dutch Princess Beatrix watched over a thousand parachutists re-enact the landing of British, American and Polish paratroopers on Ginkel Heath on Sept. 17, 1944.
The landing marked the start of Operation Market Garden, one of the largest allied operations of World War Two – famously depicted in the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far”, starring Sean Connery.
Market Garden was meant to clear the path for allied troops into Germany, by liberating the north and east of the neighbouring Netherlands, isolating German troops in the west of the country.
Tens of thousands of paratroopers were instructed to seize bridges up and down from the Dutch-German border, but after three days of heavy battles and initial success, they failed to take the city of Arnhem.
Around 15,000 allied soldiers and thousands of German soldiers lost their lives in Operation Market Garden, which culminated in the loss of the Battle of Arnhem – prolonging World War Two in Europe until the final liberation came in May 1945.
“The battle was tough, brutal and vicious,” Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld said at the commemoration of the battles.
“We all know that Operation Market Garden did not bring the liberty that everyone was hoping for,” the mayor of Ede, Rene Verhulst, said.
“But these were days of great courage, that were decisive for the future of our continent.”
Among the thousands of spectators on Saturday were veterans who survived the harsh battles in 1944. Some of them even took part in the commemorative parachute jumps.
“This was terrifyingly thrilling,” 97-year-old veteran Sandy Cortman told Dutch TV after his jump. “I won’t be doing this again tomorrow.”
(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Ros Russell)