Following the invasion in Normandy on June 6 1944, the Allied Forces planned an operation in september with the code name Market Garden. Their intention was to move the troops quickly to Germany, passing through a small frontline in the north of Belgium. This was meant to end the war before the year would end.
Market Garden consisted of two parts: an operation in the air (Market) and on land (Garden). Allied ground forces were to move up through a narrow corridor from the Belgian town of Neerpelt, via Eindhoven, Grave and Nijmegen to Arnhem (Garden). Air force troups were going to land beforehand, to safegard the canal and river crossings between Eindhoven and Arnhem for the groundtroups.
Part of the operation was the landing of the 82nd American Airborne Division under Major General James Gavin in five zones, in the triangle of Grave-Groesbeek-Nijmegen. The landings on Sunday September 17 went well and the 82nd gained position on the river Maas and the Maas-Waal Canal. An attempt that same night to take the bridge over the river Waal failed; the German defense was better organised than expected. On top of that the Germans were reinforced by two SS batallions from Arnhem. The advance on land from Neerpelt was less fortunate. The tank division which should have reached Nijmegen within 24 hours, had moved no further than Valkenswaard by midnight on September 17. Nijmegen and its surroundings became a battleground in the next few days. On the 20th the railway and traffic bridges fell into Allied hands. In Arnhem the British failed to take and hold the bridge over the river Rhine. Attempts to support the British from the south also failed. The evening of September 25 marked the start of operation Berlin: the evacuation of the Allied troops north of the river Rhine. This was the end of operation Market Garden. It had been a bridge too far. The assumption that the war would be over before Christmas, had been too optimistic. The American liberators left Nijmegen. The eightysecond Airborne Division left town on November 12 and the one hundred and first at the end of November 1944. The British and Canadian troups took their place.
The northern part of the country would not be liberated until the spring of 1945. The military operations between September 17 and September 25 left their marks on Nijmegen, a city already scarred by the bombardment that took place six moths before, on February 22. About 900 civilians were killed. The invasion of Germany (planned after Market Garden) started in 1945, Februari 8 and was named Operation Veritable. Liberated Nijmegen was a front line city until about halfway March 1945, when at last the front started to move away; this meant that the dangers of war were very real. Nijmegen learnt to live on a rhythm of air raids, artillery fire and hiding in bomb shelters. On March 17 the last German grenades struck the city.