The Battle of the Bridges: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden.
Band of Brothers--both the book by Stephen Ambrose and the mini series-made the fabled Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), and, by extension, the paratroops of World War II, almost household names. These soldiers have a justly deserved reputation for fierceness and bravery seldom equaled. Their efforts in Sicily, Normandy, and Operation Market Garden showed them to be tough, disciplined fighters able and willing to take on the most difficult challenges. This book is one of a planned series covering the exploits of the 504th PIR and the 82nd Airborne Division in Northern Europe in World War II.
A Dutchman, van Lunteren has an abiding interest in the men who helped liberate his country--especially the first to find their way into his hometown, the 504th PIR. His family lived in the area discussed in the book, and his father witnessed many of the events related. Van Lunteren was initially fascinated by the story of Ted Bachenheimer, a scout and sergeant in that unit who disappeared during Operation Market Garden. As he researched Bachenheimer and his fellow paratroopers, he conceived the idea of expanding this research into a full blown history. This book is the first result.
Van Lunteren is an amateur historian who lives in Arnhem and is active in the town's historical society. He started by publishing articles on Market Garden and the 504th and eventually collected enough information to pursue a book. His methods are thorough and his research impressive. He interviewed 504th veterans, attended unit reunions, and read unpublished survivors' manuscripts. Where possible, he also interviewed veterans from other Allied and German forces involved. With all of this information, he admits his original design of a comprehensive history was unmanageable, so he decided to divide and conquer. This book covers only a portion of Market Garden; subsequent volumes will cover other aspects of the 504th's operations.
Van Lunteren's research and passion for the subject are evident throughout. From the excellent pictures, comprehensive notes, and crystal-clear maps, there is an attention to detail seldom found in the works of amateur historians. Together with the editorial staff, van Lunteren has produced a very worthwhile book. That said it is important to recognize that this book is not the comprehensive unit history seemingly intended. Van Lunteren fails to move from individual narratives to adequately address larger issues of training, logistics, tactics, and command. Maps are one example. Individual quality is outstanding, but their coverage of unfolding events is haphazard. They focus on incidents connected with individuals or groups of soldiers and don't adequately illustrate the tactical situations to better explain troop movements and tactics. There is a confusing overreliance on verbatim first-person accounts as van Lunteren jumps from one account to another with little, and sometimes no, connecting narrative. There is no real effort to reconcile conflicting perspectives of events told from these various points of view. So what we end up with is an engaging and thoroughly researched personal-level history that, despite its flaws, is well worth the reader's time. Look elsewhere for the larger ebb and flow of battle, but read this to see the soldier's-eye view of combat in Holland in 1944.
Golda Eldridge, Lt Col, USAF (Ret), EdD
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|Publication:||Air Power History|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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