File No.: Battle Study # 21
Title: Cancelled Airborne Operations prior to "Market Garden"
Investigation made at: Ohio University Library, Athens, Ohio & the Netherlands Institute for Military History, Van Alkemade Barracks, The Hague, The Netherlands
Period Covered: September 1944
Date:  March to June 2011
Case Classification: Discovery in historical archives of documents indicating two additional planned, and cancelled, Allied airborne operations prior to "Market Garden"
Case Status: Case Open
REASON FOR INVESTIGATION: From numerous publications we have thus far understood that the plan for the Allied operation "Market Garden" in September 1944 was preceded by a certain number of codenamed operations
with the operations named "Transfigure", "Boxer", "Axe head", "Linnet" (variations I and II), "Infatuate"
and "Comet" preceding "Market Garden". We have now found two different sources which may indicate that in the turbulent period of September 1944 even more plans have been made, and cancelled, just prior to “Market Garden; also known as the Battle of Arnhem.

Prior to Operation "Market Garden", the 1st Airborne Division (or for some operations only one or more subunits of Brigade- and Battalion-size) has been put on alert status for a rather large number of different operations. Even today it is not completely clear exactly how many operations have been planned and subsequently cancelled.
In his book "Airborne Forces: Second World War, 1939-45" (London, Imperial War Museum, 1990 reprint), finished in 1951, Lieutenant Colonel T. Otway wrote the official account of the British Airborne Forces in the Second World War. The book remained a 'restricted document' until it was reprinted by the Imperial War Museum in 1990.
We own a copy of this publication which still bears the following warning on its dust jacket:

The book describes the operations of British paratroop, glider borne, air landing and SAS unit in a very detailed manner.
It also lists names of planned and cancelled operations with their codenames and operational issues.
Operation "Market Garden", in contrast to the operational plan preceding it, "Comet" designed the deployment of not only the 1st Airborne Division but most of the units comprising the newly formed First Allied Airborne Army and was planned only 7 days after the original "D-Day" of "Comet".

This short planning period implies that operation plans were drawn up in quick succession at the time. Until recently there were no clues of historical accounts failing to mention any of the plans cancelled before "Market Garden" finally went ahead. But now this agency has discovered evidence suggesting that perhaps two different operational plans were cancelled after operation "Comet" and before "Market": operations "Clover" and "Sixteen".


Operation "Sixteen"

Ohio University in Athens owns the collection "Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers". It contains all research material for Ryan's best-selling books The Longest Day (Operation OVERLORD, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944); A Bridge Too Far (Operation MARKET-GARDEN, Holland, September 17-26, 1944); and, The Last Battle (the capture of Berlin, Germany, April 15-May 10, 1945).

The Cornelius Ryan archives came to Ohio University through the efforts of former war correspondent John Wilhelm, past director of the university's E. W. Scripps School of Journalism and founding dean of the College of Communication. The archive was acquired by the university from Ryan's widow, Kathryn Morgan Ryan, in 1981.

Through the efforts of library curator Doug McCabe we obtained the operational plans for "Comet".
We requested these for studying purposes and stumbled upon a single, loose, undated page named "Outline Plan" which is captioned: OPERATION SIXTEEN.

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"SIXTEEN" had been scratched and "Market" was added in handwriting.
On the same page the paragraph describing the original role of the US 101st Airborne Division in the original Operation "Sixteen", was renamed to the 82nd Airborne Division with a simple scratch and a scribbled '82'.
Because the paragraph "Own Troops" on this page describes British units and speaks of "the Commander-in-Chief 21 Army Group (Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery)" it is possible that "Sixteen" was the codename of the forerunner of what was later sub-named Operation "Garden"; the role of the ground forces of British 2nd Army in "Market-Garden".

JULY 18th, 2014 UPDATE
We have recently come across a document in which verbally given orders by Lieutenant-General F.A.M. Browning of the First Allied Airborne Army of September 10th, 1944 for Operation Market Garden are confirmed.
The document has the some content as the document described but in a different lay-out and different handwriting changing the operation's name from "Sixteen" to "Market".

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(For the whole document, click thumbnail)

Operation "Clover"
For a different case than this one, we were visiting the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) in the Van Alkemade Barracks in The Hague, The Netherlands in March 2011.

We had requested several archived documents and among these we found seven (7) documents captioned "CLOVER" which again had been scratched to be renamed "Comet" in handwriting.
These documents are:

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Air Movement Table – Form "A", Annex No. 2 to F.O No. 6, 1st Lift – "D" Day,

dated 7 SEP 1944 of Headquarters 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, Page No. 1

Air Movement Table – Form "A", Annex No. 2 to F.O No. 6, 2nd Lift – "D" Day,

dated 7 SEP 1944 of Headquarters 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, Page No. 2

Air Movement Table – Form "A", Annex No. 2 to F.O. (Field Order) No. 6, 1st Lift – D+1,
dated 7 SEP 1944 of Headquarters 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, Page No. 3

Signal Annex No. 5 to Field Order No 6 HQ, 52ND TROOP CARR WING, dated 7 SEP 1944

Signal Annex No. 5 to Field Order No 6 (cont'd)

Appendix No. 1 to Signal Annex No. 5 to Field Order "CLOVER" COMET

Schedule of Navigational Aids

Appendix No. 2 to Signal Annex No. 5 to Field Order "CLOVER" COMET

GEE Coordinates

The United States Army Air Corps' 52nd Troop Carrier Wing had apparently codenamed their previous field order "Clover" but was subsequently given the codename "Comet". The details of the operation stayed the same as in "Clover".
The documents all refer to Drop- and Landing zones of the units in the operational plan for "Comet" in the edition of
7 SEP 1944 which is a clue that "Clover" was the codename of a forerunner of "Comet".

In Operation "Market-Garden" the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing carried elements of the British 1st Airborne Division into battle.

Flight in 52nd Troop Carrier Wing "Vomit Comet"
On Saturday May 23rd 2011, battledetectives boarded a 67 year old airplane, a former C47 "Skytrain" and member of the 52nd, built in 1944, serving in the US Army Air Forces with serial number 42-100971. This plane is said to have flown sorties in light of "Market Garden" and is now featured in Royal Dutch Airline colors and the DC3 "Dakota" luxurious passenger variety. We attended the Friends of the Airborne Museum Battlefield Tour "Arnhem from Above".
Some paratroopers did not bother the C47 or DC3 designations and nicknamed the Skytrain or Dakota "Vomit Comet".
Battle Detective Tom knows why.
Out of 4 flights in a plane of this type, this was his second motion sickness free flight.
Excitement conquered nausea from turbulence on this hot May-day.

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Unused (empty) motion sickness bag

Our airborne battlefield tour took off from Teuge Airport near Apeldoorn and brought us over the Veluwe National Park, the Drop- and Landing Zones on Ginkel Heath, the towns of Renkum, Wolfsheze and Oosterbeek and the city of Arnhem. Afterwards the crew chief gave us the flight schedule:
We took these photographs:

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Boarding (doubling as General Taylor of the 101st Airborne prior to "Market")

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Veluwe and Ginkel Heath

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Airborne Cemetery Oosterbeek

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Arnhem and John Frost Bridge

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Arnhem, Holland, September 18th 1944
This comparison shows the main objective of Operation "Market-Garden" just after the Nazi attempt to regain the bridge. Destroyed vehicles are scattered on the northern bridge ramp.

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Arnhem, Holland, September 18th 1944
This photograph shows the carnage done by Colonel John Frost's 2nd Para Battalion to the Nazi attempt to attempt to recapture the bridge. Numbers on the houses show various positions of Frost's men and are added on photo by Dutch historian Karel Margry.

On this beautiful May-day the meadows on the Southern bank of the river Rhine river looked like a suitable Drop Zone for landing a few sticks of paratroopers. Perhaps the reason for not using this terrain for "Market Garden" is material for anther Battle Study. Keep monitoring this website.

Without a doubt Operation "Market Garden" was planned in a hurry. The Allied forces had their enemy on the run. Plan after plan was made to "end the war in '44". Their designs became obsolete when the ink on which these plans were printed was still wet. Grounds of designated Drop- and Landing Zones were captured before the paratroops ordered to take them could even board their "Vomit Comets".
This may explain, for example, why no research was done into the suitability of the meadows South of Arnhem bridge and the choice was made to land the 1st British Airborne Division 8 miles from their main objective.

Otway wrote on page 214 of his "Airborne Forces: Second World War, 1939-45":

"45. When 'Linnett II' was cancelled 1 Airborne Division was ordered to plan operation 'Comet', the object of which was to secure the bridges over the River Rhine from Arnhem to Wesel, in order to facilitate the advance on the Ruhr basin from the north, but only 1 Airborne Division and 1 Polish Parachute Brigade were to be used. Division Headquarters, 1 Polish Parachute Brigade and 1 Air-landing Brigade were to land at Nijmegen, 1 Polish Parachute Brigade at Arnhem and 4th Parachute Brigade at Grave. 'D' day was to be 10th September and take off at 0600 hours, but at 0200 hours on 10th September, senior officers at division headquarters were awakened and told that the operation was cancelled. By 1500 hours that same day the Commander 1 Airborne Division, Major-General R. E. Urquhart and his staff had received fresh instructions and were at work planning the Division's part in operation 'Market', which was to take place a week later. In the 'Market' plan two airborne divisions out of the three to be used, plus a parachute brigade, were allocated to the tasks given above which a few hours before had been considered within the powers of one division and one parachute brigade."

Neither the plans of operation "Clover" nor "Sixteen" are mentioned.
We think that these codenames have just drowned in the turmoil of freshly drawn-up and immediately cancelled plans in the pre-"Market Garden" era.
We at least have registered their existence, how short-lived these plans may have been.
On the Pegasus Archive website we found the 1 Airborne Division's War Diary which is filed in the British National Archives under catalogue reference WO 171/392 and 393.
On the website the contents of these documents are transcribed. In the first part of September 1944 we read:
"2nd September 1944 Place: Moor Park
Operation 'LINNET' cancelled.

6th September 1944 Place: Moor Park
1 Airborne Div Operation Instruction No.8 issued - Confirmatory Notes on Div Commander's Verbal Notes. Amendment No.1 to 1 Airborne Div Operation Instruction No.8 issued - Operation 'FIFTEEN' (Seize and hold bridges over the MAAS CANAL, RIVER WAAL and NEDER RIJN). Operation 'FIFTEEN' - 1 Airborne Div Planning Intelligence Summary No.1 issued. Summary of Aircraft Lifts issued. Coup de Main Party - Air Movement Table.

7th September 1944 Place: Moor Park
0120 - Operation 'FIFTEEN' to be known as Operation 'COMET'. Operation 'COMET' - 1 Airborne Div Planning Intelligence Summary No.2 issued.

8th September 1944 Place: Moor Park
Operation 'COMET' - 1 Airborne Div Planning Intelligence Summary No.3 issued.
10th September 1944 Place: Moor Park
1 Airborne Div Intelligence Summary No.22 with references to Operation 'COMET' issued.
1540 - Operation 'COMET' cancelled and transit camps unsealed.

12th September 1944 Place: Moor Park
Operation 'MARKET' (ARNHEM) - 1 Airborne Div Operation Instruction No.9 issued - Confirmatory Notes on GOC's Verbal Orders. Operation 'MARKET' - 1 Airborne Div Planning Intelligence Summary No.1 issued.

JULY 10th, 2023 UPDATE

On the Paradata website we found the Intelligence Summary of 156 Battalion the Parachute Regiment for September 1944. It also describes standing to for Operation "Fifteen" (or "Comet") on the 7th of that month and standing down from it on the 10th:

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From these War Diaries written under the supervision of the Division's Commanding Officer Maj-Gen R. E. Urquhart DSO and of the 156th Bn The Parachute Regiment we can conclude that Operation "FIFTEEN" was the "working title" for Operation "Comet" until the security situation and the planning phase allowed the real name to be disclosed. Operation "SIXTEEN" was therefore the working title for Operation "Market", the sixteenth operation planned by the British First Airborne Division since 6JUN1944.


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