A Bridge Too Far
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"A Bridge Too Far" Summary

By Cornelius Ryan

history | 670 pages | Published in NaN

A Bridge Too Far is Cornelius Ryan's masterly chronicle of the Battle of Arnhem, which marshalled the greatest armada of troop-carrying aircraft ever assembled and cost the Allies nearly twice as many casualties as D-Day.In this compelling work of history, Ryan narrates the Allied effort to end the war in Europe in 1944 by dropping the combined airborne forces of the American and British armies behind German lines to capture the crucial bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem. Focusing on a vast cast of characters -- from Dutch civilians to British and American strategists to common soldiers and commanders -- Ryan brings to life one of the most daring and ill-fated operations of the war. A Bridge Too Far superbly recreates the terror and suspense, the heroism and tragedy of this epic operation, which ended in bitter defeat for the Allies.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A gripping account of Operation Market Garden, the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Allied military operation during World War II.


"A Bridge Too Far" is a historical non-fiction book written by Cornelius Ryan. First published in 1974, it provides a detailed account of Operation Market Garden, a failed World War II military operation led by the Allied forces. Ryan's book offers a gripping and comprehensive narrative of this ambitious and ultimately ill-fated mission.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

Set in September 1944, "A Bridge Too Far" recounts the Allies' daring plan to end the war quickly by capturing several key bridges in the Netherlands, including the bridge at Arnhem. The operation involved a massive airborne drop of troops, followed by a ground assault to secure the objectives. However, due to a combination of strategic errors, bad luck, and German resistance, the mission did not achieve its intended results.


The book primarily takes place in the Netherlands during World War II. The story unfolds in various locations, including the cities of Nijmegen, Arnhem, and Eindhoven. Ryan meticulously describes the terrain, weather conditions, and the challenges faced by both the Allied and German forces during the operation.

Main Events

Chapter 1Introduction to Operation Market Garden and the key players involved.
Chapter 2The planning and preparations for the operation, including the formation of the Allied airborne divisions.
Chapter 3The initial airborne drops and the successful capture of some of the key bridges.
Chapter 4German resistance and the challenges faced by the Allied troops.
Chapter 5The failed attempt to secure the bridge at Arnhem, leading to a prolonged and costly battle.
Chapter 6The evacuation of the remaining Allied troops and the ultimate failure of Operation Market Garden.

Main Characters

Below are some of the key characters featured in "A Bridge Too Far":

  1. General Bernard Montgomery - The British commander of the operation.
  2. Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton - The American commander responsible for the airborne divisions.
  3. General Hans von Tettau - The German commander tasked with defending the areas targeted by the Allies.
  4. Major General Roy Urquhart - The British commander of the 1st Airborne Division.
  5. Colonel John Frost - The British officer who led the defense of the Arnhem bridge.

Themes and Insights


  1. The cost of ambition: "A Bridge Too Far" explores the consequences of overly ambitious military operations and the risks involved in trying to shorten the war through bold strategic maneuvers.
  2. The unpredictability of war: Ryan highlights how even the most carefully planned missions can go awry due to a range of factors, including weather conditions, intelligence failures, and the enemy's resilience.
  3. Sacrifice and heroism: The book pays tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers involved in Operation Market Garden, despite the mission's ultimate failure.


  1. Operational failures: Ryan offers insights into the strategic mistakes made by the Allies during the planning and execution of Operation Market Garden, including underestimating German resistance and logistical challenges.
  2. Human resilience: Despite the setbacks and heavy casualties, the book showcases the resilience and determination of the Allied troops in the face of adversity.
  3. Historical significance: "A Bridge Too Far" sheds light on a significant World War II event that had a lasting impact on the course of the war and the post-war order in Europe.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Bridge Too Far" provides an in-depth and engaging account of Operation Market Garden. Ryan's meticulous research and vivid storytelling bring the events to life, making it a compelling read for history enthusiasts. The book offers valuable insights into the complexities and uncertainties of war, reminding readers of the sacrifices made by soldiers and the importance of learning from past mistakes.


In "A Bridge Too Far," Cornelius Ryan offers a gripping and comprehensive narrative of the ill-fated Operation Market Garden. Through detailed accounts of the planning, execution, and aftermath of this ambitious military operation, Ryan provides readers with a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by both the Allied and German forces during World War II. This book stands as a testament to the bravery and sacrifices of the soldiers involved and serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of overreaching in military campaigns.

A Bridge Too Far FAQ

  1. What is 'A Bridge Too Far' about?

    'A Bridge Too Far' is a non-fiction book that recounts the events of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied military operation during World War II. It focuses on the attempted capture of several key bridges in the Netherlands by the Allied forces.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Bridge Too Far'?

    The author of 'A Bridge Too Far' is Cornelius Ryan, an Irish-American journalist and author known for his works on World War II.

  3. When was 'A Bridge Too Far' published?

    'A Bridge Too Far' was first published in 1974.

  4. Is 'A Bridge Too Far' a true story?

    Yes, 'A Bridge Too Far' is a non-fiction book based on real events that took place during World War II.

  5. Are there any movie adaptations of 'A Bridge Too Far'?

    Yes, 'A Bridge Too Far' was adapted into a film of the same name in 1977. The movie starred an ensemble cast including Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Anthony Hopkins.

  6. Is 'A Bridge Too Far' suitable for all ages?

    'A Bridge Too Far' contains historical accounts of war and may not be suitable for young readers. It is recommended for mature audiences.

  7. Are there any other books by Cornelius Ryan?

    Yes, Cornelius Ryan has written several other books on World War II, including 'The Longest Day' and 'The Last Battle.'

  8. Where can I purchase 'A Bridge Too Far'?

    'A Bridge Too Far' can be purchased online from various book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository.

  9. How long is 'A Bridge Too Far'?

    'A Bridge Too Far' has approximately 670 pages, depending on the edition.

  10. Is there an audiobook version of 'A Bridge Too Far' available?

    Yes, 'A Bridge Too Far' is available in audiobook format. It can be found on platforms like Audible and iTunes.