Background to Operation Varsity
By March 1945, the war in Europe seemed to be within sight of its ends. Western Allied forces were within Western Germany, and Soviet forces were attacking towards Berlin from the East.
However, there still remained the question of how to bring the war to a successful conclusion, within the minimum of Allied casualties. This issue was especially acute, because even at this late stage of the war the Germans had demonstrated that they could offer determined (sometimes fanatical) resistance in battles such as Operation Market Garden, and could even counterattack dangerously at times (the Battle of the Bulge). Moreover, in the West, a formidable obstacle blocked the advance into Northern Germany: the River Rhine.
The solution ultimately adopted to cross the Rhine by the Allies was to make use of their powerful airborne forces: In Operation Varsity, two entire airborne divisions landed behind enemy lines, while ground forces of the British 21st Army Group advanced towards them.
Previous large-scale airborne operations by both the Germans (Crete) and Allies (D-Day, Operation Market Garden) has frequently resulted in excessive casualties, and difficulties in seizing objectives, so lessons learned from these battles were implemented in Operation Varsity:
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