Operation Market Garden was an extremely daring and hasty plan devised by the commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. The plan was to drop three airborne divisions, two American (82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division) and one British (1st Airborne Division), later to be reinforced by the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade and the British airportable 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, thus making it the largest Airborne operation ever mounted. These three divisions would land in the Netherlands, behind German lines, and secure multiple bridges and towns across the western part of the country, primarily at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. British XXX Corps, led by Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks, would then make a rapid advance along a two-lane paved highway that ran from Eindhoven in the south, all the way 60 miles north to Arnhem and cross the Rhine River at Arnhem (the furthest bridge from the front line and XXX Corps' ultimate objective in the operation), this would then cut the German lines and leave the possibility for exploitation into the Ruhr Valley in Germany, and would hopefully "End the War by Christmas". The operation was executed on 17 September 1944, three months after Operation Overlord, which was covered in the previous games of the series.
Unfortunately, whilst initially successful with bridges at both Eindhoven and Nijmegen eventually secured, the well equipped II SS Panzer Corps, stationed in Arnhem to rest and recuperate, were thrown into action and proved too much for the under equipped 1st Airborne Division. The British LZ's were captured early in the battle, resulting in the supply drops falling into the hands of the Germans, which made it extremely difficult for the British in Arnhem to survive as they could not rearm and thus found it near impossible to fend off the attacking Germans until XXX Corps arrived. Arnhem was all but turned to ruins, the battle kept going day after day, but the British 1st Airborne remained defiant to the bitter end. XXX Corps never arrived to reinforce them. The armor reached just past the Nijmegen bridge over the river Waal, but could not advance further to capture Arnhem, as the bridge was now in German hands and around 4,500 British paratroopers were captured. The Allied advance was halted outside Nijmegen, the top Allied commanders decided that attempting to push toward Arnhem was simply going to continue to be a bloodbath causing more harm than good. The Allied troops' position along one stretch of linked roads was hit by repeated and brutal German counterattacks, locking the Allies onto a narrow stretch of Dutch land which extended beyond the previous front line. The narrow stretch leading up from Eindhoven to Arnhem (which the 101st Airborne Division had to defend from counterattacks whilst XXX Corps advanced) became known to the men of the 101st Airborne who fought, suffered, and died on this road as "Hell's Highway", where this game derives its name from. The Dutch would not see complete liberation for another 7 months.