Ninth Army to the Rhine
On the planning sheets, D plus 1 in Operation GRENADE (24 February) was a day for consolidating the bridgeheads and adding strength beyond the Roer. Despite some interference at bridges by German artillery and ninety-seven futile sorties by German aircraft, including some by the new jets, the plans would be accomplished with relative ease. While antiaircraft gunners were taking advantage of the rare opportunity to do what they were trained for and were knocking down eighteen of the planes, bridgehead strength increased from sixteen to thirty-eight battalions of infantry, and armored support reached all divisions.
In addition, D plus 1 was a day for maneuver. The Ninth Army's General Simpson was anxious to get started on the pivot to the north. This meant that both the XIII and XIX Corps were to thrust forward their right wings. It meant also that in the process each corps would develop an open right flank.
Odds still were that the XIX Corps on the south might have the most trouble both because of the delays experienced on D-day by the First Army's VII Corps and because of the invitation to counterattack inherent in the existence of the Hambach Forest. Yet the concern proved chimerical; the Germans simply had nothing to counterattack with.
Even though almost the entire 9th Panzer Division arrived in the Fifteenth Army's sector during the day, the first unit of the division would be able to enter the line only after nightfall. Furthermore, so powerful was the American blow that General von Zangen would have to use the division piecemeal in a futile effort to hold the line rather than to counterattack. In any event, with only twenty-nine tanks and sixteen assault guns the 9th Panzer Division was something less than the formidable force its name implied.1
As events developed, the enemy mustered almost no opposition as the 30th Division drove through the northwestern portion of the Hambach Forest. While sharp local fights developed at two farmhouses and a roadblock along the highway leading from Niederzier to Steinstrass at the northern edge of the forest, they failed to delay the division as a whole. At dark Steinstrass remained in German hands, but the 30th Division's line ran along the north edge of the forest, tying in to the west with the 29th Division astride the Juelich-Cologne highway.2
In the 29th Division's sector, only the 175th Infantry advanced during the day,
and that a short distance to stay abreast of the 30th while a new division was entering the line to bolster the left wing of the XIX Corps. Commitment of another division was with an eye both toward broadening the attack and toward reducing the gap on the left as the XIII Corps swung north. The corps commander, General McLain, introduced a regiment of the 83d Division (General Macon) on the extreme left of the corps, attaching it temporarily to the 29th Division.
The only real difficulty with the pivot maneuver arose within the XIII Corps sector. There the rapid D-day advance of the 84th Division, plus the fact that the left wing of the XIX Corps failed to move, left the 102d Division's right flank open. Expecting continued attack to the east, the Germans were in no position to halt the 102d's northward move head on, but they could fire directly into the exposed flank.
That fire dealt a crippling blow to two companies of the 701st Tank Battalion supporting the northward advance of the 405th Infantry on the village of Hottorf. Hardly had the tanks started to move when antitank guns to the east opened a deadly fire. They knocked out four tanks from one company, eight from the other. Eight other tanks foundered in German infantry trenches. Two failed mechanically. Only five joined the infantry on the objective.
In the 84th Division, one regiment remained in Baal, the northernmost point reached on D-day, while the 335th Infantry passed through to try to make a swift conquest of the next village, Doveren, and prepare the way for the XVI Corps to cross the Roer unopposed. Yet as men of the 335th moved forward, they ran into one tenacious nest of resistance after another that the swift advance on D-day had failed to clear. Not until midafternoon, after tanks of the 771st Tank Battalion arrived to help, did the drive on Doveren pick up momentum, and darkness had fallen before the village was firmly in hand. Anderson's XVI Corps remained on the west bank.
For all the problems in taking Doveren, the hardest fighting on 24 February again fell the lot of the First Army's VII Corps. Not involved in the pivot to the north, the VII Corps still had its work cut out, since the 8th Division had much to do before the division could be said to be firmly established on the east bank of the Roer.
The 13th Infantry with all battalions in line spent 24 February fighting through Dueren. Opposition was intense
only at two nests of army barracks, but bomb craters and rubble posed serious obstacles. Not only were streets impassable for vehicles but commanders struggled in vain to relate maps to the field of ruins. The 28th Infantry in the meantime forced additional strength into woods to the south but as night came still was short of the objective of Stockheim, on which General Weaver intended to anchor the division's south flank. Yet for all the limits of the day's advances and continued German shelling of bridge sites, Weaver could breathe more easily as the second day came to an end--his reserve, the 121st Infantry, crossed into Dueren late in the day prepared to attack the next morning through the 13th Infantry.
From the point of view of the corps commander, General Collins, the 8th Division's slow progress was of minor concern so long as the bridgehead remained solid. The job of the VII Corps for the moment was flank protection for the Ninth Army, and continued advance by the 104th Division was what he needed to assure that. Collins was particularly anxious that the 104th gain Oberzier and two other villages facing the Hambach Forest, both to take out German guns that might harass the flank of the neighboring 30th Division and to open the way for the corps cavalry to clear the forest before the Germans could concentrate there for counterattack.3
Because the 413th Infantry was occupied mopping up the northern half of Dueren, General Allen assigned all three villages to the 415th Infantry. The 1st Battalion reached one village before daylight but had to fight all day and through the next night to clean out infantry supported by four self-propelled guns. Also making a predawn attack, the 2d Battalion reeled back from Oberzier in the face of heavy German shelling. To prepare the way for a second attack an hour before noon, five battalions of artillery pounded the village for three hours. When the 2d Battalion moved again, the men took Oberzier in the face of only light small arms fire. Because the approach to the third village was exposed to fire from the other two, the 3d Battalion delayed attacking until after dark.
As night fell on the 24th, all conditions for committing the cavalry were yet to be met, nor was there room to commit armor south of the Hambach Forest. Anxious to get his mobile forces into action, Collins ordered both the 8th and 104th Divisions to continue attacking through the night.
Although German commanders had feared an Allied pincers movement west of the Rhine, during this second day they still had not fully fathomed American intentions. While noting with trepidation the northward orientation of the 84th Division, the Fifteenth Army commander, General von Zangen, continued to hope that the Ninth Army aimed its attack at the Rhine around Cologne and that the northward thrust was but a secondary effort to secure the road center of Erkelenz. To believe otherwise would be to admit that the entire south wing of Army Group H was about
to be crushed in a vise between convergent Canadian and American drives.4
As the only hope for stopping the 84th Division, Zangen sent to Erkelenz advance contingents of a woefully weak infantry division (the 338th), which had recently arrived from the Colmar pocket far to the south. Against what Zangen considered the main attack, the eastward thrust, he could do nothing but urge speed in piecemeal commitment of the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions. A panzer grenadier regiment of the 9th would go into the line during the night of 24 February around Steinstrass in an effort to prevent advance beyond the Hambach Forest. Only the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 11th Panzer Division would be available for commitment during the night and would enter the line a few miles to the north. No matter the harm piecemeal commitments would do to any hope of mounting a major counterattack, Zangen deemed he had no choice.5
The Third and Fourth Days
Sensing or at least guessing at German confusion, American commanders on 25 February made every effort to capitalize on it and gain momentum. In a continuing build-up beyond the Roer, at least one combat command of armor arrived during the day to reinforce each corps. Lest the 84th Division be slowed by clearing a crossing site for the XVI
Corps, General Simpson told General Anderson to test the feasibility of crossing on his own.6
The position of Anderson's corps was complicated by the existence of several German bridgeheads on the west bank of the Roer, one of which encompassed the town of Hilfarth in a loop of the river southwest of Doveren. If Anderson was to glean advantage from the advance already made on the east bank by the 84th Division, his troops would have to cross at or near Hilfarth, and that meant the town had to be cleared first.
The scheme as General Anderson developed it was for the 79th Division
(Maj. Gen. Ira T. Wyche) to stage a feint several miles downstream while the 35th Division took Hilfarth and actually crossed the river. To assist the crossing, the division commander, General Baade, sent his 137th Infantry into the bridgehead of the XIII Corps to take over the assignment of driving north down the east bank. In hope of keeping the Germans from demolishing a highway bridge they had left intact to serve their garrison in Hilfarth, the 692d Field Artillery Battalion early on the 25th began to place harassing fire around the bridge.
A battalion of the 35th Division's 134th Infantry hit Hilfarth before daylight on 26 February. Despite a vicious curtain of fire from automatic weapons, the infantrymen forced their way into the town, only to discover that the Germans had turned it into a lethal nest of mines and booby traps. The bulk of the battalion's casualties came from those.
By midmorning, with the town in hand, infantrymen provided covering fire with their machine guns while engineers erected two footbridges across a narrow stretch of the Roer. As some riflemen began to cross, others turned their attention a few hundred yards downstream. There either thirty-six hours of harassing fire by the 692d Field Artillery or faulty German demolitions had saved the coveted highway bridge. By noon tanks and other vehicles were rolling across.
Giving the XVI Corps responsibility for seizing its own foothold over the Roer had in the meantime freed the 84th Division to concentrate on driving some three miles beyond Baal to take the road center of Erkelenz. Inserting a combat command of the 5th Armored Division (Maj. Gen. Lunsford E. Oliver) on the right flank of the XIII Corps also released the 102d Division to help. Under General Gillem's plan, the 102d was to attack the town itself while the 84th cut roads to the west.
Although first contingents of the enemy's 338th Infantry Division had arrived during the night of 25 February at Erkelenz in an effort to bolster the faltering XII SS Corps, their efforts were so weak as to be hardly apparent. On the 26th the 102d Division cut through almost without opposition to find Erkelenz practically deserted. After dodging enemy shelling to gain one village, the 84th Division passed on to another to find not only no opposition but, in the village Gasthaus, beer on tap.
The resistance had been more challenging to the XIX Corps because of General von Zangen's hurried commitment of portions of the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions, but the challenge was short-lived. Just before dark on the 25th the 30th Division's 117th Infantry broke stubborn resistance by panzer grenadiers at Steinstrass, while the 119th Infantry at the same time bypassed the village to drive almost two miles beyond. Moving fast, shooting as they went, men of the 119th ran a gantlet of heavy flanking fire that knocked out eight supporting tanks, but in the process the men took more than 200 prisoners, including all of a Nebelwerfer company that never got a chance to fire. At the end of the day the division commander, General Hobbs, could report to General McLain: "It looks like things are beginning to break a bit."7
Hobbs was right. Things were beginning to break.
Between them, the 29th and 30th Divisions were rolling up from the flank the enemy's second line of field fortifications and having surprisingly little trouble doing it. The 29th Division on 25 February took five villages and marked up an average advance of about four miles, then the next day gained the southern rim of the egg-shaped plateau that extends from the Roer to the Erft. During those two days, the attached 330th Infantry (83d Division) lost not a man killed and had only fifty-nine wounded. With some men riding attached tanks, a regiment of the 30th Division on the 26th advanced more than three miles. Another bound like that would put even the outside unit of the Ninth Army's wheel onto the egg-shaped plateau.
To the corps commander, General McLain, it was clear that the way to the Rhine was opening. Only antitank fire remained effective; the German infantry appeared confused and drained of all enthusiasm for the fight.
Although the time for exploitation seemed at hand, General McLain was reluctant to turn the drive over to his armor lest the Germans had manned their third and final prepared defense line, which ran five miles to the north through the village of Garzweiler, roughly on an east-west line with Erkelenz. McLain told the 30th Division to continue as far as Garzweiler, whereupon the 2d Armored Division was to take over.
Nor was all the success confined to units of the Ninth Army. While resistance still was stickier opposite the VII Corps, General Collins's divisions had begun to break it by a simple process of continuous, unremitting attack all along the corps front for seventy-two hours. "Contrary to their former customary manner of fighting," the commander of the 12th Volks Grenadier Division would note, the Americans "continued their fighting day and night. As the enemy could always bring new infantry into the conflict while on our side always the same soldiers had to continue fighting, the over-exertion of our own infantry was extreme."8
The hardest fighting occurred on the approaches and within the southern reaches of the Hambach Forest along both sides of an uncompleted Aachen-Cologne autobahn. The explanation became apparent with capture of prisoners from the 9th Panzer Division's 10th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, but even that once-elite regiment could give only slight pause to a relentless American push. To break up a counterattack at one village, a battalion of the 415th Infantry got nine battalions of artillery to fire for fifteen minutes. Making a night attack along the axis of the Dueren-Cologne railroad, a lone company of the 413th Infantry captured 200 men, all that remained of the 1st Battalion, 10th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. The bag included the battalion commander.
At the same time, the 8th Division's 13th Infantry was wiping out the last resistance in Dueren with an attack preceded by a 10-minute artillery preparation in which four battalions fired more than 1,500 rounds. In an attack on a village two miles to the east, two battalions of the 121st Infantry fought all day on 25 February without success but persisted
through the night until at last the Germans had enough and pulled out.
On the 25th, the 8th Division commander, General Weaver, suffered the fourth in a series of heart attacks and was evacuated. He was succeeded by Brig. Gen. Bryant E. Moore, former assistant division commander of the 104th Division.
While the two infantry divisions continued to drive through the night, General Collins ordered his cavalry and armor across the Roer bridges. The maneuver he planned for 26 February was simple, flexible, and admirably designed to exploit the full shock of armor.
With the 13th Infantry attached, the 3d Armored Division (General Rose) split into six task forces, one built around the 83d Reconnaissance Battalion, the others each with a nucleus of one battalion of tanks and one of armored infantry, plus increments of engineers, tank destroyers, and artillery. With two task forces, Combat Command A on the right was to attack astride the Dueren-Cologne highway to gain the Erft River while CCB, also with two task forces, was to take the road center of Elsdorf, northeast of the Hambach Forest a few miles short of the Erft. One task force was to remain in division reserve and the 83d Reconnaissance Battalion was to serve as a bridge between the two combat commands. The 24th Cavalry Squadron was to protect the left flank inside the Hambach Forest.
In striking northeastward, the American armor was turning away from the enemy's LVIII Panzer Corps into the sector of the LXXXI Corps, where the last of the 9th Panzer Division had arrived to assume a passive defensive role. Also present was a Kampfgruppe of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, rushed northward from the Eifel. Yet neither could do more than impose minor wounds on the full-strength American division. In taking the first village astride the Dueren-Cologne highway, CCA lost eight tanks to concealed German antitank guns, but that was the worst that happened to any part of the 3d Armored Division all day. As night came, contingents of CCB were drawn up before Elsdorf, ready to hit the town the next morning.
For the better part of 27 February the 9th Panzer Division made a fight of it in Elsdorf, but with fire support from a company of tanks positioned in a neighboring village an infantry battalion broke into the town before noon and began a systematic mop-up. With the tank company was a T26 medium tank armed with a 90-mm. gun, one of the first twenty of this model (the Pershing) sent to the European theater for testing. The tank gave a good account of itself. At a range of a thousand yards, the Pershing hit and destroyed two Mark IV tanks, drilling holes through the thick side armor, and stopped a Mark VI Tiger with a hit at the vulnerable turret joint.
By midafternoon Elsdorf was sufficiently cleared to enable General Rose to commit his division reserve northeastward toward the Erft alongside the 83d Reconnaissance Battalion. As night came the armor held a 3-mile stretch of the Erft's west bank, and after dark infantrymen waded across to establish two small bridgeheads.
On 27 February the VII Corps thus completed its role in Operation GRENADE. In two bounds the armor had covered
PERSHING TANK T26 WITH 90-MM. GUN
ten and a half miles from the original Roer bridgehead line to the Erft to seal the Ninth Army's south flank. Although General Collins would be quick to exploit the crossing of the Erft, the exploitation was logically not part of GRENADE but belonged to another operation General Bradley had been designing to carry his 12th Army Group to the Rhine.9
As these events had been occurring with such swiftness, German commanders who as late as 24 February could hope that the Ninth Army's crushing drive was not designed to converge with the Canadian thrust southeast from Nijmegen were at last impelled to face reality. Operation GRENADE at that point clearly was the hammer aimed at crushing the southern wing of Army Group H against the anvil of Operation VERITABLE. Success of the operations meant encirclement or crushing defeat both for Army Group H's southern wing, the First Parachute Army, and that part of
the Fifteenth Army that was being forced back to the north.10
Admission of that hard fact came at every level of command, from Fifteenth Army to OB WEST. Although Field Marshal Model at Army Group B acknowledged the truth of a grim estimate of the situation made by the Fifteenth Army, he could do little to help. He did promise commitment of the Panzer Lehr Division, which OB WEST accorded him, but the Panzer Lehr still was severely bruised from its fight against Operation VERITABLE and in any event could make no appearance in strength for several days.11
The Commander in Chief West, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, appealed on 25 February to Hitler for new directives designed to prevent disintegration of the entire Western Front. The situation was bad everywhere, he reported, not only in the north but in the south where attacks by the U.S. Third Army on either side of the Moselle River (Bitburg and Trier) worried Rundstedt most of all. When Hitler made no immediate response, Rundstedt on the 26th begged permission to make at least a minor withdrawal in the north, to pull back the extreme left wing of the First Parachute Army out of a salient at the juncture of the Roer and Maas Rivers near Roermond. The withdrawal was designed to ensure contact between the parachute army and the Fifteenth Army's XII SS Corps as the latter fell back before the American drive. Yet even such a minor withdrawal Hitler refused to sanction.12
Hitler's response on 27 February sought to allay Rundstedt's fears about an attack along the Moselle but offered no palliatives for any of the crises in the west. By redeploying units already present, Hitler directed, the endangered southern wing of Army Group H was to hold where it was. Withdrawal behind the Rhine still was unthinkable.
Even as Hitler's message arrived, the crisis along the boundary between Army Groups B and H was growing more serious. Again Rundstedt appealed for permission to make at least the short withdrawal from the Roermond salient. This time he had the support of the Deputy Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, who personally briefed Hitler on the crucial situation. Hitler at last agreed--"with a heavy heart."13
The Germans had ample reason to be concerned, for on 26 and 27 February both GRENADE and VERITABLE entered new, decisive stages. After a pause for regrouping, the First Canadian Army on the 26th renewed its drive. A British corps on the right (part of the First Canadian Army) aimed at Geldern, nine miles away, where the British intended to meet the Americans; a Canadian corps on the left aimed at sweeping the west bank of the Rhine with a 7-mile jump to Xanten as the first step. It was on the 26th also that the VII Corps began its successful 2-day sweep to the Erft to seal the Ninth Army's right flank.
The next day, the 27th, the Ninth Army commander, General Simpson, sanctioned commitment of the first of his armored divisions in a major shift to an exploitation phase.
The question in Simpson's mind, as it had been in General McLain's, was whether infantry should continue to lead the way in the zone of the XIX Corps until the advance had passed the German trench system that cut across the front through Garzweiler. There was room already to insert a new unit between the 29th and 30th Divisions, but should this be another infantry division or should it be armor? Gambling that the enemy was no longer capable of an organized defense on any line, Simpson told General McLain to send the armor through to the Rhine at Neuss. As events developed, no real concern was necessary, for before the armor could get going on 28 February, the 30th Division took Garzweiler with no particular trouble.
Elsewhere on the Ninth Army's front no one would even question the immediate use of armor. A combat command of General Oliver's 5th Armored Division already had gone into action in the XIII Corps, originally as flank protection; General Gillem ordered the rest of the division to attack through the 102d Division on 28 February. The 84th Division in the meantime motorized a task force of infantry and tanks. While the 35th Division continued northwestward to gain maneuver room for the XVI Corps, General Anderson alerted a combat command of the 8th Armored Division (Brig. Gen. John M. Devine) to cross the Roer on 27 February and take up the fight to the north.
The weather remained favorable for tanks. Although rain on 26 and 27 February grounded tactical aircraft, it was too light to spoil the footing.
On the last day of February and the first day of March, events proved conclusively that the battlefield belonged to armor. All along the front American units recorded advances of from seven to ten miles, and there was little the Germans could do about it.
By the end of 28 February, the 2d Armored Division (commanded now by Brig. Gen. I. D. White) and an attached regiment of the 83d Division stood only seven miles from the Rhine. The next day, 1 March, a single regiment of the 29th Division took Muenchen-Gladbach almost without a fight. On the same day, a motorized task force of the 35th Division raced to Venlo on the Maas, more than twenty-five miles beyond the bridge at Hilfarth where the division had crossed the Roer. The task force was out of contact with the enemy most of the way, probably because of the German withdrawal from the Roermond salient.
It was all along the front a typical pursuit operation, a return at last to the halcyon days of August and early September. For most of the troops most of the time the tenseness of battle gave way to dull fatigue. The setting no longer looked like a battlefield. In one town electric lights were on, trolleys running. Many a village bore no scar. Returning to the fight after two days of rain, tactical aircraft lent a kind of discordant note with their noisy attacks on fleeing German columns. Almost all firing seemed to have an air of unreality. Giving way to exhaustion, one lieutenant fell asleep in a ditch, later to be awakened by a German woman carrying
a child and fleeing from some senseless machine gun chatter down the road.
Yet the battle had not ceased; it had only been shattered. The bits here and there, meaningless in the larger picture, were grim and bloody for the troops unlucky enough to run into them. The 84th Division, for example, after lunging nine miles on 27 February, suddenly came upon a determined group of Germans of the 8th Parachute Division at a town west of Muenchen-Gladbach. With a skillfully organized defense that belied the haste with which the paratroopers had had to turn from their British foes in the north to their American enemies at their rear, the Germans brought war back to the 334th Infantry in a daylong fight as bitter as any in the campaign.
Company G bore the brunt of the action. It finally required an advance over open ground with marching fire, hand grenades, and in the end bayonets to exterminate the enemy. Of an estimated 50 paratroopers, only 2 surrendered. Company G incurred 40 casualties out of a force of about 125 riflemen who took part.
The next day, 1 March, as the 84th Division broke away again, General Simpson shuffled his reserves to make fresh troops available in each attacking corps to maintain pressure. He transferred the 75th Division (commanded now by Maj. Gen. Ray E. Porter), which had been under operational control of the British, to the XVI Corps and shifted the 79th Division (General Wyche) from the XVI Corps to the XIII Corps. His army reserve, the 95th Division (Maj. Gen. Harry L. Twaddle), he attached to the XIX Corps.
About the only thing of note the Germans accomplished during those two days was an exchange of General von Manteuffel, commander of the Fifth Panzer Army, for the Fifteenth Army commander, General von Zangen, a step in implementing the long-projected transfer of zones between the two armies. Yet not for another six days would the staffs complete the exchange. General von Manteuffel promptly ordered the Panzer Lehr Division to counterattack southeastward from Muenchen-Gladbach with the aim of linking with a northwestward strike by the 11th Panzer Division, but the Panzer Lehr still was assembling when the proposed base of Muenchen-Gladbach fell. The loss prompted Manteuffel to order the feeble 11th Panzer to desist. The XII SS Corps continued to fall back to the north, out of contact with the rest of the army, while the LXXXI Corps and the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions (the two operating at this point under Corps Bayerlein) withdrew eastward behind the Erft.14
Efforts To Seize a Bridge
On the American side, commanders began thinking seriously of the possibility of taking intact a bridge across the Rhine. Nobody really counted on succeeding, but all deemed it worth a try. Strong armored punches aimed at the bridges would at least cut up the enemy and possibly trap large numbers even if the armor failed to take a bridge. The Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, indicated to General Simpson
his intense interest in the Ninth Army's plans for taking a bridge.15
On 1 March General McLain of the XIX Corps inserted the 83d Division on the right of the 2d Armored with the mission of capturing Neuss and securing four bridges: a railroad and two highway bridges at Neuss and a highway bridge downstream at Oberkassel. Attacking with two regiments in early afternoon, the 83d continued through the night. One regiment cleared Neuss but found all three bridges there destroyed. The other regiment sent a task force circling wide to the west, bent on taking the bridge at Oberkassel by ruse.
Composed of parts of the 736th Tank Battalion and the 643d Tank Destroyer Battalion, with riflemen from the 330th Infantry, the task force moved by night, its tanks disguised to resemble German tanks. Infantrymen walked beside and behind the tanks to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible while German-speaking soldiers riding on the fronts of the tanks were prepared to do any talking required.
At one point marching down one side of the road while a German foot column moved in the opposite direction down the other, the column reached the outskirts of Oberkassel just at dawn. In the gathering light, a German soldier on a bicycle in a passing column suddenly shouted alarm. Their identity discovered, men of the task force turned their fire on the German column while the Oberkassel town siren blew a warning. Although the task force rushed toward the bridge and some tanks even got on the western end, the Germans demolished it.
North of Neuss at Krefeld-Uerdingen a 1,640-foot bridge named for Adolf Hitler still stood. The bridge lay in the zone of the XIII Corps, with the likeliest candidate to rush it the 5th Armored Division. Another possibility had arisen late on 28 February when the 2d Armored Division of the XIX Corps made sudden gains, though at dark the 2d Armored still was thirteen miles or so from the bridge and separated from it by what could prove a major obstacle, the Nord Canal. Deciding on a wait-and-see policy, General Simpson alerted the XIII Corps to be prepared to shift northward on short notice to make room for the 2d Armored Division should the armor be able to take the Nord Canal in stride.
On 1 March a task force of the 2d Armored's Combat Command A found a bridge intact over the canal and blasted a way across. Combat Command B, which had to put in its own bridges, crossed later in the day. By nightfall Combat Command A had reached the outskirts of Krefeld, only three miles from the Hitler bridge.
Around noon of 1 March, when the Ninth Army's G-3, Col. Armistead D. Mead, had arrived at headquarters of the XIX Corps to check on progress of the attack, he learned that the 2d Armored was rolling. It would be wrong, he believed, to stop the armor at the corps boundary south of Uerdingen. Since General Simpson was away from his command post, Mead issued the necessary orders in his commander's name, changing the boundary between the XIII and XIX Corps. The change would enable the XIX Corps to continue along the west bank of the Rhine beyond Uerdingen while forcing the
XIII Corps to wrench its attack northward.
The commander of the XIII Corps, General Gillem, promptly protested. The terrain near the bridge at Uerdingen, he said, was crisscrossed by canals and road and railway embankments, no fit ground for armor. His own 84th and 102d Infantry Divisions, he insisted, already were well on the way to the Rhine and should be allowed to continue.
Faced with this opposition, Mead and General McLain of the XIX Corps went forward to take a close look at the situation. They learned by their reconnaissance that heavy fighting was holding up the 102d Division in the southern fringes of Krefeld. To Mead, the resistance looked to be stubborn; the best way to break it was to take advantage of the 2d Armored Division's momentum. Although General Gillem continued to debate the issue, he finally gave in near midnight, and the change in boundary stood.
While these discussions were underway, General Simpson and Field Marshal Montgomery were arranging another shift in boundary. Because resistance still was firm in front of the left wing of the First Canadian Army, Simpson proposed to extend his own advance to bring his troops up to the Rhine as far north as a point opposite Wesel, only a few miles short of the Canadian objective of Xanten. Although Montgomery rejected the proposal--possibly because plans he already was formulating for jumping the Rhine involved a British crossing at Wesel--he agreed to shift the boundary as far north as Rheinberg, ten miles short of Xanten.
So late in the day were these changes
in boundaries made that they had little effect on the fighting for much of another day. The XIII Corps continued to atack toward Uerdingen with the 5th Armored Division under orders from General Gillem to stop at the new corps boundary only if the 2d Armored Division had arrived. Still unaware of the boundary change, the 84th Division in the meantime was making its own plans. The division commander, General Bolling, ordered the 334th Infantry reinforced by the bulk of the 771st Tank Battalion to bypass Krefeld, rush the Hitler bridge, and, if possible, establish a bridgehead over the Rhine. Neither during the night of 1 March nor through the next morning did any word of the boundary change that would stifle this plan reach the staff of the 334th Infantry.
Men of the 5th Armored Division advanced on 2 March against no effective opposition until, shortly past noon, they met contingents of the 2d Armored just south of Krefeld. There they halted to await further orders. Backing down, General Gillem told his armor to assemble just inside the new corps boundary.
These forward units of the 2d Armored Division belonged to CCA, which had managed only a short northward advance during the day. CCB was coming up on the right, handicapped--as General Gillem had predicted--by ground cut by numerous small streams. At the closest point CCB still was two miles short of the bridge at Uerdingen.
The 84th Division's 334th Infantry meanwhile launched its attack at 1400 from a point almost eight miles from Krefeld, with the intention of veering around the north side of the city to reach the bridge. With attached tanks rolling at top speed, the head of the column got into the suburbs of Krefeld in less than two hours after jump-off, but then the leading tank took a wrong turn heading into the city which the column was supposed to bypass. The tanks quickly became involved in a fire fight with German antitank guns and could disengage only after nightfall. The attack left over from the old orders thus stalled as new orders at last reached the regiment, changing the objective from Uerdingen to a point on the Rhine several miles downstream.
The task of capturing Uerdingen and the still-standing Hitler bridge passed wholly to the XIX Corps. The troops to accomplish it were from the 2d Armored Division's CCB with two attached battalions of the 95th Division's 379th Infantry.
The Germans for their part were hard put to muster a defense on the approaches to the bridge at Uerdingen. The responsibility rested not with Army Group B, since in driving rapidly to north and northeast, all columns of the U.S. Ninth Army now had passed into the zone of Army Group H's First Parachute Army. For just over a month Army Group H had been under General Blaskowitz, former commander of Army Group G, a result of command changes late in January when the Nazi party official, Himmler, had left Army Group Oberrhein in Alsace for new assignment on the Eastern Front. While Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Paul Hausser assumed command of Army Group G, General Blaskowitz had moved to Army
Group H to replace General Student, an officer in whom Hitler had little confidence.16
General Blaskowitz and the commander of the First Parachute Army, General der Fallschirmtruppen Alfred Schlemm, had been up against many of the same problems faced by their colleagues to the south: virtually no reserves and adamant refusal by Hitler to allow any withdrawal to the east bank of the Rhine. In an effort to salvage something in the face of continued pressure from the First Canadian Army and a new threat by U.S. troops from the rear, the German commanders had decided to try to fashion a bridgehead west of the Rhine extending from Uerdingen in the south to Geldern in the west and beyond Xanten in the north. To do the job at Uerdingen, General Schlemm ordered there what was left of the 2d Parachute Division, some three or four understrength battalions. The paratroopers arrived on 2 March, only a step ahead of the American armor.17
Unaware of the arrival of the paratroopers, the 2d Armored Division made plans to attack toward the bridge at 0200, 3 March. In hope of keeping the Germans from demolishing the bridge, the 92d Armored Field Artillery Battalion kept up a continuous harassing fire. Beginning soon after nightfall on 2 March and using shells fixed with proximity fuzes, the artillery fired for more than fifteen hours.
The attack itself ran into trouble from the start. Four tanks knocked out quickly at the head of the column blocked passage of the others. The infantry went on alone to try to clear a new route. When the tanks in early afternoon again attacked, they reached the vicinity of the bridge from the south but ground to a halt under heavy mortar fire punctuated now and then by the sharper sting of an antitank gun or Panzerfaust.
The two attached battalions of the 379th Infantry meanwhile fought their way to the highway connecting Krefeld and Uerdingen and tried to turn eastward to the bridge. The paratroopers fought back stubbornly. Tantalizingly close to the bridge, neither infantry nor tanks could push the few remaining yards. A 13-foot hole in the road at the west end of the bridge denied passage for the tanks, and without their help the infantry was unable to pierce a thick curtain of small arms fire.
After dark a six-man engineer patrol led by Capt. George L. Youngblood slipped past the defenders, gained the bridge, and crossed it, cutting all visible demolition wires in the process. The patrol went all the way to the east bank before turning back. Yet the engineers either missed the critical wires or the enemy put in others during the night, for at 0700 the next morning, before a new attack could gain the bridge, the Germans blew the center and west spans.18
Fighting to clear Uerdingen continued throughout 4 March and into the morning of the 5th. At the same time
the corps commander, General McLain, ordered the 95th Division to drive for road and rail bridges at Rheinhausen, not quite six miles downstream from the Adolf Hitler bridge, with the armor attacking northward on the 95th's left. Resistance proved to be light. The reason seemed apparent when during the morning of 5 March pilots of artillery observation planes reported both bridges at Rheinhausen already down. By midafternoon the XIX Corps had completed its role in reaching the Rhine but had failed to get a bridge.
There was another reason for the light resistance. In breaking through at Uerdingen, the XIX Corps had compromised the bridgehead line that General Schlemm, the First Parachute Army commander, had been trying to hold. With the approval of Blaskowitz at Army Group H, Schlemm authorized withdrawal to a second and smaller bridgehead line extending from the confluence of the Ruhr River with the Rhine at Duisburg in the south to the vicinity of Xanten in the north. This was a line of no retreat designated by Hitler personally to enable continued supply of coal by barge to the German Navy along major canals leading to the North Sea ports.
Yet this line also quickly proved too ambitious. As the XIX Corps on 5 March finished clearing its share of the Rhine's west bank, the 5th Armored Division of the XIII Corps dashed into Orsoy, on the Rhine opposite one of the canals the Germans needed for their coal barges. With tanks and half-tracks in high gear and firing as they went, CCR swiftly covered the last two miles into Orsoy, cutting through German infantry and overrunning artillery pieces before they could fire. The 84th Division meanwhile cleared Moers and Homberg but found road and rail bridges leading across the Rhine into Duisburg already destroyed.
Operation GRENADE as originally conceived was over; but if the Ninth Army's General Simpson had his way, GRENADE would be extended to include a bridgehead over the Rhine and a drive to the northeastern corner of the Ruhr industrial region. Since 1 March Simpson's staff had been considering this stratagem, based in the main on the theory of seizing a bridge intact but, failing that, on a quick surprise crossing.19
General Simpson settled on a plan to cross the Rhine between Duesseldorf and Uerdingen, then to turn north to clear the east bank for further crossings and to gain relatively open country along the northern fringe of the Ruhr. It was a stratagem that hardly could have failed, for Hitler's refusal to agree to timely and orderly withdrawal behind the Rhine had left his field commanders little with which to defend the historic moat and in early March totally unprepared to counter a crossing.
Yet Simpson's superior, Field Marshal Montgomery, said no. To a bitter Ninth Army staff, his refusal rested, rightly or wrongly, on the effect an impromptu American crossing might have on the Field Marshal's own plans for staging a grand set-piece assault to cross the Rhine on a broad front.20
Eliminating the Wesel Pocket
3-11 March 1945
The Wesel Pocket
Operation GRENADE as originally conceived was over and would gain no new lease on life beyond the Rhine. Yet it would be extended northward along the west bank, for the Ninth Army still would have a hand in reducing those Germans remaining west of the river. Swinging northeastward after an initial thrust northward from the Roer crossing site, General Anderson's XVI Corps would be thrown into a tough after-fight against remnants of the First Parachute Army. The resistance would be stubborn, for never would Hitler actually authorize withdrawal.
From 28 February through 3 March the XVI Corps had been slicing through relatively undefended country. In driving first to Venlo and thence northeastward in the general direction of Rheinberg, midway between Wesel and Duisburg, a motorized task force of the 35th Division and a lone combat command of the 8th Armored Division had led the way, each on a narrow front. For much of the time the armor had to stick to a single road, where its striking power at the head was seldom more than a platoon of tanks and a company of infantry; but neither this nor any other handicap really mattered.
Indications that the road march might be nearing an end emerged on 3 March. The 35th Division's Task Force Byrne (a reinforced 320th Infantry) reached Sevelen, five miles southeast of Geldern, but there had a stiff fight to take the town. (Map VII) A battalion of the 134th Infantry made contact with the 1st British Corps at Geldern, but resistance there too was determined. Although the 8th Armored Division still had met no real opposition, the armor was about to be pinched out by the change in boundary that sent the neighboring XIII Corps northward. CCB would be attached the next day to the 35th Division, while CCR on the extreme right had to be recalled to make room for units of the XIII Corps.
Contact between the forces of Operations VERITABLE and GRENADE on 3 March at Geldern created a continuous Allied perimeter around those Germans remaining west of the Rhine. Units of the 1st British Corps had reached positions generally on a north-south line between the Xanten Forest, west of Xanten, and Geldern, while the Canadians still were fighting to wrest a ridgeline within the Xanten Forest from German paratroopers.
The perimeter for the moment corresponded roughly to the outer bridgehead line that General Schlemm of the First Parachute Army was trying to establish, but not for long. The advances at Geldern and Sevelen meant that in the center as in the south the Germans would have to fall back to the inner bridgehead line, which in this sector ran about six miles east of Geldern along the western edge of the Boenninghardt Forest. The southern edge of the bridgehead would be anchored on Orsoy.
From the vicinity of Xanten to Orsoy, the German bridgehead was some sixteen miles wide. It encompassed the
only high ground in this generally flat portion of the Rhineland: a boomerang-shaped ridge in the north covered by the Xanten Forest, the wooded Boenninghardt Ridge on a northwest-southeast axis that bisected the Geldern-Wesel highway, and a series of isolated hills south of the Boenninghardt Ridge.
Within the bridgehead General Schlemm still had more than 50,000 men, representing contingents of almost every division that had put up such a determined stand against Operation VERITABLE, including four parachute divisions, the Panzer Lehr and 116th Panzer Divisions, and a panzer grenadier division.21 Only in the north opposite the Canadians was the bridgehead line solidly organized, for there the Germans had made a grudging withdrawal back to a natural line of defense. Elsewhere hasty withdrawal had left few German units with any real integrity.
Within the bridgehead, two bridges still spanned the Rhine, a road bridge and a rail bridge, both leading to Wesel, the city on the east bank that would lend its name to the pocket of German troops. Those bridges obviously would be a key Allied objective, both because they stood almost exactly in the middle of the bridgehead and because they held out promise for crossing the Rhine with dry feet.
Because of the sparse opposition the Americans had been meeting, Allied commanders believed the best chance of getting the Wesel bridges rested with the XVI Corps. The assignment went to the 35th Division and its attached combat command, which were to drive northeastward to Rheinberg, thence northward to take the bridges. Although the bridges lay outside the American boundary, the commanders informally eased boundary restrictions.
General Baade's 35th Division attacked on 4 March with two regiments abreast. On the left two battalions of the 320th Infantry came under intense fire from small arms, mortars, and artillery as they approached the Hohe Busch, a small forest not quite half the distance to Rheinberg astride the Sevelen-Rheinberg highway. Fire from neither artillery nor tank destroyers could neutralize the German positions. Although a platoon of riflemen got into a village just west of the wood, the men withdrew when the enemy began closing around them. Under the impression that the platoon held the village, five medium and two light tanks of the 784th Tank Battalion moved in. With Panzerfausts the Germans knocked out one of the mediums and both the lights, and only the timely arrival of a reserve rifle company spared the others. Even after the infantry cleared the village, the Germans after dark came back, besieging one American platoon in a hotel with hand grenades thrown through the windows.
It was a touch of the old war again, of the days before anyone talked of German collapse, not only here but to the south where two battalions of the 137th Infantry on the 35th Division's right wing also ran into trouble.
Attacking from a point southeast of Sevelen, a leading company of one battalion encountered heavy fire at the base of one of the isolated hills that afforded a logical extension of any defensive line based to the north on the Boenninghardt Ridge and the Hohe Busch. Two
platoons found some shelter in ditches and behind hedges while the other two ducked into houses. Because the company's artillery observer had lost his radio, the men had no artillery support. As two German tanks rolled down the road, one blast from their guns killed the company commander, Capt. Daniel Filburn, and a platoon leader, 2d Lt. John H. Hartment. With two key leaders lost and the tanks methodically blasting the houses and ditches in which the men sought shelter, all control vanished. The men fled. Reorganized before noon, they went back with tank destroyer support to hold the position, but not until the next day did this battalion mount another attack.22
Another battalion of the 137th Infantry also had a day of hard fighting, but with consistent tank and artillery support achieved a noteworthy success. When a patrol came under heavy fire from one of the isolated hills, the battalion commander, Maj. Harry F. Parker, borrowed six half-tracks and several light tanks from the 8th Armored Division's 88th Reconnaissance Battalion, mounted Company G on them, and sent them racing into houses at the foot of the hill. While another company provided supporting fire from the edge of a nearby wood, Company G continued northward to take not only the offending hill but another a few hundred yards to the north. The latter yielded 200 prisoners and prompted Germans on a remaining hill to the north to pull out during the night.
Despite the sudden flare-up of fighting on 4 March, General Baade continued to anticipate a speedy breakthrough to the Rhine and possibly even across the river by way of one of the bridges at Wesel. To gain a leg on the thrust to the bridges, he ordered Task Force Byrne (the 320th Infantry reinforced) to turn immediately northward to seize a key crossroads on the Geldern-Wesel highway behind the Boenninghardt Ridge. The attached CCB, 8th Armored Division, was to assume the assignment of taking Rheinberg, whereupon the armor and the 137th Infantry together were to turn north toward the bridges.
Task Force Byrne started moving early on 5 March, the men fully expecting to make a rapid advance by bounds. Yet even though the Germans had evacuated most of the Hohe Busch during the night, rear guards held out through the morning. As the 1st Battalion at last passed to the north of the forest, the Germans cut off the leading platoon in a village at the base of the Boenninghardt Ridge. It took the rest of the day to rescue the platoon and clear the enemy from scattered houses nearby. Another battalion that had in the meantime attempted to advance along the main highway toward Rheinberg before turning north met intense fire from automatic weapons and antitank guns. The leading company lost two supporting tanks and its commander.
Even heavier fighting erupted on the approaches to Rheinberg where, under the plan of CCB's commander, Col. Edward A. Kimball, a task force composed largely of infantry was to take the town while another heavy in armor was to be ready to push on to the bridges at Wesel. The plan was based on a premise of negligible resistance; said the commander of the task force of armor, Maj.
John H. Van Houten: "We thought it was to be a road march."23
The operation started out pretty much that way as the infantry force under Lt. Col. Morgan G. Roseborough marched beyond the isolated hills south of the Hohe Busch and entered the town of Lintfort. The town was secured by 1100, but among the buildings Task Force Roseborough took a wrong turning to end up north instead of east of the town. As the column advanced along a road leading to the main highway into Rheinberg, German antitank guns opened fire, knocking out a half-track and a medium tank. At the same time a rash of small arms fire erupted from nearby houses. The infantry dismounted, deployed, and gave battle.
Anxious to avoid delay in seizing Rheinberg, the CCB commander, Colonel Kimball, called forward Task Force Van Houten. Major Van Houten and his armor, he ordered, were to drive alone on Rheinberg. The infantry of Task Force Roseborough was to follow later in half-tracks.
Major Van Houten split his task force into three columns. One was to bypass the opposition holding up Task Force Roseborough and drive up the main highway into Rheinberg, a second to move along secondary roads to join the first on the main highway a thousand yards out of Rheinberg, and a third to drive east and come into Rheinberg by way of another main highway from the south.
All three columns quickly ran into trouble. Composed mainly of light tanks, the left column on the Rheinberg highway soon lost four tanks to antitank guns, a Panzerfaust, and a mine. The center column never reached the highway as concealed German antitank guns knocked out twelve of fourteen medium tanks. The CCB commander himself, Colonel Kimball, got trapped in a house by mortar and machine gun fire and escaped only after darkness came. The third column meanwhile gained the highway leading into Rheinberg from the south but there encountered a swarm of German infantry and lost two tanks to Panzerfausts.
Having no infantry support, the commander of this column, Capt. David B. Kelly, radioed for help; but before infantry could arrive, he decided to risk a quick rush against Rheinberg with tanks alone. While the bulk of his company provided covering fire, three tanks raced forward. German antitank fire got all three of them.
Kelly himself then led a dash by his remaining tanks, but all except Kelly's own tank lagged. Kelly raced into Rheinberg alone, circled the town square, machine-gunned a German who was about to fire a Panzerfaust, narrowly escaped hits from German antitank guns five times, then raced back out of the town. On the way back German gunners hit his tank twice but failed to stop it.
Returning to his companions south of the town, Kelly found infantry support at last arriving: two companies of Task Force Roseborough that finally had eliminated the enemy north of Lintfort. In the hour of daylight remaining, the infantry and Kelly's seven remaining tanks mounted a new attack. Kelly himself led it on foot.
Advancing together, infantry and tanks took a hundred prisoners and
knocked out three 88's, five 20-mm. antiaircraft guns, and four machine guns. Reaching the southern fringe of Rheinberg as darkness fell, they waited for the 35th Division's 137th Infantry to come up during the night and secure the rest of the town.
The fight for Rheinberg had all but annihilated CCB's armor; of 54 tanks, 39 were lost. For both the 36th Tank Battalion and the 49th Armored Infantry, it had been the first real fight, strikingly sharp action when compared with the skirmishing that had marked the combat command's brief previous experience in battle. Although the men had displayed considerable valor, they had paid dearly with a loss of 92 killed, 31 missing, 220 wounded. In official tones, the 8th Armored Division's staff summarized what had gone wrong: "The employment of the tank elements could have been improved through the provision of closer infantry support, and undoubtedly such support would have materially decreased the tank losses of the Combat Command."24
A daylong spectator at the events around Orsoy was the First Parachute Army commander, General Schlemm.25 Fully expecting the Americans to send a column of tanks streaking northward immediately to cut off his remaining troops from the Wesel bridges, Schlemm nevertheless put into effect plans for a new defensive line. Ordering two of his three corps headquarters to retire east of the Rhine, he placed the remaining bridgehead under one corps. The bridgehead still encompassed the town of Xanten and most of the Boenninghardt Ridge.
While the Canadians plugged away at die-hard opposition in Xanten, General Anderson's XVI Corps headed north with two task forces, Task Force Byrne still on the left, Task Force Murray (the 137th Infantry with what remained of the 8th Armored Division's CCB) on the right. Both task forces soon discovered that the hard fighting for Rheinberg on 5 March had been a harbinger of what was to come. Although a British division on the left of Task Force Byrne provided help, the two task forces could do no more through the next three days than inch forward.
Then as suddenly as the determined resistance had formed, it disintegrated. During the night of 9 March the Germans blew both the highway and railway bridges at Wesel, leaving only a few rear guards and stragglers on the west bank. Passing through Task Force Murray, the 134th Infantry the next morning swept to the demolished highway bridge almost unimpeded.
The Beginning of the End
In just over two weeks the Ninth Army had driven approximately 53 miles, from the Roer at Juelich to the Rhine at Wesel, and had cleared some 34 miles of the west bank of the Rhine from Duesseldorf to Wesel. In the process the army had captured about 30,000 Germans and killed an estimated 6,000 more while absorbing less than 7,300 casualties.26 In the companion drive, the First Canadian Army had driven approximately 40 miles from the Dutch-German border near Nijmegen to
Wesel. The casualties in VERITABLE were 15,600, prisoners, 22,200.27
The First Canadian Army's task had been the more difficult of the two, for the fortune of the delay imposed on Operation GRENADE by the flooded Roer River had shoved the bulk of German strength to the north. The First Parachute Army clearly had been superior to the Fifteenth Army. In addition, flooded ground over the first few miles of the Canadians' route of attack had imposed serious difficulties.
Although Field Marshal Montgomery had not intended it so, the two operations had developed in a pattern already made familiar in Sicily and again in Normandy, where Montgomery's troops attracted German reserves while American forces achieved a breakthrough and rapid exploitation. In Normandy more favorable terrain had lured the Germans to Montgomery's front; here it was because the Canadian attack had started first. As in Normandy, the Americans with their immense transportation resources were admirably suited for the breakthrough role.
For all the speed of execution, Operation GRENADE was complex, involving the crossing of a flooded, defended river, followed by two major changes in direction of attack and a minor adjustment at the end. A trace along the middle of the Ninth Army's course would resemble a giant S.
The operation also had introduced another complication that all Allied armies now would experience as they thrust deep into the interior of Germany. This was the presence of millions of noncombatants--native civilians, impressed workers from other countries, and liberated prisoners of war.
In some measure the Allies had experienced the problem before in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, but the populace in those countries had been friendly. In earlier fighting just within the German frontier, many of the civilians had fled the battle zone; but now, as the Allies thrust deeper, there was nowhere for them to go. Literally masses of humanity wandered about, cluttering roads, slowing traffic, sometimes clogging prisoner-of-war channels. Destroyed homes, damaged water, sanitary and electrical facilities, and a complete breakdown of civilian transportation added to the problem. To establish some semblance of order out of the chaos was a mammoth assignment that by 15 March already was occupying more than forty Military Government detachments in the Ninth Army's zone.28
Meanwhile, the great build-up for crossing the Rhine began, underscoring the fact that Operations GRENADE and VERITABLE marked the beginning of the end. Not only had these operations put the Ninth Army, the Canadians, and the British into position to cross the Rhine but they had unleashed a flood of offensive operations elsewhere, designed to carry all Allied armies to the river. Indeed, a contingent of one American army already had stolen a march on all others and jumped the big obstacle without pause.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (8) * Next Chapter (10)
1. MS # B-812 (Zangen). Strength figures are from Map, Lage Frankreich, OKW-WFSt Op(H) West Pruef-Nr 1949, Stand: 14.2.45, 2. Lage.
2. The tactical story is based primarily on official unit records and combat interviews.
3. General Collins normally issued oral orders to his division commanders, then had them transscribed as written letters of instruction. These are valuable for revealing the reasoning behind the orders. See VII Corps Ltrs of Instrs file, Feb 45.
4. MS # B-812 (Zangen).
5. Ibid. See also MSS # C-020 (Schramm); # B-080, 12th Volks Grenadier Division, 23 February-March 1945 (Generalmajor Rudolf Langhaeuser, CG); # B-152, 59th Infantry Division, 2 December 1944-28 February 1945 (Generalleutnant Walter Poppe, CG).
6. In addition to official sources, see History of the XVI Corps (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), pp. 24-26.
7. 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 25-26 Feb 45.
8. MS # B-080 (Langhaeuser).
9. See below, ch. X.
10. MS # B-812 (Zangen).
12. Magna E. Bauer, German Top Level Decisions and Plans, January 1945 to End of War, prepared in OCMH to complement this volume; MS # C-020 (Schramm).
13. Quotation is from MS # C-020 (Schramm).
14. MSS # B-812 (Zangen); # B-053 (Bayerlein); # C-020 (Schramm); # B-202, Fifth Panzer Army, 1-17 April 1945 (Generalmajor F. von Mellenthin, CofS).
15. Conquer, p. 184.
16. Bauer, Army Group G, January 1945.
17. MSS # B-084, First Parachute Army, 20 November 1944-21 March 1945 (General der Fallschirmtruppen Alfred Schlemm); # B-147, Army Group H, 10 November 1944-10 March 1945 (Oberst Rolf Geyer, Opns Officer, AGp H).
18. General Schlemm says: "At Uerdingen the demolition wires were shot out by artillery fire. Their replacement took hours." MS # B-084 (Schlemm).
19. Conquer, pp. 189-90.
20. Conquer, p. 190. Speaking with some authority on the British viewpoint, Chester Wilmot in The Struggle for Europe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952), page 677, wrote that Montgomery refused because a crossing near Duesseldorf would have involved the Ninth Army in the "industrial wilderness" of the Ruhr. In none of his published works did Montgomery himself comment. German commanders almost to a man believed a surprise crossing would have met little resistance, a view reinforced by events ill succeeding days elsewhere along the Rhine. See in particular MSS # B-084 (Schlemm); # B-147 (Geyer); # A-965 (Generalmajor Karl Wagener).
21. MS # B-084 (Schlemm).
22. Extensive combat interviews are available on these actions of the 35th Division.
23. Combat interview with Van Houten.
24. 8th Armored Div AAR, Mar 45.
25. MS # B-084 (Schlemm).
26. Conquer, p. 198.
27. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, p. 522.
28. An instructive essay on this subject may be found in Conquer, pp. 195-97.