Recovering rapidly from the shock of German counter offensives in the Ardennes and Alsace, Allied armies early in January 1945 began an offensive that gradually spread all along the line from the North Sea to Switzerland and continued until the German armies and the German nation were prostrate in defeat. This volume tells the story of that offensive, one which eventually involved more than four and a half million troops, including ninety-one divisions, sixty-one of which were American.
The focus of the volume is on the role of the American armies--First, Third, Seventh, Ninth, and, to a lesser extent, Fifteenth--which comprised the largest and most powerful military force the United States has ever put in the field. The role of Allied armies--First Canadian, First French, and Second British--is recounted in sufficient detail to put the role of American armies in perspective, as is the story of tactical air forces in support of the ground troops.
This is the ninth volume in a subseries of ten designed to record the history of the United States Army in the European Theater of Operations. One volume, The Riviera to the Rhine, remains to be published.
5 June 1972
JAMES L. COLLINS, JR.
Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History
Charles B. MacDonald is the author of The Siegfried Line Campaign and co-author of Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo, and Schmidt, both in the official series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. He has supervised the preparation of other volumes in the European and Mediterranean theater subseries and is a contributor to Command Decisions and American Military History. He is also the author of Company Commander (Washington: 1947), The Battle of the Huertgen Forest (Philadelphia: 1963), The Mighty Endeavor (New York: 1969), and Airborne (NewYork: 1970). A graduate of Presbyterian College, he also holds the Litt.D. degree from that institution. In 1957 he received a Secretary of the Army Research and Study Fellowship and spent a year studying the interrelationship of terrain, weapons, and tactics on European battlefields. A colonel in the Army Reserve, he holds the Purple Heart and Silver Star. As Deputy Chief Historian for Southeast Asia, he is currently engaged in preparing the official history of the United States Army in Vietnam.
The American armies that absorbed the shock of the German counteroffensives in the Ardennes and Alsace in the winter of 1944-45 were the most powerful and professional that the United States had yet put in the field. That this was the case was abundantly demonstrated as the final campaign to reduce Nazi Germany to total defeat unfolded.
The campaign was remarkably varied. As it gathered momentum in the snows of the Ardennes and the mud and pillboxes of the West Wall, the fighting was often as bitter as any that had gone before among the hedgerows of Normandy and the hills and forests of the German frontier. Yet the defense which the Germans were still able to muster following the futile expenditure of lives and means in the counteroffensives was brittle. The campaign soon evolved into massive sweeps by powerful Allied columns across the width and breadth of Germany. That the Germans could continue to resist for more than two months in the face of such overwhelming power was a testament to their pertinacity but it was a grim tragedy as well. To such an extent had they subjugated themselves to their Nazi leaders that they were incapable of surrender at a time when defeat was inevitable and surrender would have spared countless lives on both sides.
It was a dramatic campaign: the sweep of four powerful U.S. armies to the Rhine; the exhilarating capture of a bridge at Remagen; assault crossings of the storied Rhine River, including a spectacular airborne assault; an ill-fated armored raid beyond Allied lines; the trapping of masses of Germans in a giant pocket in the Ruhr industrial region; the uncovering of incredible horror in German concentration camps; a dashing thrust to the Elbe River; juncture with the Russians; and a Wagnerian climax played to the accompaniment of Russian artillery fire in the Fuehrerbunker in Berlin.
This volume is chronologically the final work in the European theater subseries of the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. In point of time, it follows The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, previously published, and The Riviera to the Rhine, still in preparation.
Even more than most of the volumes in the official history, this one is the work of many people. The author is particularly indebted to two historians who earlier worked on the project: Gordon A. Harrison, author of Cross-Channel Attack, whose felicity of phrase may still be apparent in some of the early chapters, and Fred J. Meyer, who prepared a preliminary
draft of the entire work. The volume as it stands owes much to their contributions. Mrs. Magna E. Bauer prepared a number of detailed and valuable studies on the German side. As always, Mrs. Lois Aldridge of the World War II Records Division, National Archives and Records Service, displayed remarkable patience in assisting the author's exploration of mountains of records. More than forty senior American officers, including Generals of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar N. Bradley, Generals Jacob L. Devers and William H. Simpson, and four senior German officers, including General Hasso von Manteuffel, gave generously of their time in reading and commenting on all or parts of the manuscript. Assistance was also received from the Cabinet Office Historical Section, London; the Directorate of History, Canadian Forces Headquarters, Ottawa; and the Militaergeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Freiburg.
Within the editorial staff, I am particularly grateful for the assistance of Mrs. Loretto C. Stevens; the copy editors were Mrs. Stephanie B. Demma, Mr. Alfred M. Beck, and Mrs. Joyce W. Hardyman. Mr. Elliot Dunay and his staff, Mr. Howell C. Brewer and Mr. Roger D. Clinton, prepared the maps. The cartographic staff was supplemented by men of the United States Army to whom I am especially grateful: Specialist 5 Arthur S. Hardyman, Specialist 5 Edward S. Custer, Specialist 4 Daryl L. DeFrance, and Specialist 5 Mark C. Finnemann. Miss Margaret L. Emerson made the index.
The author alone is responsible for interpretations and conclusions, as well as for any errors that may appear.
5 June 1972
CHARLES B. MacDONALD
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