The enemy counteroffensive in the Ardennes halted the Allied advance but did not stop preparations for later attacks. While the main energies of the Supreme Commander were directed toward shifting his forces to parry the German thrusts, his staff continued to work on plans for clearing the area west of the Rhine, for crossing the Rhine, and for advancing eastward into Germany. From the end of December on, General Eisenhower turned his attention increasingly to these operations.
The Battle for the Rhineland
In planning for winter and spring offensives, the Supreme Commander found that much depended on the date and scale of the Red Army's anticipated winter offensive. The appearance of German divisions transferred to the Western Front from Hungary and East Prussia increased his problems and made it difficult to know how to plan, and he had little indication from the Russians of their intentions.1 Marshal Stalin, for his part, did not fail to seek information regarding the plans of the Western powers. On 14 December, in talking with Ambassador Harriman, the Soviet chief asked about General Eisenhower's future moves. Harriman said that the SHAEF forces were preparing to push to the Rhine and that they desired to operate in concert with the Russians. For this reason, he added, the Supreme Commander needed to be informed about developments on the Eastern Front. Stalin replied that he would consult with his staff and would probably be able to give some information in about a week. He noted that bad weather had prevented the Red Army from making the best use of its superiority in artillery and air power, but a winter offensive, he assured the Ambassador, would be launched.2
Apparently the Russian leader's answers were not passed on directly to General Eisenhower, for on 21 December, a week after Harriman's talk with Stalin, the Supreme Commander asked the Combined Chiefs of Staff for information from the Russians. He spoke again of the recent tendency of the Germans to move divisions from the east to the west. "The arrival of these divisions," he declared, "obviously influences the events in my area and if the trend continues it will affect the decisions which I have to make regarding future strategy in the west. . . . If, for instance, it is the Russian intention to launch a major offensive in the course of this or next month, knowledge of the fact would be of the utmost importance to me and I would condition my plans accordingly. Can anything
be done to effect this coordination?"3 The general proposed to send to Stalin a high-ranking officer of the SHAEF staff who would be prepared to tell the marshal of forthcoming Allied plans and in return receive information on the Red Army.
President Roosevelt, in response to this request, on 23 December asked Marshal Stalin to receive a SHAEF staff officer to discuss the situation in the west and its relation to the Russian front. The President added that the situation in Belgium was not bad, but that it was necessary to see what came next. The Russian leader promptly agreed to the proposed conference.4
The War Department's announcement that Marshal Stalin would receive a SHAEF representative also informed the Supreme Commander of suggestions made by the Russian leader to Mr. Churchill during the latter's Moscow visit in October 1944 and to Mr. Harriman in December. On both occasions the marshal had spoken of a possible transfer of Allied forces from Italy to the Balkans to join the Russians near Vienna. At the October meeting he had inquired about the possibility of an Allied advance through Switzerland to outflank the West Wail, and in the December conversation he had spoken casually of a possible break-through by General Devers' forces to the east to link up with the Red Army's left flank.5 The Combined Chiefs of Staff in their instructions for the SHAEF representatives removed entirely from the realm of discussion the question of breaching Swiss neutrality. The suggested break-through by General Devers' forces toward Vienna was vetoed as conflicting with the northern drive into Germany then being planned. In the matter of sending forces from Italy to the Balkans, a plan which the Allies had already considered for some time, the Combined Chiefs of Staff showed greater interest. They suggested that General Alexander or his representatives might be sent to Moscow later for a conference on that subject. So this matter too was removed from the list which Eisenhower's representatives could discuss.6
The SHAEF party, consisting of Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Bull, and Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Betts, after delays caused by bad weather and aircraft difficulties, finally arrived in the Russian capital on 14 January. Marshal Stalin received the three officers on the following night and at once informed them that the long-awaited Russian offensive, some 150
to 160 divisions in strength and intended to last from two to two and one-half months, had been launched on 12 January with the mission of reaching the line of the Oder. The Russian leader declared that the attack, which had been under preparation for more than a month, had been delayed until the weather was more favorable but that he had decided to launch it speedily in view of Allied difficulties in the west. The attack had come, of course, two weeks after the German offensive had been stopped in the Ardennes.7 (Map 8)
The Russian chief showed great interest in General Eisenhower's plans and offered advice on how to proceed. While agreeing that the Ruhr was the best place to attack, he noted that the enemy would also be aware of that fact and would be on guard. He recommended that SHAEF amass a strategic reserve of some ten divisions for any further offensive, but, when told that this could be collected only at the expense of a withdrawal from Strasbourg, he admitted that such a move would be of great military and psychological value for the enemy.
Informed by Air Chief Marshal Tedder that SHAEF's chief interest, now that the offensive was started, was in the ability of the Red Army to harass the. Germans from mid-March to late May, Stalin said he could not promise a full-scale offensive throughout that period but would use units organized for the purpose to stir up the enemy and prevent him from moving to the Western Front. In commenting on the Germans, the Russian leader declared that they had more stubbornness than brains and that the Ardennes attack was very stupid. He saw no possibility of German surrender before summer, however, since there was no leader around whom opposition against Hitler could coalesce.
While taking credit for applying pressure on the Eastern Front to aid the western advance, Stalin revealed that he was well aware of his own interest in exerting such pressure. In parting, he told the SHAEF representatives that although he had no treaty with the Western Allies he considered it a proper, sound, and selfish policy for all of them to help one another in time of difficulties. It would be as foolish for him to stand aside while the Germans annihilated the Allies, he added, as it was wise for the Allies to prevent the enemy from crushing the Russians.
Allied permanent representatives in Moscow were pleased with the results of the meeting, which they described as one of the most successful conferences ever held between Allied and Russian representatives in Moscow. They credited Air Chief Marshal Tedder's direct approach with much of this success.8
At the end of December 1944, the Supreme Commander had decided that once
Formulation of Allied Strategy
Map No. 8: SITUATION IN EUROPE 15 January 1945
the Ardennes salient was reduced he would return the First Army to General Bradley and direct the 12th Army Group commander to open a drive with the First and Third Armies in the direction of Pruem and Bonn. The 21 Army Group would retain the Ninth Army and resume preparations for a major drive to the Rhine directed north of the Ruhr. South of the Ardennes, the front below the Moselle was to remain strictly on the defensive.9
In suggesting that the First and Third Armies should push toward the Rhine south of the Ruhr, General Eisenhower again raised the question of where the weight of the Allied attack should be pressed home, an issue long debated between him and Field Marshal Montgomery. On 10 January, the British Chiefs of Staff asked formally for a review of his strategy by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Insisting that there would not be sufficient strength for two main attacks, the British asked that one major thrust be selected and that only those forces not needed for this purpose be used for other operations. This approach would rather effectively rule out any action by the Third Army. Further, they urged that all activities for the remainder of the winter bear a direct relation to the main front for the spring offensive, a suggestion which if accepted could conceivably stop the entire operation then being considered by General Bradley. The British Chiefs recommended that the Supreme Commander be asked to submit by the end of January reviews of the progress of his operations to date, the effects of the Ardennes counteroffensive on his forces, and his plans for the late winter and spring.10
With these actions, the British Chiefs of Staff entered the debate which previously had been carried on mainly by General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery. In presenting their questions, they appeared to be in the position of championing Montgomery against his superior. If the U.S. Chiefs of Staff so interpreted the British action, the question could easily become one of whether the Supreme Commander was to be upheld rather than one of which strategy was better. Inasmuch as Field Marshal Montgomery's program would have to be adopted over General Eisenhower's protest and since British strategy depended on the shift of at least two U.S. armies to British command, it was doubtful from the outset that the consent of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff could be obtained.
The Supreme Commander was aware of the British views before the formal request was made and had his arguments ready for submission before being asked for them. In replies sent to General Marshall on 10 January, he reiterated many of the points which he had made to Field Marshal Montgomery in November and December 1944. In the first he defended the broad front policy, saying that in order to concentrate a powerful force north of the Ruhr for the invasion of Germany he had to have a firm defensive line which could be held with minimum forces. With such a line, the Allies could threaten the enemy at various points and make easier an invasion in the north. But unless the Allies held the Rhine "substantially" throughout its length, he warned, the enemy with his West Wall defenses
General Eisenhower's Replies
would be in a position to concentrate for further counterattacks against the Allied lines of communications. Despite a desire to close to the Rhine, he added, top priority had been given the area north of the Ardennes during late October and November and only secondary actions had been permitted south of that area. He had authorized subsidiary actions in the Saar valley with units which could not profitably be used in the north in the hope that they might drive the enemy across the Rhine in that area. In the last few days before the Ardennes counteroffensive, when rugged and flooded terrain had strongly limited the 21 Army Group's offensive action, he had permitted General Patton to make one more effort to reach the Rhine.11
General Eisenhower declared that he was bewildered at British insistence on assurances as to the northern thrust. He repeated that there had never been any doubt of placing his main strength north of the Ruhr and putting that effort under one commander. To the suggestion that his strong concentrations of forces south of the Ruhr did not square with his pledge to put everything possible in the northern thrust, the Supreme Commander replied that he had been told initially by Field Marshal Montgomery that only twenty-five divisions could be sustained in an attack through the northern area. After "almost arbitrary action" on the part of SHAEF, he added, the 21 Army Group commander had sought means of using a larger force.
On two matters, General Eisenhower conceded, definite differences had developed between himself and Field Marshals Brooke and Montgomery. These British officers seemed to consider it logical to advance into Germany on the front from Bonn northward, while leaving the rest of the Allied front south of that position relatively static. In Eisenhower's opinion, the Ardennes counteroffensive showed that, without a strong natural line, the Allies, if they remained static in the south, would have to use more divisions there than they were willing to take away from the major offensive. A second argument had arisen over the point from which the Allies should launch the principal attack in support of the main thrust in the north. The British favored the area Bonn-Cologne. Eisenhower held that the country east of this area was very unfavorable for action, and cited arguments by General Bradley and others in favor of the Frankfurt area. He repeated that it was his intention to make a secondary attack, designed only to force the dispersal of enemy troops and to permit the Allies to use all possible crossings and lines of communications. The U.S. commander said he would accept loyally any decision of the Combined Chiefs of Staff as to the proper place for attack, but warned that unless their long defensive flank was situated firmly on an easily defended line the Allies would have to immobilize more troops than they could afford.12
These arguments failed to persuade the British Chiefs of Staff, even as similar statements had failed to convince the 21 Army Group commander that a main thrust in the north and a secondary attack in the south were compatible. The difficulty seemed to develop mainly because of their feeling that any secondary action in which General Patton was concerned would probably become a major
one. They feared, first, that the stockpile of resources would be diminished and, second, that a successful limited attack might develop into a larger drive which would force the commitment of the main Allied force in an area less productive of results than the north. The whole argument turned, as did the earlier one on the same subject, on whether or not the Supreme Commander in backing these limited attacks would seriously weaken or make impossible the main offensive. On this question, the various commanders could not agree, and there was no immediate decisive result in the field that would give a pragmatic answer to the problem.
In the absence of such an answer, other factors could not be ignored. On the one hand, there was the Ardennes counteroffensive which, in the opinion of many British observers, showed the danger of the broad front policy. On the other hand, U.S. commanders were convinced that public opinion in the United States demanded a major thrust in the area south of the Ardennes. No matter how many arguments might be demonstrated in behalf of the British position, it was difficult for the Supreme Commander to continue shifting U.S. troops to the 21 Army Group and at the same time refuse to U.S. commanders, who had made sweeping advances in the previous summer and who felt that they had been cheated of a Rhine crossing at that time by concessions to the British commander, the chance to make at least small-scale assaults in their area. General Eisenhower's dilemma was stated succinctly in December by one of his key British advisers. This officer, while favoring the northern thrust, explained that the Supreme Commander had twice said "no" to Generals Bradley and Patton while giving preference to the north. Since decisive results were gained in neither case, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to say "no" to his U.S. commanders again.
The next problem of importance was the strength necessary to defeat the enemy in western Europe. To the Allied commander in mid-January it appeared that a weak and ineffectual Russian offensive, a partial enemy withdrawal from Italy to the west, and a continued enemy withdrawal from Norway to the west would make it possible for the enemy to keep a maximum of one hundred divisions on the Western Front and prevent a spring offensive. Lacking these conditions, the Germans could maintain only about eighty understrength divisions. To oppose these forces, the Supreme Commander estimated that the Allies by spring would have eighty-five divisions, with five to eight new French divisions in the process of being trained and equipped and with the existing eight French divisions brought to full combat strength.13
The chief problem confronting the Allies at the moment, General Eisenhower believed, arose from the enemy's frontier defenses. These formidable positions enabled the Germans to concentrate safely for counterattacks. The Supreme Commander insisted on a good natural line for the defensive parts of the Allied front, saying that for the most part it should be the line of the Rhine, although at some points he felt that it might not be worth the effort to eliminate "the extremely strong but constricted bridgeheads." In these statements, General Eisenhower showed the effect of the Ardennes counteroffensive on his thinking. Before 16 December, he had still been
willing to take a chance on a sudden thrust in some sector in the hope of getting a break-through to the Rhine; now he talked more of closing up to the Rhine along the entire front before attempting to force a crossing. This development in thinking, while perhaps owing something to the earlier "broad front" theory, probably owed more to the Ardennes attacks. It may also have marked some concession to General Bradley's wish to make limited advances south of the Ardennes. Not to be overlooked is the fact that in November and December the main hope had been to keep pushing in the hope that something might work before winter closed in; in January all eyes were turned toward spring when it might be possible to undertake an all-out offensive again.
The Supreme Commander next considered whether the eighty-five divisions available in the spring would be enough to win the war in the west. He believed they might be if the Russian offensive went well. But, he added, this strength was not sufficient to permit the Allies to depend entirely on one plan of action. If, for example, the enemy concentrated his forces north of the Ruhr, it might be impossible to break through in that area. The forces available for such an attack would, of course, be conditioned by the defensive requirements of the Allied forces. If they were on the line of the Rhine at the time the offensive started, twenty-five divisions would suffice for the defense and reserve, and fifty-five divisions would be available for attack. If the line remained where it was in January, short of the Rhine in the area north of Alsace, the defensive force and reserve would have to be increased by twenty divisions and the offensive forces reduced by the same amount. Even the elimination of the Colmar Pocket, with the rest of the line remaining the same, would give only ten more divisions for the offensive. Since thirty-five divisions were needed for a full-scale offensive in the north, General Eisenhower reasoned that a line short of the Rhine would leave him only just enough divisions for the main offensive and without any of the twenty divisions he wanted for a secondary attack in the Frankfurt area. With little prospect of getting this number of divisions, he found it increasingly desirable to destroy the German forces west of the Rhine and to close up to the Rhine all along the front. This move, he believed, would be even more necessary should the Russian drive fail or prove ineffectual.14
In the final installments of his letters on strategy for coming operations, General Eisenhower visualized the first phase as the destruction of enemy forces west of the Rhine and closing to the Rhine along most of its length. He proposed first to launch a series of operations north of the Moselle to destroy the enemy and then to close to the Rhine north of Duesseldorf. Next he would direct his main efforts toward destroying the enemy on the remainder of the front west of the Rhine.15 The second phase of operations, coming after the Allied forces had closed to the Rhine, would include attempts to seize bridgeheads over the Rhine between Emmerich
and Wesel in the north and between Mainz and Karlsruhe in the south. These objectives attained, the Allied forces would then open phase three, advancing from the lower Rhine into the plains of northern Germany and from the Mainz-Karlsruhe area to Frankfurt and Kassel.
Running through the plans for these separate phases was a continued emphasis on a much broader plan of attack than that advocated by the British Chiefs of Staff or Field Marshal Montgomery. To General Eisenhower, a crossing in the south would permit the Allies to seize the Saar basin, an area of major industrial importance, and would give them the major airfields in the Frankfurt-Giessen area. More important, it would give greater flexibility to his plan. A single main thrust in the north would possibly be met by a major enemy concentration of forces. Developing the attack from the south would allow the Allies, if necessary, to shift the main weight from north to south, and would give them several different means of developing their attack once they reached the Kassel area. At that point, they could thrust northward to cut communications out of the Ruhr, they could drive northeast toward Berlin, or they could advance eastward toward Leipzig.
The answers of the Supreme Commander did not allay the fears of the British Chiefs of Staff. To them, the continuous emphasis on closing to the Rhine and the stress on a thrust in the Frankfurt area made the main offensive in the north impossible. They decided, therefore, that the question would have to be examined further by the Combined Chiefs of Staff before the Yalta Conference in early February. The issue came to a head in late January 1945, shortly before the meeting with Marshal Stalin.
Discussion of Strategy by the Combined Chiefs
En route to Yalta, General Marshall, wishing to get General Eisenhower's views but realizing that it would be difficult for the Supreme Commander to leave his headquarters for an extended period, asked that Eisenhower meet him at Marseille. Marshall there discussed future Allied plans and assured Eisenhower that he would back the SHAEF strategy. He also made clear that he would not accept a ground commander, saying that if such a step were approved he would not remain as Chief of Staff.16
The Combined Chiefs of Staff stopped at Malta on 30 January to review Allied strategy for northwest Europe before proceeding to the Yalta Conference. Generals Smith and Bull of Supreme Headquarters presented the plans of the Supreme Commander. The British Chiefs of Staff feared that General Eisenhower would make no effort to cross the Rhine, even in the north, until all territory west of the river was clear of the enemy. They were not satisfied by General Smith's view that his chief would not delay a crossing (1 ) if resistance was such that an attempt to clear the west bank would take until midsummer or (2) if the delay interfered with a chance to seize a bridgehead and cross in strength on the northern front. General Smith wired General Eisenhower that the British wanted written assurance that the main effort would be made in the north and that
the Rhine crossing would not be delayed until the entire area west of the river was cleared. He also sent the draft of a statement suggested by General Marshall which declared that the SHAEF plan was: "(A) To carry out immediately a series of operations north of the Moselle with a view to destroying the enemy and closing the Rhine north of Duesseldorf. (B) to direct our efforts to eliminating other enemy forces west of the Rhine which still constitute an obstacle or a potential threat to our subsequent Rhine crossings operations." The Supreme Commander accepted this phrasing and then added: "You may assure the Combined Chiefs of Staff in my name that I will seize the Rhine crossings in the north just as soon as this is a feasible operation and without waiting to close the Rhine throughout its length. Further, I will advance across the Rhine in the north with maximum strength and complete determination immediately the situation in the south allows me to collect necessary forces without incurring unreasonable risks." On 2 February, the Combined Chiefs of Staff accepted the Supreme Commander's plan as explained by his cable.17
General Eisenhower had met the two objections of the British mentioned by General Smith by saying that the main effort would be in the north and that he would not delay the crossing until the entire area west of the Rhine was cleared--but it is doubtful that his statements were entirely what they wanted. The way was still open for continuing operations south of the Ruhr and south of the Moselle which Field Marshal Montgomery regarded as directly prejudicial to his operations. Since two questions were subject to various interpretations--namely, (1 ) what German forces constituted a potential threat to subsequent operations; (2) at what time could forces be collected in the south without incurring unreasonable risks--there was still the possibility of future misunderstandings. With the U.S. Chiefs of Staff solidly behind the Supreme Commander, it seemed clear that it was his interpretation which would prevail.
The meeting at Malta also saw the end of proposals to intensify the Allied effort in the Mediterranean. In the summer and fall of 1944, these had taken the form of suggestions by Mr. Churchill, but not by the British Chiefs of Staff, to shift some Allied forces into the Balkans. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff,18 opposed to operations which they considered to be mainly political, were firm in the belief that no U.S. troops should be used in that area, but they were not inclined to oppose British activity there if the forces used were not needed to assure victory elsewhere.19 The chances that any Allied divisions would be available for such operations were diminished
in October 1944 when the military situation in Italy worsened. General Wilson reported that it was impossible for him to go into the Balkans unless he had three new divisions, but the U.S. Chiefs of Staff felt that nothing important could be gained by this diversion of forces. They proposed instead that elements of the Fifth U.S. Army be transferred from Italy to northwest Europe where they could influence the main offensive and that the U.S. amphibious resources in the Mediterranean be sent to the Pacific. Prime Minister Churchill now entered the discussion with proposals which seemed intended to justify his previous policy in that area. He talked with the Mediterranean commanders and reported that he "was much distressed by their tale." In a cable to the President, Mr. Churchill recalled his bitter fight against the southern France operations, remarking, "It seems so much was taken away from our Italian front against Germany as just to deny a complete victory in this theater." He asked the President to deflect to the Fifth U.S. Army two or three U.S. divisions intended for northwest Europe and reiterated his confidence in the plan for capturing the Istrian Peninsula--a plan "in accordance with over all strategic objective, namely the expulsion from or destruction in Italy of Kesselring's army." When the President refused on the ground that the divisions were needed for the main battle in northwest Europe and for resting battle-weary units there, Mr. Churchill discussed with the Mediterranean commanders the possibility of landing forces through Adriatic ports cleared by Yugoslav Partisans and advancing up the Adriatic coast. He spoke of a possible amphibious assault against Trieste or Fiume.20
The United States was willing to reopen the Balkans question only on the condition that the situation in Italy or northwest Europe improved to the extent that surplus forces might become available for the proposed campaign. The situation in both these areas had not improved sufficiently by late January 1945 to justify diverting forces from those theaters. Reports at that time from Field Marshal Alexander, who had replaced Field Marshal Wilson in the Mediterranean when the latter went to Washington to head the British mission there,21 indicated that his forces were tired out and that he was abandoning the offensive. He had enough artillery ammunition for only fifteen days in attack. When that was expended, he
said, he might have difficulty in containing the enemy and would not be able to follow up an enemy withdrawal. In northwest Europe, the German counteroffensive had inflicted heavy losses on General Eisenhower's forces and faced him with the need for additional replacements. Instead of being able to give up divisions from his front to Italy, he needed whatever Field Marshal Alexander could spare. Suggestions of an immediate transfer of units from Italy to the north were dropped, however, by General Eisenhower when he was told that such a step involved the risk of losing some of the existing Allied positions in Italy, including Leghorn and Florence. He did ask that the bulk of the Twelfth Air Force be transferred at once to support General Devers' 6th Army Group.22
Another factor affecting the decision on the Balkans was the Russian offensive, which had begun on 12 January. In two weeks, the Red Army was reported to have cut off some thirty German divisions in Latvia, and it was assumed that the Germans were so disorganized that they could not make a strong stand short of the Oder. This drive relieved pressure on the western fronts in Italy and northwest Europe and made unnecessary any thrust into central Europe from the south. By the time of the Malta Conference at the end of January, it was clear that the Allies had to work out a co-ordinated offensive from the west. They also had to speed up operations in order to prevent the enemy from shifting forces from the west to the east and in order to take advantage of the reductions in the enemy forces which had already taken place in the west. When Field Marshal Brooke presented these points at the meeting, the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed almost without discussion to order the immediate transfer of three divisions from Italy to northwest Europe and the shift of two more as soon as they could be released from operations then under way in Greece. On 2 February, the Combined Chiefs sent a directive to this effect to Field Marshal Alexander, saying that it was their intention "to build up the maximum possible strength on the western front and to seek a decision in that theater." Besides moving these ground forces, Field Marshal Alexander was to move two fighter groups at once to northwest Europe and to prepare to move as much more of the Twelfth Air Force as could be spared without hazard to his mission in the Mediterranean. For reasons which do not appear in the official records, it was decided that the five divisions should be British and Canadian and that the Fifth U.S. Army should remain in Italy. These withdrawals, which were to be made between the first of February and mid-March, meant that the Allies would have to pass permanently to the defensive in Italy and concentrate or[. limited attacks and deception to contain as many German units as possible, while preparing to take advantage of any German weakening or withdrawals.23
Looking Toward the Rhine
First and Third Army AttacksOn 18 January, the day after the First Army's return to General Bradley's command, General Eisenhower directed the 12th Army Group commander to continue his offensive "to take advantage of the enemy's present unfavorable position in the Ardennes, inflict the maximum losses on him, seize any opportunity of breaching the Siegfried Line and, if successful, advance northeast on the axis Prum-Euskirchen." Bradley was to press this attack with "all possible vigor" as long as there was a reasonable chance of achieving a decisive victory. If the assault could not succeed, he was to be prepared to pass to the defensive in the Ardennes sector and shift his attack to the sector of the Northern Group of Armies. This action, while not expected to supersede General Montgomery's preparations farther north, was an attempt to take advantage of the momentum already gained against the enemy in the First Army sector without a pause for regrouping.
General Eisenhower's orders introduced one element of uncertainty into the plans then being made by Field Marshal Montgomery for an attack by the First Canadian Army between the Maas and Rhine (Operation VERITABLE), and a thrust northeastward by the Ninth U.S. Army to link up with the Canadians on the Rhine (Operation GRENADE). The Ninth Army, which had been reduced to two corps and five divisions by withdrawals during the Ardennes fight, needed new units from First and Third Armies for its operation. Field Marshal Montgomery had asked that General Simpson's forces be increased to sixteen divisions, but General Eisenhower had decided that twelve was the maximum to be assigned. These were not forthcoming, of course, as long as General Bradley's advances continued in the south. If, therefore, the First Army advance continued to be successful, Montgomery might have to launch Operation VERITABLE without Ninth Army's supporting attack. For several days between mid-January and the end of the month, the forces in the north continued preparations without knowing whether there would be an operation GRENADE. To prepare against delays in the event that the First Army attack bogged down, the Supreme Commander directed Field Marshal Montgomery and General Bradley to have plans for the offensive toward the Rhine north of Duesseldorf ready for launching whenever he decided not to continue with the First Army attack.
At the end of January, General Bradley's forces had pushed the enemy back to the West Wall in their sector. At that time, the 12th Army Group commander wanted to drive through the Eifel region to the Rhine, but his forces were beginning to meet delays and there was little evidence that they could achieve the immediate decisive success which General Eisenhower had stipulated as a condition of a continued advance in that area. He was not surprised therefore on 1 February to find that VERITABLE and GRENADE "were on" and that his own attack was to stop. VERITABLE was to be launched on 8 February, and GRENADE on the same day or two days later. General Bradley began at once to shift units to Ninth Army for its operation, and prepared to go on the defensive except for an attack by First Army units to clear the Roer Dam area. On 2 February, he asked both Hodges and Patton what they could accomplish with the
forces they had after transferring divisions to Ninth Army. When told that they thought they might continue to advance until 10 February, he agreed that they could keep up a push until that time.24
Given some latitude as to the time for stopping his attack, General Bradley decided to permit General Patton to make limited advances in the Eifel region north of the Moselle. The matter was kept quiet so as not to draw objections from Field Marshal Montgomery. As a result, General Patton thought that he and General Bradley were "putting something over" on SHAEF.25 Field Marshal Montgomery apparently became aware that something was afoot, and this may have been responsible for some of his protests that the operations in the north were not being properly backed.
Since the end of December the enemy situation had greatly deteriorated. Not only had the German forces been thrown back in the west with considerable loss in men and materiel, but their losses in territory and men to the Red Army after the Russian drive began in mid-January were even heavier. SHAEF reported at the end of January that Marshal Konstantin K. Rokossovski had moved northward from Warsaw to the Baltic in an advance which isolated East Prussia from the Reich, while other Russian armies were driving into the eastern half of the province. Marshal Ivan S. Konev forced his way westward across the south of Poland to the Oder and established several bridgeheads. The industry of Upper Silesia suffered heavily from this advance. Between these two forces, Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov smashed westward from Warsaw through Lodz and past Poznan, outstripping the armies on his flanks and sending spearheads to points within one hundred miles of Berlin. The Red armies went more slowly in the south, actually meeting a German counteroffensive in Hungary, but for the most part they overwhelmed the enemy forces. The third week of their attack found advance elements of Marshal Zhukov's forces at points on or near the Oder 280 miles west of the positions they had left near Warsaw on 12 January. In air-line distances, they had averaged fourteen miles a day.26 The offensive had a twofold effect on the battle in the west. The loss of the Silesian industries forced the Germans to rely more heavily on the Ruhr and Saar plants, and the pressure of the Russians meant that no reinforcements would be available from the Eastern Front for use against the Allies.27
The gravity of the German situation in the west was thoroughly evident to Field Marshal von Rundstedt. He was especially fearful that the Allies, in pursuing their main objective of crossing the Rhine, would bypass the West Wail and roll up the German positions from the rear. He had no fuel reserves and he felt that his ammunition stockpiles were only one third
of what he needed. In particular, he lacked reinforcements for his units. Of his three army groups, Army Group H, which had the task of protecting the German north flank, was in the best position. Troops were sent to it from other front sectors and from the rear, and it had the First Parachute Army, a unit of comparatively high combat value, at full strength. Army Group B was in a less fortunate position. Its extended front was held by twenty-five divisions of which all but six had been heavily battered in the Ardennes fighting. The actual strength per kilometer was estimated by the Germans at twenty-six infantrymen, one to two artillery pieces, and less than one antitank gun. The entire army group had fewer than 200 armored vehicles. Army Group G, which had been roughly handled by U.S. and French troops in the south, was apparently even more depleted than its northern neighbor.28
In preparation for the drive toward the Rhine and beyond, General Eisenhower ordered that a forward echelon of his headquarters be established nearer the front. Before this time, a small advanced command post had been set up for him at Gueux near Reims, and later, as the Allied forces moved forward, two Supreme Headquarters Advance Conference Establishments had been opened near Luxembourg and Spa.29 As early as October 1944, Verdun, Reims, Luxembourg, Liege, Metz, and Spa were all considered as possible sites for the new forward headquarters. The initial decision to move to Luxembourg was changed in early December, and Reims was selected instead. This move was postponed as a result of the Ardennes counteroffensive, but in mid-February preparations were made to carry it out.
SHAEF Establishes a Forward Headquarters
On 18 February 1945, the advance party of SHAEF Forward began its move from Versailles to Reims. Two days later the transfer was completed, and the new headquarters opened at the College Moderne et Technique de Garcons, Ecole Superieur de Commerce.30 The College building had been constructed in 1931 by the Department of the Marne for the technical training of French boys ten to nineteen years of age. It was a modern, three-storied, red brick structure capable of holding some 1,500 students. The general staff was located in the school while other divisions were in the Conservatory of
SHAEF AT REIMS. German prisoners pass the Allied headquarters.
Music and an office building at 1 Rue Talleyrand. Hotels provided billets for officers, and the Caserne Jeanne d'Arc and Caserne Colbert housed enlisted personnel. As in the case of earlier locations, estimates for space needs at Reims proved too low as new detachments were brought to Supreme Headquarters. Near the war's end, SHAEF Forward had increased to 1,200 officers and 4,000 men, or nearly double the original estimate of required strength.31
In shifting the main attack at the end of January from the First Army front to the north, General Eisenhower had instructed General Bradley to use a force of two or three divisions to seize the dams on the Urft and Roer Rivers which had been a threat to the Allied advance since the previous fall. (See Map IV.) It had been realized for some months that, so long as the Germans held the Schwammenauel Dam and the smaller barriers above it, they could open the discharge valves and flood the Roer valley at any time the Allies started an attack north of it. Attempts to destroy the dams by bomber attack in the winter of 1944 had proved futile. An offensive
Allied Operations, January-February 1945
to take the dam by ground action had been launched on 13 December, but it was stopped after the enemy breakthrough on the 16th. On 4 February, the First Army undertook the task of seizing the Schwammenauel barrier. Five days later, as U.S. units pushed down to the dam from positions north of it, the Germans released the pent-up waters of the Roer. Two weeks were to pass before the flood waters subsided along the Roer valley, but the danger that the enemy would open the dams while an attack was in progress was ended.
While the First Army dealt with the Roer dams, Field Marshal Montgomery readied his attack in the north. The British commander proposed to destroy German forces in the area between the Maas and the Rhine from the Nijmegen bridgehead south to a line from Juelich to Duesseldorf. (Map VI) To carry out this plan, he intended to send the First Canadian Army, made up of thirteen British and Canadian divisions, southeastward from Nijmegen to the line running from Geldern to Xanten and then clear the entire area to the Rhine. Shortly thereafter, the Ninth Army with its twelve divisions was to cross the Roer River in the area between Juelich and Linnich and head for the Rhine between Duesseldorf and Moers. Later, the Second British Army, with a U.S. corps allotted to it, was to push eastward between the other two armies to Rheinberg and the west bank of the Rhine in that area.32 Both General Crerar's and General Simpson's forces were faced by unfavorable terrain. The units under the First Canadian Army had to attack through the Reichswald and the flooded valleys of the Maas, the Niers, and the Rhine, while the Ninth Army was confronted by the flood waters in the Roer valley.
General Crerar opened his attack in the early morning of 8 February after a heavy air and artillery preparation. Floods delayed his advance, forcing his units in some areas to use amphibious vehicles in their attacks. As a result, they did not clear the Reichswald until 13 February. The second phase of his offensive, the capturing of enemy positions south of the Reichswald near Goch, was completed between 18 and 21 February.
Before General Crerar opened the third phase of his attack, the Ninth Army, whose operation had been postponed some two weeks until the flood waters of the Roer could subside, joined the battle. At 0245 on 23 February, General Simpson sent his assault forces across the Roer. Enemy artillery and the swiftness of the current gave the men in the assault boats some trouble, but by the close of the day they established a bridgehead across the river. Especially helpful during the crossing was the XXIX Tactical Air Command, which flew more sorties in the course of the day than it had on any previous day of the war. General Simpson strengthened his bridgehead and then began to push out to the east and northeast while building up his forces for a large-scale breakout. At the end of the month, he ordered his armor into the action. The enemy in the meantime had started withdrawing from the Roermond-Venlo area in order to escape an outflanking movement by the Ninth Army. As Army Group H pulled its units back toward the Rhine, towns in the Roermond area which had previously put up a lively defense began to surrender with little or no opposition. Hitler ordered his forces to
continue to hold positions west of the Rhine until defenses could be constructed east of the river, but this edict proved increasingly difficult to obey as the Ninth Army forces pushed eastward toward Duesseldorf and northward toward Geldern and Wesel.33
Under General Eisenhower's order to provide right-wing protection for the Ninth Army's eastward drive, the First Army made a simultaneous crossing of the Roer on the morning of 93 February. Armored elements crossed the following day and drove rapidly eastward to the Erft, where they paused on 28 February, giving the Ninth Army adequate assurance that its right flank was secure while it was driving toward the north.
Farther to the south, General Patton had been pushing his limited advances. Just to the right of the First Army, the Third Army advanced astride the Moselle across a series of flooded, heavily defended streams. By the end of February, it had opened a path up the Pruem valley toward the Rhine, had eliminated a salient known as the Vianden Gap, had cleared the triangle of land between the Saar and the Moselle, and had passed through most of the West Wail defenses in its zone to points within three miles of Trier.
As the tempo of the Third Army advance accelerated, General Patton became increasingly impatient to stage a break-through on the 1944 scale. On 20 February he pressed General Bradley to give him additional divisions for an attack in the area of Trier and the Saar. He pointed out that the great proportion of U.S. troops in Europe were not fighting and warned that "all of us in high position will surely be held accountable for the failure to take offensive action when offensive action is possible." General Bradley agreed that advances were possible in the Third Army sector, but added that higher authority had decided to make the thrust elsewhere. He reminded General Patton: "Regardless of what you and I think of this decision, we are good enough soldiers to carry out these orders." Indicating that the First and Third Armies were to play the major role in the next big attack, Bradley suggested that the present opportunity be used to refit and retrain troops so that they would be able to deliver a decisive blow when the proper moment came.34
On 1 March, Generals Eisenhower and Bradley visited General Simpson to discuss further plans for his army. The Supreme Commander was especially interested in the Ninth Army's plans to seize a Rhine bridge intact. While this objective was not achieved, General Simpson's forces did succeed on 2 March in reaching the Rhine in the vicinity of Neuss. On this, the ninth day of his attack, General Simpson reported that seven of his twelve divisions had nothing to do. He proposed, therefore, making a surprise crossing of the Rhine. Field Marshal Montgomery indicated that he preferred the planned assault of the Rhine on a broad front between Rheinberg and Emmerich. The Ninth Army completed its main mission on 5 March, having uncovered the Rhine from Duesseldorf to Moers. In its seventeen days of fighting it had driven fifty miles with fewer than 7,300 casualties, while killing an estimated 6,000 Germans and taking some 30,000 prisoners.35
General Crerar later declared that the Ninth Army "attack led to the strategic defeat of the enemy." He added, however,
that it did not have any immediate effect on the hard battle which his troops had to face between the Roer and the Rhine. That it did not was due apparently to a shift of enemy units northward during the period before the Ninth Army offensive. As a result, bitter resistance met General Crerar's forces on 26 February when they opened the third phase of their operation in an offensive toward Xanten. While these units were delayed by stiffened enemy opposition near Xanten, First Canadian Army elements farther southwest linked up with Ninth Army units at Geldern and made parallel drives for the Rhine, clearing all organized resistance in their zone between the Maas and the Rhine. The cost of clearing the northern area had not been light for the British and Canadian forces involved. In a little less than a month, they had suffered nearly 16,000 casualties, one third of them Canadian. More than 23,000 Germans had been captured in the fight.36
With forces under the 21 Army Group securely anchored on the Rhine, it was possible in March for General Bradley to open an offensive in his sector to clear the enemy from the area north of the Moselle. A plan for this operation had been submitted to General Eisenhower at his request at the end of February and had been approved by him. General Bradley proposed to complete his current operation in support of the Ninth Army, to invest Cologne from the north and to advance from the northwest and west to secure the Koblenz sector, and to close to the Rhine in the entire zone north of the Moselle.37
General Bradley opened his new offensive on 1 March. To the right of the Ninth Army, General Hodges' forces made new crossings of the Erft, and rapidly exploited their bridgeheads. They shattered the right wing of the Fifteenth Army and cut it off from Cologne and Duesseldorf. General Hodges pressed forward toward the Rhine, entering Euskirchen on 4 March. His armored elements, which were roaring toward Cologne, broke into the defenses of the great cathedral city on the 5th; on the following day they reported it almost cleared.
To the south of Cologne, General Hodges gave other units of his army the mission of pushing to the Rhine and then turning southward to cross the Ahr and make contact with the Third Army elements which, now unleashed, were driving to the north. The advantages of seizing a bridge across the Rhine were discussed, but apparently no one entertained more than a vague hope that the opportunity could be found. Apparently no specific order was issued for such an action, and no plan was outlined for such an eventuality.38
U.S. armored elements drove into the town of Remagen in the early afternoon of 7 March and discovered that the near-by
Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine was still intact. They reported this fact to their commander, Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, who promptly ordered his men to take the bridge. It had not been destroyed at that time because the guards appointed to blow it up were waiting for German units still west of the Rhine to cross. As the first U.S. elements reached the bridge, the guards exploded demolition charges, creating a crater at the west end of the structure which prevented vehicles from crossing. A small American patrol now went forward to cut the wires of remaining demolition charges. Rushing across the bridge in the face of fire from the eastern towers of the bridge and from the far shore, the men quickly reached the east bank of the Rhine and established positions.
Reports were hurried rearward to higher headquarters asking for instructions to meet the unexpected development. Each commander confirmed the action taken by his subordinate and asked further instructions from his superior. When the report reached General Bradley, he ordered General Hodges to throw everything he had across the Rhine to exploit his bridgehead. The 12th Army Group commander discussed the situation with the SHAEF chief of operations, General Bull, who was visiting General Bradley's headquarters. The SHAEF officer, aware of heavy Allied commitments to a crossing farther to the north, suggested that General Eisenhower be consulted as to the number of divisions to be diverted before any further action was taken. A call was thereupon made to the Supreme Commander, who enthusiastically approved General Bradley's dispositions. On 8 March, he informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the railway bridge at Remagen had been captured and added: "Bradley is rushing troops to secure adequate bridgehead with the idea that this will constitute greatest possible threat as supporting effort for main attack."39
While other First Army units cleared the west bank of the Rhine from Sinzig northward to the Ninth Army boundary, those in the bridgehead east of the river sought to expand their sector. By 12 March, the First Army held a twenty-three-kilometer front east of the Rhine and was employing three infantry divisions and part of an armored division in the area. By the time of the crossing in the north, about ten days later, the sector had been extended north to the Sieg River on both sides of Siegburg, east to the autobahn which ran toward Frankfurt, and south to Neuwied. Meanwhile the enemy had made frantic efforts to wipe out the bridgehead. Reinforcements were brought from north and south of the area and committed piecemeal in a desperate effort to stop the flow of U.S. forces across the river. The Luftwaffe launched a number of savage attacks against the bridge itself, but it was successfully defended by massed Allied antiaircraft units stronger by 50 percent than the number of such elements used by Allied forces the previous year to protect the Normandy beaches. The bridge, weakened by direct hits from long-range artillery, at length collapsed but not until the engineers had put in their own bridges.
While the First Army was seizing its Rhine bridge and enlarging its sector east of the river, the Third Army was also driving to the Rhine. General Bradley's plan of late February directed General Patton to (1) secure bridgeheads over the Kyll
and concentrate his forces for further advances to the east, (2) prepare an attack from the Kyll to seize the Mainz-Koblenz area and, if the enemy was weak, to secure a Moselle bridgehead to the southeast, and (3) clear the enemy from the area between the Moselle and the Ahr and link up with the right flank of the First Army. In early March, General Patton pushed armored elements in the Eifel toward the Rhine. By 11 March they had eliminated the German forces in the Eifel and the Allied forces held the Rhine from Emmerich to Koblenz.
To the south of Third Army, General Devers' armies next entered the picture. General Eisenhower on 8 March had ordered the 6th Army Group, which had remained quiet since clearing the Colmar bridgehead in early February, to prepare for offensive action as soon as the 12th Army Group completed its operations in the north. General Patch's forces, with one French corps attached, were to attack in the general direction of the valley of the Blies and Homburg-Kaiserslautern-Worms with the objective of breaching the West Wall, destroying the enemy in its zone, and seizing a bridgehead east of the Rhine in the Worms area.40 The First Allied Airborne Army was ordered to prepare an airborne operation should it be necessary for the support of the 6th Army Group's Rhine crossing. The First French Army was to defend the Rhine along its front during the Seventh Army operation, and the Third Army was to aid General Patch's forces in his offensive in the Saar. General Eisenhower arranged for coordination by the Seventh and Third Armies during their operations by directing the two army commanders to deal directly with each other in matters regarding the form, method, location, and timing of attacks.41
The Saar-Palatinate triangle, which was to be attacked by elements of the Seventh and the Third Armies in this March offensive, was bounded by the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Lauter-Sarre line. It was marked by four major terrain features-the Rhine valley, the Haardt mountains, the Saarbruecken-Kaiserslautern-Worms corridor, and the Hunsrueck mountains-and contained the valuable Saar basin. Despite the importance of the area, Army Group G could not get the forces needed to defend it. The three armies in the general area were extremely weak, the First Army having lost an estimated 30 to 50 percent of its strength in the February fighting, and the Seventh Army having been severely shaken in the Ardennes. The Nineteenth Army, which was transferred to direct OB WEST control in early March, was reduced to "absolute impotence," inasmuch as it had lost all of its combat units and now consisted mainly of ineffective Volkssturm and security units. The 6th Army Group chief of intelligence believed that there was no doubt that the Germans would be forced east of the Rhine, and that General Hausser's only decision was how many Germans he wished to leave in Allied hands west of the river.42
General Patch, supported by the XII Tactical Air Command, opened his battle for the Saar on 15 March from the northern
Alsace area through which the enemy had made his counteroffensive of early January. Aided by Third Army drives north of it, the Seventh Army drove its right more than twenty miles in the first five days of the attack against isolated and ineffective resistance. Its center and left, battling the fortifications of the West Wail, made less progress. Meanwhile, General Patton's armored elements swept across the enemy rear in the Palatinate triangle. Some of his units seized Koblenz, and others smashed through Bad Kreuznach toward Mainz. By 18 March, the Third Army was threatening the Frankfurt corridor between Mainz and Worms. A rapid move by General Patton's forces to St. Wendel in the rear of the Saar fortifications helped overcome enemy resistance in that area, and aided the Seventh Army to enter Saarbruecken on 19 March.
In the light of the Third Army's swift moves, General Eisenhower on 17 March at a meeting of army group and army commanders at Luneville had arranged for General Patton to assume some of the Seventh Army's objectives. Fearing that faulty liaison between the two armies might permit some of the enemy in the Saar to escape, the Supreme Commander directed them to prepare, if necessary, to merge the command posts of the two armies. But the two commanders concerned assured him that this move would not be needed.43
Even as the Allied commanders explored new ways of strengthening their attack against the enemy, the Army Group G commander pleaded for permission to withdraw his forces east of the Rhine. Initially, he was told to hold in place, but as the U.S. pressure increased he was permitted to send the Seventh Army staff across the river. General Patch's forces gained greater momentum in the meantime and broke through the West Wail positions on 20 March. They made contact with Third Army elements on the following day. By 25 March the Saar-Palatinate triangle had been overrun, and the Seventh Army had started its preparations for a Rhine crossing.44
North of the Seventh Army, General Patton had sent his units forward with great effect; on 21 March he announced that his three corps had reached the Rhine. They cleared Landau and Mainz on the 22d, and shortly before midnight elements of the army began an assault crossing of the Rhine near Oppenheim. Before daylight of the 23d six battalions of infantry had been put across the river at the cost of twenty-eight casualties. Nearly a day ahead of Montgomery in the north, Patton had his Rhine crossing.45
The First French Army, which had carried out a defensive mission during the Seventh Army operation, contributed significantly to General Patch's battle. General Devers' order of 10 March had shifted armored and artillery elements to the Seventh Army and had held other armor in the 6th Army Group reserve for the operation. On the 18th, General de Lattre asked that a part of his forces be returned so that the French might play a still larger role in the offensive. Instead, General Devers formed a special task force consisting of a French infantry and a French armored division and attached it to a U.S. corps, with the understanding that the
task force would revert to the First French Army when the line of the Erlen was reached. Meanwhile, General de Lattre's forces were charged with defending the Rhine from Drusenheim south, a considerable task for the French commander's four divisions.46
General de Lattre's wishes were gratified on 19 March when elements of the special task force crossed the Lauter and entered German territory. Electrified by the thought of fighting on the soil of the enemy after years of hated German occupation, the French forces rushed forward against heavy opposition to establish their flag firmly on the territory of the Reich. General de Lattre underlined 19 March as "a great day for French hearts." Almost immediately, he asked General Devers for an enlarged zone along the Rhine that would give the French better sites for crossing and permit them to capture some well-known German city. The 6th Army Group commander promptly shifted the interarmy boundary north to include Speyer in the French zone.47
With the clearing of the Saar-Palatinate triangle, General Eisenhower's forces had closed to the Rhine from Arnhem to the Swiss border and had concluded the most difficult part of the battle for Germany. (Chart 8) The West Wall which had barred the Allied advance in September had now been left behind, and the days of painfully slow advances through mud, ice, and snow were ended. German units, shattered in the Ardennes fighting, lacked the strength to stop the onrushing Allied forces whose numbers increased daily. Meanwhile, the air war constantly gained in intensity. Despite the increase of enemy jet-propelled aircraft and indications that the enemy's productive capacity had still not been destroyed, the Germans did not have the means in March to block the tremendous air strength being thrown against their industrial centers. By the end of the month the Allied strategic bombers were almost out of targets.48
The Crossing of the Rhine in the North
The German position in late March was obviously critical. Toward the end of the month, SHAEF intelligence declared that Army Group G had been driven back across the Rhine with twelve of its divisions virtually destroyed. The Allies had taken more than 100,000 prisoners since crossing the Moselle, raising the total in the Rhineland battles to more than 250,000. These prisoners together with the killed and wounded amounted to the strength of more than twenty full divisions. The so-called divisions in the west now numbered over sixty, but four of them were only divisional staffs, eleven were Kampfgruppen, seven were described as remnants, and others were drastically weakened. They equaled only some twenty-six complete divisions. Allied strength by this time had risen to eighty-five divisions, five of them airborne and twenty-three armored. On all fronts there was dismal news for the enemy. In Upper Silesia the Russians had launched a new offensive which gained twenty-five miles on a thirty-mile front in its first day, and there were rumors of a fresh drive in Hungary. The Allied air offensive
against oil, which had been started at General Spaatz's insistence in the preceding spring, had virtually destroyed the fuel reserves of the Reich. Air attacks on railroads and bridges disrupted transportation, while round-the-clock bombings of the great German cities brought home daily to the enemy the futility of continuing the war. The Allied air forces set new records for air strikes nearly every day, making as many as 11,000 sorties in one twenty-four-hour period.49 By the end of March, the German Army could no longer be considered a major obstacle. Nevertheless, the Allied intelligence chiefs could see no chance of surrender as long as Hitler and Himmler continued to control the destinies of the Reich. The Allies were committed, therefore, to "a systematic annihilation of the German armed forces."50
The enemy, already mortally wounded west of the Rhine, made some attempt to protect the river line. This task fell to the new Commander in Chief West, Field Marshal Kesselring, former commander in Italy, who took Rundstedt's place shortly after the Allies captured the Remagen bridge. Staff members of Army Group H thought that the British might attack south of Arnhem to roll up the Rhine defenses and then turn to the east or assault across the Rhine between Emmerich and the Ruhr. They believed that an airborne operation to facilitate this crossing might be made northeast of Wesel. Canadian forces were expected to attack the Twenty-Fifth Army as a means of protecting the British northern flank while U.S. forces crossed south of Wesel. Of the two alternatives, the crossing near Emmerich seemed to Army Group H the more likely. With this in mind, the commander assigned the Twenty-Fifth Army a long frontal sector which included the area between Arnhem and Emmerich. The stronger First Parachute Army was to defend the region most seriously threatened by British and U.S. forces--the area between Rees and Dinslaken. Expecting the Allied offensive to come quickly, the Army Group H commander hastily tried to strengthen his defenses. To the south, Army Group B, which had been preoccupied with the Remagen bridgehead since early March, was in no position to stop an attack. Much weaker still was Army Group G, whose Seventh Army had virtually ceased to exist.51
While Kesselring struggled to get his forces ready for the Allied attack, General Eisenhower waited confidently for the start of his offensive. Field Marshal Montgomery's careful preparations north of the Ruhr had left nothing to chance. The Allied Naval Command, headed by Admiral Harold M. Burrough, which had busied itself mostly with supply matters since the completion of the landings in southern France, was asked to aid in preparing an amphibious assault.52 A Navy detachment was added to the planning group for the Rhine crossing in November, and small landing craft were made available for the operation. General Brereton and his First Allied Airborne Army staff set to work to plan a major airborne attack east of the Rhine to insure the success of the crossing.
Near the end of January 1945, Field Marshal Montgomery issued specific orders for the Rhine crossing. His initial plan called for General Dempsey's Second British Army, with a U.S. corps attached, to force crossings at Rheinberg, Xanten, and Rees. This directive "flabbergasted" General Simpson, who was given no command role in the crossing. He was especially disturbed because U.S. forces in the attack would have to pass through the Second British Army's zone. The Ninth Army commander took up the matter with General Dempsey, and after several lengthy discussions the two commanders recommended that Field Marshal Montgomery revise his plans to give the Ninth Army a larger role in the operation. On 4 February, the 21 Army Group commander instructed General Simpson to make a crossing at Rheinberg while General Dempsey launched assaults at Xanten and Rees.53
In early February, Field Marshal Montgomery set 15 March as the target date for the crossing.54 A SHAEF directive of 8 March changed this date to the 24th and outlined the main features of .the operation. Field Marshal Montgomery spelled out these instructions in a directive dated 9 March to Generals Dempsey, Crerar, and Simpson. The mission of the 21 Army Group was described as the crossing of the Rhine north of the Ruhr to secure a firm bridgehead with a view to developing operations to isolate the Ruhr and penetrate more deeply into Germany. The Ninth Army was to cross the Rhine south of Wesel, protect the 21 Army Group's right flank, and develop the bridgehead south of the Lippe. The Second British Army, aided by U.S. airborne forces, was to capture Wesel and secure the bridgehead north of the Lippe.55
Air preparations to isolate the battlefield began two weeks or more before the actual crossing. In addition to attacking the area bounded generally by the line Bonn-Siegen-Soest-Hamm-Muenster-Rheine-Lingen-Zwolle, the British and American airmen hit bridges all the way from Bremen to Cologne. The air strikes interfered with traffic between the Ruhr and the rest of the Reich, seriously impeding
efforts to reinforce the threatened area.56
The Second British Army started its Rhine assault at 2100 on 23 March, after a heavy artillery preparation. Elements of two corps speedily crossed the river, several advance groups making the trip in seven minutes. While some units turned toward Rees, others, after a preparatory bombing, attacked Wesel. The Ninth Army, in the meantime, had set its forces in motion, Generals Eisenhower and Simpson watching from a church tower while the artillery preparation was being made. At 0200 on 24 March, Ninth Army elements began crossing south of Wesel, completing the operation with comparative ease. So little effort was required to overrun the enemy forward positions that Ninth Army historians described the operation as more an engineering task than a tactical maneuver. General Simpson's losses during the first day were extremely light for such an operation--41 killed, 450 wounded, and 7 missing.57
General Eisenhower was an interested spectator later during the morning of 24 March when the First Allied Airborne Army launched Operation VARSITY. Elements of two airborne divisions, one U.S. and one British, flown from bases in France and the United Kingdom, began to land at 1000 in the British zone north of Wesel. More than 14,000 soldiers were flown in or parachuted.58 In this, perhaps the most successful Allied airborne operation in Europe, British and U.S. forces quickly established their positions. Elements of one division joined up with British infantry elements by midafternoon; the other division made contact with British Commandos about noon and was on its objective by dark. Initial losses were slight, but stiffening opposition increased the casualties of the two airborne units. At the end of three days, the U.S. airborne division had lost 1,584 and the British division 1,344.59
By the end of the first day's fighting, the Allies had established a firm bridgehead running as much as six miles in depth. British and U.S. forces had made a junction in Wesel, but fighting was still in progress in the town. Losses tended to be light along the front, although opposition in the British sector was heavier than that on the Ninth Army front. While hardly any German aircraft were seen during the first day in the bridgehead, some harmless raids were made during the night against Allied bridge sites. Fighter-bombers of the XXIX Tactical Air Command in the Ninth Army sector had their biggest day of the war to date, and the 2d Tactical Air Force also contributed heavily to the battle.60
On the second day of fighting, Prime Minister Churchill, Field Marshals Brooke and Montgomery, and General Simpson crossed the Rhine to inspect the new bridgehead.61 They found engineers busily engaged in bridging the river, and the infantry steadily pressing eastward.
South of the 21 Army Group, forces of
Generals Bradley and Devers were also on the move. The Third Army was ordered on 25 March to exploit its crossings over the Rhine, seize the line Hanau-Giessen, and be prepared to continue the advance toward Kassel. On the following day, the Third Army units seized a bridge intact across the Main near Frankfurt and entered the outskirts of that city. By 29 March, they had made contact with the First Army units in the vicinity of Wiesbaden and had cleared Frankfurt of the enemy. The Third Army was now directed to advance on the Hersfeld-Kassel area and drive the Germans east of the Hohe Rhoen mountains-Werra River-Weser River line. Rugged and wooded terrain gave some trouble, but the lack of effective enemy opposition permitted U.S. armor to gain up to thirty miles a day at the end of March. By 2 April, bridgeheads had been established across the Werra in several places and elements of the Third Army were in the city of Kassel. The distance between advanced elements of Allied and Russian troops was now less than 250 miles.
Once the forces in the north had established their bridgehead, the signal was given for crossings of the Rhine in the 6th Army Group area. The Seventh Army launched its attack north and south of Worms at 0230 on 26 March. Despite a sharp enemy reaction north of the city, four divisions were across the river by the end of the second day of the attack. At this time, the Seventh Army estimated that there were only 6,000 enemy combat effectives on its front, and indicated that the Germans were apparently confused as to the location of some of their troops. The U.S. army pushed the attack vigorously and crossed the Main in several places on the 29th. Opposition that developed east of the Main at the close of the month temporarily slowed General Patch's advance in that area. Other Seventh Army forces crossed the Rhine at Mannheim and entered Heidelberg at the beginning of April.
These successes of the U.S. forces alarmed General de Lattre. He had been told on 27 March to prepare to cross the Rhine near Germersheim with the mission of seizing Karlsruhe, Pforzheim, and Stuttgart, but had been given no date for his attack. Fearing that the Seventh Army would soon advance into the area earmarked for the French offensive, he prepared to attack at the first opportunity, and General de Gaulle encouraged him in these efforts. Interpreting Allied delay in establishing a French zone of occupation as an indication of unwillingness to recognize French claims, de Gaulle was determined to seize a sector along the Rhine. He wired General de Lattre that a rapid crossing of the Rhine by the First French Army was "a question of the highest national interest." Before receiving this message, the French army commander had already set the date of his assault for the evening of 30-31 March, saying that his decision was conditioned not by the degree of preparation needed but by the situation caused by the U.S. advance. To the surprise of General Devers, who sent word to the French commander on 30 March to speed up his plans for an offensive, General de Lattre announced that he would make a crossing the following morning.62
Despite the shortness of time for preparation and the lack of sufficient assault boats, French forces were put across the
Rhine near Speyer in the early morning of 31 March. Other elements crossed the same day near Germersheim. Toward noon French troops met U.S. armored units that had already driven into the area de Lattre was supposed to clear. The French general felt that his haste had been justified inasmuch as "twenty-four hours later, the push of fourteen divisions of Patch's army in the direction of the Pforzheim Gap would have condemned us to a secondary role in the invasion of the Reich."63
The 6th Army Group advances inflicted fresh losses on Army Group G's already disorganized forces. By 3 April, the Seventh Army was thrown back through the Thueringer Wald. Army Group G found it necessary at this juncture to take over the Nineteenth Army from OB WEST, which could not regain contact with the army. OKW, seemingly unaware of the gravity of the situation, demanded that a counterattack be sent against the Allies, although it was unable to make available any additional troops. Instead of sending replacements, OKW relieved commanders. The army group chief of staff was removed on 2 April, and the commander in chief two days later. General der Infanterie Friedrich Schulz, formerly on the Eastern Front, succeeded to the command of Army Group G. Hitler demanded that the First Army prepare to attack northward to cut off the U.S. forces that had pushed to Wuerzburg. He asked for two weeks' time in which to prepare jet-propelled fighters and "miracle weapons" for use against the Allies. Army Group G, now the only high-level organization in southern Germany, could do nothing except carry out a planned withdrawal to the Franconian and Swabian Albs and then to the Danube.64
The Supreme Commander was deeply gratified by the successes won by his forces in the Rhineland. Feeling that his broad front policy had been vindicated, he wrote General Marshall on 26 March:Naturally I am immensely pleased that the campaign west of the Rhine that Bradley and I planned last summer and insisted upon as a necessary preliminary to a deep penetration east of the Rhine, has been carried out so closely in accordance with conception. You possibly know at one time the C.I.G.S. [Field Marshal Brooke] thought I was wrong in what I was trying to do and argued heatedly on the matter. Yesterday I saw him on the banks of the Rhine and he was gracious enough to say that I was right, and that my current plans and operations are well calculated to meet the current situation. The point is that the great defeats, in some cases almost complete destruction, inflicted on the German forces west of the Rhine, have left him with very badly depleted strength to man that formidable obstacle. It was those victories that made possible the bold and relatively easy advances that both the First and Third Armies are now making toward Kassel. I hope this does not sound boastful, but I must admit to a great satisfaction that the things that Bradley and I have believed in from the beginning and have carried out in the face of some opposition from within and without, have matured so splendidly.65
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (20) * Next Chapter (22)
1. Eisenhower to Marshall, 5 Dec 44, SHAEF SGS 381 Post OVERLORD Planning, II.
2. Mil Mission Moscow to WD, M-22052, 17 Dec 44, OPD cbl files (TS).
3. SHAEF to WD, SCAF 155, 21 Dec 44, OPD cbl files (TS). Not only does this letter indicate that General Eisenhower was apparently unaware of Marshal Stalin's statement that he would probably have some information in a week, but General Marshall's letter giving details of the proposal for a link-up of Allied forces in southeastern Austria was not sent until 25 December.
4. Marshall to Eisenhower, WX-82070, 25 Dec 44, Eisenhower personal file; Marshall to Eisenhower, FAGS 118, 26 Dec 44, OPD cbl files (TS).
5. Marshall to Eisenhower, WARX-82070, 24 Dec 44, Eisenhower personal file. Mil Mission Moscow to WD, M-22149, 24 Dec 44; Mil Mission Moscow to WD, MX-22154, 25 Dec 44. Both in OPD cbl files (TS). Maj. Gen, John R. Deane, head of the U.S. Military Mission to Moscow, said that Stalin had spoken of General Devers' move only casually, and that mention of it had been included to emphasize that Stalin's thinking was apparently directed toward joint action between the Red Army and the Western forces.
6. CCS to Eisenhower, FAGS 119, 29 Dec 44, SHAEF G-3 312.3-1 Correspondence and Communication with the Russians; Prime Minister to President, 31 Dec 44, OPD 336 (TS), Sec I. Mr. Churchill's suggestion of 31 December that General Alexander join the SHAEF group going to the Russian capital in order to discuss the Balkan operation appears to have been dropped as the result of Field Marshal Wilson's statement to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (MEDCOS 228, 8 Jan 45) that he would soon have to go on the defensive in Italy.
7. This and the four succeeding paragraphs are based on Memo of conf with Marshal Stalin, 15 Jan 45, Smith papers; Mil Mission Moscow to Eisenhower, 18 Jan 45 (quoted in Br COS to Jsm, 19 Jan 45), Eisenhower personal file; Intervs with Air Chief Marshal Tedder and Gen Betts; Harriman to Eisenhower, 17 Jan 45, Diary Office CinC, 28 Jan 45.
8. The direct approach to the Russians was recommended to General Eisenhower by General Marshall about the time of the meeting in Moscow. Speaking of a letter of congratulation which the Supreme Commander had forwarded through the War Department a short time before, the U.S. Chief of Staff declared: "In future I suggest that you approach them [the Russians] in simple Main Street Abilene style. They are rather cynically disposed toward the diplomatic phrasing of our compliments and seem almost to appreciate downright rough talk of which I give a full measure." Marshall to Eisenhower, 17 Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file.
9. Eisenhower to Montgomery, and atched outline plan, 31 Dec 44, Eisenhower personal file.
10. Marshall to Eisenhower, W-89338, 10 Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file.
11. Eisenhower to Marshall, S-74461, 10 Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file.
12. Eisenhower to Marshall, S-74437, 10 Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file.
13. This and the succeeding five paragraphs are based on Eisenhower to Marshall, S-75090, 15 Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file.
14. These views were strongly presented in his message to Montgomery, 17 January 1945, Eisenhower personal file.
15. This and the following paragraph are taken from Eisenhower to CCS, SCAF 180, 20 Jan 45, SHAEF SGS 381 Post OVERLORD Planning, III. This message had been anticipated to an extent by a SHAEF Planning Staff Memo on Future Operations (Final Draft), 23 Dec 44, SHAEF G-3 file G-3 18019 Plans Future Operations - 1945, I. Eisenhower had also outlined the three phases of future operations in a letter to Marshall, S-74461, 10 January 1945, Eisenhower personal file.
16. The meeting at Marseille was apparently held on 27 January, although there is some confusion in accounts. See Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower, pp. 751-52; and Edward R. Stettinius,Jr., Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference (Garden City, N. Y., 1949), p. 35; Notes on conf with Gen Marshall, 28 Jan 45, Diary Office CinC.
17. CCS 182d Mtg, 30 Jan 45, at Malta; CCS 183d Mtg, 31 Jan 45, at Malta. Smith to Eisenhower, Cricket 18, 30 Jan 45; Eisenhower to Smith, S-77211, 31 Jan 45; Smith to Eisenhower, 2 Feb 45. All in Eisenhower personal file.
18. It should be noted that Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, commander of the Fifth U.S. Army in Italy and later of the 15th Army Group, favored the Churchillian position. See Clark's Calculated Risk (New York, 1950), pp. 367-72.
19. The U.S. Joint Staff Planners had said in August 1944: "While the United States has no interest in Southeast Europe, this area is of vital interest to the British. . . . It is to our best interests to support Great Britain in any Southeast operations insofar as is consistent with our established policies." JWPC 259/7, Preparations for Next Allied Staff Conference (War against Germany), 26 Aug 44, ABC 337 (14 Sep 44), Sec 1; cf. Jcs 1034, War Against Germany, 4 Sep 44, same file. In September, Lt. Gen. Thomas T. Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, OPD, said that if the Fifth U.S. Army was to be left in the Mediterranean it should be used "in a campaign to the northeast of the Adriatic pointed towards Vienna and designed to destroy German forces, and definitely not to influence the political situation in the Balkans." Memo, T.T.H. (Handy) for CofS, n.d. (about 15 Sep 44), sub: Note for Conf with President, ABC 337 (14 Sep 44), Sec l.
20. Cbl, Wilson to Br COS, MEDCOS 201, 9 Oct 44; Gen Hull to Smith, WAR 45060, 11 Oct 44, WD cbl log; Memo, Jcs for President, n.d. (penciled notation "Gen McNarney okayed 1030 14th Oct. Also Adm King, Gen Arnold."), ABC 384 Mediterranean (26 Oct 43), Sec 1-A; Cbl, Churchill to President, 793, 11 Oct 44, Incl to Jcs 1096, Additional U.S. Divisions for the Mediterranean Theater, 11 Oct 44. Marshall to Eisenhower, WAR 47746, l7 Oct 44; Cbl, Wilson to CCS, MEDCOS 205, 24 Oct 44. Both in WD cbl log. Jp (44) 277 (Final) Operations in the Mediterranean Theater; MEDCOS 205, 29 Oct 44, ABC 384 Mediterranean (26 Oct 43), Sec 1; CCS 677/3 Future Operations in the Mediterranean, 17 Nov 44; Memo, McFarland for Leahy, King, Arnold, 16 Nov 44, ABC 384 Mediterranean (26 Oct 43), Sec 1-A. This and the two following paragraphs dealing with the question of the Balkans have been condensed from a detailed draft written by Dr. Gordon A. Harrison for inclusion in another volume of the U.S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II series. On his decision not to include the material in his volume, he placed his draft and his notes at the disposal of the author.
21. Field Marshal Wilson succeeded Field Marshal Dill, who had died a short time before.
22. Alexander to Br COS and JSM (for Jcs), MEDCOS 237, 23 Jan 45, WD cbl log; M05, Note on transfer of forces from Italy to northwest Europe, 10 Jan 45, 0100/12-D AFHQ G-3 Plans Sec 41/2 Mediterranean Future Opns and Strategy, Dec 44-Jun 45 (92344F), Serial 36. McNarney to Marshall, E - 85295, 12 Jan 45; Eisenhower to Marshall, S-7509, 15 Jan 45. Both in WD cbl log.
23. Deane to Bissell, 22487, 27 Jan 45, WD cbl log; Jcs 1237, Strategy in Northwest Europe, 29 Jan 45; CCS 183d Mtg, 31 Jan 45; CCS 182d Mtg, 30 Jan 45; CCS 185th Mtg, 2 Feb 45; Min, Malta Conf, in ARGONAUT Conf Min; CCS to Alexander, Cricket 3A, 2 Feb 45, WD cbl log; Eisenhower to CCS, SCAF 204, 8 Feb 45, Eisenhower personal file; CCS to Alexander, FAN 501, Incl to CCS 773/3, Operations in the Mediterranean, 17 Feb 45.
24. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 495-97. Notes on Conf with Gen Bradley, Brig Gen A. Franklin Kibler, 1 Feb 45; Notes on Conf, Gen Bradley with comdrs First, Third, Ninth Armies, at Hq First Army, Gen Kibler, 2 Feb 45. Both in 12th A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, VI.
25. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 501. General Bradley says that General Eisenhower had agreed to the action without the knowledge of the 12th Army Group or Third Army staffs. There is no documentary evidence on this incident in General Eisenhower's papers. CX Patton, War as I Knew It, p. 235.
26. SHAEF Intel Summary 45, week ending 28 Jan 45; SHAEF Intel Summary 46, week ending 4 Feb 45. Both in SHAEF G-2 files.
27. SHAEF Intel Summary 46, week ending 4 Feb 45; SHAEF Intel Summary 47, week ending 11 Feb 45. Both in SHAEF G-2 files.
28. MS # B-147, Army Group H, 10 Nov 44 - 10 Mar 45 (Col Rolf Geyer, G-3 [Ia] of Army Group H); MS #A-964, Die Folgen der Ardennen-Ogensive and MS #A-965, Die Kaempfe der Heeresgruppe B nach der Ardennen-Ogensive bis gum Rueckzug ueber den Rhein, 25 Jan-21 Mar 45 (both by Generalmajor Karl Wagener, Chief of Staff of Fifth Panzer Army and later of Army Group B ); MS # B-026, Effects of Ardennes Offensive on Army Group G and MS # B-600, Army Group G, 25 Jan-21 Mar 45 (both by Hausser).
On 27 January 1945 the headquarters of Oberbefehlshaber Oberrhein was transferred to the Eastern Front as Army Group Weichsel with Himmler as army group commander. Army Group G on 28 January took command of the former Oberbefehlshaber Oberrhein sector and troops. On the same date Hausser replaced Blaskowitz as army group commander. On 29 January General Blaskowitz replaced Student as commander of Army Group H while Student took command of First Parachute Army.
29. The Advance Conference Establishments served "as convenient meeting places for senior commanders and senior Supreme Headquarters, AEF, staff officers. Messing, overnight accommodation and telephone communications [were] furnished in each SHAG on a limited scale." Ltr, Gen Whiteley, G-3 SHAEF, 8 Dec 44, SHAEF SGS 322 SHAEF Advance Conference Establishments.
30. This is the name which appears over the main entrance. SHAEF records identify the school as Ecole Professionelle and Ecole Pratique de Commerce et d'Industrie, which apparently are names of schools of the college.
31. Chief sources: Interv with Brig Gen Robert Q. Brown, SHAEF Hq commandant, Dec 45; Interv with Prof. M. Fauvet, instructor in the college at Reims, Dec 46. SHAEF SGS 370.5/4 Location of Battle Hq SHAEF, II.
32. 2l A Gp dir, M-548, 2l Jan 45, Eisenhower personal file; Stacey, The Canadian Army, pp. 237-38; Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. l84.
33. MS # B-147 (Geyer).
34. Patton to Bradley, 20 Feb 45; Bradley to Patton, 21 Feb 45. Both in 12th A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, VI. See an earlier complaint by General Patton in his War as I Knew It, p. 240.
35. Conquer: The Story of Ninth Army, Ch. V.
36. Stacey, The Canadian Army, pp. 247-54. Stacey estimates that the Canadian and U.S. attacks together cost the Germans about 90,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
37. Ltr, Eisenhower to Bradley, 20 Feb 45; Memo, Bull for CofS SHAEF, 27 Feb 45; Note, on draft letter of 28 February 1945, that oral notification of approval had been given Bradley. All in SHAEF SGS 381 Post OVERLORD Planning, III. 12th A Gp Ltr of Instr 16, 3 Mar 45, confirming oral instructions previously issued and outline of operations plans dated 23 February 1945, 12th A Gp Rpt of Opns, Vol. V.
38. Combat interviews of 2d Information and Historical Team with staff members of First Army, III Corps, and 9th Armored Division (MSS 300, 340, and 341) in March 1945 indicate considerable divergence on the matter of intentions. The official journals do not show any specific orders on the subject, and the men who took the bridge near Remagen indicate that they were given none before reaching the town. As late as the morning of 7 March, a First Army staff officer made clear that the III Corps mission to proceed southward after reaching Remagen remained unchanged. The question will be considered at length in The Rhineland and Central Germany, a volume in preparation for this series.
39. Eisenhower to WD, SCAF 223, 1234 hours, 8 Mar 45, SHAEF SGS 381 Post VERLORD Planning, III. See Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 379; Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower, pp. 767-60; and Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp, 510-13.
40. This operation was named UNDERTONE.
41. SUSA Rpt of Opns, Vol. III; TUSA Rpt of Opns, Vol, I.
42. 6th A Gp G-2 Weekly Intel Summary 26, 17 Mar 45, 6th A Gp AAR, Mar 45. This summary agrees with SHAEF and Third Army summaries of the period as well as with estimates made later by enemy commanders in the area. See also MS B-026 (Hausser); MS g B-500, Defense of the Upper Rhine Front in the Karlsruhe-Basel Sector, and Fighting Withdrawal by the Nineteenth Army, to the Alps, up to the Capitulation, 22 Mar-5 May 45 (Col Kurt Brandstaedter, Chief of Staff of Nineteenth Army). Seventh Army was transferred from Army Group B to Army Group G on 2 March 1945.
43. Patton, War as I Knew It, p. 262; SUSA Rpt of Opns, III, 720.
44. MSS # B-026 and g B-600 (both by Hausser); MS # B-703, The Fighting of Army Group G in the West. The Final Battle in Central and Southern Germany until Capitulation 22 Mar-6 May 45 (Col Horst Wilutzky, G-3 [Ia] of Army Group G).
45. Patton, War as I Knew It, pp. 266-67, 272-74.
46. Ltr of Instr 11, Devers to de Lattre and Patch, 10 Mar 45; Modification of Ltr 11, Devers to de Lattre and Patch, 18 Mar 45, and notes on plng. All in 6th A Gp AAR, Mar 45.
47. De Lattre, Histoire de la Premiere Armee Francaise, Chs. XIII and XIV; 6th A Gp Ltr of Instr 12, 27 Mar 45, 6th A Gp AAR, Mar 45.
48. For the story of air activities in this period, see Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, Ch. 20.
49. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, Ch. 20. See also MS # C-020 (Schramm).
50. SHAEF Intel Summary 53, week ending 25 Mar 45; SHAEF daily G-3 War Room summary, 25 Mar 45.
51. MS # B-414, Army Group H (OB NORDWEST) 10 Mar-9 May 45 (Col Rolf Geyer, G-3 [Ia] of Army Group H and later of OB NORDWEST) MS # B-593, The Battles of Army Group B on the Rhine up to its dissolution, 22 Mar-17 Apr 45 (Wagener); MS # B-703 (Wilutzky).
52. Admiral Burrough had succeeded Admiral Ramsay, who had been killed at the beginning of January 1945 in a plane crash near Paris.
53. Conquer: The Story of Ninth Army, Ch. VI; Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, Ch. XVII.
54. The operation by this time had been named Operation PLUNDER.
55. 21 A Gp Orders for the Battle of the Rhine, M-559, 9 Mar 45, 12th A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, VI. General Eisenhower's original dir to comdrs, SCAF 224, 8 Mar 45; Supplementary dir, Eisenhower to comdrs, SCAF 231, 13 Mar 45, SHAEF SGS 381 Post OVERLORD Planning, III.
56. Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 322.
57. Conquer: The Story of Ninth Army. Ch. VI; Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, Ch. XVII. A special study of the British operation has been made: British Army of the Rhine, Operation PLUNDER (printed in Germany, f947).
58. Conquer: The Story of Ninth Army, p. 247. The Brereton Diaries, p. 414, gives the number of men dropped as 4,978 British and 9,387 American.
59. The Brereton Diaries, p. 4 14.
60. Conquer: The Story of Ninth Army, p. 252.
61. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 390, gives the date of this crossing as 24 March, the first day of the battle. The New York Times, March 26, 1945, and Conquer, p. 252, give the date as 25 March. BBC War Report, 6 June 1944-5 Map 1945 (London, 1946), p. 333, gives text of broadcast on 25 March which says the group crossed that day.
62. 6th A Gp Ltr of Instr l2, 27 Mar 45, 6th A Gp AAR, Mar 45; de Lattre, Histoire de la Premiere Armee Francaise, pp. 489-91.
63. De Lattre, Histoire de la Premiere Armee Francaise, p. 499.
64. MS # B-703 (Wilutzky).
65. Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 26 Mar 45, Eisenhower personal file. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 372, gives a much more extensive account of Field Marshal Brooke's statement than that quoted in this letter, which is cited as the source.