SECTION   4     

W.W.II

 

 

W.W.II Pg 2

 

The Hürtgen Forest

 

Action Reports By  Date. (Hürtgen)

 

Utah Beach to Cherbourg

 

Hürtgen Forest Monument

 

Named Campaigns WWII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4thpatch.gif (3904 bytes)

The 22nd Infantry Regiment's Experience in the Hürtgen Forest

On 16 November 1944, the 4th Infantry Division attacked into the Hürtgen Forest as one of ten divisions participating in a combined offensive by First and Ninth U.S. Armies to close to the Rhine River.

As one of the infantry regiments of the 4th Division, the 22nd Infantry spent eighteen days in November and early December 1944 in the Hürtgen Forest. In a battle many believed mattered little in the big picture, the 22nd suffered 2773 casualties, or 85 percent of its normal complement of 3257 soldiers to take one village and 6000 yards of forest. Each rifle company went into the action averaging 162 soldiers. Seven days later the rifle companies averaged eighty-seven men, of whom 42 percent were replacements who had arrived during the battle. By the end of the battle, losses in the rifle companies reached an estimated average of 151 percent of their original strength. Although the 22nd Infantry suffered these very heavy casualties, the United States Army's practice of replacing casualties while units were still in combat kept the unit from ever falling below 75 percent strength. Total replacements amounted to 1988 soldiers.

The conditions of the battle negated the impact of American superiority in aviation and armor and made the battle an infantryman's fight from beginning to end. Although massive amounts of artillery fire assisted the forward movement of the regiment, the infantry still had to take the ground.

The 22nd was neither poorly trained nor poorly led. Lieutenant General J. Lawton Collins, the VII Corps Commander and later Chief of Staff of the Army, considered the 22nd one of the premier infantry regiments in the ETO. By all accounts, the regiment's commander, Colonel Charles T. Lanham, and his battalion commanders were effective leaders. They did what they could to influence the battle and their attempts to turn the German flanks reflected tactical sophistication. When possible, they alternated battalions and companies leading the attack.

The 22nd Infantry entered the Hürtgen Forest expecting a low cost success. Instead the regiment fought its way through the woods virtually unsupported in a battle of attrition against three German divisions and elements of two others. Although the 22nd suffered more casualties than any other regiment in the Hürtgen, it lost no ground not immediately recovered. The last days of the battle saw fresh German battalions breaking through decimated companies of the 22nd, only to be cut off, killed or captured by other equally attrited companies rushed into the breach. During the battle the 22nd captured 764 Germans. There are no extant casualty figures for the German units, outside those captured, but it must be assumed the German casualties were at least as high if not higher than those of the 22nd. German companies suffered the same fate as the 22nd's, but they lacked the ability to regenerate and were burned in the flame of the Hürtgen.

Although Colonel Lanham's 22nd Infantry Regiment was above 75% in strength when it emerged from the Hürtgen, he considered it fought out. The combat effectiveness of the regiment crumbled when most of the unit's veterans became casualties. The soldiers of the regiment did not quit, but at the end there was no attack left in them.

The evidence suggests the regiment kept fighting as long as it contained soldiers who had trained together in the United States or who had significant previous combat experience within the regiment. These veterans provided a pool of competent soldiers to replace the junior officers and NCOs when they either became casualties or were promoted to higher positions during the battle. As long as there were veterans around whom the replacement could coalesce, the regiment moved forward. The loss of these small unit leaders quite possibly dealt a more deadly blow to the regiments ability to attack than did the loss of the commanders of every rifle company and battalion.

The backbone of the regiment were the soldiers, officer and enlisted, who had trained together in the United States.

 

The 22nd Infantry Regiments Experience in the Hürtgen Forest

16 November Attack commences, but falls short of initial objectives. Unit is successful in seizing Rabenheck Ridge. A 1000 meter hand carry of wounded and supplies is necessary because MSR is not opened. Germans opposing 22nd are from the 275th Volksgrenadier Division.

Battle Casualties 4 officers, 69 enlisted.

17 November Attack continues, but heavy artillery strikes disrupt it and the 1st Battalion Commander is killed, and the 3rd Battalion Commander wounded. Light tanks assigned to support the attack are limited to the trail network and are ineffective. Supplies and wounded continue to be hand carried 1000 yards. Both flanks of the regiment are open.

Battle Casualties 9 officers, 129 enlisted. Replacements 148 enlisted.

18 November Attack continues; heavy artillery strikes continue to disrupt the attack. 2nd Battalion Commander is wounded. 1st and 2nd Battalions cross Weisser Weh Road and Stream capturing two intermediate objectives. The hand carry of wounded and supplies extends to 1500 yards. Both flanks of regiment are open and German counterattacks begin.

Battle Casualties 9 officers, 139 enlisted.

19 November Pause in attack called to reorganize, resupply and open MSR. Tanks still unable to get to front lines. Heavy artillery bombardments continue. Regimental command post hit by bypassed Germans but holds until a company arrives to help. The German 344th Volksgrenadier Division replaces the 275th in the line, layering its units on top the 275th's remaining combat formations.

Battle Casualties 14 officers, 72 enlisted, many of whom where killed or wounded previously but not reported.

20 November Attack Continues. 1st Battalion in the north fights forward against heavy opposition and takes high ground to east. German armor supported counterattacks hit the battalion on its northern flank, but the line holds. On the southern flank German counterattacks, again supported by armor, hit 2nd Battalion hard and limit its advance. Companies in 2nd Battalion reduced to about 50 soldiers.

Battle Casualties 5 officers, 126 enlisted. Replacements 1 officer, 206 enlisted.

21 November Pause in attack again called to reorganize, resupply and open MSR. Vital bridge put in so supplies could be brought to within 300 yards of front lines. Some tanks and tank destroyers get forward into 2nd Battalion's area. Bypassed resistance by Regimental Command post finally overcome. Heavy artillery fire is received throughout the day.

Battle Casualties 306, most of who had fallen earlier in the forest and not previously been missed. T5 George Morgan said 'You can't get all the dead because you can't find them, and they stay there to remind the guys advancing as to what might hit them."

22 November Attack Continues. The 3rd Battalion sweeps up a draw north of the 1st Battalion and then back to the southeast, cutting the road leading from the west into the village of Grosshau. The 2nd Battalion is hit by two counterattacks, one in the north and the other in the south, the southern attack being supported by tanks. The American tanks can not get forward through the thick woods and the infantry struggled forward past the road leading into Kleinhau. The open southern flank is so serious a threat that one company from the 1st Battalion is sent to cover it, as well as 100 replacements put in as a group.

Battle Casualties 167 soldiers. Replacements 59 enlisted.

23 November Thanksgiving Day. Pause called in attack to reorganize, resupply, and allow the 12th Infantry to come up on the southern flank. Limited attacks to gain crossroads carried out by 2nd and 3rd Battalions.

Battle Casualties 3 officers, 165 enlisted, again many from previous days. Replacements 6 officers and 136 enlisted. Turkey sandwiches and luke-warm coffee was carried up to the front lines, the only day hot rations were served.

24 November Regiment continues to regroup. The 12th Infantry's advance relieves pressure in south. Engineers clear roads of mines and armor gets forward to the 3rd Battalion. Planning continues for attack on Grosshau on 25 November. Little artillery taken during the night.

Replacements 25 officers, 326 enlisted. Within the regiment, the fighting condition of the battalions varied dramatically. By 24 November every battalion had lost its battalion commander and two of its three rifle company commanders. The 1st Battalion contained about 50 percent replacements; the 2nd Battalion 70 to 80 percent newly arrived replacements, and it remained considerably understrength. The 3rd Battalion's casualties were still relatively few, although a heavy toll in leaders had been taken. This battalion was almost at full strength with only about 20 percent replacements in its ranks.

25 November Attack against Grosshau. For its attack on 25 november, the 22nd is supported by the equivalent of an armor battalion, two battalions of artillery, a chemical mortar company, and an engineer company. The 3rd Battalion again maneuvers north and finds its initial move easy. Problems arise when it takes 3 hours for the tanks to get forward. The German defenders in Grosshau are waiting when the attack finally begins. Six tanks are destroyed and the infantry is driven back into the trees by a tremendous artillery barrage. In the 2nd Battalion area, the tanks do not arrive as scheduled. The infantry advances to the woodline south of Grosshau, but not without heavy losses. A 500 meter gap exists between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Major General Barton, CG 4ID, commits to the reduction of Grosshau nine artillery battalions, ranging from 105mm to 240mm. The German 353rd Volksgrenadier Division begins arriving, replacing the 344th and layering on top the remaining 344th VGs combat formations.

Battle Casualties 235, most from the 3rd Battalion. More leaders fall on 25 November than any other day of the battle, 11 officers, and 46 NCOs.

26 November No regimental attack, but one company of 1st Battalion attacks to close gap between 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Attack gets up to copse of trees near Grosshau, but is thrown back by a tank supported infantry attack. All battalions continue to receive very heavy German shelling, to include a railroad gun.

Battle Casualties 6 officers, 132 enlisted. Non battle casualties begin rising.

27 November No regimental attack, but another company of 1st Battalion attacks to close gap between 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Sergeant Marcario Garcia awarded Medal of Honor for his part in attack. One company of 2nd Battalion rushes to its assistance and the two companies are reduced to a total of 70 soldiers, less than two full strength platoons. After finding the road clear, two tanks arrive to support position. 12th Infantry Regiment inserted north of the 22nd when it appears it would be pinched out in the south by the CCA 5th Armored Division and the 8th Infantry Division attacking from the south.

Battle Casualties 152. Replacement 220 enlisted. By 27 November, more than half the soldiers in the regiment had fallen; in fact almost as many replacements (1640) had arrived as there were soldiers in all the rifle companies at full strength (1737)

28 November No attack, Battalions send patrols into and to the north of Grosshau. Hill 90, northeast of Grosshau was taken by elements of 3rd Battalion.

Battle Casualties 117. Replacements 9. Division commander gives authorization to make NCOs officers on the spot.

29 November Attack against Grosshau. Colonel Lanham had planned to bypass and isolate Grosshau to the north. The 3rd Battalion again swings north and cuts the road leading from Grosshau to the town of Gey on the Roer plain. While the 3rd Battalion moves, General Barton orders Grosshau taken by direct assault after CCA, 5th Armored Divison reported taking fire from Grosshau while it cleared the village of Kleinhau to the south. One company of the 2nd Battalion is the only unit in place to make the attack. This company starts its attack but is pinned down in the open for 3 hours until a tank task force from the south appears. The town is then cleared during the night in house to house fighting. Another company arrives to help secure the town during the night. Engineers clear the town of mines to get supplies up to the 3rd Battalion holding the high ground northeast of Grosshau. Elements of 3 regimental-sized units - a combat command of 5th Armored Division in the south, the 22nd in the middle, and the 12th Infantry in the north - are situated within 1500 yards of one another. CCA reports Kleinhau and a hill to its north east taken at the end of the day.

Casualties 162. Replacements 78. The 2nd Battalion stripped its headquarters and weapons companies of soldiers to fill the rifle companies.

30 November The Attack Continues. 46th Armored Infantry Battalion (AIB), 5th Armored Division, is attached to the 22nd to clear the area south of the 2nd Battalion and seize a line of departure for the CCA. This battalion and the 2nd Battalion meet extremely heavy fire from Kleinhau and the hill reported taken earlier. One of the 2nd Battalion's companies advances to within 200 yards of the far woodline but has to pull back because there are not enough men remaining to hold the line. The 46th AIB seizes the hill but at a cost of about 50 percent of the attacking force. The 3rd Battalion attacks with armor and clears the woodline south of Gey. A 500 meter gap develops between the 3rd and 2nd Battalions.

Battle Casualties 178, most from the 2nd Battalion's attack across the open field. Replacements 7. Battalion commanders begin maneuvering their decimated companies like platoons and the remaining veterans lead the replacements from the front, increasing the leaders' risk of being killed or wounded.

1 December The Attack Continues. 46th Armored Infantry Battalion attacks into the woods and advances about 400 yards, but is soon pulled back to more tenable positions. There are so many casualties, most of the unwounded soldiers are used to carry them back, leaving just a small rear guard. The 2nd Battalion attacks into the woods under a tremendous artillery barrage. One of its companies is struck by a counterattack and pushed back to an old German trench line. The reserve company is rushed forward to hold the line. The fighting strength of the 2nd Battalion drops to 124 soldiers in its three rifle companies, 64 percent of a full strength company.

The 1st Battalion attacks between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and closes up to the eastern woodline facing the Roer Valley. The 3rd Battalion takes a small copse of trees overlooking Gey. Because of the strengths in his battalions, Colonel Lanham organizes a last reserve of headquarters, service and anti-tank company soldiers, which totals about 100.

Battle Casualties 132. Only 11 tanks and 45 tank destroyers remain operational of the 34 tanks and 12 tank destroyers attached to the 22nd. Replacements 89.

2 December German Counterattack. Before the 22nd could continue its attack to close all its units to the edge of the woodline facing the Roer Valley, one of the companies in the 3rd Battalion is struck by a newly committed battalion sized unit of the 353rd Volksgrenadier Division. The company is overrun and some Germans penetrate up to the command posts of the 1st and 3rd Battalions and seize the hill northeast of Grosshau. The 3rd Battalion closes the breach with one of its companies, faces the other company around and with the help of the regimental reserve and a company from the 2nd Battalion wipes out the penetration. General Barton when told of the counterattack, requests that General Collins, the VII Corps Commander, relieve the 22nd Infantry, explaining that,

He felt that with the number of replacements and the condition of the men in the 22nd Infantry that there was no further attack left in the 22nd; that the noncoms and junior leadership had been completely milked out of them over the long period they had been in the fight; they had attacked until there was no attack left in them; replacements are not lacking in 'guts' but they are not trained soldiers as we had before.

The 22nd is notified it would be relieved on 3 December. Later Colonel Lanham notified a German Panzer Division appeared to be heading into his sector. He orders all the roads mined and the positions held.

Casualties 149. Replacements 50.

3 December German Counterattack and Relief of the 22nd. Early in the morning before the relief begins one of the 1st Battalion companies is hit by a newly committed German battalion of the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division. Only 25 Germans penetrate the line, and these are rounded up by headquarters elements of the three rifle companies and the weapons company. The 2nd Battalion is told to be prepared to rush its 100 soldiers south to the hill northeast of Kleinhau if it is captured. The German Luftwaffe sorties and about thirty aircraft strafe and bomb the regiment's positions, but cause few casualties. The relief continues into the night and the regiment pulls out towards its next assignment in Luxembourg on 4 December.

Casualties 76. Another 80 casualties were reported on 4 December after headcounts were made at the new location. After 18 days the battle in the Hürtgen Forest was over for the 22nd. During the battle, every rifle battalion and company commander was lost, with two companies losing four commanders and another six. At the roll call in Luxembourg, each rifle company had fewer than ten soldiers who had begun the battle on 16 November.

The information above is extracted from: Paschendale with Treebursts, a history and analysis of the 22nd Infantry Regiment during the battle of the Hürtgen Forest, 16 November through 03 December 1944.                                   By Robert S. Rush

 

Top of Page

gldbar.gif (1171 bytes)

 

An excerpt from " Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 6 - 27 June 1944

 

To give you a flavor of the excellent book available for you to read on the Internet, or to order from the government printing office, here is an excerpt from the section '12th and 22nd Infantry Regiments Pursue their D-Day Objectives':

The 4th Division extended the northern arc of the beachhead some two miles on D plus 1 in its advance towards its D-Day objectives, and pushed the enemy back against his main headland fortresses at Azeville and Crisbecq. On the beach the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry continued the methodical destruction of beach defenses (Map No. 12 - not shown here). Probably the most difficult of the 4th Division's missions were those assigned to the 22nd Infantry on the division's right flank.

The Regiment had the task of reducing the strong points along the beaches and the heavily fortified headland batteries two to three miles inland and west of the inundation's. On D plus 1 the first attacks against the enemy's inland positions were made by 1/22 and 2/22. The two Battalions had spent most of D-Day moving across the inundated area, but had come through almost without losses.

From their positions at St. Germain-de-Varrevile, where they had relieved the 502nd Parachute Infantry, they started out at 0700 on 7 June, with 1/22 on the right advancing astride the highway which runs parallel to the coastline, and 2/22 using the trails to the west. They moved rapidly until they approached the higher ground between Azeville and de Dodainville, where they received fire from the forts of Crisbecq and Azeville. 1/22 pushed on to enter St. Marcouf.

The two Battalions now faced the enemy's two most powerful coastal forts. With their heavy guns (the Crisbecq guns were 210 mm), These forts threatened the beaches as well as shipping and stood as the last serious barrier before the Regiment's D-Day objectives. Each position consisted of four massive concrete blockhouses in a line; they were supplied with underground ammo storage dumps, interconnected by communication trenches, and protected against ground attack by automatic weapons and wire. An arc of concrete sniper pillboxes outposted the southern approaches to Azeville.

Crisbecq mounted the larger guns and occupied a more commanding position on the headland overlooking the beaches. Immediate attacks were launched against both forts. 2/22 tried for several hours to move forward against the Azeville position, but the counterattack drove it back to its line of departure with considerable losses. The 1/22 attack on Crisbecq was even more fiercely contested.

As the Battalion passed through St. Marcouf, it received heavy artillery fire from the Azeville battery to the southwest. Company C was organized into assault sections, in the same manner as the units had been organized for the assault on D-Day. It was ordered to move up a narrow trail, along with the other two rifle companies of the Battalion, to blow the blockhouses. This was the only approach the Battalion could make, for to the east the ground dropped off to the town of Crisbecq and the swampland, and to the west the ground was high and open.

As the three companies moved forward, they suffered heavy casualties from shell fire. They inched ahead, up the thickly hedged trails, but as they reach the trail block and the wire obstacles on the perimeter of the position, The Germans counterattacked their left flank. To contain the counterattack the 3rd platoon of B company was moved behind company A to the left. In the fields northwest of St. Marcouf it met a strong enemy force supported by at least one enemy tank.

Capt. Tom Shields of company A, who took command of the battalion when its commanding officer was wounded, decided that the position was to dangerous to hold and at 1600 he ordered a withdrawal. The Battalion became increasingly disorganized as it retreated, still under heavy fire. Nineteen men of company A were cut off on the left and probably captured. Another platoon on the right lost its way and wandered as far as the beach, which was still in enemy hands.

Late that night these men found their way to the Battalion, bringing up with them 113 prisoners. The Battalion withdrew to a line 300 yards south of de Dodainville. After dark the Germans counterattacked again but were routed by accurate naval fire. On the extreme right flank of the 22nd Infantry, separated from the rest of the Regiment by the inundation's, 3/22 meanwhile proceeded against the string of beach fortifications which extended all the way up the coast. Those which posed an immediate danger to the Utah landings lay between les Dunes de Varreville and Quineville, on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the inundation's, and could be approached only by movement along the sea wall.

The strong points were reinforced concrete blockhouses, armed with artillery pieces and turreted machine guns. Most of them had the additional protection of wire, ditches, mines, and outlying infantry pillboxes and had communication with supporting inland batteries by underground telephone cable. Very interesting book, look for it on the Internet, order it, or read our next newsletter for another excerpt about our Regiments first days in Europe... Copied from the August newsletter...

For further reading on the Internet go to: http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg

Top of Page

gldbar.gif (1171 bytes)

 

The Hürtgen Forest Monument

In the October 22, 1995 issue of "The Arizona Republic" newspaper, Steve Wilson wrote the following article: 

One of the longest, bloodiest and least publicized battles of World War II was fought in the dense fir trees along the German - Belgian border called the Hürtgen Forest.

Thirty thousand Americans were killed or wounded in six months of fighting that began in September 1944 and lasted far into the bitter winter. Thousands more were disabled by combat fatigue and exposure. An estimated 12,000 Germans were killed.

"Whoever survived Hürtgenwald must have had a guardian angel on each of his shoulders, " wrote Ernest Hemmingway, who covered the battle for Collier's magazine.

One soldier who got out alive is retired Major Gen. John F. Ruggles of Phoenix, 86. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel serving with the 22nd Infantry Regiment.

Last year (1994) to mark the battle's 50th anniversary, Ruggles organized an effort among veterans of the Regiment to place a monument in the forest.

It's a very different monument. Unlike other World War II tributes, this one doesn't honor our own soldiers. This one honors an unheralded act of humanity by a 23 year old German Infantry Lieutenant.

Ruggles wasn't interested in media attention last year, and the monuments dedication received no news coverage in this country. But a friend recently convinced him that others would like to hear the story, so last week he talked about it.

On November 12, 1944, Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld was commanding a beleaguered German rifle company. Like most units on both sides, he had suffered heavy casualties.

Early that morning, a wounded American could be heard calling from the middle of a German minefield in a no man's land separating the combatants.

"Help me" the man cried. His unit had withdrawn , however, and no U.S. troops were close enough to hear.

Lengfeld ordered his men not to shoot if Americans came to rescue the man. But none came.  The soldiers weakening voice was heard for hours.

"Help me" he called, again and again. At about 10:30 that morning, Lengfeld could bear the cries no longer. He formed a rescue squad, complete with Red Cross vests and flags, and led his men toward the wounded American.

He never made it. Approaching the soldier, he stepped on a land mine, and the exploding metal fragments tore deeply into his body. Eight hours later Lengfeld is dead. The fate of the American is unknown.

Much of this story, unpublished in any American books on the war, is based on the eyewitness account of Hubert Gees, who served as Lengfeld's communications runner.

Speaking at the monument's dedication in Germany last October, Gees said : " Lieutenant Lengfeld was one of the best soldiers of the Hürtgen Forest. He was an exemplary company commander, who never asked us to do more than he himself was ready to give. He possessed the complete confidence of his soldiers.

Ruggles said Lengfeld's sense of duty went far beyond the call. " You can't go to any greater extreme than to give your life trying to rescue someone you are fighting as your enemy in war " he said.    " Compare that to the indifference most people feel about each other today."

The bronze and concrete monument is believed to be the only one placed by Americans in a German military cemetery. In both German and English, the plaque reads :

Here in the Hürtgen Forest, on Nov. 12, 1944, Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life while trying to save the life of an American soldier lying severely wounded in the 'Wilde Sau' minefield and appealing for medical aid."

To the young Lieutenant, the voice crying out that day did not come from an enemy. Nor from an American, nor a stranger. It came from a human being in need. Something inside Lengfeld compelled him to act - a feeling so strong and enduring not even the madness of war could block it.

In the heavy silence of the German forest,    where thousands upon thousands met death, that glorious impulse for life is now honored.

gldbar.gif (1171 bytes)

 

*WORLD WAR II*

The World War II portion of this pamphlet has not been given the same treatment as that given the earlier wars and the Korean War. Many of the World War II campaigns extended over long periods of time, and overlapped other campaigns in the same theater. Consequently, the war in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and that in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater have been treated as separate wars. Each war is described in a narrative style within a framework of broadly outlined operations. Within each operation there may be more than one campaign. For example, the operation entitled Italy encompasses the Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, North Apennines, and Po Valley campaigns.

WORLD WAR II

EUROPEAN-AFRICAN-MIDDLE EASTERN THEATER

     Streamers: Green and brown with two stripe groupings, one of green, white, red and the other of white, black and white stripes; with blue, white, and red stripes in center.

Egypt-Libya 11 June 1942 - 12 February 1943
Air Offensive, Europe 4 July 1942 - 5 June 1944
Algeria-French Morocco 8 - 11 November 1942
Tunisia 17 November 1942 - 13 May 1943
Sicily 9 July - 17 August 1943
Naples-Foggia 9 September 1943 - 21 January 1944
Anzio 22 January - 24 May 1944
Rome-Arno 22 January - 9 September 1944
Normandy 6 June - 24 July 1944
Northern France 25 July - 14 September 1944
Southern France 15 August - 14 September 1944
North Apennines 10 September 1944 - 4 April 1945
Rhineland 15 September 1944 - 21 March 1945
Ardennes-Alsace 16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945
Central Europe 22 March - 11 May 1945
Po Valley 5 April - 8 May 1945

North Africa and Europe. The successful effort to hold the line and protect a base in Australia dispersed available American strength, and rained a problem for military planners in the matter of massing military power to strike a decisive blow at Germany. The Army's solution was to begin immediately to concentrate Allied power in England and from there, as soon as possible, to launch a drive across the English Channel aimed at Germany. Early in 1942 plans were made for such a cross-Channel operation, to take place in April 1943, and possibly as early as September 1942 if either Germany or Russia showed signs of collapsing. The British, with some reluctance, agreed to the plan ''in principle" in April 1942, whereupon the Americans began to pour supplies and troops into the United Kingdom.

Token forces, sent to England soon after Pearl Harbor, were established as a commend entitled U.S. Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI) on 8 January 1942 with Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney as commanding general. This command was superseded by the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (ETOUSA, or ETO) on 8 June 1942. Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed command of ETO on 24 June 1942.

 

North African Invasion (Operation TORCH). When it became evident by mid-1942 that there could be no cross-Channel attack in September, American planners acceded to a plan the British had been urging. This was to use the means that would be accumulated in England by the fall of 1942, plus additional forces from the United States, to invade North Africa, where, it was hoped, French forces might lend support to the operation. The primary objective was to utilize ready Allied forces in an operation commensurate with current capabilities to relieve pressure on the Russians. Other objectives of the operation were to gain French Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia as a base for enlisting the French colonial empire in the war, to assist the British in destroying Axis forces threatening Egypt and Suez, to open the Mediterranean to Allied shipping, to shorten the route to the Far East, and to prepare the way for further operations against the European Axis. The Combined Chiefs of Staff ratified the plan and named General Eisenhower as commander in chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force that was to invade North Africa. Code name for this operation was TORCH.

To carry out TORCH a command named Allied Force Headquarters, North Africa (AFHQ), was established in London on 11 August 1942 with Eisenhower, by this time a lieutenant general, in command. The Advance Echelon, AFHQ, arrived in Algiers on 9 November 1942. AFHQ remained a combined administrative headquarters for the Allied commander in the Mediterranean after the establishment of the (Allied) Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) on 10 December 1943.

The American command in the Mediterranean, co-existing with the Allied command, was the North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (NATOUSA) established on 4 February 1943, which was superseded by the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (MTOUSA) on 1 November 1944. The various commands outlined above exercised control over all operations in the Mediterranean area during the war, including those in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and the invasion of southern France.

In North Africa the Germans and their Italian allies controlled a narrow strip along the Mediterranean coast between Tunisia and Egypt with an army numbering some 100,000 men under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. French forces in North Africa also numbered about 100,000 men plus considerable naval strength. Their position was enigmatic, since the loyalties of the French forces had become split among factions following their defeat in 1940. The need for secrecy in order to achieve strategic surprise hampered an Allied attempt to enlist French support before the landings.

The Allied plan for TORCH involved concentric attacks. Gen. Sir Harold R. L. Alexander, British Commander in Chief in the Middle East, was to strike west from Egypt with the British Eighth Army under Lt. Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery, while a combined Anglo-American force was to invade French North Africa and hit the enemy's rear. General Eisenhower was to command the invasion forces, and the British Eighth Army also was to come under his command when the two forces eventually converged on Tunisia. The Allies planned three simultaneous landings: one outside the Strait of Gibraltar near Casablanca, Morocco, and two inside the Strait in Algeria near Oran and Algiers. When these landings had been successfully accomplished, additional troops were to land near the eastern border of Algeria and move rapidly into Tunisia, presumably before the Germans could block the move.

The British Eighth Army opened an offensive at El Alamein on 23 October 1942, after having soundly defeated a prior Axis offensive. On 8 November 1942 the U.S. Navy put U.S. Army Forces ashore near Casablanca, while the British Navy put other United States forces and contingents of British troops ashore near Oran and Algiers. The total invasion force comprised more than 400 ships, 1,000 planes, and some 107,000 men. Troops landing at Casablanca consisted of the I Armored Corps of three divisions under Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., shipped directly from the United States, the only instance in World War II in which a force of more than division size was combat-loaded in United States ports for landing directly on a hostile beach. The forces landing near Oran and Algiers included the U.S. II Corps, Maj. Gen. Lloyd W. Fredendall commanding, with elements of three divisions. During this operation a battalion of paratroopers made the first U.S. combat jump of the war.

The Allies achieved strategic surprise, but the operation was delayed by the French forces, who fought back in every case but one. By 11 November negotiations had succeeded both in ending French resistance and winning French cooperation, and an Allied column headed for Tunisia. Meanwhile the Germans had moved into Tunisia in force by water from Sicily, and were able to stop the Allied drive short of the Tunisian capital (Tunis). Eventually the Axis brought in more than 150,000 troops from Sicily. Rommel's troops, falling back before the British Eighth Army's drive, established themselves behind the so-called Mareth Line in southeastern Tunisia in contact with the German reinforcements. Having consolidated a giant beachhead in Tunisia, Rommel assumed the offensive on 14 February 1943. Powerful German armored units moved out from passes in south central Tunisia on the front of the U.S. II Corps, in an attempt to turn the south flank of the British First Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Kenneth N. A. Anderson, and capture an Allied base of operations around Tebessa. The Germans defeated the Allies in a series of sharp armored actions, forced a withdrawal of American troops through the Kasserine Pass and the valley beyond, and made a spectacular advance of almost a hundred miles before determined countermeasures by the Allies brought them to a halt, still short of their objectives, on 22 February. Upon the failure of this counteroffensive, the Germans withdrew to their original positions. During the first part of March the Germans attempted two lesser offensives—one against the British First Army and the other against the British Eighth Army—which also failed. At this point the Allies were able to resume their offensive. The U.S. II Corps, now under Patton, attacked toward the flank and rear of the Mareth Line, while elements of the British Eighth Army outflanked the Axis position and broke through into the eastern coastal region of central Tunisia. Within a month all Axis troops had been compressed into a small bridgehead covering the Cape Bon Peninsula. In the final phase of the operation, Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley assumed command of the U.S. II Corps so that Patton could prepare for the invasion of Sicily. A massive Allied attack pushed through Bizerte and Tunis, and the last of some 275,000 Germans and Italians surrendered on the Cape Bon Peninsula on 12 May 1943.

Sicily (Operation HUSKY). A decision to invade Sicily was made at an Allied conference at Casablanca which took place from 14 to 23 January 1943. By that tome it had become apparent that a cross-Channel invasion (an operation earnestly desired by the Russians) would be impossible during 1943. On the other hand, the immense military resources accumulated in the Mediterranean Theater could be used to knock Italy out of the war, to divert some German strength from the Russian front, and to reopen the Mediterranean as a thoroughfare to the East, while the buildup for the eventual cross-Channel attack continued in Great Britain and the Allied air forces mounted a systematic bombing of Germany.

Ground forces assembled to conduct the Sicilian Campaign (10 July - 17 August 1943) constituted the 15th Army Group under the command of General Alexander. This command included the British Eighth Army under General Montgomery and the newly established U.S. Seventh Army under General Patton. Among the American forces was the 82d Airborne Division, which was scheduled to drop behind the invasion beaches to forestall enemy reaction to the landings. The total invasion force numbered some 160,000 men.

For weeks before the invasion, Allied planes raided western Sicily in order to deceive the defenders regarding the Allied intention, which was to make landings on the southern and eastern coasts of the island. These raids succeeded in dispersing German armor, which made it difficult for them to mount quick, concentrated counterattacks. The invasion took place on 10 July 1943. Winds of near gale proportions made the landings difficult, but the weather conditions threw the defenders off guard and made possible a tactical surprise. After landing, the Allies intended to strike for dominating ground in the east-central part of the island and then to take Messina on the strait between Sicily and Italy. After recovering from their initial surprise, the German forces in Sicily succeeded in blocking the most direct route to Messina by concentrating against the British Eighth Army in the vicinity of Catania.

Thereupon Patton sent a mobile provisional corps under Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes to the northwest, which cut the island in two, captured Palermo by 22 July, and broke the morale of the Italian garrison of 275,000 men on the island. The American forces were now in a position to attack from the west to break the deadlock opposite the British. When the Seventh Army drove eastward across the island, the Germans began to withdraw across the Strait of Messina to Italy. Despite attacks by Allied aircraft, they were able to evacuate some 60,000 troops. On 17 August 1943 American patrols pushed into Messina, and the campaign reached a successful conclusion. Axis losses in the campaign were around 167,000 killed, wounded, and captured, including some 10,000 German casualties. Allied losses were 31,158.

 

Italy. Allied victory in Sicily had resulted in the overthrow of Mussolini's government, and the capitulation of Italy was only a matter of negotiation and time. An armistice was announced on 8 September. The Italian surrender resulted in German evacuation of the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, gave the Allies the Italian Navy, and, in effect, made Italy a co-belligerent with the Allies. Nevertheless, the Germans still had a firm hold on the Italian boot.

The Italian Campaign (3 September 1943 - 2 May 1945) placed Allied troops on the European mainland for the first time, but it was never intended as a substitute for an attack aimed at Germany by way of the more open and more remunerative route through northern France. The invasion of Italy had a number of lesser objectives: to capitalize on the collapse of Italian resistance; to make immediate use of ready Allied strength; to engage German forces which might otherwise be used in Russia and northern France; to secure airfields from which to intensify the bombing of Germany and the Balkans; and to gain complete control of the Mediterranean.

On 3 September 1943 elements of the British Eighth Army landed on the toe of the Italian boot. Six days later, on 9 September, the U.S. Fifth Army, under Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark landed on beaches along the Gulf of Salerno, and a British fleet placed a division of troops at Taranto in the arch of the boot. Heavy fighting quickly developed at Salerno, where German armored counterattacks jeopardized the entire Allied position. It was six days before the Americans were able to surmount the crisis and secure the beachhead. On 16 September the British Eighth and the U.S. Fifth Armies united their fronts southeast of Salerno. On 7 October the British took Naples with its fine port. Meanwhile the British had captured the airfields of Foggia near the Adriatic coast on 27 September, and by mid-October had moved north to a line extending from Larino west to Campobasso, where they were abreast of the Americans on their left. The Allies were in Italy to stay.

Under strategic priorities decided upon by the CCS (Quebec Conference, August 1943) the forces non in the Mediterranean were not to be strengthened further; in fact, seven of the best Allied divisions (four U.S. and three British) were withdrawn to the United Kingdom for the cross-Channel operation. Shipping limitations, in any case, forbade any large-scale reinforcement of the Mediterranean except at the expense of the buildup of American forces in the United Kingdom. By October 1943 the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies together had only 11 divisions, but this force was able to tie down some 20-odd German divisions throughout the long campaign. The mountainous terrain and the restrictions on maneuver imposed by the narrowness of the peninsula favored the German defenders, but the Allied force continued to press northward until the end of the war.

Having paused a few days after taking Naples and Foggia, the Allied force in Italy renewed its offensive late in October 1943. This drive broke a strong German position at the Volturno River and carried the Allies as far as the so-called Winter Line (or Gustav Line), anchored on Cassino, which the Germans had been preparing about 75 miles south of Rome. Here the Allies were brought to a halt for the remainder of the winter.

In December 1943 the Allied line was reinforced by a French corps equipped with American arms. With this added strength at his disposal, General Clark used the U.S. VI Corps, with British and American troops, in an attempt to envelop the western flank of the German line, while he simultaneously tried to break through the Gustav Line. The VI Corps made an amphibious tending at Anzio, behind the German line about 30 miles south of Rome, on 22 January 1944. The landing was initially successful and additional forces came in while the landing force pushed inland against growing enemy resistance. After the first week, the Germans reacted with a strong counterattack that reached a peak of intensity on 17 February and threatened to wipe out the beachhead. But the VI Corps' magnificent defense of the perimeter, supported by artillery, tanks, planes, and naval gunfire, brought the last of the major counterattacks to a halt on 2 March. While the Anzio maneuver failed either to turn the German defenses in the south around Cassino or to open a breakthrough north to Rome, the Anzio beachhead remained a thorn in the German side, engaging his tactical reserves.

In May 1944 the Allied forces made a carefully planned assault on the Winter Line, synchronizing their thrusts with an attack from the Anzio beachhead. The drive carried all the way to Rome, which fell to the Allies on 4 June 1944, two days before the cross-Channel attack.

The Germans made their next stand along the so-called Gothic Line in the north Apennine Mountains. The Allied force, although reduced in strength by the necessity to relinquish some divisions for use in France, initiated a drive in September that broke the Gothic Line after a three-month campaign. In the spring of 1945 the Allies pushed across the Po Valley and, when German resistance began to crumble, made spectacular advances which ended with the surrender of the German forces in Italy on 2 May 1945.

The Italian Campaign Involved some of the hardest fighting in the war and cost the United States forces some 114,000 casualties. But the campaign played an important part in determining the eventual outcome of the war, since the Allies, with a minimum of strength, engaged German forces that could possibly have upset the balance in France.

Europe - June 1944. June 1944 was a major turning point of World War II, particularly in Europe. Although the initiative had been seized from the Germans some months before, so far the western Allies had been unable to mass sufficient men and material to risk an attack in northern Europe. But by mid-1944 early mobilization of manpower and resources in America was beginning to pay off. Millions of American men had been trained, equipped, and welded into fighting and service units. American industrial production had reached its wartime peak late in 1943. While there were still critical shortages—in landing craft, for instance—production problems were largely solved, and the Battle of the Atlantic had been won. Ever increasing streams of supplies from the United States were reaching anti-Axis fighting forces throughout the world.

By the beginning of June 1944, the United States and Great Britain had accumulated in the British Isles the largest number of men and the greatest amount of materiel ever assembled to launch and sustain an amphibious attack. Strategic bombing of Germany was reaching its peak. In May 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff had given high priority to a Combined Bomber Offensive to be waged by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces. By late summer 1943 Allied bombers were conducting round-the-clock bombardment of German industry and communications. In general, British planes bombed by night and American planes bombed by day. Whereas an air raid by 200 planes had been considered large in June 1943, the average strike a year later was undertaken by 1,000 heavy bombers.

After considerable study strategists determined to make the cross-Channel attack on the beaches of Normandy east of the Cherbourg Peninsula. Early objectives of the operation were the deep-water ports at Cherbourg and at Brest in Brittany.

Three months before D-day, a strategic air campaign was inaugurated to pave the way for invasion by restricting the enemy's ability to shift reserves. French and Belgian railways were crippled, bridges demolished in northwestern France, and enemy airfields within a 130-mile radius of the landing beaches put under heavy attack. Special attention was given to isolating the part of northwestern France bounded roughly by the Seine and Loire Rivers. The Allies also put into effect a deception plan to lead the Germans to believe that landings would take place farther north along the Pas de Calais.

Opposed to the Allies was the so-called Army Group B of the German Army, consisting of the Seventh Army in Normandy and Brittany, the Fifteenth Army in the Pas de Calais and Flanders, and the LXXXVIII Corps in Holland—all under command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Commander of all German forces in western Europe was Field Marshal von Rundstedt who, in addition to Group B. also had at his disposal Group G composed of the First and Nineteenth Armies. In all, Von Rundstedt commanded approximately fifty infantry and ten Panzer divisions in France and the Low Countries.

 

The Invasion of Normandy (Operation OVERLORD). Despite unfavorable weather forecasts, General Eisenhower made the decision to attack on 6 June 1944. At 0200 that morning one British and two American airborne divisions were dropped behind the beaches in order to secure routes of egress from the beaches for the seaborne forces. After an intensive air and naval bombardment, assault waves of troops began landing at 0630. More than 5,000 ships and 4,000 ship-to-shore craft were employed in the landings. British forces on the left flank and U.S. forces on the right had comparatively easy going, but U.S. forces in the center (OMAHA Beach) met determined opposition. Nevertheless, by nightfall of the first day, large contingents of three British, one Canadian, and three American infantry divisions, plus three airborne divisions, had a firm foothold on Hitler's "fortress Europe."

During the weeks that followed the landings, the Germans fiercely resisted Allied advances in the hedgerows of Normandy. Cherbourg fell three weeks after the landings, but the port had been destroyed and time-consuming repairs were required before it could be used to relieve the Allied supply problem. Meanwhile, Allied forces had been deepening the beachhead. By the end of June the most forward positions were about 20 miles inland. The buildup of Allied forces was swift, despite the lack of ports, and by 1 July almost a million men, more than a half-million tons of supplies, and 177,000 vehicles had been landed. By this time General Bradley's U.S. First Army comprised 4 corps with 11 infantry and 2 armored divisions. British strength was about the same.

At the end of June, British forces made an attempt to break into the open country near Caen. Heavy bombers were used in close support to facilitate this breakout, but the destruction they wrought served to impede rather than to assist the British ground forces and German armored units blocked an advance in that sector. General Montgomery now adopted the strategy of attracting German armor to the British sector while American units continued to attack in the vicinity of St. Lo. On 25 July a massive air bombardment was coordinated with an attack by ground troops that achieved a distinct penetration of German lines. General Patton's U.S. Third Army poured through this breach in the direction of Brittany with the object of securing the much-needed ports in that area.

The Allied strategic plan was to take over Breton ports and then to secure a lodgment area as far east as the Seine River, to provide ample room for air and supply bases. It was then intended to advance into Germany on a broad front. The principal thrust east was to be north of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium with General Montgomery's British 21st Army Group. A subsidiary thrust by General Bradley's newly formed U.S. 12th Army Group, comprising the U.S. First and Third Armies, was to be made south of the Ardennes. This northern route was chosen because it led directly into the Ruhr area where Germany's industrial power was concentrated.

The Allied strategic plan underwent considerable modification early in August to seize upon the advantages of the breakout and exploit the principle of maneuver. When the Germans counterattacked with the intention of restoring a stable front and cutting off U.S. forces moving toward Brittany, they unwittingly offered the Allies an opportunity to encircle them. British forces on the left moved toward Falaise and U.S. troops to the right executed a wide circling maneuver toward Argentan, roughly halfway between St. Lo and Paris. Caught in a giant pocket, the Germans nevertheless extricated many troops before the Argentan-Falaise gap was closed on 20 August, though losing more than 70,000. Meanwhile, General Patton's Third Army drove eastward across the Seine and eliminated it as a German defensive line, encircling and destroying Germans who had escaped the Argentan-Falaise pocket. The Germans lost almost all of two field armies in Normandy.

Originally it had been intended to bypass Paris in order to spare the city from heavy fighting, but, with the crossing of the Seine, fighting broke out in the city between French patriots and Germans stationed there. Lest the uprising be defeated, a column of U.S. and Free French troops were deflected toward Paris, entering the city on 25 August 1944.

General Eisenhower now altered his original plan, abandoning the idea of stopping at the Seine and instituting instead a determined pursuit of the enemy toward Germany. Because the ports of Cherbourg and Brest no were too far west to support the accelerated movement, the new plans involved capture of Channel parts and especially of Antwerp, the best port in Europe. Exploiting the new situation, General Eisenhower now reinforced the British by sending the U.S. First Army close alongside the 21st Army Group toward Aachen in a drive toward Antwerp. Only the U.S. Third Army continued east on the subsidiary axis south of the Ardennes.

Cherbourg remained the only major port supplying Allied forces in northern France, and advances to the east had been so rapid that the supply services simply could not keep up. The drive eastward began to grind to a halt for lack of supplies, chiefly gasoline. The British took Le Havre and several Channel ports and on 4 September 1944 they captured Antwerp, its port intact. But Antwerp could not yet be used to relieve a growing logistical crisis because the Germans denied access to the sea by retaining control of the Schelde Estuary. The newly activated U.S. Ninth Army (Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson commending) in Brittany took Brest late in September, but the port had been completely destroyed, and in any event its location so far from the scene of action precluded its usefulness in solving logistical problems.

 

Invasion of Southern France (Operation DRAGOON). With the release of shipping and landing craft from OVERLORD, it became possible to stage the long-planned invasion of southern France, the so-called Operation DRAGOON. While the battle of Argentan-Falaise pocket was still raging, on 15 August 1944, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch's U.S. Seventh Army invaded the Mediterranean shores of France southwest of Cannes. The attacking force comprised contingents of three U.S. infantry divisions plus an airborne task force and French commandos, and it was assisted by Free French forces after the landing had been made. Basic objectives were to prevent the reinforcement of German forces in Normandy with troops from southern France and to provide the Allies a supplementary line of communications through Mediterranean ports. Resistance was comparatively light. Advances north were rapid, and by 11 September patrols from the southern and northern Allied forces met near Dijon. On 15 September the U.S. 6th Army Group became operational under command of Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers and, with the U.S. Seventh Army and the First French Army, passed from control of Allied Force Headquarters to the control of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). Thereafter forces from the south continued toward Germany in contact with the U.S. Third Army.

On the western front logistical problems had become acute by the autumn of 1944. Although the U.S. First Army under Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges had penetrated the so-called West Wall in several places, lack of supplies prevented exploitation of the breaks. Bad weather, terrain that restricted maneuver, and the dense fortifications along the German border combined to create obstacles of major proportions.

To two of General Eisenhower's subordinate commanders, Montgomery and Patton, Eisenhower's decision to advance into Germany on a broad front seemed like a mistake in light of the logistical limitations. Each wanted all resources put behind his part of the front to support one major drive into Germany, in the hope that German disorganization could be exploited to produce capitulation. The debate continued through the late summer and much of the fall of 1944, but General Eisenhower, backed by the advice of his logisticians, stuck to his original plan of advancing with all armies abreast, though with greater emphasis in the north.

 

Autumn (1944) Campaign in the West. Because of the logistical crisis, General Eisenhower assigned first priority in the autumn of 1944 to clearing the seaward approaches to Antwerp. At the same time he decided to make a bold stroke in an effort to exploit German disorganization before logistical problems brought the Allied offensive to a full stop. Eisenhower authorized the employment of the First Allied Airborne Army (one British, two U.S. airborne divisions under Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton) in support of the British Second Army. They were to attempt to get across the three major water obstacles in the Netherlands (the Maas, Waal, and Lower Rhine), to outflank the West Wall, and to put the British in position for a subsequent drive into Germany along the relatively open north German plain. The airborne attack was called Operation MARKET; the corollary ground attack, Operation GARDEN. Complete surprise was achieved by the airdrop, which took place on 17 September 1944, but the Germans were not as disorganized as had been hoped. Unexpectedly strong resistance limited the gains to a 50-mile salient into Holland—far short of the objective of securing a workable bridgehead across the Rhine

Following Operation MARKET-GARDEN, British forces concentrated on opening the approaches to Antwerp, but it was November before the way was cleared for the first Allied ship to enter the port.

Meanwhile, a supreme effort on the part of the supply services had improved the logistical situation, and in early November United States forces launched a major offensive in an attempt to reach the Rhine. Bad weather, natural and artificial defenses along the German border, and a resourceful defense on the part of German troops limited gains. By mid-December, the U.S. First and Ninth Armies had reached the Roer River east of Aachen, some 22 miles inside Germany, and the U.S. Third and Seventh Armies had reached the West Wall along the Saar River northeast of Metz. But except in the Seventh Army section, they were still a long way from the Rhine.

 

German Counteroffensive (Battle of the Bulge). In December 1944 Adolph Hitler directed an ambitious counteroffensive with the object of regaining the initiative in the west and compelling the Allies to settle for a negotiated peace. Hitler's generals were opposed to the plan, but the Fuhrer's will prevailed and the counteroffensive was launched on 16 December by some 30 German divisions against Allied lines in the Ardennes region. Allied defenses there had been thinned to provide troops for the autumn defensive. Hitler's intention was to drive through Antwerp and cut off and annihilate the British 21st Army Group and the U.S. First and Ninth Armies north of the Ardennes.

Aided by stormy weather which grounded Allied planes and restricted observation, the Germane achieved surprise and made rapid gains at first, but firm resistance by various isolated units provided time for the U.S. First and Ninth Armies to shift against the northern flank of the penetration, for the British to send reserves to secure the line to the Meuse, and for Patton's Third Army to hit the salient from the south. Denied vital roads and hampered by air attack when the weather cleared, the German attack resulted only in a large bulge in the Allied lines which did not even extend to the Meuse River, the Germans' first objective. The Americans suffered some 75,000 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge, but the Germans lost 80,000 to l00,000. German strength had been irredeemably impaired. By the end of January 1945, American units had retaken all ground they had lost, and the defeat of Germany was clearly only a matter of time. In the east the Red Army had opened a winter offensive that was to carry, eventually, to and beyond Berlin.

 

Breakthrough into Germany. Exhausted by the over-ambitious counteroffensive and further weakened by transfers of troops to meet the new Soviet threat in the east, German forces in the west could no longer halt a new Allied drive to the Rhine on a broad front. On 7 March 1945 elements of the U.S. 9th Armored Division seized an opportunity to cross a bridge at Remagen which the Germans had inadvertently left undestroyed, and Allied forces gained a firm foothold at last on the eastern bank of the Rhine. Two weeks later troops of the U.S. Third Army to the south of Remagen staged a surprise crossing of the Rhine in assault boats. At the same time, in the north, British and American troops crossed the Rhine in an operation involving an airborne assault almost as large as Operation MARKET. During the last week of March both the U.S. Seventh and First French Armies crossed the Rhine. The stage was set for the final act.

 

Final Offensive in Europe. In the west, following the Rhine crossings in March 1945, the Allies fanned out with massive columns of armor and motor-borne infantry and soon were making spectacular advances. Resistance was staunch at some points, but Allied strength was by this time overwhelming. The U.S. Ninth and First Armies, with the help of the new U.S. Fifteenth Army, encircled the Ruhr and took more than 325,000 prisoners. Allied forces in the north and center made rapid advances against slight opposition, and by mid-April had reached the Elbe and Mulde Rivers where they waited for the approaching Red Army. In the south other Allied columns penetrated into Czechoslovakia and Austria. The German military machine became completely disorganized and wholesale surrenders took place.

In the east the Soviets began their final drive on Berlin on 17 April. By 25 April the Red Army had completely encircled Berlin, and on the same day advance elements of the Soviet forces came in contact with American troops at Torgau on the Elbe River. Fierce street fighting broke out in Berlin. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, and what remained of the German garrison in Berlin surrendered two days later. Mussolini had been killed by Italian partisans on 28 April 1945 while attempting to escape into Switzerland. The European partners of the Tripartite Pact had been defeated. 

 

Top of Page

 gldbar.gif (1171 bytes)

 

WWII Page Two    Battles    Home    Spanish/American War   

Vietnam    Active Duty Units   Indian Wars