VITE History Channel. Part 21. WW2. Western Front. Winter counter-offensives. Invasion of Germany
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Snapshot of European map - 15 December 1944
The Germans had been preparing a massive counter-attack in the West since the Allied breakout from Normandy. The plan called Wacht am Rhein ("Watch on the Rhine") was to attack through the Ardennes and swing north to Antwerp, splitting the American and British armies. The attack started on 16 December in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Defending the Ardennes were troops of the US First Army. Initial successes in bad weather, which gave them cover from the Allied air forces, resulted in a German penetration of over 80 km (50 mi) to within less than 16 km (10 mi) of the Meuse.
Map showing the swelling of "the Bulge" as the German offensive progressed creating the nose-like salient during 16–25 December 1944
Crack of the lightning splitting the ground
Thunder is sounding, artillery pounding
Wrath of the Nazi's cast on Bastogne
Facing their forces alone!
/Excerpt from song "Screaming Eagles" (Sabaton)
The Siege of Bastogne was an engagement in December 1944 between American and German forces at the Belgian town of Bastogne, as part of the larger Battle of the Bulge. The goal of the German offensive was the harbour at Antwerp. In order to reach it before the Allies could regroup and bring their superior air power to bear, German mechanized forces had to seize the roadways through eastern Belgium. Because all seven main roads in the densely wooded Ardennes highlands converged on Bastogne (Bastnach in German), just a few miles away from the border with neighbouring Luxembourg, control of its crossroads was vital to the German attack. The siege was from 20 to 27 December, until the besieged American forces were relieved by elements of General George Patton's Third Army.
Having been taken by surprise, the Allies regrouped and the Germans were stopped by a combined air and land counter-attack which eventually pushed them back to their starting points by 25 January 1945.
The Germans launched a second, smaller offensive (Nordwind) into Alsace on 1 January 1945. Aiming to recapture Strasbourg, the Germans attacked the 6th Army Group at multiple points. Because the Allied lines had become severely stretched in response to the crisis in the Ardennes, holding and throwing back the Nordwind offensive was a costly affair that lasted almost four weeks. The culmination of Allied counter-attacks restored the front line to the area of the German border and collapsed the Colmar Pocket.
Invasion of Germany
In January 1945 the German bridgehead over the river Roer between Heinsberg and Roermond was cleared during Operation Blackcock. This was followed by a pincer movement of the First Canadian Army in Operation Veritable advancing from the Nijmegen area of the Netherlands, and the US Ninth Army crossing the Roer in Operation Grenade. Veritable and Grenade were planned to start on 8 February 1945, but Grenade was delayed by two weeks when the Germans flooded the Roer valley by destroying the gates of the Rur Dam upstream. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt requested permission to withdraw east behind the Rhine, arguing that further resistance would only delay the inevitable, but was ordered by Hitler to fight where his forces stood.
By the time the water had subsided and the US Ninth Army was able to cross the Roer on 23 February, other Allied forces were also close to the Rhine's west bank. Von Rundstedt's divisions which had remained on the west bank, were cut to pieces in the ''battle of the Rhineland' – 280,000 men were taken prisoner. With a large number of men captured, the stubborn German resistance during the Allied campaign to reach the Rhine in February and March 1945 had been costly. Total losses reached an estimated 400,000 men. By the time they prepared to cross the Rhine in late March, the Western Allies had taken 1,300,000 German soldiers prisoner in western Europe.
The crossing of the Rhine was achieved at four points: One was an opportunity taken by US forces when the Germans failed to blow up the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen, one crossing was a hasty assault, and two crossings were planned. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the Remagen crossing made on 7 March and expanded the bridgehead into a full scale crossing.
The crossing of the Rhine between 22 and 28 March 1945
Bradley told General Patton whose U.S. Third Army had been fighting through the Palatinate, to "take the Rhine on the run". The Third Army did just that on the night of 22 March, crossing the river with a hasty assault south of Mainz at Oppenheim.
In the North Operation Plunder was the name given to the assault crossing of the Rhine at Rees and Wesel by the British 21st Army Group on the night of 23 March. It included the largest airborne operation in history, which was codenamed Operation Varsity. At the point the British crossed the river, it is twice as wide, with a far higher volume of water, than the points where the Americans crossed and Montgomery decided it could only be crossed with a carefully planned operation.
In the Allied 6th Army Group area, the US Seventh Army assaulted across the Rhine in the area between Mannheim and Worms on 26 March. A fifth crossing on a much smaller scale was later achieved by the French First Army at Speyer.
Once the Allies had crossed the Rhine, the British fanned out northeast towards Hamburg crossing the river Elbe and on towards Denmark and the Baltic. British forces captured Bremen on 26 April after a week of combat. British and Canadian paratroopers reached the Baltic city of Wismar just ahead of Soviet forces on 2 May. The US Ninth Army, which had remained under British command since the battle of the Bulge, went south as the northern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement as well as pushing elements east. XIX Corps of the Ninth Army captured Magdeburg on 18 April and the US XIII Corps to the north occupied Stendal.
The US 12th Army Group fanned out, the First Army went north as the southern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement. On 4 April the encirclement was completed and the Ninth Army reverted to the command of Bradley's 12th Army Group. The German Army Group B commanded by Field Marshal Walther Model was trapped in the Ruhr Pocket and 300,000 soldiers became POWs.
Encirclement of the Ruhr and other Allied operations between 29 March and 4 April 1945
The Ninth and First American armies then turned east and pushed to the Elbe river by mid-April. During the push east, the cities of Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Magdeburg, Halle and Leipzig were strongly defended by ad hoc German garrisons made up of regular troops, Flak units, Volkssturm and armed Nazi Party auxiliaries. Generals Eisenhower and Bradley concluded that pushing beyond the Elbe made no sense since eastern Germany was destined in any case to be occupied by the Red Army. The First and Ninth Armies stopped along the Elbe and Mulde rivers, making contact with Soviet forces near the Elbe in 25 April (Elbe Day).
Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, is the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe
The US Third Army had fanned out to the east into western Czechoslovakia and southeast into eastern Bavaria and northern Austria. By V-E Day, the US 12th Army Group was a force of four armies (First, Third, Ninth and Fifteenth) that numbered over 1.3 million men.
Snapshot of European map - 1 May 1945
When I collected information about Western Front WW2 I found very interesting serial «Band of brothers» about allied compaigns in Western Front.
Band of Brothers is a 2001 American war drama miniseries based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 non-fiction book Band of Brothers. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan.
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