ln conformity with our strategic plans for operations into the heart of Germany, the main effort in the Allied operations west of the Rhine was to be in the northern sector, with a view to seizing the crossings north of the Ruhr. All our other operations were designed primarily to assist this northern operation, to gain secure Banks so as to permit of the heaviest concentration with which to force a crossing in the north, and eventually to provide the bases for a secondary effort which would again assist the planned main effort.
Operations west of the Rhine were to be developed in three distinct phases.
Phase 1 was to consist primarily of the operations known as VERITABLE and GRENADE, by which respectively the Canadian Army and the U. S. Ninth Army were to advance to the Rhine below Dusseldorf. In addition, the U. S. First Army was to seize the line of the Erft west and northwest of Cologne, thus insuring the security of our communications between Aachen and Munchen-Gladbach. As soon as these operations began, the existing offensive in the Ardennes was to give place to a policy of aggressive defense designed to contain the German divisions fighting there and to widen the breaches made in the Siegfried Line. South of the Moselle our forces were to remain on the defensive, such local operations as were necessary to contain the German forces on their front being conducted with the maximum economy both of personnel and of ammunition.
During Phase II, while the Rhine-crossing operations were prepared and instituted in the north, the enemy was to be driven back to the river north of its confluence with the Moselle in order that the main bridgehead's lines of communication should be absolutely secure. Our southern forces were then to initiate an offensive to capture the Saar Basin and begin their advance to the Rhine in that sector.
Finally, in Phase III, while the northern bridgehead was consolidated and expanded and the Central Group of Armies remained on the defensive north of the Moselle, the remaining forces in the south were to complete their operations to reach the Rhine so that the Allies would hold the entire left bank.
During the latter half of January and the beginning of February the Central Group of Armies continued to fight hard in the Ardennes sector to take advantage of the check we had imposed upon the enemy there. General Bradley was instructed to inflict the maximum losses upon the Germans, to seize any opportunity of breaching the Siegfried Line and, if successful, to advance northeast on the axis PrumEuskirchen. The attack was to be pressed with all vigor as long as there was any reasonable chance of securing a decisive success, but, as an alternative, we had to be ready to pass quickly to the defensive in the Ardennes and to launch the new attacks in the northern sector.
The latter offensive, comprising Operations VERlTABLE and GRENADE, was to be under the control of 21 Army Group. The U. S. Ninth Army was to remain under the command of Field Marshal Montgomery for this purpose and was to be built up to a strength of four corps, totaling twelve divisions, the rate of buildup being determined by the progress of operations in the Ardennes. In Operation VERlTABLE, the target date for which was to be not later than 8 February, the Canadian First Army was to conduct a strong offensive from the Nijmegen area southeast between the Rhine and the Maas, carrying the thrust as far as the general line Xanten-Geldern, clearing the whole area and establishing a firm flank along the Rhine. The attack was to be made on a two-corps front, British 30 Corps on the right and Canadian 2 Corps on the left, while British I Corps was also to be under command of the Canadian Army. In all, seven infantry and four armored divisions, with four infantry and five armored brigades, were to be employed. If, as was hoped, dry ground conditions prevailed, the basis of the operation was to be -speed and violence, the armored columns passing through the enemy lines and disrupting his rear areas. As events turned out, the state of the country was the very reverse of what had been desired.
In order that Operation GRENADE might be launched, 12th Army Group was to extend its left wing northward as far as Julich, and the Ninth Army would then hold a front on the Roer River from Julich to Roermond. From the right portion of this front it was to launch a strong attack toward the Rhine, with its right flank on the line Julich-Neuss. The offensive was to be carried up to the Rhine between Dusseldorf and Mars. 12th Army Group was initially to protect the Ninth Army's right flank. It was hoped to commence GRENADE not later than 10 February.
Operation VERITABLE was duly launched on the target date of 8 February, but the weather conditions could hardly have been more unfavorable. January had been exceptionally severe, with snow lying on the ground through the month, and when the thaw set in at the beginning of February, the ground became extremely soft and water-logged, while floods spread far and wide in the area over which our advance had been planned to take place. The difficulties thus imposed were immense, and the men had sometimes to fight waist-deep in water. The privations which they underwent were appalling, but their spirit was indomitable, and they overcame their personal hardships with great gallantry to inflict a major defeat upon the enemy in some of the fiercest fighting of the whole war.
Under such conditions it was inevitable that our hopes for a rapid breakthrough should be disappointed, and the fighting soon developed into a bitter slugging match in which the enemy had to be forced back yard by yard. When the attack was first launched the enemy's reaction was slow, but our own difficulties gave him a chance to consolidate his defenses. The Germans' trouble lay, as usual, in their lack of mobility, for the stocks of gasoline which they had laboriously accumulated for the Ardennes offensive were now exhausted and the incessant Allied air attacks upon the fuel-producing plants, the roads, and the rail ways caused the situation daily to deteriorate still further.
Apart from the German Army's logistical difficulties, moreover, it was considerably weakened in numerical strength on the Western Front by the date when VERITABLE was launched as compared with that army's state at the beginning of January. During the closing stages of the Ardennes Battle, when the failure of the offensive was seen to be inevitable, the Sixth Panzer Army had been withdrawn from the line to commence a weary and unhappy trek across Germany to the Eastern Front. With it went the remnants of some seven panzer and panzer grenadier divisions, two panzer brigades, and three infantry divisions, a force which included considerably over half the armor which had confronted us when von Rundstedt launched his attack in mid-December. As against these departures and some 150,000 serious battle casualties, the reinforcements sent to the Western Front were insignificant in both quality and quantity. Now that the Allies were once more on the general offensive, all hope of any renewed major offensive by the enemy disappeared, and it soon became merely a question of how long von Rundstedt's skill and the stubborn spirit of his depleted forces could maintain a purely defensive battle west of the Rhine. Again the desperate commitment of formations piecemeal to the fighting, which we had first witnessed in Normandy, was repeated. The enemy's chief assets for the moment lay in the weather and the terrain, but these could never compensate for the seasoned fighting forces which he had lost.
During the first days of VERITABLE good progress was made through the forest called Reichswald and to the outskirts of Kleve, but fierce resistance was then encountered. The opposition on the southern edge of the forest was particularly violent. Nevertheless, Kleve fell by 12 February and on the 13th the forest was cleared. On the following day the Rhine was reached opposite Emmerich, and on the 16th the Kalkar-Goch road was crossed, although German forces of the First Parachute Army continued to resist strongly in the Goch sector. The town itself fell on 21 February, two days before Operation GRENADE was launched. Despite the comparative slowness of our progress, VERITABLE achieved its strategic objectives. We gained a footing on the west bank of the Rhine in the area where our major crossing operations were subsequently to be launched, and, equally important, heavy losses were inflicted on the Germans west of the river. Moreover, the offensive steadily drew in the enemy's slender reserves and thus cleared the way for very rapid progress by the Ninth Army when operation GRENADE was initiated on 23 February.
GRENADE had of necessity been repeatedly postponed on account of the ground conditions. The Ninth Army was ready to strike on the target date appointed, 10 February, but the state of the terrain enforced delay until the floods should subside. Apart from the effects of the thaw, aggravated by the heavy rains which followed the melting of the snow, the enemy was in a position to flood the area further by reason of his control of the Roer dams. The First Army was instructed to concentrate on the capture of these prior to the launching of GRENADE, and in heavy fighting its forces pushed hard toward their objectives through extremely difficult country of broken hills covered with forests. The first of the seven dams was reached on 4 February, and the last and most important one-the Schwammenauel Dam-on 10 February. The controls on some of the dams had been hit by our air bombing in December, but the damage had been partially repaired, and before the enemy was compelled to abandon the Schwammenauel Dam, he opened the sluices. The water poured down the valley, causing the level of the Roer to rise about 4 feet, and it was not until 23 February that the flood subsided sufficiently to permit the launching of GRENADE across the river.
The attack was begun, in clear moonlight, by VII Corps of the First Army, over the Roer south of Duren at 0330 hours. An hour later, XIX and XIII Corps of the Ninth Army commenced their crossing of the river in the Julich sector. The attacks were preceded by 45 minutes intensive artillery bombardment which effectively reduced enemy interference with our initial assault, but considerable difficulties were experienced from the mines sown in the river and from the swiftness of the current which rendered the passage of the assault boats extremely hazardous. However, bridgeheads were speedily gained and consolidated. Once across the river, our forces met their chief opposition from the German artillery, which also bombarded the bridging sites, while the enemy infantry generally fell back after rallying for only one real counterattack. The enemy also made a considerable air bombing and strafing effort against the bridges, but they were unable to hold the advance.
Our offensive rapidly gathered momentum. VII Corps cleared Duren by 25 February, Julich had fallen the day before, and the enemy recoiled north and northeast of Linnich as the Ninth Army armor passed through the infantry to thrust forward its spearheads. While the First Army forces pushed toward Cologne, those of the Ninth Army were directed toward Munchen-Gladbach and Grevenbroich. The speed of the advance increased daily, and whole units of the German Fifteenth Army surrendered as their losses in both men and ground began to tell. By 1 March the industrial center of Munchen-Gladbach had been cleared, Grevenbroich had fallen, Neuss was entered, Venlo reached and Roermond found abandoned by the enemy. With General Simpson, the Ninth Army Commander, I visited Munchen-Gladbach to catch a glimpse of the fighting north and east of that city. The troops definitely sensed ultimate victory and were irresistible.
Meanwhile, the First Parachute Army had been fighting stubbornly to hold the continued pressure by the Canadian Anny between the Rhine and the Maas farther north, but the advance of the Ninth Army now threatened its rear and its withdrawal became inevitable. Although an armored division fought hard to retain the wooded area south of Marienbaum and keep us back from the Rhine, on 4 March the two Allied armies made contact in the Geldern area and the success of the combined VERITABLE-GRENADE operations was assured. By 5 March there were no enemy left west of the Rhine between Neuss and Homberg, but the Parachute Army struggled bitterly to retain its last bridgehead across the river in the Wesel-Xanten area. It was not until 10 March that this bridgehead finally collapsed, the enemy blowing the bridges behind him as his last forces withdrew to the east bank. On the following day the task of mopping up the whole area on the west bank was completed. The prisoners brought our total captured since D-day to over 1,000,000.
While the Ninth Army was pushing to the Rhine in its sector, the First Army was exploiting its successful crossing of the Roer and thrusting toward Cologne. This operation, however, may more correctly be considered as part of those which comprised Phase II of the whole campaign west of the Rhine. It was intended that the First Army should close in upon the river from the northwest and the Third Army from the southwest, eliminating the enemy north of the Moselle. While these operations, known under the general name of LUMBERJACK, were being executed, 6th Army Group, south of the Moselle, would remain basically on the defensive, while in the north 21 Army Group would complete its preparations for the forthcoming major assault across the Rhine north of the Ruhr.
The plan of Operation LUMBERJACK was for the First Army to seize the high ground east of the Erfr River northwest of Cologne and to close to the Rhine south of Dusseldorf. Farther south, the road center of Euskirchen was to be captured, bridgeheads established over the Erft in that sector, and forces concentrated for an advance to the southeast. Cologne was then to be invested from the northwest, and, at the appropriate moment, a strong attack on a narrow front was to be driven southeast from Euskirchen to converge with the Third Army advance, and the Rhine was to be reached in the army zone. The Third Army was to seize bridgeheads over the Kyll River, on which its forces at present stood, and then, when so ordered, to drive hard eastward to seize the Mayen-Coblenz area and complete the clearance of the enemy from the west bank of the Rhine between the Moselle and the Ahr. If the enemy defenses proved weak, the Third Army was also, in a subsequent stage, to obtain a bridgehead over the Moselle to the southeast, to facilitate the operations which were to be initiated in that sector.
We had good reason to hope for sweeping success in these operations, for the enemy's forces, reduced as they were both by their contributions to the Eastern Front and by the heavy casualties inflicted on them by our armies, had, in the VERITABLE-GRENADE campaign, shown themselves inadequate to contain simultaneous Allied attacks on a broad front. The same policy of converging major thrusts which had proved successful in 21 Army Group sector was now about to be repeated by 12th Army Group. Apart from the damaging losses which the enemy had incurred, the fighting spirit of his armies, taken as a whole, had undergone a decline, and at certain points his defensive system was manifestly disorganized. Few-if any-trained reserves outside the west were believed to be available, and in the hard fighting which had taken place since the New Year virtually all the reserves in the west had been committed to the defensive battle. Under the circumstances, it seemed to me that the enemy's only course would be to do as he had done in the north and make as orderly a retreat as possible to the east of the Rhine, though it appeared likely that he would try to hold small bridgeheads on the west bank. Our plans were designed to prevent a safe withdrawal over the river.
Meanwhile the increased hammering of the fuel installations in Germany, which followed the improvement in weather conditions after January, had made the enemy's situation more grave than ever in this respect. The February output fell to a total only 14 percent of normal, representing barely half the minimum requirements to maintain full-scale military effort. The effects of this and of the transportation crisis in Germany were seen not only on our own front but also on that facing the Russians, where, despite the transfer of the Sixth Panzer Army, the enemy had shown himself incapable of mounting an effective counterattack to stem the growing tide of Soviet successes.
Operation LUMBERJACK fulfilled expectations. In the First Army drive, with VIl Corps, toward Cologne, heavy opposition was for a time encountered east of the Erft Canal, but the three armored formations brought up to block our advance were dispersed by our air attacks, carried out in strength. The Erft bridgeheads were expanded, and on 5 March the advance elements of VII Corps were entering Cologne. By the afternoon of the 7th the city was entirely in our hands, the enemy resistance having collapsed once the Allied forces had reached the outskirts. The untrained Volkssturm left as a forlorn hope when the regular forces withdrew over the Rhine, blowing the bridges behind them, were capable of little fight. On the same day that Cologne fell, the remainder of the enemy evacuated the west bank north to Dusseldorf. This success had a profound effect on our subsequent operations, as the divisions which would have been used to invest Cologne became available to assist in exploiting the great opportunity we were shortly to be offered.
Farther south, the progress of the First Army was even more spectacular. III Corps attacked southeast in accordance with the operational plan, rolled up the disorganized enemy confronting it and closed to the Rhine at Remagen on 7 March. It was here on that day that occurred one of those rare and fleeting opportunities which occasionally present themselves in war, and which, if grasped, have incalculable effects in determining future success. In his confusion before the rapidity of the Allied thrust, the enemy failed to complete the destruction of the Ludendorff railroad bridge across the Rhine. Before he could rectify his mistake, a small spearhead of 9th Armored Division with the greatest determination and gallantry had seized the bridge-the only one to be left intact by the Germans throughout the entire length of the river.
The Remagen bridge was not in a sector from which it had been intended to launch a major thrust eastward, but I at once determined, at the expense of modifying details of the plan of campaign, to seize the golden opportunity offered to us. It was obvious that possession of a foothold over the Rhine here would constitute the greatest possible threat as a supporting effort for the main attack north of the Ruhr. ln order, therefore, to exploit the situation and establish an adequate bridgehead, consolidated in readiness for an offensive therefrom as soon as the progress of our operations south of the Moselle permitted, I ordered General Bradley, when he telephoned me to report the occurrence, to put not less than five divisions onto the far bank.
Partially anticipating this decision, General Bradley had begun the exploitation of the bridgehead immediately the bridge fell into his hands. A combat command was rapidly passed across, and by 9 March we held a lodgement area some three miles deep. It was several days before the enemy recovered sufficiently from his surprise and overcame his transport difficulties to send reinforcements to the threatened sector, and by the time they arrived the bridgehead had been enlarged and strengthened to a degree which rendered its elimination impossible. Enemy armored forces were again, as in Normandy, committed to battle piecemeal as they arrived on the scene, and no concerted major attack was mounted on a scale sufficient to effect a serious penetration. Such efforts as the enemy did make were unable to check the further expansion of the bridgehead; and as its area grew, the north-south autobahn east of the river, so vital to the enemy, was severed. By 24 March, when our main attacks eastward from the Rhine began in the north, the area held by the First Army at Remagen was 25 miles long and 10 miles deep, and within it three corps were poised ready to strike!
In the meantime the enemy had made desperate efforts to destroy the bridge while the security of the lodgement area was still dependent upon it. Longrange artillery was brought to bear on it, and the German Air Force put up the strongest effort of which it was capable in attempts to cut the structure by bombs, rocket projectiles, and cannon fire. All these efforts proved equally unsuccessful. The air battles over Remagen provided the Luftwaffe with its greatest test, and it failed. The umbrella established over the vital area by the U. S. Ninth Air Force effectively disrupted the attacks, and the enemy's losses, both to our fighter planes and to the heavy concentration of AA guns established on the river banks, were severe.
The enemy onslaught nevertheless made the area extremely uncomfortable, especially for the engineers who carried out, with conspicuous gallantry and determination, the dangerous work of repairing damage and of strengthening the bridge to bear the enormous strains to which it was subjected and which it had never been intended to undergo. These strains eventually proved too much for the damaged structure, and on 17 March the center span (which had been damaged in the Germans' unsuccessful last-minute at-tempts at demolition on the 7th) collapsed into the river. Although a disappointment, this had no serious effect upon our operations, for by this time a number of supplementary floating bridges had been constructed, and the build-up of the forces on the east bank continued without interruption.
While III Corps of the First Army was establishing the bridgehead at Remagen, V Corps, on its right flank, struck to the south to make contact with the advancing spearheads of the Third Army. The German Fifth Panzer Army, disorganized, offered little resistance, and the Allied thrust made rapid progress. Bad Godesberg and Bonn fell on 9 March, and on the following day the link-up along the Rhine with the Third Army forces which had closed to the river in the Andernach area was accomplished. Considerable elements of the Fifth Panzer Army were cut off to the west by these converging drives; they fought courageously to the last, but it was the courage of despair, and they made no organized attempt to force a way out of the trap.
During February, the Third Army had been engaged in making the necessary preparations for its subsequent push to the Rhine. XX Corps had eliminated enemy resistance in the Saar-Moselle triangle by 23 February, and bridgeheads had been established over the Saar at Ockfen and Serrig in the teeth of violent opposition. The Siegfried defenses were penetrated, and Trier fell on 2 March. Farther north, the German Seventh Army had been forced back successively over the Our and Prum Rivers, despite extensive minefields and obstacles, and on 4 March the first bridgeheads were gained across the Kyll.
The Third Army advance to the Rhine now began. VIII Corps, spearheaded by 11th Armored Division, broke through north of Kyllburg on 7 March. Advancing northeast with increasing rapidity, it reached the Rhine at Andernach on the 9th and linked up with the First Army, as already described, on the following day. To the south of VIII Corps, on 5 March, 4th Armored Division of XII Corps, with great boldness, charged along the north bank of the Moselle, parallel to VIII Corps, toward its confluence with the Rhine. This objective was attained on 10 March, large quantities of enemy equipment being captured in the process. By the next day, the left bank of the Rhine from Coblenz to Andernach had been cleared, and the enemy had virtually been eliminated along its length north of the Moselle, thus accomplishing Phase II of the operations to close the river.
The stage was now set for the initiation of the joint offensive operations by the Third and Seventh Armies south of the Moselle which had been anticipated as Phase III of the campaign west of the Rhine. In the 6th Army Group sector, operations during January and February had, in accordance with our overall plan, been mainly of a defensive nature. Such local operations as had been conducted were designed to eliminate the dangerous situation created in the south, as I have earlier described, following the enemy attacks in support of his Ardennes offensive and our weakening of 6th Army Group when divisions had to be moved northward to meet the major threat.
Chief among the tasks which had to be accomplished was the destruction of the Colmar pocket. An attack was launched by the French I Corps against the southern edge of the pocket on 20 January, but this at first made little progress, partly because of bad weather. North of the pocket the French II Corps fared similarly. However, we had assembled and turned over to the French First Army the U. S. XXI Corps, composed of the 3d, 28th, and 75th Infantry Divisions, and the 12th Armored Division, under Maj. Gen. Frank W. Milburn, to carry the brunt of the battle by an attack between the two French corps. Its efforts quickly became effective. Lack of reinforcements caused the enemy resistance to crumble at the end of the month and at the same time the weather improved. Before our three-corps attack the German disintegration developed rapidly: Colmar itself fell on 3 February, and by the 6th the enemy was mainly east of the Rhine-Rhone canal. The evacuation of the disorganized remnants across the Rhine was then in progress, and with the collapse of opposition at Neuf Brisach on 9 February all organized resistance west of the Rhine in that zone ceased. In the course of the operation the enemy suffered over 22,000 casualties and considerable losses of equipment; the German Nineteenth Army was virtually destroyed.
After the elimination of the Colmar pocket, interest in the 6th Army Group area centered in the Seventh Army zone, in front of the Siegfried defenses. The French Army maintained the defensive along the Rhine, and its left wing assumed responsibility for the front as far north as Bischweiler. During the latter half of February and early March the chief activity on the Seventh Army front was in the Saarbrucken-Forbach area, where bitter fighting took place and restricted Allied advances were made.
Following the Third Army successes north of the Moselle, the time had arrived for launching Operation UNDERTONE, the major offensive south of the Moselle, with the objectives of destroying the enemy west of the Rhine and closing on that river from Coblenz southward. By this means crossing sites for the establishment of bridgeheads would be secured in the Mainz-Mannheim sector and more enemy forces would be drawn away from the area where our main effort was shortly to be made in the north. To this end, the Seventh Army was to assume control of elements of the French forces known as the Groupement Montsabert and then to attack in the general direction Homburg-Kaiserslautern-Worms. It was to breach the Siegfried Line, destroy the enemy in its zone, close on the Rhine, and seize a bridgehead. Meanwhile the French Army was to protect the right flank of the Seventh Army and to conduct an aggressive defense along the Rhine. In cooperation with the Seventh Army effort, General Bradley was instructed to launch a thrust by the Third Army forces southeast across the lower reaches of the Moselle, with the object of turning the German line and thrusting deep into the rear areas of the forces facing the Seventh Army. He was also to attack the nose of the Saar salient.
On 15 March the offensive began. While XX Corps of the Third Army struck from the Allied bridgeheads over the Saar and Moselle into the forested hills of the Hunsruck from the west, VI and XV Corps of the Seventh Army, with the French elements under command, attacked north between Haguenau and Saarbrucken. The former attack met with stiff opposition from the enemy's prepared positions, but the southern thrust took the German First Army by surprise and, following the capture of Haguenau on the first day, a number of deep penetrations were made. Zweibrucken and Saarbrucken were occupied by 20 March and resistance in the western portion of the front became disorganized; but the defenders in the Siegfried Line farther to the east stood firm against the Allied attacks.
It was at this point that the intervention of the Third Army across the lower Moselle became devastatingly effective. XII Corps had attacked across the river on 14 March, and the bridgehead gain was rapidly expanded. The Germans were, in fact, completely misled by the Allied tactics. Following the Third Army's swift arrival on the Rhine north of the Moselle they had expected its forces to erupt through the Remagen bridgehead. Instead, when the Third Army turned southeast, the enemy was taken off balance, being utterly unprepared for such a development. No real opposition to the XII Corps drive was offered, and the unready enemy forces were brushed aside as the Allies swept up the Rhine. At the same time, Coblenz was occupied, and by 19 March the river bank was cleared from there as far as the Bingen bend. On the 22d all resistance ceased in Mainz and on thc following day Speyer was reached.
The enemy was still holding out in the Siegfried positions in the Rhine valley west of Karlsruhe, but, with the escape routes across the river cut by the Third Army advances in their rear, his situation was now hopeless. General Patton's aggressive tactics culminated in a surprise night crossing of the Rhine on 22 March. He sent over the U. S. 5th Division without formal preparations of any kind and with negligible losses. Thus, before our main "power" crossing of the Rhine was attempted by 21 Army Group, we were already in possession of two sizeable bridgeheads in the south. Farther west the German units were in a state of chaos and their positions were rapidly overrun and enveloped. By 25 March an end came to all organized resistance west of the Rhine, and Phase III of the operations to close the river was over, with the added accomplishment of two Rhine crossings completed. As Phase III closed, while we were rounding up the broken remnants of the enemy First Army, surrounded to the west, we had launched our carefully prepared main effort in the north in our invasion of the German hinterland over the last great barrier remaining to its defenders.
All these operations west of the Rhine had, like those in France, been greatly assisted by the vast weight of AJlied air power which we had been able to bring to bear in their support. While the long-range strategic effort was maintained against the fuel and industrial targets in the heart of Germany, a steady offensive was kept up against the enemy lines of communication westward across the Rhine. In addition, the heavy bombers were also employed in direct support of the ground tactical operations whenever the weather conditions permitted. They were further, during this period, engaged in the extensive and remarkable Ruhr interdiction program, which will be mentioned later.
The weather, although persistently bad, could not halt the operations of the tactical air forces, whose performance was never more magnificent than during this time. The ground advances were supported resolutely by these tactical forces; their operations at once warded off the German Air Force attempts at interference and at the same time greatly contributed to the disorganization of the German armies opposing us, strafing and bombing the enemy positions and causing havoc in his supply system. Particularly noteworthy was the work of the First Tactical Air Force in support of the Saar offensive, when 8,320 sorties were flown in a single week, with claims of 2,440 motor vehicles, 85 armored vehicles, 146 locomotives, and 1,741 railroad cars. In addition, over 2,000 motor vehicles and 100 armored vehicles were damaged and over 300 rail cuts made. These great efforts played an important part in assuring the success of the ground campaign in the southern sector.
By this time the broad pattern of air-ground operations had become almost a fixed one-subject to adjustment of details to terrain, weather, hostile communications, and so on. Faith in the ability of the Air Force to intervene effectively in the ground battle was the vital feature of the original invasion plan; the general scheme thus used for the isolation of the battlefield, for direct action against selected targets, for air cover, and for other important missions, including supply, bad by now been so perfected that teamwork was easy and the results obtained were regularly decisive in the area of attack.
In connection with the Allied air activities during the early months of 1945, the operation known as CLARION, carried out on 22 February, is worthy of special mention. Nearly 9,000 aircraft, from bases in England, France, Holland, Belgium, and Italy, took part in this gigantic onslaught, which involved targets covering an area of a quarter of a million square miles, extending from Emden to Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, and Mulhouse. The aim was to attack incidental communications facilities, such as railroad signal points and grade crossings, canal locks, and junctions, in order to aggravate the growing difficulties experienced in keeping open the German life lines. It had been found by experience that such local attacks, complementary to large ones, had far-reaching effects in slowing down enemy movement, and it was hoped that CLARION would spread the paralysis throughout Germany. It was a bold scheme, demanding great skill and daring on the part of all involved. Confounded by the widespread nature of the blow, the enemy's attempts at defense were completely ineffective.
The whole of the Allied campaign west of the Rhine had gone according to plan to an extraordinary degree, and my fullest hopes were realized. Two features of the operations upon which I had not originally calculated were the rapid capture of the Cologne area and the seizure of the Remagen bridge. Both these events turned wholly to our profit, for, thanks to the flexibility of our plans, we were able to take full advantage of the opportunity which the prizes offered without sacrifice of our planned objectives. In each of the three phases of the campaign, two converging armies had thrust to the Rhine and cut off and destroyed the German forces which had been disposed to bar their way. We had attained along the whole length of the Rhine in German territory the economically defensible front upon which I had insisted as an essential prerequisite to the launching of the concentrated thrusts over the river which were to strike at the heart of Germany, and in the process we had eliminated her own future defensive abilities. The armies which she now so sorely needed to man the last great natural barrier left to her had been broken to pieces in fruitless attempts to halt our slashing blows among the floods of the lower Rhineland, in the Eifel, and amid the hills and forests of the Saar Palatinate.
Field Marshal Montgomery's attack, in the extreme norm, got off on 8 February, exactly as planned. The Ninth Army was to join this attack on 10 February, and was ready to do so. Field Marshal Montgomery and I had already agreed that while the ideal situation would be for the Second Army and the U.S. Ninth Army to attack almost simultaneously, yet, realizing that flood conditions on the Roer River might hold up the Ninth Army indefinitely, we were fully prepared to accept a 2 weeks' delay in the Ninth Army attack in the confidence the shifting of German reserves to the north would facilitate victory in that sector. Events fully justified this estimate. The Ninth Army's attack across the Roer River on the 23d rapidly converged with the Canadian Army and we held the Rhine in the Wesel region.
In the 12th Army Group, General Bradley's plan for supporting the Ninth Army and then for the destruction of the German forces north of the Moselle by swift converging blows materialized in almost exact accordance with his diagrammatic plans. Moreover, his constant concern was to see that at the culmination of each offensive his forces were so situated as to undertake the next succeeding step without delay for regrouping, and from such direction as to surprise and confuse the enemy. He went into the attack with instructions for each unit to look for and to seize any opportunity to cross the Rhine.
Finally, the 6th Army Group, which had been confined heretofore largely to a holding, protecting, and supporting role, was suddenly unleashed with the Seventh Army brought up to a strength of 15 United States divisions. We knew that the enemy was at that time discounting the strength of the Seventh Army and that he felt relatively safe lying in the Siegfried Line facing General Patch's forces. No defeat the Germans suffered in the war, except possibly Tunisia, was more devastating in the completeness of the destruction inflicted upon his forces than that which he suffered in the Saar Basin. Yet this attack was conducted by portions of two Army Groups and, though a boundary between such large forces is ordinarily considered one of the weakest tactical spots in a major front, no real difficulty was encountered in coordination and unification of the battle. Although I personally kept in touch with details and was in position to make tactical decisions when such proved necessary, the real reason for this lack of confusion and for the incisiveness of the whole operation is to be found in the identity of tactical training, organization, and mutual confidence among all the divisions and commanders participating in the battle. The whole operation was characterized by boldness, speed, and determination, and the victory was so complete that when General Patton thrust a division across the Rhine on the night of 22-23 March, he was able to do so with almost no reaction from the enemy.
I unhesitatingly class General Bradley's tactical operations during February and March, which witnessed the completion of the destruction of the German forces west of the Rhine, as the equal in brilliance of any that American forces have ever conducted. The cooperation during the latter part of this period between General Bradley's 12th Army Group and General Devers' 6th Army Group was a superb example of Grand Tactical cooperation on the battlefield.
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