Western Allied invasion of Germany

A British tank in Hamburg on 4 May

A British tank in Hamburg on 4 May

The Germany 1945 campaign refers to all military operations from the end of World War II led the Allies (Anglo-American mainly) Western.  After crossing the Rhine, the Allies rush throughout the western half of Germany, the Baltic Sea in the north to Austria in the south.

Because of the frontage, the U.S. military historiography called this campaign the “Central Europe Campaign”.

The operations will end on 8 May 1945, the date marking the Nazi capitulation and end of the Second World War in Europe, together with the adoption of Berlin by the Soviets on the Eastern Front.  Germany will be divided between the four major Allied powers: France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the USSR.

Background

In early spring 1945, during the war is definitely favorable to the Allied forces in Europe.  On the Western Front, in late January, the Allies contained the cons-offensive in the Ardennes.  The failure of the last major Nazi offensive in the west end of exhausted German forces, leaving them ill-equipped to withstand the onslaught of end Allies in Europe.  Additional losses in Rhineland eventually weaken the Wehrmacht, which may not align as scattered elements to defend the eastern bank of the Rhine.

Forces

Allied Forces

In the first weeks of 1945, the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, has 73 divisions under his command in North West Europe: forty-nine infantry divisions, twenty armored divisions and four airborne divisions.  49 of these divisions are American, 12 British, 8 French, three Canadian and one Polish.  Seven other American divisions landed in Europe sometime in February, along with a strengthening of divisions and other allied powers, when the assault on Germany begins Eisenhower can count on a total of 90 complete divisions with a number of armored divisions up to 25 now.

The Allied front along the Rhine stretches about 720 miles from the mouth of the Rhine in the Netherlands to the Swiss border in the south.

Allied troops along the front are organized into three army groups.  In the north, the North Sea up to fifteen kilometers north of Cologne, the British 21st Army Group that holds the front, under the command of Field Marshal Montgomery .  Within the Army Group, the 1st Canadian army – under the command of General Crerar – ensures the left side of Montgomery, the British 2nd Army in Dempsey is the center and the 9th U.S. army led by General Simpson is the south.

Touching the 9th Army, the 12th U.S. Army Group , under the authority of General Bradley , is the front to a point about 25 kilometers south of Main. Bradley has two armies of the United States, 1st orders of Hodges on the left (north) and the 3rd Army of Patton on the right (south).  Completing the Allied front in the south and to the Swiss border is the U.S. 6th Army Group under the command of General Jacob L.  Devers, made ​​north of the Seventh United States Army – commanded by General Patch – and the first French army of General Tassigny on the south side.

German forces

On their front line, the Allies faced the troops of the West Oberbefehlshaber of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, who was succeeded on March 10, the General Gerd von Rundstedt.  Kesselring arrives on the Western Front crowned the stubborn resistance he opposed the Allies in Italy, but it does not have to western Germany resources in an organized and coherent defense.

During the fighting she delivered to the west of the Rhine in the first two months of 1945, the German army was reduced view on the Western Front, a force of only twenty-six divisions divided into three army groups (H, B and G). Hardly reinforcement is to be expected due to the fact that the German High Command concentrated all its resources to the east, facing the Soviets – researchers estimate that in April 1945, there were 214 German divisions on the eastern front East.

On March 21, the headquarters of Army Group H (in German : Heeresgruppe H) takes the name of the headquarters of the North-West, the General Ernst Busch took command, leaving the former chief of group Armed H – Johannes Blaskowitz – head isolated in the Netherlands German troops (the 25th Army ).  At Busch and his 1st Army Paratrooper comes the task of forming the right wing of the German defense.  At the center of the forehead, protecting the Ruhr area , Kesselring can rely on Walther Model who heads the Army Group B (that make up the 15th Army and the 5th Panzer Army ) and the south, the group of G armies of Paul Hausser (composed of the 7th , 1st and 19 armed).

Conduct of the campaign

February 1945

The invasion of Germany is prepared by operations Veritable, Lumberjack, Granada and Undertone that secure the west bank of the Rhine and clean the fortifications of the Siegfried Line (Westwall), dotted with bunkers and trenches as well as other obstacles.

At the same time, on the Eastern Front, the Red Army takes almost all of Poland, Hungary and enters in eastern Czechoslovakia, and temporarily stops the progression of the Oder-Neisse line (which marks modern East German border).  The rapid advance of the Soviets on the Eastern Front was destroyed many seasoned German units, greatly limiting the capacity of General Headquarters and German ‘s Adolf Hitler to strengthen the Rhine defenses, making the prospect of a quick victory scope of the Anglo-Americans.

March-April 1945

In mid-March 1945, the Allies reached the Rhine on almost every front, after having captured the last intact bridge over the Rhine near Remagen, have even been able to establish a small bridgehead on the eastern bank the river.  German losses during the months of February and March 1945 are estimated at about 400,000 men, including 280,000 prisoners of war.

Deployed as part of Operation Varsity and the Operation Plunder, the Allied forces managed to secure the eastern bank of the Rhine and encircle Germans in the Ruhr pocket, where approximately 300,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht will be made prisoners. This pincer movement while covering the industrial Ruhr area, destroying at the same time the heart of the military-industrial complex German.  The most important operation of the Special Air Service (SAS), Archway, is performed to support the Allied advance.

From 1 to 4 April 1945, the Americans attacked Cassel in the state of Hesse, 5400 by prisoners of war of the Wehrmacht.  Parallel to the capture of the city, the 1st French army, supported by the 3rd and 7th American Army launched an offensive in southern Germany. Nuremberg, symbolic city of the Third Reich defended by 7,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht will fall on April 20.

Therefore, and due to the Soviet offensive on Berlin, the Allies stop their advance into Germany under the Yalta Conference.

Consequences

The Allied invasion, together with taking Berlin by the Soviets, leads inevitably to the collapse of the Third Reich and the end of the Second World War in Europe, including acts of surrender will be signed on 8 May 1945.  The Flensburg government, established by Admiral Karl Doenitz after suicide ‘of Adolf Hitler fall May 23, 1945 and Germany will be administered by the Allied Control Council, ensuring the skill set of a German government.  This will be the beginning of the process of denazification.

Germany will be divided into four zones of occupation: the French area, the British zone, the American zone and the Soviet zone in July 1945.  These form the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949. Berlin will also be divided in two areas, respectively, in Western and Soviet control: West Berlin and East Berlin.

Sources and references

(In) This article is partially or entirely from the article in English entitled “Western Allied invasion of Germany”.

(En) Steve Zaloga and Peter Dennis, Remagen 1945: endgame against the Third Reich, Osprey Publishing, 2006 (ISBN 1-84603-249-0)   .

(In) Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945, Vintage, 2005 (ISBN 0-375-71422-7).

(En) John Keegan, The Times Atlas of the Second World War, Times Books, 2005 (ISBN 0-7230-0317-3).

(En) Edward M. Bedessem, Central Europe, 22 March – 11 May 1945 Washington, U.S. Army Center of Military History, coll “CMH Online bookshelves: The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II”, 1996 (ISBN 0-16 -048,136-8).

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