For awhile I thought I wouldn’t be able to write you today but I’m finally settled and here I am. I won’t be able to write much because there’s lots to do yet but a short letter is better than none at all I figure.
Apartment houses don’t exist anymore, dear, and yet I’m able to write you from a room that has 4 walls. Sweetheart – you’d have to see it to believe it – but a 4-walled structure in these parts is a rarity. Of course when I say 4 walls – I don’t imply necessarily that they are 4 whole walls by any manner or means. I guess I’ve told you a good deal about destruction and ruined towns since I hit the continent – and you must be getting tired of it, but darling, I’m giving you a picture of the war as I’m seeing it and I’ve got to tell you what I see. I just haven’t seen anything like what we’re seeing now. I thought Aachen was laid waste. There just won’t be any cities or towns where we’re passing thru now. It would take years to lug away the debris. We were in a city today of about 50,000 – about Salem’s size. There was not one house, store, building, factory or anything standing. I don’t know how the destruction could have been so complete. Actually – dear – it’s terrifying. Of course there’s not a soul around – and that adds to the picture of death. If the rest of Germany is like this – and a good many bigger spots already are – we won’t have to worry about the next war for some time. Germany will be a primitive nation for years and years. She has nothing left and the pity of it all is that their hopeless war goes on – causing more men to die and be maimed.
Well – well, darling, didn’t mean to get on that track – but what we’re seeing these days leaves a very deep impression on one. We got no mail yesterday, nor none today. Today is supposed to be pay day – but I don’t see how that’s going to be accomplished. That reminds me – thanks for your letter telling me of Eleanor’s gift and how much I owe you. It’s my fault for not telling you how much to spend. I’d like you to have spent more – but you say the slip was nice and that’s good enough for me. Thanks for the trouble, darling. And your gift to Stan and Betty sounds very nice and your reasoning correct.
In one of your letters, dear, you mention all the pretty songs out. I think I mentioned recently the fact that we don’t hear them until they’re fairly old. Every time you mention one I keep watching for it. Anyway – the only songs I’m interested in are the ones that say “I love you – over and over again” – because that’s the way I feel about you, darling, and as far as I’m concerned – those are the prettiest words ever. I do love you, sweetheart, in every sense of the word – and I always shall.
For now, dear, I’ll have to sign off. My love to the folks – and
The Rhineland campaign included both the First Canadian Army's Operation VERITABLE (under General Crerar) and the U.S. Ninth Army's launching of Operation GRENADE (under General Simpson). Operation VERITABLE was planned as a drive southeastward up the left bank of the Rhine from a position gained by the big airborne attack the preceding fall (during Operation MARKET BASKET) in the vicinity of Nijmegen. Operation GRENADE was planned as an assault crossing of the Roer followed by a northeastward drive to link with the First Canadian Army along the Rhine...
As these events had been occurring with such swiftness, German commanders who as late as 24 February could hope that the Ninth Army’s crushing drive was not designed to converge with the Canadian thrust southeast from Nijmegen were at last impelled to face reality. Operation GRENADE at that point clearly was the hammer aimed at crushing the southern wing of Army Group H against the anvil of Operation VERITABLE. Success of the operations meant encirclement or crushing defeat both for Army Group H’s southern wing, the First Parachute Army, and that part of the Fifteenth Army that was being forced back to the north.
Admission of that hard fact came at every level of command, from Fifteenth Army to OB WEST. Although Field Marshal Model at Army Group B acknowledged the truth of a grim estimate of the situation made by the Fifteenth Army, he could do little to help. He did promise commitment of the Panzer Lehr Division, which OB WEST accorded him, but the Panzer Lehr still was severely bruised from its fight against Operation VERITABLE and in any event could make no appearance in strength for several days.
The Commander in Chief West, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, appealed on 25 February to Hitler for new directives designed to prevent disintegration of the entire Western Front. The situation was bad everywhere, he reported, not only in the north but in the south where attacks by the U.S. Third Army on either side of the Moselle River (Bitburg and Trier) worried Rundstedt most of all. When Hitler made no immediate response, Rundstedt on the 26th begged permission to make at least a minor withdrawal in the north, to pull back the extreme left wing of the First Parachute Army out of a salient at the juncture of the Roer and Maas Rivers near Roermond. The withdrawal was designed to ensure contact between the parachute army and the Fifteenth Army’s XII SS Corps as the latter fell back before the American drive. Yet even such a minor withdrawal Hitler refused to sanction.
Hitler’s response on 27 February sought to allay Rundstedt’s fears about an attack along the Moselle but offered no palliatives for any of the crises in the west. By redeploying units already present, Hitler directed, the endangered southern wing of Army Group H was to hold where it was. Withdrawal behind the Rhine still was unthinkable.
Even as Hitler’s message arrived, the crisis along the boundary between Army Groups B and H was growing more serious. Again Rundstedt appealed for permission to make at least the short withdrawal from the Roermond salient. This time he had the support of the Deputy Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, who personally briefed Hitler on the crucial situation. Hitler at last agreed - “with a heavy heart...
On the 28 February 1945 and the first day of March, events proved conclusively that the battlefield belonged to armor. All along the front American units recorded advances of from seven to ten miles, and there was little the Germans could do about it.