The start of Spring and I hope the weather is as pleasant at home for you as it has been here recently for us. It was exactly a year ago that this outfit hit Sherborne for a swell 10 week stay. That all seems like such a long time ago. Everything seems like a long time, darling, everything that preceded landing on the continent. The fact is – it is a long time. There have been troops in combat longer than we have been – and it’s a wonder to me how they or we take it. When I refer to combat, it doesn’t necessarily mean hand-to-hand fighting every day in the week – even for the infantry. But just being in a combat area is enough. It’s the goddamned monotony that’s the hardest thing to take – and it just defies the imagination to realize that it’s going on to a year now – of exactly the same routine of living, sleeping, eating; the same clothes, the same faces. I’d like to see a little display of color – I’d like to talk to somebody other than the same group of officers.
I’m really not down in the mouth, sweetheart, because I know that’s the way it has to be and I can’t change it so long as the war continues. I was merely reflecting. For me – it has not been too hard a war and I can’t complain. I started reading “A Tree Grows etc” yesterday. We have lots of choice in books – thru Special Service and the Med. Detachment gets its own share. But I haven’t done much reading because I’m usually too restless. Yesterday I just felt I had to do something besides talking Army, Army, Army. The book – by the way – has kept me interested, and leaving the subject of style etc. – out of it , I’m finding it enjoyable reading.
I think I’m a bit cranky anyway, as are most of us these past few days, because or our inability to get any sleep at nite. This takes or breaks all records as to that. I’ve tried getting to bed early and late; it makes no difference – the noise awakes you. I guess the only way out is a couple of hours of sleep in the p.m. – but that’s a bad habit to get into.
Well – with all the bitching over with – I can tell you, dear, that I got another letter from you – 7 March and a cute letter from Sylvia B with an à propos cartoon from Esquire. I’ll have to answer her one of these days.
Yes – dear – I’ve been told I snore – so you better be looking up remedies right now. But since I’ve never heard myself – I don’t know how bad it is. Anyway, if you talk in your sleep, dear – we’re all even anyway.
Say – you wrote that you were going to a movie and anticipated a headache. You have lots of headaches, seems to me, and there’s something wrong if you can’t see a movie without definitely getting a headache. You have glasses, haven’t you, dear? Do you wear them? If you do and still get headaches – you’d better have those glasses corrected. If you don’t wear them when you should, I’ll get the cat-o-nine tails out on you. Seriously though – don’t neglect your eyes!
The war here has been going along excellently – and it seems to me that we must be writing ‘finis’ to this thing soon. I can’t see anything else. And that’s when the real ‘sweating out’ period will come. I don’t care what they do – so long as I get a chance to come back and see you, darling – even for a few weeks. There’s so much we have to say to each other – that can be said in person only. Well – I think it will work out the best way, too.
All for now, sweetheart – gotta run along. Be well – sending best love to the folks, and so long for another little while, dear.
|The Seig River is a Right Tributary of the Rhine|
entering just to the north of Bonn
Beginning early on 15 March, the 1st Division of General Collins's VII Corps had crossed the Rhine over the III Corps bridges and on ferries, and at noon the next day, Collins assumed responsibility for the northern portion of the bridgehead. In the process, Collins's corps absorbed the 78th Division.
Eisenhower had directed that the bridgehead was to be used to draw enemy units from the Ruhr area opposite the 21 Army Group and from the 6th Army Group's Rhine crossing sites in the south. Although an exploitation eventually might be made in the direction of Frankfurt, a minimum of ten First Army divisions had to be reserved for the time being as a possible "follow-up force" for the 21 Army Group, still designated to make the Allied main effort.
From this restriction, it was obvious that Eisenhower had no wish to see the bridgehead expanded appreciably. General Bradley in turn told the First Army to advance no farther than a line approximately twenty-five miles wide at the base along the Rhine and ten miles deep, in effect, a slight expansion of the third phase line that the III Corps commander, General Millikin, earlier had imposed.
The First Army's General Hodges disagreed, though to no avail. Like almost everybody at First Army headquarters, Hodges was piqued about the elaborate preparations Field Marshal Montgomery was making for his 21 Army Group's crossing of the Rhine and the emphasis General Eisenhower continued to place on that crossing when, in Hodges' view, a breakout from the Remagen bridgehead could have been staged at will. With evident amusement he listened to the story--probably apocryphal--of how the 21 Army Group on 7 March had asked Supreme Headquarters to stage a diversion before Montgomery jumped the Rhine and how, five minutes later, SHAEF passed the word that the First Army had already staged a diversion; the First Army had crossed the Rhine.
While advances in the Remagen bridgehead continued to average only about a thousand yards a day, Hodges was convinced this was less a reflection of German strength than of timidity in American attacks. By 17 March the German order of battle opposite the bridgehead sounded impressive on paper--in addition to those units early committed, the Germans had brought in contingents of the 26th, 62d, 272d, 277th, and 326th Volks Grenadier Divisions; the 3d and 5th Parachute Divisions; and the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division - but in no case were these real divisions. All were battalion-size Kampfgruppen or else had been fleshed out to something more than regimental strength with inexperienced replacements culled from up and down the Rhine. In most cases the Americans characterized the resistance as "moderate to light."
By 16 March, when troops of the 78th Division made the first cut of the Ruhr-Frankfurt autobahn northeast of Honnef, expansion of the bridgehead had proceeded to the point where artillery no longer was able to support the attacks properly from the west bank of the Rhine. As artillery units began to cross the river, engineers supporting the VII Corps began construction of three more tactical bridges to care for the increased logistical burden. Keyed to the northward advance of the infantry east of the Rhine, the first of the bridges was completed late on 17 March, another on 19 March, and a third, located at the southern fringe of Bonn, on 21 March. Screened by smoke from chemical generators, the engineers incurred only one casualty during the course of construction.
Of all the American attacks, those to the north and northeast by the 1st and 78th Divisions continued to bother the German army group commander most. More than ever convinced that the Americans intended to make their main effort northward toward the Ruhr, Field Marshal Model recognized that a strong counterattack had to be staged soon or the Americans would breach the natural defensive line in the north, the Sieg River, which enters the Rhine just downstream from Bonn, and then be ready for exploitation.
On 19 March Model began to strip all armored units from the eastern and southern portions of the line to assemble them in the north for counterattack. Unfortunately for Model's plan, the Americans afforded no pause in their attacks. Operating with only normal tank and tank destroyer attachments, the 78th Division on 21 March 1945 gained the Sieg River, the northern limit of the bridgehead as authorized by General Bradley.