Well – in about two hours I get on a train and head back. Frankly, I’m pooped. But it has been worth it. We really covered Paris, dear, and if we ever get a chance to come here some day – this is another place I’ll be able to show you.
You certainly get out of touch with the war here – but in a couple of days – we’ll be back in full swing. I hope you excuse the consecutive V-mails, sweetheart, but I’ve been on the go for 3 days steady. But I’ll get on my horse when I get back, dear – and tell you all about everything. I can tell you now that I love you more than ever and would love to have had you here these past 3 days.
|"From Holland into Germany"|
Returning from Paris Leave - 09 April 1945
|Map from Normandy to Victory: The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges,|
copyright 2008 by the Association of the United States Army, p360.
Nine Allied armies, knifing into central Germany, trapped one Nazi army group and were on the verge of cutting off a second. In this week, on the edge of history, the outnumbered, outmaneuvered, broken Wehrmacht faced the chilling prospect of losing two-thirds of its strength in the west.Another article in the same issue of TIME,"World Battlefronts, THE WAR: The Armor and the Ax", hinted that the end of the war was near:
Completely encircled in the industrial Ruhr—Germany's last important source of coal, power and war machines—were some 100,000 troops of Field Marshal Walter Model's Army Group B. Rapidly pulling out of The Netherlands in a race against the British was Field Marshal Johannes Blaskowitz' Army Group H. The British were well on the road to Bremen, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven. If they won the race, then Blaskowitz's fight was virtually over.
Field Marshal Johannes Blaskowitz
But the Allies were not merely waiting for that trap to spring. American and British tank columns cut eastward along Adolf Hitler's wide superhighways with overwhelming power. The farthest advanced Americans were only 198 miles from the nearest Russians. What was left to the Germans for the defense of Berlin, of Leipzig and Munich was a beaten, confused, retreating mass that could turn to fight only in knots of resistance. The last hope of the Nazi command seemed to be only this: abandon the north-south defense of Germany as speedily as possible and pivot to hold the southern bastion of the Bavarian Alps for a final, suicidal defense.
And even that hope was in danger. If the western Allies and the Russians, beating up from the Austrian frontier, could meet quickly, the bastion would be useless. Allied tank columns tore southeast toward Nürnberg at week's end.
Arms Around the Ruhr. The Ruhr encirclement—major prize in a week of blue ribbon advances—was a product of two armies. Lieutenant General William H. Simpson's U.S. Ninth (under the tactical direction of Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery) threw one arm around the top. Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges' First Army (under General Omar N. Bradley's Twelfth Army Group) turned north, tore through the last German defenses to wrap the other arm. The Ninth and the First shook hands at a street corner in the little town of Lippstadt on Easter Sunday. A First Army commander found Colonel Sidney R. Hinds giving orders to his combat team of the Ninth. Said a nearby corporal: "That makes it formal."
On to Bremen. In the north the growing British threat to seal off The Netherlands was suddenly revealed. After five days of news blackout, cautious Field Marshal Montgomery lifted the curtain a little. His British Second Army was making spectacular strides into the Westphalian plain along the hedge-lined roads. His drive swung up into the cathedral town of Münster, and was reported this week hightailing northward less than 75 miles from Bremen.
In the U.S. Third Army sector, Lieutenant General George S. Patton's armor had driven into the outskirts of Kassel. South of Patton, Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch's U.S. Seventh Army—a late starter across the Rhine—was one of the farthest east. South of Patch this week the French First Army jumped across the Rhine to join the fight in the Karlsruhe area. Somewhere between Patton and Hodges to the north, the U.S. Fifteenth Army came into battle.
In western Europe U.S. spearheads sealed off the great Ruhr industrial area, British and Canadian troops curved a trap around The Netherlands. The entire German military situation was collapsing. General Eisenhower called upon the beaten enemy to yield.
In the western Pacific U.S. forces stormed into the key Ryukyu Islands,less than 400 miles from Japan's heartland, against opposition which was, at least in the beginning, fantastically light. Ice-calm Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz relaxed his studied reserve enough to admit: "Our final decisive victory is assured."
In the sixth year of war the Allied peoples had learned patience and caution, learned that victory could be long in coming. But last week even the most cautious could agree that victory had been brought a long step nearer. It was a week in which the Axis armor cracked wide open,and the Allied ax bit deep into muscle and bone.