25 April, 2012

25 April 1945

No letter today. Just this:


about East Meets West
"Elbe Day"

American-Russian Linkup Map - 25 April 1945
Showing the routes of the three patrols

From This Day in History:
On 25 April 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircled Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. The country was split in two. Germany was, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.

Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces inside Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) as well as outside Russia. It was Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital.
Joe Lipsius, S-2, Headquarters 272nd Infantry Regiment, reported this on 24 January 2008 in an article called "The Russian-American Linkup, April 25, 1945, in Retrospect" on the 69th Infantry Division's web site:
When it boils down to the facts of the linkup, actually three different encounters happened and only 91 men were involved. The 91 men were on what were termed "patrols." And some of these men may not have seen any Russians because of their duty assignment.

The three patrols became known as the Kotzebue Patrol, the Robertson Patrol and the Craig Patrol, named after their leaders and termed Number 1, 2 and 3 in the order of their meeting the Soviets on that fateful day of 25 April 1945. The leader of Patrol Number 1 was 1st Lieutenant Albert L. Kotzebue, Company G 273rd Infantry Regiment. Leading Patrol Number 2 was 2nd Lieutenant William D. Robertson, Headquarters 1st Battalion 273rd Infantry Regiment. The leader of Patrol Number 3 was Major Fred W. Craig, Headquarters 2nd Battalion 273rd Infantry Regiment.

The first contact was made between patrols near Strehla, when First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue crossed the River Elbe in a boat with three men of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. On the east bank, they met forward elements of a Soviet Guards-rifle-regiment of the First Ukrainian Front under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev. The Russian was extremely reticent. He was quiet, reserved, aloof, not enthusiastic. The first meeting of the two Armies certainly was not one of wild joy, but rather of cautious fencing. Or, perhaps, the Russian was just plain stupefied and couldn't realize what had happened.

The same day, another patrol under Robertson, with Frank Huff, James McDonnell and Paul Staub met Soviet Lieutenant Alexander Silvashko with some soldiers on the destroyed Elbe bridge of Torgau.

Lastly, in the photo below, Craig reaches out to a Soviet soldier on his horse. His patrol, the third, had been searching for the Kotzebue patrol when it encountered the Russians at Clanzschwitz at 1645 on 25 April 1945.

Craig (second from left) reaches out

The 69th Infantry Division of the United States First Army and the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the Russian 5th Guards Army met at Torgau, southwest of Berlin. Arrangements were made for the formal "Handshake of Torgau" between Robertson and Silvashko in front of a mass of photographers the following day. They shook hands, posed for thousands of pictures in the center of a shouting, pushing mob of official professional and amateur cameramen. The all then feasted in a German barracks on captured German eggs, black bread with cheese and tumblers of champagne and cognac bottled for the Wehrmacht.
Robertson and Silvashko pose

The following picture was also staged...

"East Meets West" staged handshakes
26 April 1945

Statements were released simultaneously in London, Moscow, and Washington that evening, reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich. The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square.

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