Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Drive to the Siegfried Line
This phase spans from the end of the Breakout and Pursuit, when the Allied forces in Western Europe were able to form up into a single command, up to the Ardennes Offensive. This roughly corresponds to the first part of the official U.S.European_Theater_of_Operations Rhineland Campaign.
While Generals Montgomery, Bradley and Patton all favoured relatively direct thrusts into Germany (with Montgomery and Bradley each offering to be the spearhead of such an assault), Eisenhower considered it to be to risky. The rapid advance through France had caused a considerable logistical strain, made worse by the lack of any major port asides from the relatively distant Cherbourg in western France. Instead he favoured a broad-front strategy which would allow the Allies to regroup and shift their forces as needed, and to protect vital supply operations in the rear. The layout of this front was to have the 21st situated to the north of the Ardennes, the 12th to the south, and the 6th protecting the 12th's southern flank.
There were two major defensive obstacles to the Allies. The first was the natural barriers made by the rivers of Western France. The second was the Siegfried Line itself, which fell under the command, along with all Wehrmacht forces in the west, of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.
- 21st Army Group - Bernard Montgomery
- 12th Army Group - Omar Bradley
- 6th Army Group - Jacob Devers
- First Allied Airborne Army - Lewis H Brereton
Northern Group of Armies (21st Army Group)
- Main article: Operation Market Garden
The first operation of the Rhineland Campaign, Market Garden was commanded by Montgomery and had the objective to secure a bridgehead in the north, at Arnhem, over the Rhine which would outflank the Siegfried Line.
Market Garden was composed of two distinct parts. Operation Market was to be the largest airborne operation in history, dropping three and a half divisions of a paratroopers to capture key bridges and prevent their demolition by the Germans. Operation Garden was a follow up ground attack by the British 2nd Army which would then more heavily garrison the area and relieve the paratroopers for new duties. It was assumed that the German forces would still be in a rout from the previous Northern France Campaign and opposition would not be very stiff for either operation.
If successful, Montgomery would further be in a good position to aid with clearing German forces from Western Scheldt. Doing so would allow Antwerp, a major port captured earlier, to be used as well as seizing territory from which the German's was used as a launching site for V-1 and V-2 weapons against London.
Eisenhower approved of Market Garden, giving supply priority to the 21st Army Group and diverted the U.S. First Army to the north of the Ardennes in order stage limited attacks to draw German defenders south away from the target sites.
When the operation began, it seemed to going well. The 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne managed to take their objectives at Eindhoven, Veghel and Nijmegen. Problems began to arise when the British 1st Airborne landed off target and were only able to capture the north side of the Arnhem bridge. It was then discovered that there had been a severe miscalculation of German strength in the area, and both operations encountered much stronger opposition then anticipated. To make matters worse, poor weather prevented aerial reinforcements and drastically reduced resupply.
In the end, Market Garden was ultimately unsuccessful, as it was not being able to hold the Arnhem bridge and absorbed tremendous casualty rates, the British 1st taking approximately 77 percent.
Battle of the Scheldt
- Main article: Battle of the Scheldt
The logistics situation reaching criticial stages, opening Antwerp was now among the highest priorities. The task was given to the Canadian First Army which managed to clear the area and allow the use of Antwerp by November 28th.
Central Group of Armies (12th Army Group)
- Main article: Lorraine Campaign
In late August, the Third Army started to find itself running low on fuel. This situation was caused by the rapid Allied advance through France, and compounded by logistical priority being shifted to the northern forces in order to secure Antwerp. By September 1st, with the last of its fuel, the Third managed one final push to capture key bridges over the Meuse River at Verdun and Commercy . For five days after though, the critical supply situation effectively ground the Third Army to a halt, allowing previously routed German forces to regroup and the reinforcement of their strongholds in the area.
The Third soon had to take a second pause in their operations after hazardous crossings of the Moselle River, and a German counterattack.
Following Metz, the Third Army continued eastwards to the Saar River and soon began their assault on the Siegfried Line.
Southern Group of Armies (6th Army Group)
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