United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations

The Last Offensive

by Charles B. MacDonald

Table of Contents


The Author


Chapter 1: Prelude to Victory

Allied Strategy—Allied Versus German Strength—Weapons and Equipment—Organization and Command—Terrain and the Front Line

Chapter 2: Victory in the Ardennes

The First Army’s Attack—A Grim Struggle Around Bastogne—The Drive on St. Vith—Northward Across the Sure

Chapter 3: Main Effort in the Eifel

General Bradley’s Proposal—The Eifel Highlands—The Enemy in the Eifel—A Try for Quick Success—A Shift to the North—An End to the Offensive

Chapter 4: The Roer River Dams

Toward Schmidt—Toward the Dam

Chapter 5: The Drive on Prüm

Into the West Wall—German Countermeasures—The Final Phase

Chapter 6: Bitburg and the Vianden Bulge

Crossing the Sauer—The Vianden Bulge—Expanding the XII Corps Bridgehead—To Bitburg and the Kyll

Chapter 7: The Saar-Moselle Triangle

Probing the Orscholz Switch—Expanding the Penetration—Broadening the Effort—Crossing the Saar

Chapter 8: Operation GRENADE

The Terrain and the Enemy—Catch-as-Catch-Can—Objectives and Maneuvers—Challenging the Swollen River—The First Day on the East Bank—The VII Corps at Düren—The First Day’s Results

Chapter 9: Ninth Army to the Rhine

The Third and Fourth Days—Rundstedt’s Appeal—Pursuit—Efforts To Seize a Bridge—The Wesel Pocket—The Beginning of the End

Chapter 10: Operation LUMBERJACK

Toward Bonn and Remagen—Patton in the Eifel

Chapter 11: A Rhine Bridge at Remagen

The Germans at Remagen—The Hope for a Bridge—Advance to the Rhine—The Crisis at the Bridge—Reaction to the Coup—On the German Side—Build-up and Command Problems—The End of the Bridge—Expansion of the Bridgehead

Chapter 12: The Saar-Palatinate

American Plans—The Defenders—Through the Hunsrück—Across the Lower Moselle—Plunge to the Nahe and Fall of Koblenz—Seventh Army’s Deliberate Attack—Breakthrough—Thrust to the Rhine

Chapter 13: The Rhine Crossings in the South

The VIII Corps in the Rhine Gorge—To the Main River and Frankfurt—The Hammelburg Mission—The Seventh Army Crossing at Worms—The XX Corps in the Rhine-Main Arc

Chapter 14: The Rhine Crossings in the North

The Big Build-up—Interdiction From the Air—The View From the East Bank—“Two if by sea”—Operation FLASHPOINT—The Drive to the Railroads—Operation VARSITY—At the End of D-Day—The Try for a Breakout—How To Bring the Ninth Army’s Power to Bear

Chapter 15: At the End of March

An Awesome Power—The Logistical Backbone—Decisions at the Top—The Plight of the Germans—A Decision on Berlin

Chapter 16: The Breakout Offensive

Collapse of the LXXXIX Corps—A Turn to the North—The Thrust From Winterberg—Breakthrough North of the Ruhr—Making Motions at Breakout—The Ruhr Pocket—“The predominant color was white.”

Chapter 17: Sweep to the Elbe

A New Allied Main Effort—The Role of the Third Army—A Bridgehead to Nowhere—A Flak-Infested Route to the Mulde—A Short New War

Chapter 18: The Myth of the Redoubt

The First Phase Beyond the Rhine—The Struggle for Heilbronn and Crailsheim—To the Hohe Rhoen and Schweinfurt—A Shift to South and Southeast—Nuremberg and the Drive to the Danube—The Drive on Stuttgart—A French Incursion to Ulm—The “Stuttgart Incident”—From the Danube Into Austria

Chapter 19: Götterdämmerung

The Meeting at Torgau—The End in Berlin—The Drive to the Baltic—Piecemeal Surrenders—Surrender at Reims

Chapter 20: Epilogue

Appendix A: Table of Equivalent Ranks

Appendix B: Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross

Bibliographical Note


Code Names



I: The Western Front, 3 January 1945

II: The Ardennes Counteroffensive, 3–28 January 1945

III: The Drive on Prüm

IV: Clearing of the Vianden Bulge and the Capture of Bitburg, 6–28 February 1945

V: The Saar-Moselle Triangle, 13 January–1 March 1945

VI: Operation GRENADE, 22 February–11 March 1945

VII: Eliminating the Wesel Pocket, 3–11 March 1945

VIII: Operation LUMBERJACK, 1–7 March 1945

IX: The Saar-Palatinate Triangle, 12–21 March 1945

X: The Rhine River Crossings in the South, 22–28 March 1945

XI: Rhine Crossings in the North, 24–28 March 1945

XII: Breakout From Remagen, 24–28 March 1945

XIII: Encircling the Ruhr, 28 March–1 April 1945

XIV: Drive to the Elbe, 4–24 April 1945

XV: Sixth Army Group Offensive, 27 March–24 April 1945

XVI: Into Austria and Czechoslovakia, 28 April–8 May 1945

XVII: V-E Day, 8 May 1945

Inline Maps

1: Main Effort in the Eifel, 27 January–3 February 1945

2: The Capture of Schmidt and the Schwammenauel Dam, 5–9 February 1945

3: The Remagen Bridgehead, 7–24 March 1945

4: Foray to Hammelburg, 25–27 March 1945

5: Reduction of the Ruhr Pocket, 4–14 April 1945

6: The Harz Pocket, 11–17 April 1945

7: The American-Russian Linkup, 25 April 1945

8: Drive to the Baltic, 29 April–2 May 1945

9: Action at Fern Pass, 44th Infantry Division, 1–4 May 1945


General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, and Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.—Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt—M4 Sherman Tank in the Ardennes—M4A3 Sherman Tank With 76-mm. Gun—Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges—Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins—General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel—Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model—Wind-Swept Snow in the Ardennes—Patrols of the First and Third Armies Meet at Houffalize—Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway—Medics Use a “Litter-Jeep” to Evacuate Patients—Men of the 82nd Airborne Division Pull Sleds Through the Ardennes Snow—Traffic Jam on a Slick Ardennes Road—Maj. Gen. C. Ralph Huebner—The Urft Dam—The Schwammenauel Dam—Damage to the Schwammenauel Dam Causes Flooding of the Roer River—Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton—Men of the 4th Division Eating Inside Captured Pillbox—Dropping Supplies by Parachute to the 4th Division—Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy—Crossing Site on the Sauer River Near Echternach—Welcome to Germany From the 6th Armored Division—Crew of a 3-Inch Gun on the Watch for German Tanks—Removing German Dead After Fighting in Nennig—Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker—Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson—General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen—Bursts of White Phosphorus Shells Light Up the Roer River—Crossing Sites at Linnich—Derelict Assault Boats Near Linnich—Smoke Pots Along the Roer Near Düren—Crossing Sites at Jülich—Footbridge Across the Roer Serves Men of the 30th Division—Crossing Sites at Düren—Maj. Gen. Raymond S. McLain—Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson—Pershing Tank T26 With 90-mm. Gun—Maj. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Jr—Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz—The Demolished Hohenzollern Bridge at Cologne—Maj. Gen. John Millikin—2nd Lt. Karl H. Timmerman, First Officer To Cross the Remagen Bridge—Sgt. Alexander Drabik, First American Across the Rhine—Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring—Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen—Maj. Gen. James A. Van Fleet—The Rhine at the Remagen Bridge Site—Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers—Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, Jr.—Engineers of the 87th Division Ferry a Tank Across the Moselle—Troops of the 63rd Division Cross Dragon’s Teeth of the West Wall—Reinforcements of the 5th Division Cross the Rhine in an LCVP—Crossing the Rhine Under Enemy Fire at St. Goar—Raising the American Flag Atop the Lorelei—Maj. Gen. Wade H. Haislip—Infantry of the 3rd Division Climb the East Bank of the Rhine—Duplex-Drive Tank With Skirt Folded—Duplex-Drive Tank Enters the Water—Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery—American Paratrooper Caught in a Tree—Glider Troops After Landing Near Wesel—Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow—The Rhine Railroad Bridge at Wesel—Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge at Mainz—Ponton Bridge Across the Rhine—Liberated Prisoners of War—Destruction in the Heart of Wurzburg—Infantrymen of the 79th Division Cross the Rhein–Herne Canal—Russian Prisoners Liberated by the Ninth Army—German Soldiers Make Their Way Unguarded to a Prisoner-of-War Camp—Prisoners of War in the Ruhr Pocket—White Flags Hang Above a Deserted Street—German Prisoners Head for the Rear as American Armor Advances—German Civilians Carry Victims of Concentration Camp for Reburial—Infantrymen Ride an Armored Car in the Race to the Elbe—Crossing of the Weser River—A 12.8-cm. “Flak” Gun—“Sixty-One Minute Roadblock”—Maj. Gen. Frank W. Milburn—Lt. Gen. Edward H. Brooks—A Tank of the 14th Armored Division Enters Prison Camp at Hammelburg—A Patrol of the 3rd Division Makes Its Way Through the Rubble of Nuremberg—General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny—Tanks of the 20th Armored Division Ford the Inn River—Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division Approach Berchtesgaden—2nd Lt. William D. Robertson Shows General Eisenhower His Makeshift Flag—General Hodges Meets the Russians at the Elbe—Men of the 103rd Division Find Resistance in the Austrian Alps—Austrian Civilians Greet American Troops in Innsbruck—Czechoslovakian Villagers Welcome Tank Crew

Illustrations are from Department of Defense files.





Maurice Matloff, General Editor

Advisory Committee (As of 1 February 1972)

Walter C. Langsam, University of Cincinnati

Maj. Gen. Edward Bautz, Jr., United States Continental Army Command

Edward M. Coffman, University of Wisconsin

Brig. Gen. James M. Gibson, United States Army Command and General Staff College

Louis Morton, Dartmouth College

Brig. Gen. Wallace C. Magathan, Jr., United States Army War College

Peter Paret, Stanford University

Col. Thomas E. Griess, United States Military Academy

Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall Research Foundation

Frank E. Vandiver, Rice University

Office of the Chief of Military History, Brig. Gen. James L. Collins, Jr., Chief of Military History

Chief Historian, Maurice Matloff

Chief, Historical Services Div., Col. Robert H. Fechtman

Chief, Histories Division, Col. John E. Jessup, Jr.

Editor in Chief, Joseph R. Friedman