Operation Nordwind

Last updated
Operation Nordwind
Part of the Western Front of World War II
German counter in Alsace Lorraine.jpg
Date31 December 1944 – 25 January 1945 (1944-12-31 1945-01-25)
Location
Alsace and Lorraine, France and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Result German operational failure
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Units involved

Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Seventh Army

Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg First Army

Strength
  • Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg 295,000 men
  • Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg 230,000 men [1]
Unknown
Casualties and losses
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States:
9,268-11,609 [2] [3] [lower-alpha 1] killed and wounded
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg  France:
2,000 [4] :922
22,932 [5] [4] :922

Operation Nordwind (German : Unternehmen Nordwind) was the last major German offensive of World War II on the Western Front. It began on 31 December 1944 in Rhineland-Palatinate, Alsace and Lorraine in southwestern Germany and northeastern France, and ended on 25 January 1945.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Contents

Objectives

In a briefing at his military command complex at Adlerhorst, Adolf Hitler declared in his speech to his division commanders on 28 December 1944 (three days prior to the launch of Operation Nordwind): "This attack has a very clear objective, namely the destruction of the enemy forces. There is not a matter of prestige involved here. It is a matter of destroying and exterminating the enemy forces wherever we find them." [3] :499

Adlerhorst World War II bunker complex in the Taunus mountains in the state of Hesse, Germany

Adlerhorst was a World War II bunker complex in Germany, located in the rural area of Langenhain-Ziegenberg, Wiesental Wetterau and Kransberg in the Taunus mountains in the state of Hesse.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

The goal of the offensive was to break through the lines of the U.S. Seventh Army and French 1st Army in the Upper Vosges mountains and the Alsatian Plain, and destroy them, as well as the seizure of Strasbourg, which Himmler had promised would be captured by 30 January. This would leave the way open for Operation Dentist (Unternehmen Zahnarzt), a planned major thrust into the rear of the U.S. Third Army which would lead to the destruction of that army. [3] :494

Seventh United States Army military unit

The Seventh Army was a United States army created during World War II that evolved into the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) during the 1950s and 1960s. It served in North Africa and Italy in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and France and Germany in the European theater between 1942 and 1945.

Vosges Mountain range in France

The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. Together with the Palatine Forest to the north on the German side of the border, they form a single geomorphological unit and low mountain range of around 8,000 km2 (3,100 sq mi) in area. It runs in a north-northeast direction from the Burgundian Gate to the Börrstadt Basin, and forms the western boundary of the Upper Rhine Plain.

Operation Zahnarzt was a plan by the Germans to eliminate the Third Army during World War II. The plan of Operation Zahnarzt was to immediately come after Operation Nordwind. The plan was to initiate a pincer movement to encircle and destroy the 3rd US Army.

Offensive

On 31 December 1944, German Army Group G—commanded by Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz—and Army Group Oberrhein ("Upper Rhein")—commanded by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler—launched a major offensive against the thinly stretched, 110-kilometre-long (68 mi) front line held by the U.S. 7th Army. Operation Nordwind soon had the understrength U.S. 7th Army in dire straits. The 7th Army—at the orders of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower—had sent troops, equipment, and supplies north to reinforce the American armies in the Ardennes involved in the Battle of the Bulge.

The German Army Group G fought on the Western Front of World War II and was a component of OB West.

Johannes Blaskowitz German general

Johannes Albrecht Blaskowitz was a German general during World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

Army Group Oberrhein (Germany) army group

The Upper Rhine High Command, also incorrectly referred to as Army Group Upper Rhine, was a short-lived headquarters unit of the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) created on the Western Front during World War II. The Upper Rhine High Command was formed on 26 November 1944 and deactivated on 25 January 1945. The sole commander of this headquarters unit was Heinrich Himmler.

On the same day that the German Army launched Operation Nordwind, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) committed almost 1,000 aircraft in support. This attempt to cripple the Allied air forces based in northwestern Europe was known as Operation Bodenplatte, which failed without having achieved any of its key objectives.

<i>Luftwaffe</i> Aerial warfare branch of the German military forces during World War II

The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II. Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkräfte of the Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

The initial Nordwind attack was conducted by three corps of the German 1st Army of Army Group G, and by 9 January, the XXXIX Panzer Corps was heavily engaged as well. By 15 January at least 17 German divisions (including units in the Colmar Pocket) from Army Group G and Army Group Oberrhein, including the 6th SS Mountain, 17th SS Panzergrenadier, 21st Panzer, and 25th Panzergrenadier Divisions were engaged in the fighting. Another smaller attack was made against the French positions south of Strasbourg, but it was finally stopped. The U.S. VI Corps—which bore the brunt of the German attacks—was fighting on three sides by 15 January.

The 1st Army was a World War II field army.

Colmar Pocket Battle in Alsace, France (1945)

The Colmar Pocket was the area held in central Alsace, France, by the German Nineteenth Army from November 1944 to February 1945, against the U.S. 6th Army Group during World War II. It was formed when 6th AG liberated southern and northern Alsace and adjacent eastern Lorraine, but could not clear central Alsace. During Operation Nordwind in December 1944, the 19th Army attacked north out of the Pocket in support of other German forces attacking south from the Saar into northern Alsace. In late January and early February 1945, the French First Army cleared the Pocket of German forces.

6th SS Mountain Division <i>Nord</i>

The 6th SS Mountain Division "Nord" was a German unit of the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II, formed in February 1941 as SS Kampfgruppe Nord.

The 125th Regiment of the 21st Panzer Division under Colonel Hans von Luck aimed to sever the American supply line to Strasbourg, by cutting across the eastern foothills of the Vosges at the northwest base of a natural salient in a bend of the River Rhine. Here the Maginot Line ran east-west, and now "showed what a superb fortification it was". On January 7 Luck approached the line south of Wissembourg at the villages of Rittershoffen and Hatten. Heavy American fire came from the 79th Infantry Division, the 14th Armoured Division, plus elements of the 42nd Infantry Division. On January 10 Luck reached the villages. Two weeks of heavy fighting followed. Germans and Americans each occupying parts of the villages while civilians sheltered in cellars. Luck later said that the fighting around Rittershoffen had been "one of the hardest and most costly battles that ever raged". [6]

Eisenhower, fearing the outright destruction of the U.S. 7th Army, had rushed already battered divisions hurriedly relieved from the Ardennes, southeast over 100 km (62 mi), to reinforce the 7th Army. But their arrival was delayed, and on 21 January with supplies and ammunition short, Seventh Army ordered the much-depleted 79th and 14th Divisions to retreat from Rittershoffen and fall back on new positions on the south bank of the Moder River.

On 25 January the German offensive was halted, after the US 222nd Infantry Regiment stopped their advance near Haguenau, and earning the Presidential Unit Citation in the process. This was the same day that the reinforcements began to arrive from the Ardennes. Strasbourg was saved but the Colmar Pocket was a danger which had to be eliminated.

The German offensive was a failure, failing to destroy the enemy's forces.

See also

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Operation Nordwind was launched by German ground forces on 31 December 1944 against U.S. and French ground forces in the Rhineland-Palatinate and the Alsace and Lorraine regions of southwestern Germany and northeastern France as part of the European Theatre in World War II. It ended on 25 January 1945.

Roderick R. Allen U.S. Army Major General

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References

  1. Cirillo 2003, Retrieved 16 August 2018
  2. Cirillo 2003, Retrieved 16 August 2018
  3. 1 2 3 Clarke, Jeffrey J.; Smith, Robert Ross (1993). Riviera to the Rhine (CMH Pub 7–10) (PDF). Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  4. 1 2 Zabecki, David T. (2014). Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  5. Cirillo 2003, Retrieved 16 August 2018
  6. Ambrose 1997, p. 386.

Notes

  1. As elsewhere, casualty figures are only rough estimates, and the figures presented are based on the postwar "Seventh Army Operational Report, Alsace Campaign and Battle Participation, 1 June 1945" (copy CMH), which notes 11,609 Seventh Army battle casualties for the period, plus 2,836 cases of trench foot and 380 cases of frostbite, and estimates about 17,000 Germans killed or wounded with 5,985 processed prisoners of war. But the VI Corps AAR for January 1945 puts its total losses at 14,716 (773 killed, 4,838 wounded, 3,657 missing, and 5,448 nonbattle casualties); and Albert E. Cowdrey and Graham A. Cosmas, "The Medical Department: The War Against Germany," draft CMH MS (1988), pp. 54-55, a forthcoming volume in the United States Army in World War II series, reports Seventh Army hospitals processing about 9,000 wounded and 17,000 "sick and injured" during the period. Many of these, however, may have been returned to their units, and others may have come from American units operating in the Colmar area but still supported by Seventh Army medical services. Von Luttichau's "German Operations," ch. 29, pp. 39-40, puts German losses at 22,932.

Bibliography