|Part of World War II|
An American soldier guards a massive crowd of German prisoners captured in the Ruhr Pocket.
|Commanders and leaders|
| 13 divisions, elements of 6 corps|
(of which 75,000 were armed)
|Casualties and losses|
| 1,500 killed|
| ~10,000 killed |
The Ruhr Pocket was a battle of encirclement that took place in April 1945, on the Western Front near the end of World War II, in the Ruhr Area of Germany. Some 317,000 German troops were taken prisoner along with 24 generals. The Americans suffered 10,000 casualties including 2,000 killed or missing.
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.
The Western Front was a military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. World War II military engagements in Southern Europe and elsewhere are generally considered under separate headings. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale combat operations. The first phase saw the capitulation of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France during May and June 1940 after their defeat in the Low Countries and the northern half of France, and continued into an air war between Germany and Britain that climaxed with the Battle of Britain. The second phase consisted of large-scale ground combat, which began in June 1944 with the Allied landings in Normandy and continued until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.
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.
Exploiting the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen on 7 March 1945, the U.S. 12th Army Group under General Omar Bradley advanced rapidly into German territory south of Field Marshal Walter Model's Army Group B. In the north, the Allied 21st Army Group under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery crossed the Rhine in Operation Plunder on 23 March. The lead elements of the two Allied army groups linked up on 1 April 1945 east of the Ruhr Area to create a massive encirclement of 370,000 German troops to their west.
The Ludendorff Bridge was in early March 1945 a critical remaining bridge across the river Rhine in Germany when it was captured during the Battle of Remagen by United States Army forces during the closing weeks of World War II. Built in World War I to help deliver reinforcements and supplies to the German troops on the Western Front, it connected Remagen on the west bank and the village of Erpel on the eastern side between two hills flanking the river.
Remagen is a town in Germany in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in the district of Ahrweiler. It is about a one-hour drive from Cologne, just south of Bonn, the former West German capital. It is situated on the left (western) bank of the river Rhine. There is a ferry across the Rhine from Remagen every 10–15 minutes in the summer. Remagen has many beautiful and well-maintained buildings, churches, castles and monuments. It also has a sizeable pedestrian zone with plenty of shops.
The Twelfth United States Army Group was the largest and most powerful United States Army formation ever to take to the field, commanding four field armies at its peak in 1945: First United States Army, Third United States Army, Ninth United States Army and Fifteenth United States Army. Formed eight days after the Normandy landings, it initially controlled the First and the Third US Armies. Through various configurations in 1944 and 1945, the Twelfth US Army Group controlled the majority of American forces on the Western Front. It was commanded by General Omar Bradley with its headquarters established in London on 14 July 1944.
While the bulk of the U.S. forces advanced east towards the Elbe river, some 18 U.S. divisions remained behind to destroy the isolated forces of Army Group B. The reduction of the German pocket was begun right away on 1 April by the U.S. Ninth Army, with the forces of the U.S. First Army joining on 4 April. For 13 days the Germans delayed or resisted the U.S. advance. On 14 April, the First and Ninth Armies linked up, splitting the German pocket in half and German resistance began to crumble.
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia, then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km (68 mi) northwest of Hamburg. Its total length is 1,094 kilometres (680 mi).
A pocket refers to combat forces that have been isolated by opposing forces from their logistical base and other friendly forces. In mobile warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg, salients were more likely to be cut off into pockets, which became the focus of battles of annihilation.
Having lost contact with its units, the German 15th Army capitulated the same day. Model dissolved his army group on 15 April and ordered the Volksturm and non-combatant personnel to discard their uniforms and go home. On 16 April the bulk of the German forces surrendered en masse to the U.S. divisions. Organized resistance came to an end on 18 April. Unwilling to surrender with his rank of Field Marshal into Allied captivity, Model committed suicide on the afternoon of 21 April.
The 15th Army was a World War II field army.
In March 1945, the Allies crossed the River Rhine. South of the Ruhr, General Omar Nelson Bradley's U.S. 12th Army Group's pursuit of the disintegrating German army resulted in the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen by the 9th Armored Division of the U.S. First Army. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the crossing made on March 7, 1945, and expanded the bridgehead until the bridge collapsed 10 days later.
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.
The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, emptying into the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, general is a four-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-10. General ranks above lieutenant general and below General of the Army or General of the Air Force; the Marine Corps does not have an established grade above general. General is equivalent to the rank of admiral in the other uniformed services. Since the grades of General of the Army and General of the Air Force are reserved for wartime use only, and since the Marine Corps has no five-star equivalent, the grade of general is currently considered to be the highest appointment an officer can achieve in these three services.
North of the Ruhr on March 23, 1945, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery's Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group which incorporated the US Ninth Army launched Operation Plunder (with the airborne Operation Varsity in support) crossing the Rhine at Rees and Wesel.
Field Marshal has been the highest rank in the British Army since 1736. A five-star rank with NATO code OF-10, it is equivalent to an Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy or a Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the Royal Air Force (RAF). A Field Marshal's insignia consists of two crossed batons surrounded by yellow leaves below St Edward's Crown. Like Marshals of the RAF and Admirals of the Fleet, Field Marshals traditionally remain officers for life, though on half-pay when not in an appointment. The rank has been used sporadically throughout its history and was vacant during parts of the 18th and 19th centuries. After the Second World War, it became standard practice to appoint the Chief of the Imperial General Staff to the rank on his last day in the post. Army officers occupying the post of Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of all the British Armed Forces, were usually promoted to the rank upon their appointment.
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein,, nicknamed "Monty" and "The Spartan General", was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War.
The 21st Army Group was a World War II British headquarters formation, in command of two field armies and other supporting units, consisting primarily of the British Second Army and the First Canadian Army. Established in London during July 1943, under the command of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), it was assigned to Operation Overlord, the Western Allied invasion of Europe, and was an important Allied force in the European Theatre. At various times during its existence, the 21st Army Group had additional British, Canadian, American and Polish field armies or corps attached to it. The 21st Army Group operated in Northern France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany from June 1944 until August 1945, when it was renamed the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
Having crossed the Rhine, both Army groups fanned out into the German hinterland. In the south, while the Third Army headed east, the First Army headed northeast and formed the southern pincer of the Ruhr envelopment. In the north, the U.S. Ninth Army, which since the Battle of the Bulge had been assigned to Field Marshal Montgomery's 21st Army Group, headed southeast, forming the northern pincer, while the rest of the 21st Army Group went east and northeast. Even before the encirclement was complete, Allied activity against the Ruhr had a critical impact on Germany's economy -- on March 26 Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary that no more coal was coming from the Ruhr.
Facing the Allied armies were the remnants of a shattered Wehrmacht , a few SS training units, and large numbers of Volkssturm (militia units for aging men, including some World War I veterans), Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) units, composed of boys as young as 12 as well as combat service support forces and Luftwaffe Flak crews.
Lead elements of the two Allied pincers met on April 1, 1945, near Lippstadt. By April 4, the encirclement was completed and the Ninth Army reverted to the command of General Bradley's 12th Army Group. Within the Ruhr Pocket some 370,000 German soldiers, 14 divisions of Army Group B and two corps from First Parachute Army, altogether the remnants of 19 divisions, and millions of civilians were trapped in cities heavily damaged by numerous bombings.Only 20% of the German soldiers or 75,000 had infantry weapons, with another 75,000 having pistols only and ammunition and fuel supplies were at critical levels. Model's requests for an airlift were dismissed out of hand by Hitler owing to Allied air supremacy. All of Model's requests to withdraw or break out before or after the creation of the pocket were denied by Hitler, who expected "Fortress Ruhr" to hold out for months and tie down hundreds of thousands of Allied troops. The staff of Army Group B knew they only had food supplies for three weeks owing to the millions of civilians that also had to be fed.
While the main operations were directed eastwards to central and northern Germany, elements of three U.S. Armies concentrated on the pocket, taking it section by section. Model's troops put up a strong resistance along the Dortmund–Ems Canal and the Sieg river-line, holding their ground from 4 April to 9 April and launching a counterattack against U.S. 75th and 95th Divisions near Dortmund. For every German city or town that capitulated, another fought on for every building. Burgomasters of some German cities presented white flags to the invading U.S. troops, such as at Duisburg and Essen while German troops at Dortmund, Wuppertal and Hamm fought fanatically for days to the complete exhaustion of all available potential. The presence of SS troops was a common element in most instances of all-out resistance.
In the south, the attack of the U.S. III Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps on 5 and 6 April was delayed by German troops, who skillfully used the rugged terrain of the 80% forested Sauerland district to force the Americans to fight for every stream, wood and town. The Germans fought strongly for the city of Siegen to prevent the Americans from gaining access to open ground. The heavily outnumbered and outgunned Germans could ultimately do nothing more than delay the advancing enemy, who covered approximately 10 kilometers per day. By 11 April German combat strength had weakened to the extent that they were only defending roadblocks and built-up areas along main roads, supported by a few tanks and assault guns or 2 cm flak guns. At one point, the Germans covered a valley in a thick smokescreen, delaying the 7th Armored Division for some time.Throughout the battle, U.S. generals in the south failed to use their two armored divisions properly, attempting to unleash them on the Germans at every opportunity but failing due to poor command decisions which left them stuck behind the U.S. infantry divisions for most of the pocket's reduction.
The performance of the U.S. 13th Armored Division was particularly disastrous. Two road marches totaling 400 kilometers sufficed for a Combat Command of the 13th Armored to decline to 50% of authorized strength for its Sherman tanks by the time it reached the battle area.Completely worn out, the division was immediately thrown into action on 10 April by XVII Airborne Corps commander Matthew Ridgway, who, under pressure from army commander Courtney H. Hodges to speed up operations, ordered it to encircle and "destroy" the German forces. The division commander, John B. Wogan, and his subordinates took this order literally. Communications between its units rapidly broke down and the division was held up by a stream when it deployed to "destroy" the Germans. It failed to reach its objectives in time, and was overtaken by U.S. infantry divisions. Wogan was severely wounded by German rifle fire near a roadblock and replaced by John Millikin.
On 7 April the skies cleared and the IX and XXIX Tactical Air Commands began to pound the remaining German defenders, strafing and bombing German troop concentrations and motorized and horse-drawn columns. The Allies were eager to get their hands on all German railway rolling stock and the U.S. pilots were banned from hitting this usual primary target, limiting the extent of Allied bombing operations. The rationing of U.S. artillery ammunition had been lifted and U.S. artillery in support of XVI Corps fired 259,061 rounds in 14 days.
On 11 April the U.S. Ninth Army captured Essen. On 14 April the U.S. First and Ninth Armies linked up on the Ruhr river at Hattingen and split the pocket in two; the smaller, eastern part surrendered the next day. Model lost contact with most of his formations and commanders on 14 April. The German 15th Army under Gustav-Adolf von Zangen capitulated on 14 April, having lost all control over its subordinate formations. The Germans had continued the fight in the pocket despite no realistic hope of relief from the start, as they were tying down 18 U.S. divisions.
Rather than surrender his command, Field Marshal Walter Model dissolved Army Group B on 15 April. Already on 7 April the extent of the American advance to Central Germany had made any breakout impossible. Model's chief of staff Karl Wagener urged him to save the lives of German soldiers and civilians by capitulating. Model refused, as he knew Hitler would not authorize it. In addition, he could not reconcile surrender with the demands he placed on his officers and men throughout the war and his career. But he also wanted to save as many lives as possible for the post-war rebuilding.He decreed the discharging of all youths and older men from the army. By 17 April ammunition supplies would be exhausted, so the non-combatant troops would be allowed to surrender on that day. All combat troops were to either break out in organized formations or drop their weapons and go home, an implicit authority to surrender.
Even before this order was fully transmitted, German resistance began to completely collapse on 16 April as the remnants of German divisions and corps surrendered en masse. 5th Panzer Army commander Josef Harpe was captured by paratroopers of the 17th Airborne Division on 17 April while trying to cross the Rhine to German forces in the Netherlands.The commander of the Allied XVIII Airborne Corps, Matthew Ridgway sent an aide bearing a white flag to Army Group B's headquarters, calling on Model to surrender but the Field Marshal refused, citing his oath to Hitler. When asked for instructions by the squad leader of a German unit that was still armed, Model told them to go home as their fight was over. He then shook their hands and wished them luck.
The western part of the pocket continued a weak resistance until 18 April. Model tried to get to the Harz mountains through the American lines in a small column, but could not make it. Rather than surrender and face trial for war crimes, he committed suicide.
German anti-Nazi resistance groups in Düsseldorf attempted to surrender the city to the Allied armies in the so-called "Aktion Rheinland" in order to spare Düsseldorf from further destruction. However, SS units were able to crush the resistance, and executed a number of those involved. Executions of foreign labourers and political prisoners by the Gestapo had already been occurring since February. The act of resistance did accomplish a cancellation of further bombings on the city by another 800 bombers, through contact with the Americans. Düsseldorf was captured by Americans on 17 April without any notable fighting.
The 317,000 German soldiers from the Ruhr Pocket, and some civilians, were imprisoned in the Rheinwiesenlager (in English, "Rhine meadow camp") near Remagen, a temporary prison enclosure. Thousands of German soldiers were killed by the Americans during the battle.
The Americans suffered c.10,000 casualties while reducing the pocket. The Ninth Army lost 341 killed, 121 missing and just under 2,000 wounded. The First Army lost three times more, which would bring the U.S. casualties to 10,000. The divisions of III Corps lost 291 killed, 88 missing and 1,356 wounded, while the 8th Division of the XVIII Airborne Corps lost 198 killed, 101 missing and 1,238 wounded. Casualty totals for the 15th Army units on the western edge of the pocket are not listed in the official U.S. history.
The Americans liberated hundreds of thousands of hungry, diseased and weakened prisoners-of-war and slave laborers, the former consisting mainly of Red Army soldiers who were very happy at their liberation. The liberated slaves also had a tendency to loot and terrorize the German population once released and to clog up the roads in front of the U.S. columns.The German civilians were incredulous at Germany's defeat. The Americans also witnessed the destruction inflicted on Ruhr cities and towns by the Allied bombing campaign. Most of the German industrial machinery was situated in protected or decentralized locations, had survived the onslaught unharmed or requiring only minor repairs and were quickly operational after their capture.
Operation Market Garden was a failed World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17th to 25th of September 1944, planned primarily by Generals Brereton and Williams of the USAAF. The airborne part of the operation was undertaken by the First Allied Airborne Army with the land operation by XXX Corps of the British Second Army. The objective was to create a 64 mi (103 km) salient into German territory with a foothold over the River Rhine, creating an Allied invasion route into northern Germany. This would be achieved by seizing a series of nine bridges by Airborne forces with land forces swiftly following moving over the bridges. The operation succeeded in liberating the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen along with many towns, creating a 60 mi (97 km) salient into German territory eliminating V-2 rocket launching sites. It failed, however, to secure a foothold over the Rhine, halting at the river.
Albert Kesselring was a German Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during World War II. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders, and one of the most highly decorated, being one of 27 soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Nicknamed "Smiling Albert" by the Allies and "Uncle Albert" by his troops, he was one of the most popular generals of World War II with the rank and file.
Operation Plunder was a military operation to cross the Rhine on the night of 23 March 1945, launched by the 21st Army Group under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. The crossing of the river was at Rees, Wesel, and south of the river Lippe by the British Second Army under Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, and the United States Ninth Army under Lieutenant General William H. Simpson.
The Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine, also known as the Siegfried Line Campaign, was a phase in the Western European Campaign of World War II.
The First Allied Airborne Army was an Allied formation formed on 2 August 1944 by the order of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. The formation was part of the Allied Expeditionary Force and controlled all Allied airborne forces in Western Europe from August 1944 to May 1945. These included the U.S. IX Troop Carrier Command, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, which controlled the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and a number of independent airborne units, all British airborne forces including the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions plus the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade.
The Race to Berlin was a competition between two Soviet marshals, Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev, to be the first to enter Berlin during the final months of World War II.
The 5th Panzer Army was a German armoured formation that operated on the Western Front and North Africa. The remnants of the army surrendered in the Ruhr pocket in 1945.
Operation Lumberjack was a military operation with the goal of capturing the west bank of the Rhine River and seizing key German cities, near the end of World War II. The First United States Army launched the operation in March 1945 to capture strategic cities in Nazi Germany and to give the Allies a foothold along the Rhine.
The Western Allied invasion of Germany was coordinated by the Western Allies during the final months of hostilities in the European theatre of World War II. In preparation for the Allied invasion of Germany, a series of offensive operations were designed to seize and capture the east and west bank of the Rhine River. Operation Veritable and Operation Grenade in February 1945, and Operation Lumberjack and Operation Undertone in March 1945. Allied invasion of Germany started with the Western Allies crossing the Rhine River on 22 March 1945 before fanning out and overrunning all of western Germany from the Baltic in the north to Austria in the south before the Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945. This is known as the "Central Europe Campaign" in United States military histories.
The Battle of Hamburg was one of the last battles of World War II, where the remaining troops of the German 1st Parachute Army fought the British VIII Corps for the control of Hamburg, between 18 April and 3 May 1945. British troops were met with fierce resistance inside the city as Hamburg was the last significant remaining pocket of resistance in the north. Once the British had captured the city, they continued their advance north-east and sealed off the remnants of the 1st Parachute Army and Army Group Northwest in the Jutland peninsula.
Operation Queen was an Anglo-American operation during World War II at the Western Front at the German Siegfried Line.
The Battle of Remagen during the Allied invasion of Germany resulted in the unexpected capture of the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine and shortened World War II in Europe. After capturing the Siegfried Line, the 9th Armored Division of the U.S. First Army had advanced unexpectedly quickly towards the Rhine. They were very surprised to see one of the last bridges across the Rhine still standing. The Germans had wired the bridge with about 2,800 kilograms (6,200 lb) of demolition charges. When they tried to blow it up, only a portion of the explosives detonated. U.S. forces captured the bridge and rapidly expanded their first bridgehead across the Rhine, two weeks before Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's meticulously planned Operation Plunder. The GIs' actions prevented the Germans from regrouping east of the Rhine and consolidating their positions.
The 116th Panzer Division, also known as the "Windhund (Greyhound) Division", was a German armoured formation that saw combat during World War II.
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The Fallschirmjäger were the paratrooper branch of the German Luftwaffe before and during World War II. They were the first German paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations and came to be known as the "green devils" by the Allied forces they fought against. The Fallschirmjäger were very effective when used in commando style raids. The Fallschirmjäger were famous for their willingness to give every effort unwaveringly even in the grimmest of situations. The Fallschirmjäger were seldom used as parachutists. Instead, they were prized for their combat abilities and frequently acted in a "fire brigade" role as roving elite infantrymen. Throughout World War II the Fallschirmjäger commander was Kurt Student.
Otto Moritz Walter Model was a German field marshal during World War II. Although he was a hard-driving, aggressive panzer commander early in the war, Model became best known as a practitioner of defensive warfare. His relative success as commander of the Ninth Army in the retreats of 1941–42 determined his future career path. He has been called the Third Reich's best defensive tactical commander.
The Battle of Nuremberg was a five-day battle between the forces of the United States 7th Army on one side, and Nazi Germany and Russian Liberation Army volunteers on the other during World War II. The battle saw some of the fiercest urban combat during the war and it took four days for the United States to capture the city. The battle was a blow to Nazi Germany as Nuremberg was a center of the Nazi regime. Many rallies took place in the city and to lose the city to the Americans took a heavy toll on already low German morale. Even though American forces heavily outnumbered the German forces, it wasn't until 20 April, that the 7th Army took the city center. The battle devastated the city.