In 1944, on this day, the last pockets of German resistence west of the Rhine were eliminated, and Field Marshal Günther "Hans" von Kluge surrendered Army Group West with all of its remaining equipment.
Broken Watch on the Rhine
Part 2He told his American and British interrogators that if they wished, he would reassemble his staff and rejoin the war on the Allied side -- Hitler had already sentenced him to death.
The idea intrigued Field Marshal Montgomery and General Patton - who called the allies' vast prisoner of war camps "a waste of good German infantry". But it horrified Generals Bradley and Eisenhower. They understood that Stalin's reaction would have been violent and paranoid if former Third Reich armies were reactivated under the colors of the Western allies.
Instead, the German prisoners were put to work repairing French and German bridges, railways, and ports, even repairing Allied vehicles, while frontline Allied divisions attempted to cross the Rhine. The strategic bombing campaign against Germany was ended as most bombers were put to work ferrying fuel and supplies to the front. "I don't need German cities pulverized," General Eisenhower said. "I need them captured".
This took six days. On October 17, the British First Airborne and the American 82nd Airborne Division landed across the Rhine near Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Karlsruhe. The following morning, four allied divisions crossed the Rhine, meeting little organized resistance. In fact, little resistance was encountered until the western allies reached the Elbe, where they encountered the SS Charlemagne Division, but that French-speaking unit was quickly destroyed from the air.
Once again, Hitler and his deputies tried desperately to reach an accommodation with the allies, but to no avail. According to surviving aides, he intended to defend Berlin, but his eastern armies were still in the field against the Soviets. He found himself surrounded by generals, old men, and young boys.
The western allies entered Berlin on the American Thanksgiving Day, 1944. The same day, Hitler flew to Oslo rather than face capture, where he felt confident that the 300,000 man German garrison could protect him - and the Soviet Army entered Warsaw, where it faced stiff resistance from the Polish Home Army. A furious Stalin ordered the city be destroyed, but Marshal Zhukov lacked the supplies necessary to do this if he wished to meet the Americans at the Oder River. He protested, but to no avail.
The Anglo-Americans raced east and south, entering Budapest on Dec. 15. Stalin ordered his field marshals shot for treason. They finally met the Soviets on Christmas Day, at Poznan, in western Poland. The weather was freezing. The atmosphere was even frostier.
In the north, they reached Danzig on the Baltic a day later. Aside from isolated pockets, the garrison in Norway was all that remained of the nazi empire, but it would not fall easily. Hitler himself was in command?