Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Three months after the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and drove the Germans from France and Belgium, the Allies began their invasion of Germany, forcing its surrender in the spring of 1945 to mark the final phase of World War II in Europe.

Summary of Event

After being driven from France by Allied forces in the previous few months, the German military took up defensive positions along the nearly 400-mile-long Siegfried line Siegfried line along the western German border from Switzerland to the northern Netherlands. Although the line was heavily defended and fortified, the German troops lacked the big guns that had once defended the line. The heavy weaponry had earlier been moved to the French coast and Russian fronts when Germany’s conquests expanded. Mine fields, tank traps, barbed-wire entanglements, towers, and bunkers dotted the western front, and, once again, Adolf Hitler had ordered it held at all costs. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];German campaign Rhineland Campaign (1944) Germany;Allied invasion [kw]Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany (Sept. 12, 1944) [kw]Battle for Germany, Allied Forces Begin the (Sept. 12, 1944) [kw]Germany, Allied Forces Begin the Battle for (Sept. 12, 1944) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];German campaign Rhineland Campaign (1944) Germany;Allied invasion [g]Europe;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [g]Germany;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [g]Belgium;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [g]Netherlands;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [c]World War II;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] [c]Military history;Sept. 12, 1944: Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany[01250] Eisenhower, Dwight D. [p]Eisenhower, Dwight D.;World War II Montgomery, Bernard Law Patton, George S. Hitler, Adolf [p]Hitler, Adolf;battle for Germany Stalin, Joseph [p]Stalin, Joseph;World War II military leadership[World War 02 military]

Although some of the German troops along the line were by this time battle-hardened, the reinforcements consisted mainly of older men or the very young, and morale was poor following the constant defeats on both the Western and Eastern fronts. Many in the German military felt that the only option was surrender. Opposition to Hitler’s determined stance was so intense that some members of his inner circle attempted to murder him. Every plot to assassinate him failed, but Hitler still ruthlessly tracked down and executed all who dared to plot his demise.

The Allied troops, encouraged by their victories in France and building strength, were rapidly advancing. Allied supply lines were at first slow to catch up, but they finally reached the borders of Germany early in September, 1944. The troops were once again ready to move. After chasing the Germans out of France by the end of August, the first Allied troops entered Germany on September 11 to mark the early days of what is known as the Battle of Hürtgen Forest Hürtgen Forest, Battle of (1944-1945) (September 19, 1944-February 10, 1945), the first battle of the larger battle for Germany. The larger battle for Germany comprised a number of specific Allied operations that included not only battles but also the liberation of concentration and death camps and cities and towns. In addition to the critical battles in the Hürtgen Forest, the operations included Operation Market Garden (September 17-25); the Battle of Aachen (October 1-22); the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944-January 25, 1945); the liberation of Auschwitz (January, 1945); Operation Plunder, or the Crossing of the Rhine (March 23); Operation Varsity (March 24); and the taking of Berlin (April 21). Aachen Aachen, Battle of (1944) was the first major German city to be attacked by the Allied forces. Most of the civilian population, numbering about 160,000, had been evacuated, with only 20,000 or so remaining in the city. Urban warfare slowed the battle considerably, but at great cost to both sides. German and Allied casualties totaled nearly 10,000, and the Allies took almost 5,700 Germans prisoner following the battle.

General George S. Patton, the U.S. commander of the Third Armored Division, played a key role in the invasion of Germany. He moved his armored division through countless German defensive positions. Patton’s troops would take more than one million prisoners, more than any other division, during the invasion of Germany. During the Palatinate Campaign Palatinate Campaign (1945) (March 14-24, 1945), Patton’s troops took more than ninety thousand German troops as prisoners of war and claimed nearly 6,500 square miles that contained thousands of towns and villages.

Allied troops advance across the Siegfried line into Germany.

(National Archives)

Political considerations between the Russians and the Allied forces played a large role in deciding the logistics of the final invasion of Germany in the spring of 1945. While at the Yalta Conference (February, 1945), the major parties had already decided the fate of postwar Germany: It would be divided into occupation zones. What was not discussed at the conference was the question of which nation would do what during the invasion itself. Still debated is the decision made by General Dwight D. Eisenhower on whether or not to take Berlin. While at different times during the invasion various Allied commanders communicated to Eisenhower that their troops could easily take Berlin, he always held them back. Eisenhower eventually decided to allow the Russian forces to conquer the city, and he sent U.S. troops to the southeast to mop up German forces there.

It was believed that the Germans were planning a last stand—called a national redoubt or an alpine fortress—in an alpine region of south Germany, Austria, or northern Italy. The redoubt was supposed to occur, more specifically, in the area of Berchtesgaden, to which Eisenhower sent U.S. troops. Eisenhower’s decision was likely based on several factors. First, the Russians had suffered horribly at the hands of the German forces during the German invasion of Russia. Second, the Russians were physically closer to Berlin than were the Allied forces, and they had fought most of their war with Berlin as their main objective. Finally, Eisenhower knew that the Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, was suspicious of the Allied commanders because the invasion of western Europe had been delayed, so he wanted to generate as much good will as possible before the end of the war.

The final push to take Berlin, and subdue Germany, began on April 15 from the Oder River on the Eastern front. Russian general Vasily Chuikov Chuikov, Vasily ordered generals Georgy Zhukov Zhukov, Georgy and Ivan Konev Konev, Ivan to lead separate armies during this final offensive, encouraging a race for Berlin. Zhukov’s forces reached Berlin on April 21 and began a siege to force the German surrender. The German defenders in Berlin consisted of mainly elderly men and youth who had been quickly taught how to use a Panzerfaust, a hand-fired German antitank weapon. Hitler once again ordered fighting at all costs, and he hoped for a disagreement between the Allies and the Russians, which would leave Germany intact. On April 30, after marrying Eva Braun, Hitler and Braun committed suicide World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Allied victory in their Berlin bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery. Before the official German surrender, 125,000 Berliners would die, and more than eight million German refugees would fill the city. The German forces in Berlin officially surrendered the city to the Russians on May 2, and Germany officially surrendered to the Allies on May 7. Hostilities between nations had come to an end, at least in the European theater of World War II.

Significance

The invasion of Germany during World War II involved the concerted efforts of Allied forces, namely Russia, Britain, the United States, Canada, and France; many other nations joined the Allies as well. These forces, especially the Russian, French, and British, had directly experienced the ruthlessness of Hitler’s army. While many of Hitler’s advisers and even troops in the field felt that an honorable surrender should have occurred long before Germany was invaded, it was Hitler’s “last-man last-bullet” philosophy of war that led to the invasion of Germany. World War II and its consequences proved to many that total defeat was the only way to conclude this “war to end all wars.” World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];German campaign Rhineland Campaign (1944) Germany;Allied invasion

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Astor, Gerald. “The Battle of Hürtgen Forest.” World War II, November, 2004. A critical account of Allied operations during this first battle that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Available at http://www.history net.com/magazines/world_war_2. To access article, click on “View all World War II magazine articles” link.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dear, Ian C. B. The Oxford Companion to World War II. New ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. A thorough encyclopedic work with more than seventeen hundred alphabetized entries on all aspects of World War II.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hastings, Max. Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945. New York: Vintage Books, 2005. An in-depth account of the battle for Germany during the final year of World War II. Richly illustrated.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">______. Warriors: Portraits from the Battlefield. New York: Knopf, 2006. An extensive account of the German invasion from British historian Hastings that focuses on some of the individuals involved in the war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stewart, Richard W., ed. The United States Army in a Global Era: 1917-2003. Vol. 2 in American Military History. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 2005. Originally written and published in 1956 as a textbook for Army officers in training, this updated work provides a detailed history of the Army’s role in times of international strife. Includes many illustrations, maps, and photographs. Available at http://www.army.mil/cmh/. Click on image-link for the book.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilmot, Chester. The Struggle for Europe. London: Wordsworth, 1997. A well-written account of the major actions in Europe following the June, 1944, D day invasion.

World War II: European Theater

Germany and Italy Declare War on the United States

Invasion of Normandy Begins the Liberation of Europe

Allied Forces Break German Front in France

Operation Dragoon

Battle of the Bulge

V-E Day Marks the End of World War II in Europe

Potsdam Conference

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