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World War Ii: Battle of Stalingrad

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World War II: Battle of Stalingrad

The post D-Day Allied assault that swept through France was halted by Hitler's unexpected counter-attack through the Ardennes, resulting in a confrontation named the Battle of the Bulge.

The Allied battle front in the autumn of 1944 made an end to the war by Christmas look likely. They had liberated most of France in a matter of months, and were now marching towards the Ruhr River, which was the gateway to the heartland of Germany. However, the Allies had moved so far so fast that their supply lines had not caught up with them. The closest dock was where they had landed on D-Day, and the need for a closer port became more persistent everyday. During the Overlord campaign, which was the landing in France, the Allies had bombed railways extensively to weaken the German defenses. With no railway, roads and trucks were the only way of transporting supplies. This supply problem led to the conclusion by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces, that a closer coastal port needed to be opened. He chose Antwerp, Europe's largest port, which was located along the Schelde Estuary (Keegan 436-437).

Field Marshall Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, commander of the northern front, wanted a quick victory. He proposed continuing on into Germany, across the Ruhr, and destroying Hitler's means to make war by demobilizing the numerous factories in the area. Reluctantly, Eisenhower agreed, and Operation Market Garden began on September 17, 1944. The plan called for Allied paratroopers to secure key bridges and establish a foothold in the area so that armed divisions could move in safely. The First Allied Airborne Army, composed of the 82nd and 101st divisions of the United States and the 1st division of the British, were to be used in the operation. The Americans job was to capture the bridges at the towns of Eindhower and Nirmegan. They succeeded in doing this very quickly with minimal casualties. The British, however, encountered more difficulty. Their job was to secure the more distant bridges at Arnhem, but their tank support that was supposed to relieve them was delayed. The Germans there, consisting of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions, trapped the British soldiers, killing one thousand and capturing six thousand (Keegan 437).

The failure of Market Garden proved to Eisenhower that the supply issue must be addressed promptly. He assigned Montgomery to capture Antwerp at all cost. Montgomery, still wanting to invade the Ruhr, was reluctant to give up any troops to capture Antwerp. He complied, however, and sent the Canadian First Army. The British XII division was then sent in as reinforcements. The German defenders were comprised mainly of the 15th Army who had escaped advancing enemy by ferrying over the Schelde. By the end of the battle, Montgomery had lost thirteen thousand men. Antwerp, the prize of the assault, was still heavily defended by mines, and it took months to actually open the vitally important port (Goalrick 27).

Farther south, General Hodges' First Army Group was preparing to breach the West Wall and take Aachen, a very important and historical city to the Germans. His attack began on October 2nd, and was a very difficult battle. Two German Panzer divisions were sent to garrison the city. Hodges broke through though on October 21st, marking Aachen as the first major German city to fall into Allied hands (Goalrick 28).

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