December 14, 2016

1944. The Battle of the Albert Canal

Fanatical Resistance as the Allies Approach Germany
December 18, 1944: Members of the 1st SS Panzer Division (abbreviated as 1. SS-Pz.Div. LSSAH) pose in a Volkswagen Schwimmwagen Type 166 for the SS-Kriegsberichter-Kompanie (SS War Reporter Company) at Kaiserbaracke Crossroads, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge (source)
This script, which was ultimately killed before broadcast by Allied military censors, is part of a series of reports Bill Downs put together in Brussels while covering the fighting on the Western Front in September 1944.
Bill Downs

CBS Brussels

September 12, 1944 (censored)

The battle of the Albert Canal has almost been won. British troops now are across the canal in such strength that the Nazis have no choice but to retire northward, probably to a line along the Meuse Canal which runs into the Albert Canal east of Antwerp.

British patrols which yesterday pushed into Holland are believed to be still there. But there has been no exploitation of the armored drive that yesterday advanced nine miles to cross the Dutch frontier.

Today is a day of mopping up and consolidation and reinforcement of the bridgeheads, and it is also a day of beating off German counterattacks.

We are now getting a taste of the fanatical resistance that will become more and more intense as we approach Germany. In the past three days the Nazis have been throwing attack after attack in an attempt to beat back the Albert Canal bridgeheads. These attacks have been made in force, day and night. Crack German parachute units have been thrown into this fighting. They have fought to the last man—and suffered the consequences. The German casualties have been so heavy and replacements so inadequate that the Nazis have aided our victory to a great extent by their extravagant use of men under do-or-die orders.

For example, after one of their counterattacks failed against the Geel bridgehead yesterday, a fanatical Nazi jumped on top of a truck in full view of the British troops and shouted: "I want to die for Hitler!" The British troops fulfilled this Nazi's last wish.

The Tactical Air Force continues its attacks against German shipping, trying to ferry the remnants of the Nazi forces pushed back against the Scheldt River estuary. Yesterday the planes hit another thirty barges while other Typhoons and bombers roamed Holland and western Germany to knock out eighteen railroad locomotives and some thirty motor transport. Typhoons also destroyed a big coastal gun on the Scheldt River, which was shelling the city of Ghent yesterday. For some reason, this heavy gun and some 88 millimeter guns fired aimlessly into Ghent most of the day. There was damage to buildings and some civilians were killed and wounded.

Germany is losing so many men in prisoners alone on this front that it is difficult to understand how she will be able to keep an army in the field if these losses continue. Not counting the killed and wounded, more than 28,500 German soldiers have been captured on the British Second Army front in the past seven days, with the Canadians and Americans taking hundreds of prisoners every day in Southern France, and with the tremendous toll being taken every day on the Eastern Front, Germany's manpower situation is hopeless.

We are now beginning to run into some of the newest total mobilization soldiers from Germany. Some are Nazi youths who were training in Holland to be Luftwaffe pilots but were put into the infantry when the shortage of airplanes and fuel made this training superfluous. As one British staff officer put it: "There are paratroops and pilots, policemen and sailors, 16-year-olds and old men with duodenal ulcers. And the other day we captured a deep sea diver—the depths have indeed been plumbed."

This is Bill Downs in Brussels returning you to CBS in New York.