October 18, 2020

1944. Allied Forces Push Through Western Europe

Updates from the Western Front
"HQ Twelfth Army Group situation map," September 9, 1944 (source with full size)
United Press story printed in the Sweetwater Reporter, September 10, 1944, pp. 1, 8:

PARIS (UP) — Allied Armies in Western Europe have hurled back a desperate breakout attempt by tens of thousands of Nazis trapped along the channel coast.

The frantic Germans threw everything they had into one last try at pile-driving through the British lines between Lille in France and Ghent in Belgium.

But the determined Tommies held fast. In a giant battle, raging along scores of miles of the front yesterday, the Germans were stopped cold. The Allies still have them cornered.

Supreme Headquarters still is close-mouthed about progress of the triple Allied armies deployed along the frontiers of Hitler's Germany.

A United Press front dispatch from General Patton's Third Army says the battle of the Moselle River should be settled within two days. [Illegible] smother German troops defending the hills behind the river, or the fight will settle down into a long slugging match.

The U.P.'s man with the Third Army—Robert Richards—reveals that even now Patton is gathering his forces in the valley for a great lunge at the Germans entrenched in the heights beyond the Moselle. Already, the Americans have thrown five bridgeheads across the stream to serve as springboards for their coming assault.

A great fleet of American planes also paved the way for the attack today by striking a mighty blow at Nazi west wall bases in the Rhine and Ruhr valley. Hurling the battle lines for the second straight day, one thousand heavy bombers—shepherded by half as many fighters—struck road and rail targets and the Rhineland cities of Düsseldorf, Mainz and Mannheim.

German supplies are reported streaming into the Siegfried line, barely 18 miles ahead of the American advance. And the great air fleet, plus America's deadly new Black Widow night fighter, worked them over with bombs and bullets. Twenty-three bombers and four fighters are missing from today's assault.

To the north, the American First Army still is battling its way through the dense Ardennes forest toward the German frontier. Front reports say the Germans are streaming back before tankmen under General Hodges, hounded every step of the way by American flying columns.

While the First Army's left wing fans out through the Ardennes, its right wing has pushed 13 miles southeast of captured Sedan to within 28 miles of a triangle formed by the Luxembourg, German and French frontiers.

As for the British Second Army, an unofficial front report says it had smashed across the Albert Canal a second time. The new bridgehead is at Geel, 12 miles from the old one, which is under heavy German attack. Far behind the front, Canadian troops have pushed to within eight miles of Dunkerque.

Incidentally, a front report (from Bill Downs of CBS), says British, American planes have begun to use airfields in Belgium. Soon, they're expected to establish themselves also in Holland.

Back in England, Queen Juliana, heiress to the throne of Holland, has arrived by plane—perhaps in preparation for a return to her homeland.

As Allied armies pushed through masses of disorganized Germans today, the Berlin radio (as heard by CBS) comforted the home folks with the thought:

"The large-scale disengaging movements, upon which the German commanders were forced to decide recently, may be considered virtually at an end."

But in almost the next breath, Berlin said that the American Seventh Army has stepped up considerable the intensity of its attacks on the Belfort Gap—chief escape route for the broken Nazi 18th Army coming up from the south of France. An Algiers broadcast says Allied troops are within only nine miles of Belfort. But the latest Rome communiqué places them 25 miles away. The Seventh Army also is only 22 miles southwest of Dijon and has overrun the site of the largest munitions plant in France.

Across from Southern France, in Italy, the Germans in the western sector of the front have been forced back behind their Gothic line defenses. American troops, capturing two dominating heights north of Florence, now are within only two thousand yards of the big communications center of Pistoia.

On the other side of the front violent rain storms are restricting the operations of the British Eighth Army, which already has punched through the Gothic line.

Incidentally, the Germans long have been preparing to sink the big Italian luxury liner Rex in the harbor of Trieste once the Allies neared the port. But today the 51,000-ton vessel was written off as a total loss after RAF planes left it two-thirds submerged and burning fiercely.

Big things soon may be coming up in Italy. It is the anniversary of the American landing at Salerno. And, to commemorate it, Lieutenant General Mark Clark issued a special order of the day, promising that his Fifth Army troops soon will deliver a blow from which the enemy will not recover.

When and where the blow will fall is, of course, a secret—like another secret in Washington. The British ambassador to the United States, the Earl of Halifax, had a long talk with President Roosevelt today. Afterwards, he says they'd made a little bet as to when the war would end.

What were the bets?

"That," said the Earl, "is a secret."