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Operacija Prava: Bitka za Rajnu na kraju Drugog svjetskog rata

Operacija Prava: Bitka za Rajnu na kraju Drugog svjetskog rata


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Operacija Veritable bila je jedna od posljednjih bitaka na zapadnom frontu Drugog svjetskog rata. Bio je to dio klešta pokreta, osmišljenog da se probije u Njemačku i gurne prema Berlinu, koji se dogodio nekoliko mjeseci nakon bitke kod Bulgea.

Pravi je predstavljao sjeverni potisak ovog klešta pokreta, predvođen britanskim i kanadskim snagama.

Dizajniran je za uništavanje njemačkih položaja između rijeke Maas i rijeke Rajne te za proboj između ove dvije rijeke, dopuštajući formiranje fronte uz Rajnu s 21. grupom armija.

To je bio dio strategije "širokog fronta" generala Dwighta D. Eisenhowera da zauzme cijelu zapadnu obalu Rajne prije prelaska.

Churchill tenkovi 34. tenkovske brigade vukli su saonice sa streljivom na početku operacije ‘Istina’, 8. veljače 1945. Zasluge: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

Loše vrijeme i kašnjenja

Njemačke snage uspjele su poplaviti rijeku Roer do te mjere da su američke snage na jugu, izvodeći operaciju Granata koja je bila južna polovica kliješta, morale odgoditi svoj napad.

Borbe su bile spore i teške. Loše vrijeme značilo je da saveznici nisu mogli učinkovito koristiti svoje zračne snage. Greben Reichswalda ostatak je ledenjaka, pa se posljedično kad se smoči lako pretvorio u blato.

Dok je operacija Veritable trajala, tlo se otapalo i stoga je uglavnom bilo neprikladno za vozila na kotačima ili gusjenicama. U tim uvjetima tenkovi su se često kvarili, a izrazito je nedostajalo i prikladnih cesta koje bi saveznici mogli koristiti za opskrbu oklopa i trupa.

Churchill tenkovi 34. tenkovske brigade u Reichswaldu tijekom operacije ‘Istina’, 8. veljače 1945. Zasluge: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

Nedostatak korisnih cesta pogoršalo je meko tlo, koje se oklop nije mogao lako kotrljati bez potonuća, te namjerno plavljenje polja njemačkim snagama. Ceste koje su bile upotrebljive brzo su bile rastrgane i razbijene zbog prevelikog prometa koji je morao prolaziti tijekom savezničkih napada.

Bilješka iz jednog savezničkog izvješća glasi:

"Stanje na tlu uzrokovalo je velike probleme ... Tenkovi Churchill i slojevi mostova uspjeli su pratiti pješaštvo, ali Flails i Crocodiles odmah su zaglibili nakon što su prešli startnu liniju."

General Dwight Eisenhower primijetio je da je "Operacija Veritable bila jedna od najžešćih borbi cijelog rata, gorka borba" između savezničkih i njemačkih snaga.

Kad su Nijemci primijetili sputanu savezničku mobilnost, brzo su postavili uporišta na cestama koje su se mogle koristiti, što je dodatno otežavalo napredak.

U pokušajima izolirane uporabe oklopa tijekom operacije Veritable općenito je bilo velikih žrtava, što je značilo da je oklop u svakom trenutku morao kombinirati pješadija i prethoditi joj.

Jedan zapovjednik primijetio je da je veći dio napretka bio diktiran borbama između pješačkih jedinica, rekavši: "Cijeli je put to bio Spandau protiv Brena."

Kolona Churchillovih tenkova i drugih vozila na početku operacije ‘Prava’, SZ Europa, 8. veljače 1945. Zasluge: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

Taktičke promjene

Jedan od načina na koji je zaobiđeno pitanje poplava bilo je korištenje amfibijskih vozila Buffalo za kretanje kroz poplavljena područja.

Voda je učinila minska polja i obranu polja neučinkovitima, te je izolirala njemačke snage na umjetnim utvrđenim otocima, gdje su ih mogli otjerati bez protunapada.

Druga prilagodba bila je upotreba bacača plamena pričvršćenih na Churchillove tenkove 'Crocodile'. Tenkovi opremljeni osavnim bacačima plamena otkrili su da je oružje bilo iznimno učinkovito u istjerivanju njemačkih vojnika iz njihovih uporišta.

Provođenje popodneva u Nacionalnom muzeju računarstva divan je izlet memorijskom trakom. Njihova impresivna zbirka proteže se sve do ranih dana računarstva.

Gledajte sad

Prema Stevenu Zalozi, mehanički bacači plamena, koji sami po sebi nisu bili iznimno impresivni, uplašili su njemačko pješaštvo koje ih se bojalo više od bilo kojeg drugog oružja.

Za razliku od bacača plamena koje je nosilo pješaštvo, a koji su bili izloženi mecima i gelerima koji su u bilo kojem trenutku prijetili eksplozijom njihovih spremnika tekućeg goriva, plamene je spremnike bilo teško uništiti.

Churchillov "Krokodil" spremio je spremnik tekućine iza stvarnog spremnika, što ga nije učinilo rizičnijim od standardnog spremnika.

Kontejner se mogao lako napasti, ali je posada ostala sigurna unutar samog tenka.

Njemački vojnici su plamene tenkove doživljavali kao nehumane izume i mogli su se prema zarobljenim posadama plamenih tenkova odnositi s mnogo manje milosti nego prema drugim posadama.

Churchillov tenk i OP tenk Royal Artillery OP Valentine Mk XI (lijevo) u Gochu, 21. veljače 1945. Zasluge: Imperial War Museum / Commons.

Pogubljenja 'plamenika' bila su česta, a to je doseglo stupanj u kojem su britanske trupe dobivale šest penija dnevno povrh svoje plaće kao 'opasan novac' zbog ove prijetnje.

Operacija Veritable na kraju je bila uspješna, zauzevši gradove Kleve i Goch.

Kanadske i britanske snage suočile su se sa žestokim otporom i pretrpjele 15.634 žrtve tijekom operacije Veritable.

Njemačke trupe pretrpjele su 44.239 žrtava u istom razdoblju, a generali Eisenhower i Montgomery pohvalili su ih zbog njihove žestine i fanatizma.

Kredit za sliku zaglavlja: pješaštvo i oklop na djelu na početku operacije ‘Prava’, 8. veljače 1945. Imperial War Museum / Commons.


Operacija Veritable – Armor & Posebna oprema by World of Tanks

Bez obzira koliko bih želio detaljno opisati bitku i planiranje Operacija Istina ovdje je raspoloživi prostor jednostavno nedovoljan za bilo kakvu pravdu. Međutim, postoji mnoštvo referentnog materijala dostupnog ako osjetite potrebu.

Danas ćemo se usredotočiti samo i kratko na Oklop & pojačalo Posebna oprema, budući da je operacija ona koja ističe najgoru noćnu moru svake Tankie – zbog lošeg terena i dramatičan utjecaj koji vrijeme može imati na operaciju. Usisani spremnik nije ništa drugo do kutija za pilule i predstavlja laku metu.

Objekt operacije Istina (ukratko)

Operacija Veritable započela je 8. veljače 1945., a sljedeći komentari temelje se na recenzijama nakon akcije koje je napisao21. grupa armija, Britanske oružane snage i pukovnik P.N. Veale, zapovjednik MC -a 9. kraljevska tenkovska pukovnija.

Operacija je bila samo jedna u nizu osmišljena kako bi saveznicima omogućila prodor u Njemačku sa Zapada i uništenje njemačke vojske koja im se suprotstavljala. Njegov je poseban cilj bio uništiti njemačke položaje između rijeke Maas i rijeke Rajne te probiti u smjeru juga između ove dvije rijeke. Kad je to dovršeno, 21. grupa armija bio bi spreman za sljedeću fazu, s prednjom stranom formiranom duž Rajne.

Plan je bio stvoriti dva kliješta koja bi okružila ukorijenjene njemačke snage. Britanske i kanadske snage formirale bi sjeverni klešta, a američke snage južne u operaciji poznatoj kao Operacija Granata. Međutim, njemačke snage uspjele su poplaviti rijeku Roer do te mjere da su američke snage morale odgoditi napad.

Bilješka iz dnevnog izvješća glasi: „Lijevo 53 (Z) INF Div postigao je stabilan napredak i osigurao uzvisinu na sjeverozapadnom uglu Reichswalda, uzevši 200 ratnih zarobljenika. Stanje terena uzrokovalo je velike probleme ... ChurchillTenkovi i slojevi mostova uspjeli su pratiti pješaštvo, ali Mlatići i Krokodili su odmah zaglibili nakon što su prešli startnu liniju. ”

Zapovjednik general Dwight D Eisenhower komentirao je kako je „Operacija Veritable bila je jedna od najžešća borba u cijelom ratu, ogorčena utakmica”Između savezničkih i njemačkih snaga.

Oklop


Dakle, najučinkovitija upotreba oklopa bila je bliska podrška, uloga koja je i danas kritična i u smislu opskrbe ogromnom količinom vatrene moći, ali i, kritično za pješaštvo, veliki poticaj njihovom moralu. Bitka je uglavnom bila ta pješaštva. Čak i uz nadmoć u zraku, bitka bi se oslanjala na žestoko pješaštvo do pješačkih borbi. Jedan je zapovjednik na terenu izjavio "Cijeli put je to bio Spandau protiv Brena" Nadalo se da će nakon početnog provale doći do velikog proboja od strane Armora, ali vrijeme i tlo to su učinili nemogućim. Poplave i izuzetno loši događaji ograničili su kretanje na ceste i kolosijeke. To je pak dovelo do velikih gužvi i njemačka vojska je, shvativši to, pretvorila sve zaseoke i gradove u uporišta, izgradivši protuoklopne jarke i zakrčila ceste. Na kraju, oklop nije mogao zaobići niti jedan, već ga je pješaštvo moralo uzeti. U slučajevima kada je Armor pokušavao raditi samostalno gubici su bili veliki.


„S obzirom na sljepoću tenkova u šumama, bitno je da u svim napretcima, danju i noću, raspoređena pješaštvo prethodi tenkovima, bez obzira na to napreduju li tenkovi niz grebene ili kroz šumu. Kako ne bi palo drveće koje je pogodilo pješaštvo, moraju biti približno 30 metara ispred tenkova. Da bi se to osiguralo, napredovanje noću mora biti ograničeno i potrebno je koristiti svjetlo za kretanje. Pješaštvo mora na leđima nositi neku lako uočljivu oznaku, a zapovjednici pješaštva i tenkova moraju biti blizu jedan do drugog. U jednom slučaju, pješaštvo koje je nosilo bijele šalice na leđima napredovalo je 80 metara odjednom, signalizirajući natrag crvenim svjetlima tenkovima iza sebe svaki put kad bi se zaustavili. Ovaj sustav je radio zadovoljavajuće. Moraju se osigurati bočna i frontalna zaštita. ”

Posebna oprema

Iz operativnog izvješća 9RTR -a (Pukovnik P.N. Veale, MC):

"Korištenje Krokodili postigli veliki uspjeh, ” prema izvješću, “protiv kutija s tabletama. Lisice rupe u šumi i izgrađene područjima, ozbiljan i tvrdoglav otpor nadjačan je upotrebom plamena, koji nastavlja užasavati neprijatelja. Napredovanje je počelo u 1030 sati, ali tlo je bilo u lošem stanju i Mlatići i Crocs nije mogao napredovati, područje startne linije ubrzo je zakrčeno zaglavljenim vozilima. Običan Churchills međutim, postojano, iako sporo, napredovalo po teškim poljima. U prvih 1.000 metara nije naišlo na protivljenje, već na špekulativno Besa vatra se slobodno koristila s prednje i bočne strane. ”

Mlatići, koji se rijetko mogao zaposliti – na cesti, postali su beznadno zaglibljeni.

U izvješću je to jasno navedeno WASPS općenito se preferiraju krokodili za većinu operacija. The OSA ima prednost što je izravno pod zapovjednikom bojne i stoga je uvijek dostupan. Pokazali su se izuzetno korisnim u čišćenju neprijatelja od šuma, sela i gospodarskih zgrada. BADGER (RAM) bacači plamena prvi put su korišteni u ovoj operaciji. " The BADGER RAM bila adaptacija Kanadski RAM Cruiser Tank. Ramska šasija bila je idealna, pogotovo kad je uklonjena glavna kupola kako bi se napravilo mjesta za OSA spremnici goriva.

OSA (lijevo) i Jazavac RAM plamen (pravo)

Većina ovih Ram -ovih konverzija, označenih kao Badgers, montirala je Wasp -ov plameni projektor umjesto prednjeg mitraljeza 0,30 cal, dopuštajući široki vatreni luk. Projektor je zapravo bio postavljen naopako, ali to nije utjecalo na točnost oružja. Stražnji dio držao je gorivo za bacač plamena, a većina, ali ne i svi Jazavci prekrili su otvorenu kupolu oklopljenom pločom. Kasnije verzije imale su pomoćnu kupolu na vrhu oklopne ploče, koja je pružala kupolu za zapovjednika tenka, kao i mitraljez kalibra 0,30 za odbijanje njemačkog pješaštva koje je zalutalo preblizu.

Dok smo još na temu bacača plamena, LIFEBUOY oprema (ručni bacač plamena) korištena je tijekom operacije Veritable, ali u izvješću se navodi "Da korisnici nemaju povjerenja u njega, jer je mehanički nepouzdan i pretežak".

AVsRE (Kraljevski inženjeri oklopnih vozila) koristili su petarde (eksplozivno punjenje) protiv kutija s pilulama i jakih strana koje su bile izvan dosega Krokodili.

Jednom su prilikom trojica uništili armirano -betonsku kutiju za skladišta sa 40 Nijemaca AVsRE koji je ispalio 24 metka u salvama, proboj je bio 4 stope, a 30 Nijemaca požurilo se predati. AVsRE koji su nosili fascine uspjeli su premostiti cestovne kratere i protuoklopne jarke.


AVRE 290 mm Mort za petare i njegovo streljivo (lijevo) i AVRE s Fascine (pravo).

Izvadak iz izvješća koje je pripremio kapetan J.B Conacher R.Sigs

Operacija Veritable smatrana je vojnim uspjehom i otvorenim putem za konačno napredovanje u Njemačku. Doznalo se o nekim kritičnim točkama koje čak i za vrijeme mojih tenkovskih servisa vrijede i danas kao i tada.

Operaciju s tenkovima i pješaštvom u bliskoj suradnji u šumskoj zemlji ne treba gledati kao potpuno drugačiju vrstu ratovanja od operacije vođene u normalnim europskim zemljama.Ista načela i pravila vrijede, iako se u mnogim slučajevima moraju prilagoditi tako da odgovaraju neobičnim uvjetima ograničene vidljivosti i ograničenog manevriranja. Ta dva faktora, kao i nametanje brojnih ograničenja i poteškoća stvarnim borbenim postrojbama, iznimno otežavaju zapovjedniku utjecaj na bitku, nakon što je pokrenuo svoje postrojbe u napad. ” (Zapovjednik, 9RTR)


Operacija Istina

Operacija Veritable bila je dio savezničkog pokreta klešta s ciljem čišćenja područja između rijeka Roer i Rajne od njemačkih snaga. Britanske i kanadske jedinice napale su sa sjevera, dok su Amerikanci zatvorili zamku s juga. Uništavajući brane u Roeru, Nijemci su pokušali ometati operaciju.

Operacija Veritable započela je 8. veljače 1945. Operacija je trebala biti jedno od dva kliješta usmjerena na opkoljavanje ukorijenjenih njemačkih snaga. U ovom scenariju britanske i kanadske snage činile bi sjeverni klješta napada, dok bi američke snage dolazile s juga kako bi zatvorile zamku (operacija granata). Njemačka je vojska uspjela spriječiti zaokruživanje uništavanjem brana u rijeci Roer (ne treba brkati s rijekom Ruhr s druge strane Rajne) što je dovelo do velikih poplava na nekim mjestima rijeka je bila široka gotovo dva kilometra. Ova poplava natjerala je američke vojnike da odgode napad.

Kanadske i britanske snage morale su to učiniti same. Od početka ofenzive, loše vrijeme zakompliciralo je savezničke operacije. General Horrocks, koji je zapovijedao britanskim snagama, kasnije je rekao o bitci: "Ono što je bilo toliko ludilo je da je cijela stvar mogla biti tako laka da se nastavio mraz". Otapanje je prethodno smrznuto tlo pretvorilo u močvaru, što je stanje pogoršalo neprestana kiša i činjenica da je njemačka vojska probila obale Rajne. Saveznici su sporo napredovali i nisu mogli u potpunosti iskoristiti svoju superiornost u broju i opremi. Dana 23. veljače voda se povukla dovoljno da omogući američkim snagama da konačno pređu Roer i ispune svoju misiju. Prema riječima savezničkog vrhovnog zapovjednika generala Dwighta D. Eisenhowera: Operacija Prava "bila je jedna od najžešćih borbi u cijelom ratu […] ogorčena utakmica" između savezničkih i njemačkih snaga.


Operacija Pljačka: Kako je 1 paklena bitka usporila saveznike i#039 zauzimanje nacističke Njemačke

Ključna stvar: Prava prekretnica u ratu protiv nacista.

Siječanj 1945. - s Drugim svjetskim ratom u šestoj godini - zatekao je savezničke vojske koje su krenule u ofenzivu nakon bitke kod Bulgea, ali su još uvijek bile zapadno od Rajne i šest tjedana zaostajale u svom napredovanju prema Njemačkoj.

Zatvoriti prema Rajni nije bilo lako. Iako su američke i francuske postrojbe šeste armijske grupe general -potpukovnika Jacoba L. Deversa stigle do zapadne obale oko Strasbourga krajem 1944., pokazalo se da je rijeka preteška za prijeći. Čak i da je napad mogao biti izveden, savezničke snage bile bi predaleko od srca Njemačke da bi predstavljale bilo kakvu značajnu prijetnju. Ključ konačne pobjede ležao je u središnjem i sjevernom Porajnju, ali tri su faktora odgodila napredovanje: neuspjeh operacije Market Garden, britansko-američka zračna invazija na Nizozemsku, početak iznimno vlažne jeseni i oštre zime te neočekivano brzi oporavak njemačke vojske nakon nedavnih napretka saveznika.

Pokazalo se da je koordiniranu savezničku kampanju teško postići. Američka 12. armijska grupa generala Omara N. Bradleya lizala je rane nakon gotovo katastrofalne protuofenzive na Ardenneu, a feldmaršalu Bernardu L. Montgomeryju, zapovjedniku britanske 21. armijske skupine bilo je jasno da Amerikanci neće biti spremni poduzeti velika ofenziva neko vrijeme. Unatoč ogromnoj rezervi ljudstva, za razliku od kritično iscrpljene britanske vojske, američkoj vojsci je postao ozbiljan nedostatak zamjena pješaštva. Monty je napravio prvi korak.

U međuvremenu je 12. siječnja Sovjetska vojska započela dugo očekivanu, masovnu ofenzivu od Varšave prema rijeci Odri-i Berlinu. To je bilo na vrijeme, mislili su Montgomery i general Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, saveznički vrhovni zapovjednik. Do kraja mjeseca Rusi su bili udaljeni samo 50 milja od njemačke prijestolnice. Dok su se Amerikanci oporavljali, prešla je na 21. grupu armija, koju je i dalje podržavala deveta američka armija general -potpukovnika Williama H. ​​Simpsona "Texas Bill", koja je preuzela bitku čim je zima popustila.

Monty i Ike složili su se da bi sljedeća faza trebala biti probijanje njemačke strašne Siegfriedove linije i blizu lijeve obale Rajne. Glavni cilj bio je povijesni grad Wesel, na suprotnoj strani velike rijeke u ravnici sjeverno od doline Ruhr. Ovdje je Montgomery prvotno pokušao zauzeti mostobran u rujnu 1944., a zdrav razum mu je i dalje bio naklonjen. U skladu s tim, za 8. veljače 1945. planirane su dvije dobro povezane, gotovo udžbeničke ofenzive: Operacija Veritable na lijevom boku i Operacija Granata na desnoj strani, uz granicu s Bradleyjevom 12. grupom armija.

Monty je najavio da je zadatak 21. grupe armija "uništiti sve neprijatelje u području zapadno od Rajne sa sadašnjih isturenih položaja južno od Nijmegena (Nizozemska) sve do juga do generalne linije Julich-Dusseldorf, kao preliminarni prelazak preko Rajne i uključivanje neprijatelja u pokretni rat sjeverno od Ruhra. " U ofenzivi će biti uključene tri vojske: Prva kanadska, Druga britanska i Deveta američka.

Kanadskim snagama zapovijedao je ugledni, 57-godišnji general Henry D.G. "Harry" Crerar, topnički veteran iz Prvog svjetskog rata i čovjek hladne prosudbe i hladnih živaca. "Snaga obroka" njegove Prve armije premašila je 470.000 ljudi, a niti jedan Kanađanin nikada nije vodio tako velike snage. Britansku drugu armiju predvodio je vješti, skromni general-potpukovnik Sir Miles "Bimbo" Dempsey, 48-godišnji veteran Zapadnog fronta i Iraka u Prvom svjetskom ratu koji se kasnije dobro oslobodio u evakuaciji iz Dunkirka, na Zapadu. Pustinja, Sicilija, Italija i Normandija. Visoki, ćelavi general Simpson, rođen u Teksasu, koji je zapovijedao 300.000 ljudi devete armije SAD-a, služio je u Filipinskoj pobuni, kaznenoj ekspediciji u Meksiku 1916. godine i na Zapadnom frontu 1918. Eisenhower je rekao o 56-godišnjem časniku , "Ako je Simpson ikada pogriješio kao zapovjednik vojske, to mi nije palo na pamet."

S 11 divizija i devet nezavisnih brigada, Kanadska vojska bi u veljači 1945. očistila put do grada Xantena, deveta armija, s 10 divizija u tri korpusa, prešla bi rijeku Roer i krenula prema sjeveru do Dusseldorfa (operacija Granata), a četiri divizije Druge armije napale bi u središtu.

Iako je bio obično raspoložen oko operacije, Montgomery je znao da to neće biti nikakav kolač. "Posjetio sam područje Veritable danas", upozorio je 6. veljače feldmaršal Sir Alan Brooke, načelnik Carskog glavnog stožera. "Tlo je jako mokro, a ceste i tračnice pucaju, a ti će čimbenici vjerojatno utjecati na napredovati pomalo sporo nakon pokretanja operacije. ” Osim očekivanog protivljenja od najmanje 10 dobro ukorijenjenih divizija Wehrmachta, savezničke trupe morat će se suočiti s minskim poljima, poplavljenim rijekama i terenom, nedostatkom cesta, užasnim vremenom i teškim prolaskom u mračnim, zamršenim šumama Reichswalda i Hochwalda.

Montgomery je 1. veljače dobio konačno odobrenje za veliki dvostruki napad na Rajnu, a pripreme su užurbano okončane pod strogim osiguranjem. Provedeni su strogi propisi o zamračivanju, a smišljena je i priča koja je pokušala uvjeriti neprijatelja da će ofenziva biti u smjeru sjevera za oslobađanje Nizozemske, a ne istočni udar u Njemačku. Dnevna okupljanja vojnika bila su zabranjena osim ako su pod zaštitom velike koncentracije vozila, oružja i streljiva bile zakamuflirane ili skrivene u dvorištima, stajama i plastovima sijena, a gumene lutke tenkova i artiljerijskih komada bile su postavljene duž zamišljene borbene crte gdje su mogle privući pozornost neprijateljskih patrola. Logistički podvizi postignuti su brzo jer su tisuće ljudi, vozila i opreme prevezeni na prednje montažne trake.

Britanski i kanadski vojnici radili su danonoćno. Saperi su izgradili i unaprijedili 100 kilometara ceste koristeći 20.000 tona kamenja, 20.000 trupaca i 30.000 piketa, te 446 teretnih vlakova dovukli su 250.000 tona opreme i zaliha do tračnica. Procjenjuje se da bi samo streljivo - svih vrsta, naslagano jedno uz drugo i visoko pet stopa - poravnalo cestu na 30 milja. Inženjeri su izgradili pet mostova preko rijeke Maas, koristeći 1.880 tona opreme. Najveći je bio most Bailey britanskog dizajna dugačak 1.280 stopa. Izvan Nijmegena, za pet dana postavljeno je uzletište za britanske i kanadske rakete Hawker Typhoons, koje bi podržalo ofenzivu.

U međuvremenu je sastavljen ogroman niz oklopa i specijaliziranih vozila. Uključivali su Churchill, Cromwell, Centaur, Comet, Valentine i Sherman teške i srednje tenkove Bren nosače oružja, džipove, poluguse i oklopne automobile amfibijske lasice, bivolje i DUKW nosače tereta i osoblja te 11 pukovnija „Hobartovih zabava, ”Churchills i Shermans opremljeni antiminskim mlaznicama, bacačima plamena i opremom za premošćivanje. Izumio ih je general -major general Percy Hobart, a oni su se pokazali neprocjenjivima u invaziji na Normandiju i čišćenju poplavljenog ušća Scheldta od strane Crerarove vojske.

Pod zapovjedništvom Kanadske prve armije, ofenzivu Pravog trebao je predvoditi iskusni britanski XXX korpus predvođen 49-godišnjim general-potpukovnikom Sir Brianom G. Horrocsom. Vratio se s odsustva iz Engleske kako bi se bacio na pripreme za najveću operaciju koju je ikada poduzeo. Mnogo ranjeni veteran Ypresa, Sibira, El Alameina, Tunisa, Normandije i Belgije, visoki, gipki Horrocks-kojeg je njegov mentor Montgomery nadimio "Jorrocks"-bio je karizmatični časnik koji je vodio s fronta i smatrao se jednim najboljih zapovjednika korpusa u ratu.

Horrocks je Montyjev opći plan za ofenzivu smatrao "samom jednostavnošću". XXX korpus trebao je napasti u smjeru juga s područja Nijmegena, desnom na rijeci Maas, a lijevom na Rajni. "Četrdeset osam sati kasnije", rekao je Horrocks, "naši stari prijatelji, američka deveta armija generala Simpsona, trebali su prijeći rijeku Roer i krenuti prema sjeveru u susret nama. Njemačke snage bi tako bile uhvaćene u škripac i suočile bi se s alternativama, bilo da se bore protiv njih zapadno od Rajne ili da se povuku preko Rajne, a zatim bi bile spremne za pokretanje protunapada kad bismo i sami kasnije pokušali prijeći ... U teoriji je ovo izgledalo kao relativno jednostavna operacija, ali sve bitke imaju svojih problema, pa bi u ovom slučaju početni napad morao probiti kroz usko grlo dobro prilagođeno obrani i koje se sastoji od dijela poznate Siegfriedove linije. ”

Horrocks je odlučio upotrijebiti najveću moguću silu i otvoriti operaciju Veritable s pet divizija, zdesna nalijevo, u redu: 51. gorje, 53. velški, 15. škotski te 2. i 3. kanadski, a zatim 43. Wessex i generalmajor Ponosna gardijska oklopna divizija Sir Alana Adaira. Ujutro 4. veljače, Horrocks je izvijestio svoje zapovjednike u prepunom kinu u gradu Tilburgu na jugu Nizozemske. Odjeven u smeđe hlače od kaputa i jaknu s bojišta, nepretenciozni general izazvao je topao odgovor dok je oštro ocrtavao uvredu, zračio samopouzdanjem i prelazio iz skupine u skupinu prijateljski i duhovito. Poput Montgomeryja, prakticirao je informiranje svih činova o operacijama.


Teren

Napad saveznika bio je od Groesbeeka (zarobljenog tijekom operacije Market Garden) prema istoku do Klevea i Gocha, okrećući se prema jugu prema istoku uz Rajnu do Xantena i napredovanja SAD -a. Cijelo područje bitke nalazilo se između rijeka Rajne i Maasa, isprva kroz Reichswald, a zatim preko valjane poljoprivredne zemlje.

Reichswald je šumovito područje blizu nizozemsko-njemačke granice. Rajnska poplavna ravnica, široka dvije ili tri milje (i kojoj je u vrijeme operacije bilo dopušteno poplaviti nakon vlažne zime), sjeverna je granica područja, a poplavna ravnica Maas južna je granica. Greben Reichswalda ledenjački je ostatak koji se, kad je mokar, lako pretvara u blato. U vrijeme operacije tlo se odmrznulo i bilo je uglavnom neprikladno za vozila na kotačima ili gusjenicama, a ti su uvjeti uzrokovali kvarove na značajnom broju tenkova.

Rute kroz šumu bile su problem saveznicima, kako tijekom njihovog napredovanja kroz šumu, tako i kasnije za opskrbu i pojačanje. Jedini glavni putevi prolazili su sjeverno (Nijmegen do Kleve) i južno (Mook do Goch) od šume i kroz nju nije prolazila metalna ruta istok-zapad. Postojale su tri rute sjever-jug: dvije koje zrače od Hekkensa do Kranenburga (između dva i pet kilometara iza njemačke bojišnice) i do Klevea i Klevea do Gocha, uz istočni rub Reichswalda. Nedostatak odgovarajućih cesta pogoršali su uvjeti mekog tla i namjerno poplavljivanje poplavnih ravnica, što je zahtijevalo upotrebu amfibijskih vozila. Nekoliko dobrih cesta brzo je oštećeno i razbijeno zbog stalnog gustog prometa koji su morali nositi tijekom napada.

Nijemci su izgradili tri obrambene linije. Prvi je bio od Wylera do Maasa uz zapadni rub Reichswalda, kojim su upravljale 84. divizija i 1. padobranska pukovnija. Bila je to "žičana" linija koja je namjeravala samo odgoditi napad i upozoriti glavne snage. Drugi, izvan šume, bili su Rees, Kleve, Goch, a treći je trčao od Reesa, preko Uedemer Hochwalda do Gelderna.


Rajnlandska ofenziva

Istinski za Varsity

Saveznička ofenziva na Rheinland obuhvaćala je nekoliko velikih vojnih operacija tijekom posljednjih mjeseci Drugog svjetskog rata u Europi. Dva glavna cilja ovih združenih britanskih, američkih i kanadskih operacija bili su očistiti područje zapadno od Rajne i postići prijelaz same rijeke. Ako bi uspjela, ofenziva bi značila konačan udarac posljednjoj njemačkoj obrambenoj liniji na Zapadu.

Kako bi okončao rat, feldmaršal Montgomery planirao je ofenzivu na Rheinland, ogromnu operaciju koja je trebala zauzeti područje zapadno od Rajne, a zatim i prijeći samu rijeku. Ofenzivi je prethodilo jedno od najvećih nagomilavanja savezničkih snaga tijekom Drugog svjetskog rata. Početkom veljače 1945., 500.000 savezničkih vojnika okupilo se u području oko Groesbeeka i Nijmegena u Nizozemskoj, zajedno s 1.000 kanonika i 34.000 vozila. Bila je to najveća ofenziva ikada započeta s nizozemskog tla i najveća operacija u sjeverozapadnom dijelu Europe.

Saveznici su znatno nadmašili njemačke snage, ali njemačka vojska je imala prednost nepredvidivog terena i loših vremenskih uvjeta. U večernjim satima 23. ožujka pokrenuta je operacija Pljačka: prelazak Rajne s amfibijskim oklopnim vozilima i improviziranim plutajućim tenkovima savezničkih snaga. Sljedećeg jutra u 07:00 sati počela je operacija Varsity, posljednja velika zračna ofenziva u ratu.

Dvije divizije padobranaca odbačene su iza njemačkih linija, istočno od Rajne kod Wesela u znak potpore prijelazu. Nakon prelaska Rajne savezničke tenkovske divizije zavladale su širom širom otvorenih ravnica sjeverne Njemačke. Njemačka je vojska izgubila sposobnost učinkovite obrane.

Američki pješaci Devete armije napreduju prema Rajni.

Njemački ratni zarobljenici prelaze Rajnu dok zalihe putuju u suprotnom smjeru.

Američko topništvo puca na njemačke položaje u pripremi za američko napredovanje prema Rajni.

Američko topništvo puca na njemačke položaje u pripremi za američko napredovanje prema Rajni.

Srodna iskustva

Bernard Law Montgomery

Bernard Montgomery bio je jedan od najpoznatijih savezničkih generala. Veliku popularnost stekao je nakon pobjeda u Sjevernoj Africi (El Alamein). Nakon toga Montgomery je vodio savezničke kopnene operacije u Normandiji, Nizozemskoj i sjevernoj Njemačkoj. Njegovi operativni izbori i

Prijelaz Rajne: Operacija Pljačka i Operacija Varsity

Posljednja prepreka rajnske ofenzive bila je sama Rajna. Prijelaz kod Wesela (operacija Pljačka) bio je jedan od nekoliko koordiniranih prijelaza preko Rajne. Sudjelovalo je milijun savezničkih vojnika. Kao podrška prijelazu, 14 000 padobranaca je bačeno iza neprijateljskih linija (operacija Varsity). Operacije su bile potpuno uspješne. Hitlerovi dani su odbrojani.

Rovovski vodovi u Reichswaldu

Operacija Veritable bila je saveznička kampanja čiji je cilj istjerati njemačku vojsku iz Reichswalda, prostrane i guste šume koja označava granicu između Nizozemske i Njemačke. Borbe su bile vrlo intenzivne i jako su nalikovale rovovskom ratu iz Prvog svjetskog rata.

Operacija Istina

Operacija Veritable bila je dio savezničkog pokreta klešta koji je imao za cilj očistiti područje između rijeka Roer i Rajne od njemačkih snaga. Britanske i kanadske jedinice napale su sa sjevera, dok su Amerikanci zatvorili zamku s juga. Uništavajući brane u Roeru, Nijemci su pokušali ometati operaciju.

Reichswald

Glavni cilj operacije Veritable bio je očistiti područje između rijeke Maas (Meuse) i Donje Rajne od njemačkih snaga. Prva prepreka na koju su naišli bilo je prostrano, gusto pošumljeno područje, Reichswald, u samoj Njemačkoj. Njemačke jedinice pretvorile su ovu šumu u zamku smrti.

Muzej slobode Groesbeek

Muzej slobode nalazi se u prekrasnom zelenom i brdovitom krajoliku Groesbeeka. The museum is close to Germany and right in the area of two of the most important operations on the Western Front during WW2: Market Garden and Veritable.


Sadržaj

By March 1945, the Allied armies had advanced into Germany and had reached the River Rhine. The Rhine was a formidable natural obstacle to the Allied advance, [10] but if breached would allow the Allies to access the North German Plain and ultimately advance on Berlin and other major cities in Northern Germany. Following the "Broad Front Approach" laid out by General Dwight David Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, it was decided to attempt to breach the Rhine in several areas. [11] Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, commanding the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group, devised a plan, code-named Operation Plunder, that would allow the forces under his command to breach the Rhine, which was subsequently authorized by Eisenhower. Plunder envisioned the British Second Army, under Lieutenant-General Miles C. Dempsey, and the U.S. Ninth Army, under Lieutenant General William Simpson, crossing the Rhine at Rees, Wesel, and an area south of the Lippe Canal. [12]

To ensure that the operation was a success, Montgomery insisted that an airborne component be inserted into the plans for the operation, to support the amphibious assaults that would take place this was code-named Operation Varsity. [13] Three airborne divisions were initially chosen to participate in the operation, these being the British 6th Airborne Division, the U.S. 13th Airborne Division and the U.S. 17th Airborne Division, all of which were assigned to U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, commanded by Major General Matthew B. Ridgway. One of these airborne formations, the British 6th Airborne Division, commanded by Major-General Eric Bols, was a veteran division it had taken part in Operation Overlord, the assault on Normandy in June the previous year. However, the U.S. 17th Airborne Division, under Major General William Miley, had been activated only in April 1943 and had arrived in Britain in August 1944, too late to participate in Operation Overlord. The division did not participate in Operation Market Garden. It did, however, participate in the Ardennes campaign but had yet to take part in a combat drop. [10] The U.S. 13th Airborne Division, under Major General Eldridge Chapman, had been activated in August 1943 and was transferred to France in 1945 the formation itself had never seen action, although one of its regiments, the 517th Parachute Infantry, had fought briefly in Italy, and later in Southern France and the Ardennes campaign. [14]

Allied preparation Edit

Operation Varsity was therefore planned with these three airborne divisions in mind, with all three to be dropped behind German lines in support of the 21st Army Group as it conducted its amphibious assaults to breach the Rhine. However, during the earliest planning stages, it became apparent that the 13th Airborne Division would be unable to participate in the operation, as there were only enough combat transport aircraft in the area to transport two divisions effectively. [15] The plan for the operation was therefore altered to accommodate the two remaining airborne divisions, the British 6th and U.S. 17th Airborne Divisions. The two airborne divisions would be dropped behind German lines, with their objective to land around Wesel and disrupt enemy defences in order to aid the advance of the British Second Army towards Wesel. [16]

Operational orders for 6th and 17th Airborne Divisions [16]

To achieve this, both divisions would be dropped near the village of Hamminkeln, and were tasked with a number of objectives: they were to seize the Diersfordter Wald, a forest that overlooked the Rhine, including a road linking several towns together several bridges over a smaller waterway, the River Issel, were to be seized to facilitate the advance and the village of Hamminkeln was to be captured. [9] The Diersfordter Wald was chosen by Lieutenant-General Dempsey, the British Second Army commander, as the initial objective because its seizure would deny the Germans artillery positions from which they could disrupt Second Army's bridging operations. [17] Once these objectives were taken, the airborne troops would consolidate their positions and await the arrival of Allied ground forces, defending the territory captured against the German forces known to be in the area.

Operation Varsity would be the largest single-lift airborne operation conducted during the conflict more significantly, it would contradict previous airborne strategy by having the airborne troops drop nakon the initial amphibious landings, in order to minimize the risks to the airborne troops learned from the experiences of Operation Market Garden, the attempt to capture the Rhine bridges in the Netherlands in 1944. [18] Unlike Market Garden, the airborne forces would be dropped only a relatively short distance behind German lines, thereby ensuring that reinforcements in the form of Allied ground forces would be able to link up with them within a short period: this avoided risking the same type of disaster that had befallen the British 1st Airborne Division when it had been isolated and practically annihilated by German infantry and armour at Arnhem. [19] It was also decided by the commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, General Lewis H. Brereton, who commanded all Allied airborne forces, including U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, that the two airborne divisions participating in Operation Varsity would be dropped simultaneously in a single "lift," instead of being dropped several hours apart, [20] addressing what had also been a problem during Operation Market Garden. Supply drops for the airborne forces would also be made as soon as possible to ensure adequate supplies were available to the airborne troops as they fought. [21]

German preparation Edit

By this period of the conflict, the number of German divisions remaining on the Western Front was rapidly declining, both in numbers and quality, a fact in the Allies' favour. [22] By the night of 23 March, Montgomery had the equivalent of more than 30 divisions under his command, while the Germans fielded around 10 divisions, all weakened from constant fighting. [23] The best German formation the Allied airborne troops would face was the 1st Parachute Army, although even this formation had been weakened from the losses it had sustained in earlier fighting, particularly when it had engaged Allied forces in the Reichswald Forest in February. [24] First Parachute Army had three corps stationed along the river 2nd Parachute Corps to the north, 86th Corps in the centre, and 63rd Corps in the south. [25] Of these formations, 2nd Parachute Corps and 86th Corps had a shared boundary that ran through the proposed landing zones for the Allied airborne divisions, meaning that the leading formation of each corps — these being 7th Parachute Division and 84th Infantry Division — would face the airborne assault. [2] After their retreat to the Rhine both divisions were under-strength and did not number more than 4,000 men each, with 84th Infantry Division supported by only 50 or so medium artillery pieces. [2]

The seven divisions that formed the 1st Parachute Army were short of manpower and munitions, and although farms and villages were well prepared for defensive purposes, there were few mobile reserves, ensuring that the defenders had little way to concentrate their forces against the Allied bridgehead when the assault began. [26] The mobile reserves that the Germans did possess consisted of some 150 armoured fighting vehicles under the command of 1st Parachute Army, the majority of which belonged to XLVII Panzer Corps. [27] Allied intelligence believed that of the two divisions that formed XLVII Panzer Corps, 116th Panzer Division had up to 70 tanks, and 15th Panzergrenadier Division 15 tanks and between 20–30 assault guns. Intelligence also pointed to the possibility of a heavy anti-tank battalion being stationed in the area. [2] Also, the Germans possessed a great number of antiaircraft weapons on 17 March Allied intelligence estimated that the Germans had 103 heavy and 153 light anti-aircraft guns, a number which was drastically revised a week later to 114 heavy and 712 light anti-aircraft guns. [27] The situation of the German defenders, and their ability to counter any assault effectively, was worsened when the Allies launched a large-scale air attack one week prior to Operation Varsity. The air attack involved more than 10,000 Allied sorties and concentrated primarily on Luftwaffe airfields and the German transportation system. [2] The German defenders were also hampered by the fact that they had no reliable intelligence as to where the actual assault would be launched although German forces along the Rhine had been alerted as to the general possibility of an Allied airborne attack, it was only when British engineers began to set up smoke generators opposite Emmerich and began laying a 60-mile (97 km) long smokescreen that the Germans knew where the assault would come. [5]

Operation Plunder began at 9 pm on the evening of 23 March, and by the early hours of the morning of 24 March Allied ground units had secured a number of crossings on the eastern bank of the Rhine. [28] In the first few hours of the day, the transport aircraft carrying the two airborne divisions that formed Operation Varsity began to take off from airbases in England and France and began to rendezvous over Brussels, before turning northeast for the Rhine dropping zones. The airlift consisted of 541 transport aircraft containing airborne troops, and a further 1,050 troop-carriers towing 1,350 gliders. [28] The U.S. 17th Airborne Division consisted of 9,387 personnel, who were transported in 836 C-47 Skytrain transports, 72 C-46 Commando transports, and more than 900 Waco CG-4A gliders. The British 6th Airborne Division consisted of 7,220 personnel transported by 42 Douglas C-54 and 752 C-47 Dakota transport aircraft, as well as 420 Airspeed Horsa and General Aircraft Hamilcar gliders. [29] [30] This immense armada stretched more than 200 miles (322 km) in the sky and took 2 hours and 37 minutes to pass any given point, and was protected by some 2,153 Allied fighters from the U.S. Ninth Air Force and the Royal Air Force. [31] The combination of the two divisions in one lift made this the largest single day airborne drop in history. [32] At 10 am British and American airborne troops belonging to the 6th Airborne Division and 17th Airborne Division began landing on German soil, some 13 hours after the Allied ground assault began. [28]

6th Airborne Division Edit

The first element of the British 6th Airborne Division to land was the 8th Parachute Battalion, part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade under Brigadier James Hill. [33] The brigade actually dropped nine minutes earlier than scheduled, but successfully landed in drop zone A, while facing significant small-arms and 20 mm anti-aircraft fire. The brigade suffered a number of casualties as it engaged the German forces in the Diersfordter Wald, but by 11:00 hours the drop zone was all but completely clear of enemy forces and all battalions of the brigade had formed up. [30] The key place of Schnappenberg was captured by the 9th Parachute Battalion in conjunction with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, the latter unit having lost its Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Nicklin, to German small-arms fire only moments after he had landed. [33] Despite taking casualties the brigade cleared the area of German forces, and by 13:45 Brigadier Hill could report that the brigade had secured all of its objectives. [30] Canadian medical orderly Corporal Frederick George Topham was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts to recover casualties and take them for treatment, despite his own wounds, and great personal danger. [34]

The next British airborne unit to land was the 5th Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Nigel Poett. [35] The brigade was designated to land on drop zone B and achieved this, although not as accurately as 3rd Parachute Brigade due to poor visibility around the drop zone, which also made it more difficult for paratroopers of the brigade to rally. The drop zone came under heavy fire from German troops stationed nearby, and was subjected to shellfire and mortaring which inflicted casualties in the battalion rendezvous areas. [36] However, the 7th Parachute Battalion soon cleared the DZ of German troops, many of whom were situated in farms and houses, and the 12th Parachute Battalion and 13th Parachute Battalion rapidly secured the rest of the brigade's objectives. [36] The brigade was then ordered to move due east and clear an area near Schnappenberg, as well as to engage German forces gathered to the west of the farmhouse where the 6th Airborne Division Headquarters was established. By 15:30 Brigadier Poett reported that the brigade had secured all of its objectives and linked up with other British airborne units. [36]

The third airborne unit that formed a part of the 6th Airborne Division was the 6th Airlanding Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Hugh Bellamy. [37] The brigade was tasked with landing in company-sized groups and capturing several objectives, including the town of Hamminkeln. [38] The gliders containing the airborne troops of the brigade landed in landing zones P, O, U and R under considerable antiaircraft fire, the landing being made even more difficult due to the presence of a great deal of haze and smoke. This resulted in a number of glider pilots being unable to identify their landing areas and losing their bearings a number of gliders landed in the wrong areas or crashed. [36] However, the majority of the gliders survived, allowing the battalions of the brigade to secure intact the three bridges over the River Issel that they had been tasked with capturing, as well as the village of Hamminkeln with the aid of American paratroopers of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which had been dropped by mistake nearby. The brigade secured all of its objectives shortly after capturing Hamminkeln. [36]

17th Airborne Division Edit

The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel Edson Raff, was the lead assault formation for the 17th Airborne Division, and was consequently the first American airborne unit to land as part of Operation Varsity. The entire regiment was meant to be dropped in drop zone W, a clearing 2 miles (3 km) north of Wesel however, excessive ground haze confused the pilots of the transport aircraft carrying the regiment, and as such when the 507th dropped it split into two halves. [39] Colonel Raff and approximately 690 of his paratroopers landed northwest of the drop zone near the town of Diersfordt, with the rest of the regiment successfully landing in drop zone W. [39] The colonel rallied his separated paratroopers and led them to drop zone W, engaging a battery of German artillery en route, killing or capturing the artillery crews before reuniting with the rest of the regiment. [39] By 2 pm, the 507th PIR had secured all of its objectives and cleared the area around Diersfordt, having engaged numerous German troops and also destroying a German tank. [40] The actions of the 507th Parachute Infantry during the initial landing also gained the division its second Medal of Honor, when Private George Peters posthumously received the award after charging a German machine gun nest and eliminating it with rifle fire and grenades, allowing his fellow paratroopers to gather their equipment and capture the regiment's first objective. [41]

The 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment was the second American airborne unit to land after the 507th, under the command of Colonel James Coutts. [40] En route to the drop zone, the transport aircraft carrying the 513th had the misfortune to pass through a belt of German antiaircraft weapons, losing 22 of the C-46 transport aircraft and damaging a further 38. [42] Just as the 507th had, the 513th also suffered from pilot error due to the ground haze, and as such the regiment actually missed its designated drop zone, DZ X, and was dropped on one of the landing zones designated for the British 6th Airlanding Brigade. [43] Despite this inaccuracy the paratroopers swiftly rallied and aided the British glider-borne troops who were landing simultaneously, eliminating several German artillery batteries that were covering the area. [43] Once the German troops in the area had been eliminated, a combined force of American and British airborne troops stormed Hamminkeln and secured the town. [44] By 2 pm, Colonel Coutts reported to Divisional Headquarters that the 513th Parachute Infantry had secured all of its objectives, having knocked out two tanks and two complete regiments of artillery during their assault. [44] During its attempts to secure its objectives, the regiment also gained a third Medal of Honor for the 17th Airborne Division when Private First Class Stuart Stryker posthumously received the award after leading a charge against a German machine-gun nest, creating a distraction to allow the rest of his platoon to capture the fortified position in which the machine-gun was situated. [41]

The third component of the 17th Airborne Division to take part in the operation was the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR), under the command of Colonel James Pierce. [33] Troopers of the 194th GIR landed accurately in landing zone S, but their gliders and tow aircraft took heavy casualties 12 C-47 transports were lost due to anti-aircraft fire, and a further 140 were damaged by the same fire. [33] The regiment landed in the midst of a number of German artillery batteries that were engaging Allied ground forces crossing the Rhine, and as such many of the gliders were engaged by German artillery pieces that had their barrels lowered for direct-fire. [33] However, these artillery batteries and their crews were defeated by the glider-borne troops, and the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment was soon able to report that its objectives had been secured, having destroyed 42 artillery pieces, 10 tanks, 2 self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles and 5 self-propelled guns. [33]

Operation Varsity was a successful large-scale airborne operation. All of the objectives that the airborne troops had been tasked with had been captured and held, usually within only a few hours of the operation beginning. The bridges over the Issel had been successfully captured, although one later had to be destroyed to prevent its capture by counter-attacking German forces. [45] The Diersfordter Forest had been cleared of enemy troops, and the roads through which the Germans might have routed reinforcements against the advance had been cut by airborne troops. Finally, Hamminkeln, the village that dominated the area and through which any advance would be made, had been secured by air-lifted units. By nightfall of 24 March, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division had joined up with elements of 6th Airborne, and by midnight the first light bridge was across the Rhine. By 27 March, twelve bridges suitable for heavy armour had been installed over the Rhine and the Allies had 14 divisions on the east bank of the river, penetrating up to 10 miles (16 km). [46] According to Generalmajor Heinz Fiebig, commanding officer of one of the defending German formations, 84 Infantry Division, the German forces defending the area had been greatly surprised by the speed with which the two airborne divisions had landed their troops, explaining that their sudden appearance had had a "shattering effect" on the greatly outnumbered defenders. [47] He revealed during his interrogation that his division had been badly depleted and could muster barely 4,000 soldiers. [47]

The U.S. 17th Airborne Division gained its fourth Medal of Honor in the days following the operation, when Technical Sergeant Clinton M. Hedrick of the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment received the award posthumously after aiding in the capture of Lembeck Castle [de] , which had been turned into a fortified position by the Germans. [48]

Uredi žrtve

The casualties taken by both airborne formations were quite heavy, although lighter than had been expected. [1] By nightfall of 24 March, the 6th Airborne Division had suffered around 1,400 personnel killed, wounded or missing in action out of the 7,220 personnel who were landed in the operation. The division also claimed to have secured around 1,500 prisoners of war. [1] The 17th Airborne Division suffered a similar casualty rate, reporting around 1,300 casualties out of 9,650 personnel who took part in the operation, while the division claimed to have taken 2,000 POWs, a number similar to those taken by 6th Airborne. [1] This made a total of around 3,500 POWs taken by both airborne formations during the operation. Between 24 and 29 March, the 17th Airborne had taken a total of 1,346 casualties. [49] The air forces involved in the operation also suffered casualties 56 aircraft in total were lost during the 24th, [50] 21 out of the 144 transport aircraft transporting the 17th Airborne were shot down and 59 were damaged by antiaircraft fire, and 16 bombers from the Eighth Air Force were also shot down during supply drops. [1]

Battle honours Edit

In the British and Commonwealth system of battle honours, there was no distinct award for service in Operation Varsity. Instead, units that participated in the operation were included in the awards made between 1956 and 1959 to all units that participated in the Rhine crossing between 23 March and 1 April 1945: Rajna, ili The Rhine to Canadian units, later translated to Le Rhin for French Canadian units. [51]

Contemporary observers and historians generally agree that Operation Varsity was successful. General Eisenhower called it "the most successful airborne operation carried out to date", and an observer later wrote that the operation showed "the highest state of development attained by troop-carrier and airborne units". [52] In the official summary of the operation, Major General Ridgway wrote that the operation had been flawless, and that the two airborne divisions involved had destroyed enemy defences that might otherwise have taken days to reduce, ensuring the operation was successful. [53]

Several modern historians have also praised the operation and the improvements that were made for Varsity. G. G. Norton argued that the operation benefited from the lessons learned from previous operations, [54] and Brian Jewell agrees, arguing that the lessons of Market Garden had been learned as the airborne forces were concentrated and quickly dropped, giving the defenders little time to recover. [18] Norton also argues that improvements were made for supporting the airborne troops he notes that a large number of artillery pieces were available to cover the landings and that observers were dropped with the airborne forces, thus augmenting the firepower and flexibility of the airborne troops. He also highlights the development of a technique that allowed entire brigades to be landed in tactical groups, giving them greater flexibility. [55] Dropping the airborne forces after the ground forces had breached the Rhine also ensured that the airborne troops would not have to fight for long before being relieved, a major improvement on the manner in which the previous large-scale airborne operation, Market Garden, had been conducted. [56]

Historian Peter Allen states that while the airborne forces took heavy casualties, Varsity diverted German attention from the Rhine crossing onto themselves. Thus, the troops fighting to create a bridgehead, across the Rhine, suffered relatively few casualties, and were able to "break out from the Rhine in hours rather than days". [57]

Despite a great deal of official accolade and praise over the success of the operation, a number of criticisms have been made of the operation and the errors that were made. Several military historians have been critical of the need for the operation, with one historian, Barry Gregory, arguing that "Operation Varsity was not entirely necessary. " [58] Another historian, James A. Huston, argues that ". had the same resources been employed on the ground, it is conceivable that the advance to the east might have been even more rapid than it was". [52]

Aircraft shortages Edit

One specific failure in the massive operation was the critical lack of transport aircraft for the operation, an unsolved flaw that had dogged every large-scale airborne operation the Allies had conducted. In the original planning for Varsity, an extra airborne division, the 13th, had been included however, a lack of transport aircraft to drop this division led to it being excluded from the final plan. [14] Thus, the unsolved problem of a shortage of transport aircraft meant that a third of the planned troops to be used were discarded, weakening the fighting power of the airborne formation. [59] In the event, the airborne troops actually employed were sufficient to overwhelm the defenders. [56]

Some historians have commented on this failure Gerard Devlin argues that because of this lack of aircraft the remaining two divisions were forced to shoulder the operation by themselves. [56]

Aircraft and troop losses Edit

Losses of airborne troops were high. The cause of this high casualty rate can most likely be traced to the fact that the operation was launched in full daylight, rather than a night-assault. The airborne landings were conducted during the day primarily because the planners believed that a daytime operation had a better chance of success than at night, the troops being less scattered. [56] [Note 6]

However, landing paratroopers, and especially gliders, without the cover of darkness left them exceedingly vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. [60] The official history of the British Airborne Divisions highlights the cost of this trade-off, stating that of the 416 gliders that landed, only 88 remained undamaged by enemy fire, and that between 20–30 percent of the glider pilots were casualties. [61] Another historian argues that the gliders landing in daylight was a calamity, with the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment having two-thirds of their gliders hit by ground fire and suffering heavy casualties as they landed. [60] The casualty rates were worsened by the slow rates of release and descent of the gliders themselves, and the fact that each aircraft towed two gliders, slowing them even further as the time to release a glider unit was 3–4 times longer than a parachute unit, the gliders were vulnerable to flak. [60]

A large number of paratroop drop aircraft were hit and lost as well. This was largely due to the hostile conditions encountered by the drop aircraft. Operation Varsity's paratroop drop phase was flown in daylight at slow speeds at very low altitudes, using unarmed cargo aircraft, over heavy concentrations of German 20 mm, 37 mm, and larger calibre antiaircraft (AA) cannon utilizing explosive, incendiary, and armor-piercing incendiary ammunition. By that stage of the war, German AA crews had trained to a high state of readiness many batteries had considerable combat experience in firing on and destroying high speed, well-armed fighter and fighter-bomber aircraft while under fire themselves. Finally, while many if not all of the C-47s used in Operation Varsity had been retrofitted with self-sealing fuel tanks, [62] the much larger C-46 Commando aircraft employed in the drop received no such modification. This was exacerbated by the C-46's unvented wings, which tended to pool leaked gasoline at the wing root where it could be ignited by flak or a stray spark. Although 19 of 72 C-46 aircraft were destroyed during Operation Varsity, losses of other aircraft types from AA fire during the same operation were also significant, including 13 gliders shot down, 14 crashed, and 126 damaged 15 Consolidated B-24 bombers shot down, and 104 damaged [63] [64] and 30 C-47s shot down and 339 damaged. [65]

Lieutenant-Colonel Otway, who wrote an official history of the British airborne forces during World War II, stated that Operation Varsity highlighted the vulnerability of glider-borne units. While they arrived in complete sub-units and were able to move off more quickly than airborne troops dropped by parachute, the gliders were easy targets for anti-aircraft fire and short-range small-arms fire once landed Otway concluded that in any future operations, troops dropped by parachute should secure landing zones prior to the arrival of glider-borne units. [66] Thus, by having the landings conducted during daylight to ensure greater accuracy, the Allied planners incurred a far greater casualty rate, particularly amongst the glider-borne elements. The operation also suffered from poor piloting. Although the piloting was of a better quality than in the Sicilian and Normandy operations, there were still significant failures on the part of the pilots, especially when it is considered that the drop was conducted in daylight. [67] A significant error occurred when the pilots of the transports carrying 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment dropped much of the regiment several miles from their designated drop zones, with the mis-dropped units actually landing in the British landing zones. [67]


Battle of the Rhineland

Canadian personnel carrier in the Rhineland, 1945 (courtesy DND/PA-146284).

The Battle of the Rhineland 8 Feb-10 Mar 1945, was fought by the First Canadian Army (with XXX British Corps under command) and Ninth US Army while forcing back the Germans to the Rhine R. For the Canadians it involved attacking over inundated ground in the first phase (Operation Veritable, Feb 8-21) and through the Hochwald forest in the second (Operation Blockbuster, Feb 22-Mar 10) against stubborn opposition as the Germans defended German soil. Throughout the month poor weather robbed the Allies of much of their accustomed tactical air support, while mud frequently immobilized their armoured forces. Nevertheless, the W bank of the Rhine was cleared as far S as Düsseldorf in some of the bitterest fighting of the Second World War. Allied casualties totalled nearly 23 000, the Canadians losing 5300. The Germans lost approximately 90 000 men, of whom some 52 000 were taken prisoner. By 23 Mar 1945 the Allies were on the Rhine from Strasbourg, France, to Nijmegen, Netherlands.


  1. ↑ First Canadian Army losses from "8 February . [to] . 10 March were . 1,049 officers and 14,585 other ranks the majority of these were British soldiers". Canadian losses amounted to 379 officers and 4,925 other ranks, the vast majority being lost during Operation Blockbuster. Total allied losses in Operations Veritable/Blockbuster and Grenade amounted to 22,934 men. [1]
  2. ↑ Canadian First Army captured 22,239 prisoners during the operation, and the intelligence section estimated the number of German soldiers killed or made "long-term wounded" to have amounted to 22,000 men. In conjunction with Operation Grenade, the combined allied effort inflicted approximately 90,000 casualties on the German army. [1]
  1. Stacey, Chap 19, p. 522
  2. ↑"Geilenkirchen to the Rhine". A Short History of the 8th Armoured Brigade. 2000 . Retrieved 26 May 2009 .
  3. ↑ Stacey, Chapter 17, pp 436 - 439
  4. ↑ Stacey, Chap 18, p 463
  5. ↑ Stacey, Chap 17, p 458
  6. ↑ Stacey, Chap 18, p 464
  7. ↑ Note, Kleve was bombed by a force of 295 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes of No. 1 and No. 8 Groups, Goch by 292 Halifaxes, 156 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitoes of No. 4, No. 6 and No. 8 Groups. The attack on Goch was stopped after 155 aircraft had bombed as the smoke from the resulting fires on the ground was stopping the Master Bomber from controlling the remaining crews bombing accurately. The attack on Kleve had been offered to Horrocks by the RAF, and he had accepted the offer, and was later to state it was "the most terrible decision I had ever taken in my life".
  8. Everitt, Chris Middlebrook, Martin (2 April 2014). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. ISBN   9781473834880 .
  9. ↑ War Monthly (1976). Operation Veritable: A dirty slogging-match in the mud of the Rhineland, by William Moore (p. 2).
  10. ↑ Stacey, Chap 18, pp 465-466
  11. ↑ War Monthly (1976). Operation Veritable: A dirty slogging-match in the mud of the Rhineland, by William Moore (p. 3).
  12. ↑ War Monthly (1976). Operation Veritable: A dirty slogging-match in the mud of the Rhineland, by William Moore (pp. 3𔃃).
  13. ↑ War Monthly (1976). Operation Veritable: A dirty slogging-match in the mud of the Rhineland, by William Moore (p. 5).
  14. 12
  15. Veale, MC, Lt-Col P.N. "REPORT ON 34 ARMOURED BRIGADE OPERATIONS: The Reichswald Forest Phase, 8 to 17 February 1945" . Retrieved 3 October 2013 .
  16. ↑ Stacey, Chap 19
  17. ↑ Stacey, Chap 19, p 524
  18. Thacker, Toby (2006). The End of the Third Reich. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. pp.   92󈟉. ISBN   0-7524-3939-1 .

Hallowed Ground: The Reichswald, Germany

The 1945 Battle of the Reichswald was for Anglo-Canadian forces what the earlier Battle of the Hürtgen Forest had been for American troops. The British attack through the densely wooded and tenaciously defended northern sector of the Siegfried Line (aka Westwall) only lasted from February 8 to March 11. But in those four short weeks the 200,000 British and Canadian troops committed to the attack suffered 23,000 casualties. Of the 90,000 German defenders, 38,000 were killed or wounded and 52,000 were captured. Fierce and bloody combat wasn’t the only thing the back-to-back forest battles had in common. One of the key American failures in the Hürtgen Forest, some 110 miles to the south, resulted directly in a major operational problem for the British in the Reichswald.

Formally known as the Klever Reichswald, the 13,000- acre forest is a former hunting preserve of the Holy Roman Empire. It sits between the Rhine and Maas rivers, near the Dutch-German border. The Dutch town of Nijmegen, primary objective of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division during the earlier Operation Market Garden, lies about six miles west of the forest. The German town of Kleve (known in English as Cleves, home of Anne, fourth wife of England’s King Henry VIII) sits at the northeast corner of the Reichswald, on the edge of the Rhine floodplain.

The clearing of the Reichswald was the opening phase of Operation Veritable, the advance of General Henry Crerar’s Canadian First Army to the Rhine. The plan called for the Canadians to push across the German-Dutch border, secure Kleve and then pivot south between the Rhine and the Maas. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. William Hood Simpson’s U.S. Ninth Army would launch Operation Grenade, the southern arm of the huge pincer, by crossing the Rur, advancing toward the Rhine and then turning northeast. As the two Allied field armies converged, they were to cut off and destroy German forces and secure jump-off points to cross the Rhine.

Reinforcing Crerar’s First Army, which comprised one British and two Canadian corps, was Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Horrock’s British XXX Corps. Opposing them was General of Parachute Troops Alfred Schlemm’s First Parachute Army of Army Group H. Schlemm had a heavy antitank battalion and four divisions in various states of readiness, including the 7th Parachute Division. His main reserve was General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz’s XLVIII Panzer Corps, which controlled the 15th Panzergrenadier Division and the 116th Panzer Division, venerable veterans of the Bulge and the Hürtgen Forest. Lüttwitz’s forces, however, were below half-strength and fielded no more than 90 tanks. Schlemm’s primary objective was to prevent the Allies from seizing the bridgeheads over the lower Rhine.

Aerial strikes and a five-hour artillery barrage preceded the Allied attack on February 8. Commonwealth troops then advanced against the western edge of the forest, with the Canadian 3rd and 2nd, Scottish 15th, Welsh 53rd and Highland 51st divisions from north to south. The two reserve echelons comprised two infantry and two armored divisions. Contrary to the repeated American attacks in the Hürtgen Forest, which involved too few forces for the operational space, the British tried to pack too many forces into their 6-mile-wide attack sector. Only two main routes cut through the Reichswald, and an early thaw had turned the forest floor into a sea of mud. The attack quickly bunched up and bogged down. The Germans compounded the Allies’ problems by opening the floodgates on the Maas, inundating the surrounding countryside. Schlemm made good use of the delays to move up his few tanks and antitank guns.


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