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World War II Europe: The Western Front

The War Ends

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World War II Europe: The Western Front

2nd Lt. William Robertson and Lt. Alexander Sylvashko, Russian Army, shown in front of sign [East Meets West] symbolizing the historic meeting of the Russian and American Armies, near Torgau, Germany." April 25, 1945.

Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration
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Allied Counterattack

To combat the German thrust, Eisenhower called a meeting of his senior commanders at Verdun on December 19. During the meeting Eisenhower asked Patton how long it would take to turn Third Army north towards the Germans. Patton's stunning reply was 48 hours. Anticipating Eisenhower's request, Patton had begun the movement prior to the meeting and in an unprecedented feat of arms, began attacking north with lightening speed. On December 23, the weather began to clear and Allied air power began to hammer the Germans whose offensive stalled the next day near Dinant. The day after Christmas, Patton's forces broke through and relieved the defenders of Bastogne. In the first week of January, Eisenhower ordered Montgomery to attack south and Patton to attack north with the goal of trapping the Germans in the salient caused by their offensive. Fighting in bitter cold, the Germans were able to successfully withdrawal, but were forced to abandon much of their equipment.

To the Rhine

US forces closed the "bulge" on January 15, 1945, when they linked up near Houffalize and by early February the lines had returned to their pre-December 16 position. Pressing forward on all fronts, Eisenhower's forces met with success as the Germans had exhausted their reserves during the Battle of the Bulge. Entering Germany, the final barrier to the Allied advance was the Rhine River. To enhance this natural defensive line, the Germans promptly began destroying the bridges spanning the river. The Allies scored a major victory on March 7/8 when elements of the 9th Armored Division were able to capture intact the bridge at Remagen. The Rhine was crossed elsewhere on March 24, when the British 6th Airborne and the US 17th Airborne were dropped in as part of Operation Varsity.

The Final Push

With the Rhine breached in multiple places, German resistance began to crumble. 12th Army Group swiftly encircled the remnants of Army Group B in the Ruhr Pocket capturing 300,000 German soldiers. Pressing east, they advanced to the Elbe River where they linked up with Soviet troops in mid-April. To the south US forces pushed into Bavaria. On April 30, with the end in sight, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin. Seven days later, the German government formally surrendered ending World War II in Europe.

Previous: North Africa, Sicily, & Italy | World War II 101 | Next: The War in the Pacific Begins
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