During winter 1944/45 few German officers believed that the Allies would attack the wooded Reichswald Plug on the narrow neck of land between the rivers Rhine and Maas. Consequently, relying on the natural defenses of the forest, the vaunted Siegfried Line had been allowed to peter out. The 84th Infantry Division held field defenses that had been worked on all autumn, but the defenders were thinly spread, and most German soldiers now faced the certainty of defeat.
Originally hoping to use the frozen winter ground for a speedy assault, days before Operation VERITABLE began a thaw set in and the Allies faced attacking in the worst possible ground conditions. On the morning of 8 February, after protracted bombardment, delays multiplied as vehicles became bogged in saturated fields and shell holes, and roads broke up under heavy armor. However, just enough assault engineer equipment reached the outer German defenses, where they found the enemy infantry largely stunned by the bombardment.
It took all of the first day to break through the mud and defenses into the Reichswald, while to the north, Canadians and Scots struggled across equally sodden open country with the Rhine floods rising fast. Despite the conditions, overnight the Canadians took to the flood waters to seize what were now island villages and the Scots dashed to capture the vital Materborn, which overlooked Kleve.
With heavy rain compounding difficulties, mud and flood waters made movement of men and supplies increasingly difficult. Despite this and the arrival of German reinforcements, the Allies fought their way forward, forcing the Reichswald Plug and opening the way into the Rhineland and the final phases of the war.
Tim Saunders. Hard cover. 224 pages. 6.1″ x 9.2″. English text. 80 black & white illustrations & 30 maps.