Riviera to the Rhine

Now available both online via Hyperwar and as an eBook via Amazon’s Kindle, the Center for Military History‘s Riviera to the Rhine was originally published in 1976. It has been reprinted by Whitman Publishing as part of their reprise of the Army’s series on WWII and is available in hardcover, new and used.

In the foreword, BGEN Harold Nelson writes:

With the publication of Riviera to the Rhine, the Center of Military History completes its series of operational histories treating the activities of the U.S. Army’s combat forces during World War II. This volume examines the least known of the major units in the European theater, General Jacob L. Devers’ 6th Army Group. Under General Devers’ leadership, two armies, the U.S. Seventh Army under General Alexander M. Patch and the First French Army led by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, landing on the Mediterranean coast near Marseille in August 1944, cleared the enemy out of southern France and then turned east and joined with army groups under Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery and General Omar N. Bradley in the final assault on Germany.

In detailing the campaign of these Riviera-based armies, the authors have concentrated on the operational level of war, paying special attention to the problems of joint, combined, and special operations and to the significant roles of logistics, intelligence, and personnel policies in these endeavors. They have also examined in detail deception efforts at the tactical and operational levels, deep battle penetrations, river-crossing efforts, combat in built-up areas, and tactical innovations at the combined arms level.

Such concepts are of course very familiar to today’s military students, and the fact that this volume examines them in such detail makes this study especially valuable to younger officers and noncommissioned officers. In truth, the challenges faced by military commanders half a century ago were hardly unique. That is why I particularly urge today’s military students, who might well face some of these same problems in future combat, to study this campaign so that they might learn from their illustrious predecessors in the profession of arms.

Both authors, Jeffrey J. Clark and Robert Ross Smith, have since retired from the Center for Miltary History (in 2006 and 1983, respectively), but wrote extensively about World War II and their volumes are a credit to any library of the war.


Five Years, Four Fronts

BGEN Theodore Mataxis was asked to write a foreword for Georg Grossjohann’s “Five Years, Four Fronts” and nearly turned it down. He felt he’d have little in common with the Major. They hadn’t fought in the same battles and their careers hadn’t been similar.

However, because of my keen interest in and bias in favor of “eyeball accounts” by combat participants, I finally agreed to read the draft manuscript. At worst, I thought, it would confirm my doubts, and I would simply have to decline the opportunity to pen the requested foreword. The more I read, though, the more engrossed and intrigued I became. I found this was not just another war story of campaigns during WWII, but the author’s detailed account of his experience at small-unit level during peace, mobilization and war.

Mataxis truly enjoyed the book and his foreword becomes an enthusiastic endorsement of the work.

The synopsis of the book from the publisher reads:

After Hitler’s invasions of Poland and France came the Russian Front–and that’s when the real war started.

An infantryman who rose from the enlisted ranks to regimental command in combat, Georg Grossjohann fought on four different fronts during World War II, but saw most of his fighting–from 1941 to 1944–against Russians in the Soviet Union and Romania. He provides shattering glimpses of the horror and chaos of the war, as well as profound insights into everyday life in the Wehrmacht.

Five Years, Four Fronts chronicles the combat experiences of Grossjohann and his men as they triumphantly roll across Poland, France, and the sunny steppes of the Ukraine, only to ultimately sustain grinding defeats in the endless, freezing plains of the Soviet Union and the grim, dark Vosges Mountains of France. Grossjohann was a soldier’s soldier, respected by his men, undaunted by his superiors, and, as can be observed in this raw, brutally honest account, not afraid to call the shots as he saw them.

Grossjohann served in the 198th Infantry Division, eventually commanding his regiment during the fighting in the Colmar Pocket and this book allows us to hear from the German perspective. His recollections of the Division’s escape up the Rhone River valley are particularly interesting.

Destination Berchtesgaden

Two very prolific writers, John Frayn Turner and Robert Jackson, turned their attention to the Seventh Army in their book, Destination Berchtesgaden: The US 7th Army during World War II. It was first published in 1975 and is now also available electronically. Turner served in the Royal Navy and Jackson in the Royal Air Force, but that seems not to have hindered their efforts in producing this work.

Their publisher, Osprey, describes the book: Of the US Armies fighting in Europe at the end of World War II, General Patch’s Seventh Army has received the least attention from historians. Although over-shadowed by the performance of General Patton and the actions of his US Third Army (breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead, liberating Paris and seizing Remagen bridge), the Seventh Army made a considerable contribution to the Allied victory, particularly their rapid advance through southern Germany and Austria. The Seventh Army landed in Sicily in 1943, and then took part in Operation Anvil in 1944 before advancing across the Rhine and reaching Berchtesgaden itself. Both the successes and setbacks of the Seventh Army are discussed in this volume, as well as discussing the tactical victories and defeats that contributed to the Allied campaign.

Decision at Strasbourg

Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944 was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2008 and would be a great addition to any library on the 6th Army Group.

From the description provided by the Naval Institute:

In late November 1944, just a day before Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers’ Sixth Army Group was to launch a bold attack across the Rhine into Germany, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered a halt to the operation. Such an unexpected opportunity to cross the river, seal off the German 19th Army, and maneuver behind the German 1st Army fighting General George Patton might have ended the war six months early. Until now, few have ever heard about this lost opportunity, and historians have never fully explained why Eisenhower stopped Devers, nor have they analyzed the possible outcome of such an attack. This book does just that, exploring what might have occurred had Ike allowed Devers to cross the river.

Colley judiciously cites the opinions of many high-ranking generals, including Patton, that the attack would have been a bold and likely successful maneuver that could have saved thousands of lives. In rolling out this alternative historical perspective, the author offers insights about Eisenhower that illuminate the potential consequences of his cautious leadership and his rejection of a man he disliked and whose strategy he lacked confidence in. Colley points to Ike’s reliance on old friends, sometimes regardless of ability, and argues that the conduct of World War II in Europe was often determined by personal amities and animosities. It is the only book to be written about the aborted action and how politics and personalities intervened to deny an opportunity to shorten the war. Its premise is certain to engage all interested in World War II and its lessons.

First to the Rhine: The 6th Army Group in World War II

It’s a long march from St. Tropez on the Mediterranean, across the length of France, over into Germany, down to Munich, and into Austria, a semicircle well over eight hundred miles. The 6th Army Group, comprised of the U.S. Seventh and French First armies, fought its way along that route, a route often defined by the rivers and mountains that needed to be crossed: the Rhône River, the Vosges Mountains, the Rhine River, the Danube.

While some called it the “champagne campaign,” the landings near St. Tropez on 15 August 1944 were more vigorously defended than those in North Africa or even Anzio. Fortunately, the American divisions that came ashore were hard-bitten veterans of the war in Italy and, in the case of the 3d Infantry Division, North Africa. The French units also included many veterans of the Italian campaign and comprised Frenchmen and Africans in almost equal numbers. As the Allies battled on, the French ranks were swelled by tens of thousands of Free French Forces of the Interior, the famous maquis. German forces arrayed against the Allies included the famed 11th Panzer Division, an Eastern front veteran known as the “Ghost Division,” which would hit the Allied advance time and again only to slip away before it could be pinned and destroyed. But the Allies pushed on, northward into and over the Vosges Mountains.

First to the Rhine tells the story of that nine-month campaign from the strategic plane down through the corps, division, and regimental levels to the personal experience of the men in combat, including the likes of Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated infantryman of the war. It features little-known battles, including one at Montélimar, when an ad hoc American armored command and the 36th Infantry Division came within a hair’s breadth (and several days of hard fighting) of cutting off the entire German Nineteenth Army. Also covered is the vicious fighting during the German Nordwind counteroffensive in January 1945 and the French-American offensive to clear the Colmar Pocket between the Vosges and the Rhine.

Authors Harry Yeide and Mark Stout draw heavily on official American and French after-action reports, other contemporary combat records such as highly detailed S-3 and G-3 operations journals, and interviews conducted by the U.S. Army with soldiers shortly after the actions occurred. Also used are personal recollections written by key commanders in American, French, and German ranks. Illustrations come from official U.S. Army photographs and film. The result is the first popular English-language history that explores the French role in the fighting and the relationship between the U.S. Army and the French forces that fought under American command—and at times also controlled American divisions.

You can order it from Amazon.

70th Anniversary Commemoration

From St. Tropez to Colmar: Operation Dragoon to the Battle of the Colmar Pocket – the US 6th Army Group and 7th Army in France
15 August 1944 to 9 February 1945
Hosted by Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, the Army Historical Foundation, and the Embassy of France

When: 30 July to 3 August 2014 (Wednesday-Sunday)
Where: Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel
900 South Orme Street
Arlington, VA 22204

Who: Please join us in honoring the veterans of the 6th Army Group; 1st French Army; 7th Army; 6th Corps; 3rd, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions; 1st Allied Airborne Task Force – 517th PIRCT (including AT CO/442nd IN), 509th PIB, 4463rd PFAB, 550th AIB, 551st PIB, and the 2nd IPB (UK); and 1st SSF in Southern France; the supporting US Army Air Corps; US Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine; the OSS; and from the participant allied nations of France, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Canada; the 21st Corps, 28th ID, 75th ID, and 12th AD which joined the 3rd ID and 36th ID in the Battle of the Colmar Pocket, family members, friends, and anyone interested in WWII history.

Wednesday, 30 July: 1 to 3 PM – registration; 7 to 9 PM – Historical seminar I
Thursday, 31 July: 9 AM to 5 PM – Historical seminar II and veterans’ remembrances

5:30 PM to 7:30 PM – Reception at French Embassy

Friday, 1 August: 8 to 12 AM – ceremony in Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, including wreath-laying at Tomb of the Unknowns and the 3rd Infantry Division monument and respects at the Audie Murphy gravesite
12:30 to 2:30 PM – Luncheon at Fort Myer Officers Club
7 to 9 PM – Historical seminar III and veterans’ remembrances
Saturday, 2 August: Bus trip to SS John W. Brown Liberty Ship and Fort McHenry in Baltimore

5 PM: Cocktail Hour (no host)
6 to 9 PM – Banquet

Sunday, 3 August: Departures and Farewells
Why: To honor the veterans of the Operation Dragoon and the campaigns in Southern France, the Vosges, and in Alsace, to preserve history, educate the public, and pass on the torch of their proud legacy.
Room Reservations: Price – $92 per night, one day prior to event and one day after.
Reservations: call Anne Janeski at 703-271-6670, anne.janeski@sheratonpentagoncity.com
Reservation Group Name: Operation Dragoon
Point of Contact: Monika Stoy, President
Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division
monika@6tharmygroup.com, PH: 703 912 4218
6531 Milva Lane, Springfield, VA. 22150 USA
RSVP by 10 July 2014
Registration: Event registration – $30. Luncheon – $40. Banquet – $40.
(Free for WWII veterans of the campaign in Southern France and in Alsace)



An American Knight: A Tank Destroyer Story

This book, by CDR Victor “Tory” Failmezger, is the story of a young Lieutenant, Thomas Peter Welch, in the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion during World War II. The story of the 601st TD BN is told in Tommy’s more than 150 letters from the front and the unpublished memoirs and diaries of the men who were there. The book follows the Battalion from stateside training to North Africa, the withdrawal at the Kasserine Pass, and on to victory over Rommel at El Guetter. The Battalion was part of the invasion of Italy at Salerno and crossed the Volturno on the road to Cassino. Landing at Anzio, they became trapped on the beachhead for four months until the breakout and the liberation of Rome. They were first ashore for the “Forgotten D-Day” in Southern France and were there for the resultant battles against winter and the SS in the Vosges Mountains, and smashing the Colmar Pocket. At the end, they crossed the Siegfried Line and raced across Germany to Hitler’s Eagle Nest.

“An American Knight” contains period maps and hundreds of illustrations, many from private collections and never before published. It is 480 pages, with hundreds of footnotes, 12 appendices and a twenty-plus page bibliography. For more details and ordering information, see the website.