THE LAST OFFENSIVE. By Charles B. MacDonald. (1973, 1984, 1990; 532 pages, 27 maps,92 illustrations, 2 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossaries, index, CMH Pub 7-9.)
The Last Offensive is the final volume of the United States Army in World War II subseries The European Theater of Operations. It recounts the closing battles in which the American forces cross the Rhine River--historic boundary of German power--and, with the Western Allies, defeat and destroy Hitler's armies deployed on the Western Front. The story in these final chapters follows those told in The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge and in Riviera to the Rhine; the time frame extends from the first days of January 1945 to V-E Day (8 May).
The massive force under Eisenhower's command had attained the battle experi-ence of a professional army; it was superior to the Wehrmacht both in manpower and materiel. On V-E Day Eisenhower would have under his command more than four and a half million troops: 91 divisions (61 of which were American), 6 tactical air commands, and 2 strategic air forces. In this volume appears a reckoning of the total Allied effort in the West and the human cost accumulated between D-day and V-E Day. In these months a total of 5,412,219 Allied troops had entered the European Theater of Operations, along with 970,044 vehicles and 18,292,310 tons of supplies. Allied casualties for the period of combat are estimated at a figure of 766,294. American losses are carried as 586,628, of which 135,576 are listed as dead (Ch. XX).
The Last Offensive is a dramatic piece of military history and offers a varied array of ground force operations. In these final months the U.S. First, Third, Seventh, and Ninth Armies, reinforced by British and Canadian armies on the northern flank and a French army on the southern wing, erased the two German salients west of the Rhine (in the Ardennes and around Colmar) and drove to the long-time Allied objective, the Rhine. The powerful assaults to force the Rhine crossings were accompanied by a prime example of "luck" in battle, the seizure of the Remagen bridge, and abetted by a spectacular air-drop assault Operation VARSITY--the last of the war (Ch. XIV). Beyond the Rhine there follows a series of the most massive sweeps and wide turning movements in World War II, engulfing and destroying the German armies in the Ruhr Pocket (Ch. XVI). The end of the Wehrmacht comes when the Americans join the Soviets at the Elbe (Ch. XVII) while the Seventh U.S. Army races to and crosses the Danube (Ch. XVIII).
The gigantic size of these operations requires that this volume be structured with emphasis on the army but with close scrutiny of important engagements by divisional organizations. The detailed story of the Allied command in this period will be found in The Supreme Command. Nonetheless, The Last Offensive analyzes the controversy between Eisenhower and Montgomery over the competing strategies based on an advance all along the front versus a narrow, deep, and powerful thrust on a very constricted front. Here it is shown that the Allied front expands from 450 miles in January to twice that width at V-E Day. Also, explanation is given herein regarding Eisenhower's decision to halt the advance of the Western Allies on the Leipzig axis, short of Berlin. Despite the great Allied superiority on the ground and in the air, the war weary and weakened German troops fought stubbornly in these last battles; The
Last Offensive gives credit to these veteran troops fighting in a hopeless and meaningless cause.
1. The "grand tactics" of wide encircling sweeps and deep penetrations (see Index: "Armor, exploitation").
2. Tactical and technical problems in the crossing of defended rivers and the consolidation of bridgeheads (see Index: "Rhine; Roer; Moselle"; Ch. XI).
3. Effect of varied combinations of terrain and weather on mechanical operations (see Index: "Tanks; Weather").
4. Management of logistics in support of rapid movement by large forces (see also Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume II).
5. Organization for combat at the division level during operations of deep penetration and rapid exploitation (see Index: "Divisions by number").
6. Tactics and techniques of bridging and assault craft operations at large water barriers (see Index: "LVTs; DUKWs; Boats, assault; Bridges; Engineers, bridging operations").
7. Tactical use of smoke, fog, and weather (see Index: "Smoke; Weather").
8. Airborne transport and vertical encirclement by air (Ch. XIV).
9. Air interdiction in support of Allied ground operations (Ch. XIV).
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