Early January 1945, it’s snowing and the Germans are shuffling their forces to fill in the gaps in their line. Just as the German command was congratulating itself on constituting something looking like a front line in along the borders of Alsace and Lorraine the Americans pounded them at both ends of the front. In the south a mixed group of American mechanized cavalry and tank destroyers stormed Belfort with heavy air support destroying the static division there and sending a training brigade running off to the east. A German infantry division pinned against the Swiss Border is wiped out in a bloody battle with greatly superior American forces. The losses are heavy on both sides, but the German survivors can only choose between internment in Switzerland or an American Prison Camp. Near the Belgium coast the Americans stormed Ostend only manned by hapless Kriegsmarine gunners. Thirty two miles to the South the American 22nd corps slammed into a German infantry corps inflicting heavy casualties and sending it staggering backward. Another German corps, really a lone infantry division heavily reinforced with artillery, assault guns and anti-aircraft guns got hit by two U.S. armored corps. The corps was overwhelmed with the non-division units all being destroyed and the infantry division being overrun by the American exploitation. In the center, southeast off Paris the British continued to inflict slaughter on the slower moving elements of German army cadring several divisions.
1945 January: A most unhappy of New Years
The only good news comes from Field Marshal Kesselring, two American drives in Italy have stalled out just as it seemed the Americans might punch through the thinning German center.
In the aftermath of this debacle command of the Western Front was turned over to Field Marshal Model.
In the second half of January the German’s pull back towards the Reich frontier creating a more or less continuous line from the Swiss Border to the North Sea Coast. The southern end of the line is at the Belfort gap then runs through the Vosges up the Moselle and the Meuse through Namur and Brussels. However the strength of the new line has been undermined by OKW’s
increasingly desperate efforts to stabilize th eastern front by transferring east the bulk of the Panzers. The remaining armor is concentrated in two reorganized Panzer Corps.
The Germans hope to withdraw some mechanized formations from.Italy to reinforce their forces in the west. The forces can’t be pulled out until the Italian line is shortened. The German line on Italy’s east coast has been almost impenetrable since June, but as the line in central and western Italy keeps getting pushed further north. As a result the north-south section of the line through the mountains has steadily absorbed more troops, although the Allies have failed to breach it. Now the German command hopes it can pull the eastern end of the line back to the north and free up several divisions, but the clock seems to be working against them as they begin the first stage of the withdrawal.
In Belgium and France the Americans apply pressure to both flanks. The battle of the Belfort Gap breaks down into two separate actions, both with disastrous results for the Germans. Int he Gaps inself a bloody battle bits a strongly reinforced American corps with massive artillery and air support against a newly arrived mountain and infantry division supported by a flak regiment and a training brigade. The flak drives off almost half the supporting aircraft, but it’s not enough to prevent the defenders from being overwhelmed. The survivors of the two German divisions retreat back to Mulhouse and two American divisions are badly reduced, but the Americans are left in possession of the vital gap and a dangerous hole at the southern end of the line allows American mechanized cavalry to reach the western bank of the Rhine. A few miles to the northwest an infantry corps that had been bridging up the rear of the German forces retreating from central France is hemmed in on three sides by their American pursuers. The bloody fighting that follows the survivors of the three divisions manage to claw their way through a gap in the near encirclement. The American take losses two with several smaller formations being knocked out of action, but the Americans can afford the losses and the Germans cannot..
In the ALlies center, the British are moving up trying to make contact with the German main lien of resistance. The only force they can hit immediately is a lagging corps of static divisions and French collaborationist militia. In an indecisive action the Germans are pushed back to the East, but they are trying to go that way anyway.
Further north the Americans storm across the Meuse just north of Sedan. Two armored corps, and an infantry corps smash an understrength German corps and then overrun the survivors. A possible irreparable gap has been put through the German center. The action around Brussels is intense. North of the city an American corps pushes right through the German line, badly reducing the forces that tried to block their drive and opening a dangerous gap. An infantry corps just west of the city.is forced into headlong retreat and is forced to stagger right through the Brussels garrison until they come to a half in the positions of a reserve corps just to the southeast of the city. .Near the coast an infantry division and the battered cadre of a parachute division are surrounded by several American corps and wiped out.
By the end of the month 10 German front line infantry, parachute and mountain divisions have been reduced to cadre or entirely wiped out. Field Marshal Model is now left to scramble to rebuild his line and make good his losses, and it is unclear how he will do either