previous post, “Prepare to March” noted that the 83rd was in Holland for training, having moved there from Neuss, Germany, on the west bank of the Rhine River. The training was mainly in regard to river crossings. However, as the division moved east it would come across all sorts of terrain, from rivers and spring flowered meadows to snow covered forest and mountains. Prior to heading into the heart of the Beast, Berlin, another task had to first be completed. The allied advance into Germany from the west was to be accomplished by three great army groups. The 83rd was part of the north located Twenty-first army group under British Field Marshall Montgomery, the second group was the Twelfth Army group under US General Omar Bradley, and southern portion of the advance was occupied by the US Sixth Army Group under General Devers. Each army group was itself composed of spectacular, and colorful, men, most well-known would have been General Patton, who commanded the US Third Army which was under Bradley’s Twelfth Army Group. The 83rd was part of the US Ninth Army which was under the Command of General Simpson. In deference to the ego of Montgomery, the 83rd was held up from crossing the Rhine after having reached it on March 2. Monty insisted on being the first to cross. Even though Montgomery has been describe as impatient, it was well known if you wanted something timely done, you did not ask the Field Marshall from Britain. The moment of glory in crossing the Rhine was to go to Montgomery, to whom the US Ninth Army was now attached, at least that was the plan. In a move showing disregard for the Field Marshall, Patton would have his Third Army beat Monty to the punch.
His is set to marry his girlfriend from Luxembourg (April Fools!!) Actually there was special news. “While in Holland,” he states, “I received the Bronze Star upon recommendation of Capt. Vietor. I thought it was very nice of him. Col. Desbotels (spelling?), G-2 of the division pinned it on me. I was the only one and first in the detachment to get it but I suppose you are not very clear in what it means and frankly I’m not either.” He never goes on to say why he received it, although he does appreciate the fact that the medal gives him five more points toward a discharge. The CIC was often noted as being the “Corps of Indignant Corporals” since an act of congress extremely limited their officer. Sayler notes in his book on the CIC, that men in the CIC would have been officer material in any other branch of the service. The reason why Roy Hovel received the medal may be lost to history, as his personnel file was among many others to have been lost in a fire at a facility in St. Louis. Was it related to his close call in December, or the one on March 10, or his interrogation of a prisoner or spy? We may never know.
The day after the industrial Ruhr area was encircled Eisenhower issued orders for Bradley to “mop up the…Ruhr…launch a thrust with its main axis: Kassel-Leipzig…seize any opportunity to capture a bridgehead over the River Elbe and be prepared to conduct operations beyond the Elbe.” (Ryan, 283) Was Eisenhower, who Atkinson reported in his 2013 book The Guns at Last Light as having closed the door to Berlin on March 28, now leaving the door open? Of more interest are the follow up instructions of April 4 that Bradley would spell out in “Letter of Instructions, No. 20” directed to the US Ninth Army. The instructions first note a need to drive a line from south of Hanover to Hadelsheim (which is about 70 miles from the Elbe River) to then begin phase 2 of the operation. The “Letter” went on to read: “Phase 2: Advance on order to the east…exploit any opportunity for seizing a bridgehead over the Elbe and be prepared to continue the advance on BERLIN or to the northeast.” (Ryan, 283) Were the troops finally going to get to their final prize? The US Second Armor Division, known as “Hell on Wheels” was called upon to lead the spearhead of the charge to the Elbe and beyond. General White believed once he got a bridgehead on the Elbe he could be in Berlin in two days. Some reports say the 8th armored was to protect the right flank of the 2nd, but as they were busy in cleaning up the Ruhr pocket, an infantry division was assigned the task.
|83rd Division History Snippet on Harz Mountains|
|Operation Varsity Plunder. Montgomery's Army Group moves|
across the Rhine River
Map from Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light
|Encircling the Ruhr Industrial Valley|
Map from Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light