Ruhr Operation of 1945
Ruhr Operation of 1945
combat action by Anglo-American forces from March 23 to April 18 in the Ruhr region during World War II.
As a result of the successful offensive of the Soviet Army and the rout of fascist German forces on the left bank of the Rhine by the Allies during the Maas-Rhine Operation of 1945, by mid-March a situation favorable for the development of an offensive by Anglo-American forces had taken shape. Fascist Germany’s most effective forces were tied down on the Soviet-German front, and its forces in the West were exhausted. Of the 58 divisions and three brigades that Germany had on the Western Front, those defending the Ruhr comprised 29 divisions and one brigade of the First Parachute Army of Army Group H (commanded by Colonel General J. Blaskowitz) and the Fifth Panzer and Fifteenth armies of Army Group B (commanded by Field Marshal W. Model). The units were at 50 to 75 percent of strength in terms of personnel and materiel, they were short of ammunition and fuel, and there were not enough aircraft (1,704 combat airplanes of the Third Air Fleet and the Reich Air Fleet). The Allied Forces included the British 21st Army Group (excluding the Canadian First Army) of Field Marshal B. Montgomery, the American 12th Army Group of General O. Bradley, and the XVIII Detached Airborne Corps (a total of 35 divisions, including ten tank divisions) supported by about 9,000 combat aircraft.
After powerful air preparation that lasted 12 days, on the evening of March 23, forces of the British 21st Army Group (British Second and American Ninth armies) crossed the Rhine near Wesel and forces of the American 12th Army Group (American First and Third armies) went over to the offensive from bases of operations on the right bank of the Rhine in the Remagen and Oppenheim regions, which had been captured earlier. On the morning of March 24 an airborne landing party (British 6th and American 17th airborne divisions) was put down north of Wesel 6–12 km from the banks of the Rhine and deep within the enemy defense. The fascist German forces offered weak resistance. As a result, in the first 24 hours the Allies seized a tactical bridgehead, which had been expanded to 45 km along the front and 35 km in depth by the close of March 28.
After concentrating the main forces of the British Second and American Ninth armies in this base of operations, the Allied forces launched an offensive to envelop the flank of the Ruhr from the north; the British Second Army advanced toward Minister and Osnabrück with the objective of establishing an outer front of encirclement, and the American Ninth Army attacked Lippstadt and captured it on April 1. The American First and Third armies broke through the enemy defense by encounter attacks and on March 26 joined up in the Frankfurt am Main region and then launched a swift assault to the north, meeting virtually no resistance. On April 1 the American First Army joined up with units of the American Ninth Army in Lippstadt, completing the encirclement of the Ruhr grouping. On April 2, American forces began to liquidate the surrounded enemy. On April 14 forces of the American Ninth and First armies, having joined up near Hagen, split the enemy group into two parts. Field Marshal Model issued an order to cease resistance on April 17, and he then committed suicide. On April 18 the surrender of fascist German forces was completed (a total of 325,000 prisoners).
The outcome of the Ruhr Operation created favorable conditions for Allied forces to advance toward the Elbe. The Ruhr Operation was the only successful encirclement operation of all those undertaken by Anglo-American forces during World War II.
REFERENCESKulish, V. M. Istoriia vtorogofronta. Moscow, 1971.
Pogue, F. Verkhovnoe komandovanie. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Whiting, C. Battle of the Ruhr Pocket. New York-London, 1972.
N. M. CHEREPANOV