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5-068 To General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, March 23, 1945

1945
   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 23, 1945

Subject: World War II


To General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

March 23, 1945 Radio No. WARX-57751. Washington, D.C.

Secret

For Eisenhower’s EYES ONLY from Marshall.

Please pass the following from me to General Bradley: “I am filled with admiration over your handling of the operations involved in the development of the Remagen Bridgehead and the clearing of the Saar Basin. I want General Hodges and General Patton and their Corps and Division Commanders to know that their great military successes of the past few weeks have registered a high point in American military achievement. Incidentally I am profoundly impressed with the remarkable logistical support of the Remagen Bridgehead and the supply of Patton’s Forces which made possible the rapidity of their bold advances.”1

If you think it wise, that is, without offense to Devers’ group or to Simpson’s Army, and as a possible antidote for an overdose of Montgomery which is now coming into this country, you have my permission to release this in Paris.2

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. On March 7 the U.S. Ninth Armored Division captured the strategic Ludendorff railway bridge at Remagen, allowing U.S. troops to cross the Rhine River and establish the first Allied bridgehead on the east bank of the Rhine. General Omar N. Bradley gives his account of Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges (First Army commander) notifying him of American troops crossing the Rhine in A Soldier’s Story (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1951), pp. 510-11. While elated that American troops had captured the bridge, Bradley was aware that plans had called for Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s troops to first cross the Rhine in the north. “The Plan had been predicated upon a major crossing by Monty north of the Ruhr. If, after satisfying Monty’s priority requirements, SHAEF could then support a diversionary offensive, a secondary crossing might be made by Third Army between Mainz and Karlsruhe. Indeed this secondary crossing was essential to the Ruhr pincer for which I had fought since the previous September,” wrote Bradley. “Although Eisenhower had not yet made a decision to restrict the Rhine crossing to Monty, his British-dominated staff at SHAEF so favored the Montgomery proposal that this single thrust had already become established in their minds as The Plan, SHAEF’s irrevocable plan for the assault of the Rhine.” Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s Third Army crossed the Rhine River on March 22 south of Mainz. Elements of Montgomery’s Twenty-first Army Group crossed the Rhine on March 23/24 near Wesel. (Ibid., pp. 511-24.) For a detailed account of the Allies capturing the Ludendorff Bridge amid German confused command and failed attempts to demolish the bridge, see MacDonald, Last Offensive, pp. 208-35.

Patton recalled: “The First Army seemed to be doing very well at the Remagen bridgehead. We were quite happy over it, but just a little envious.” He was determined to secure a crossing over the Rhine before Montgomery or probably lose divisions to Montgomery’s command and “have to go on the defensive. If, however, we could get across before the British attack, we could carry the ball.” (George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947], pp. 254, 264.) On March 23 Patton congratulated the Third Army: “In the period from January 29 to March 22, 1945, you have wrested 6484 square miles of territory from the enemy. You have taken 3072 cities, towns, and villages, including among the former: Trier, Coblenz, Bingen, Worms, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, and Ludwigshafen. You have captured 140,112 enemy soldiers, and have killed or wounded an additional 99,000, thereby eliminating practically all of the German 7th and 1st Armies. . . . And remember that your assault crossing over the Rhine at 2200 hours last night assures you of even greater glory to come.” (Ibid., p. 269.)

2. General Jacob L. Devers’s Sixth Army Group was clearing the Saar-Palatinate area, along with Patton’s Third Army. (For more information on this campaign, see MacDonald, Last Offensive, pp. 236-65; Pogue, Supreme Command, pp. 424-27.) Lieutenant General William H. Simpson commanded the Ninth Army, which was part of Montgomery’s Twenty-first Army Group Rhine crossing. (MacDonald, Last Offensive, pp. 294-320.)

Eisenhower replied on March 24 that he was releasing Marshall’s message and that Bradley held a press conference outlining Twelfth Army Group operations carried out the “last few weeks in accordance with my fixed plan for eliminating the enemy forces west of the Rhine,” at which time Bradley complimented individual commanders and praised American equipment. “I cannot quite understand why Montgomery should be getting a big play at this time in the States,” replied Eisenhower. “It seems that even when operations carried out under his direction are of considerably less magnitude than those in other parts of the front, and even though large American forces cooperate, there is some influence at work that insists on giving Montgomery credit that belongs to other field commanders.” (Papers of DDE, 4: 2540-41.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 97-99.

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