Once the Allies had crossed the English Channel on D-Day the next large natural barrier would be the crossing of the Rhine into Germany.
Toward the end of 1944 the fighting had been hard, the Americans had slogged through the Hürtgen Forest, everyone had reeled against the German counter attack in the Ardennes. The Rhine is a perfect natural border, the crossing of which would be symbolically crossing the last line of defence in to Germany from the West.
The task was given to Montgomery's 21st Army. As ever Monty put together an enormous set piece battle (Plunder), he knew the war was close to the end, many of the Allied troops in his command had fought for years. He couldn’t afford for the crossing to fail.
4,000 guns opened up on the 23rd March, in the American sector they fired 65,000 shells in one hour! Varsity, the airborne arm of the operation was the largest airborne operation in history, with over 16,000 troops flown in.
To discuss this, and the crossings that beat Monty to it, I’m joined by Marc DeSantis. If that name sounds familiar that is because Marc is also regular guest on the Ancient Warfare Magazine Podcast. He is also a regular contributor to many history magazines on WWII topics.