Searching for snipers in Pruem, Germany, February 1945. (National Archives)
South of Simpson, the 12th Army Group had been attacking since 18 January. Eisenhower, believing the Germans were off-balance in the aftermath of their failed Ardennes offensive, urged Bradley to attack with 'all possible vigor' so long as he had a chance of achieving decisive results. By the end of January, the 12th Army Group had forced the Germans in its sector back to the West Wall, but the drive lost momentum. Although Bradley wanted to continue through the Eifel to the Rhine, Eisenhower halted the advance on 1 February in preparation for VERITABLE and GRENADE.
With the start of the main Allied effort in the north, Bradley's army group clearly assumed a secondary role. In the First Army sector, aside from the mission of capturing the Roer River dams, elements of VII Corps advanced, protecting Simpson's flank. The rest of the First Army went on the defensive.
In the Third Army area, Patton made limited advances in the Eifel region north of the Moselle River. By the end of February, his army had punched through the Siegfried Line from Pruem to a point below Saarburg, taking the Orscholz Switch, the Saar-Moselle triangle, and Trier.
To the far south, the 6th Army Group made the elimination of the Colmar pocket its priority. General Eisenhower had given Devers five U.S. divisions and 12,000 service troops from the SHAEF reserve to assist in this mission. While the Seventh Army held in the Saar Valley and made small advances in the region flooded by the Moder River, de Lattre's First French Army attacked the Colmar pocket. Ultimately, the XXI U.S. Corps attacked south toward Colmar and east to Neuf-Brisach, while the I French Corps drove north to Rouffach. By 9 February the Allies eliminated the worrisome pocket, driving the surviving Germans back across the Rhine.
Devers, with the west side of the Rhine secure, gave Patch the go-ahead to make a limited drive. On 17 February the Seventh Army attacked, straightening its lines and, by the end of the month, had established a foothold south of Saarbruecken.
With the 21 Army Group firmly established along the Rhine, Bradley's 12th Army Group prepared to execute Operation LUMBERJACK. Bradley's plan called for the First Army to attack southeastward toward the juncture of the Ahr and Rhine Rivers and then swing south to meet Patton, whose Third Army would simultaneously drive northeastward through the Eifel. If successful, LUMBERJACK would capture Cologne, secure the Koblenz sector, and bring the 12th Army Group to the Rhine in the entire area north of the Moselle River. The 12th Army Group also hoped to bag a large number of Germans.
Bradley launched LUMBERJACK on 1 March. In the north, the First Army rapidly exploited bridgeheads over the Erft River, entering Euskirchen on 4 March and Cologne on the fifth. Simultaneously, the Third Army swept through the Eifel to the Rhine. In the First Army area, a task force of the 9th Armored Division, commanded by Lt. Col. Leonard Engeman, advanced toward Remagen as part of the LUMBERJACK offensive. As the armored task force reached the edge of the city, it discovered that the Ludendorff railroad bridge over the Rhine was, surprisingly, still standing. Engeman attacked and, although the German defenders attempted to destroy the span, took the bridge.