The Rhineland Campaign, although costly for the Allies, had clearly been ruinous for the Germans. The Germans suffered some 300,000 casualties and lost vast amounts of irreplaceable equipment. Hitler, having demanded the defense of all of the German homeland, enabled the Allies to destroy the Wehrmacht in the West between the Siegfried Line and the Rhine River. Now, the Third Reich lay virtually prostrate before Eisenhower's massed armies.
Eisenhower was gratified with the results of the Rhineland Campaign. They clearly justified his tenacious adherence to a broad-front strategy. In late March he wrote Marshall that his plans, which he had 'believed in from the beginning and [had] carried out in the face of some opposition from within and without, [had] matured . . . splendidly.' Yet all participants did not agree with the estimate.
Since the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, the most formidable opposition to Eisenhower's broad-front strategy consistently came from the British. Part of their resistance stemmed from Churchill's emphasis on approaching Germany through Italy and the Balkans and hence the reluctance to launch DRAGOON, a key aspect of Eisenhower's plans. After the breakout, the British, most notably Montgomery, pressed for a single, fully supported drive into Germany to end the war quickly. One reason for Montgomery's demand was the fact that by 1944 the costs of the war were bankrupting Great Britain; shortening the war would relieve the overwhelming economic drain. The United States was not experiencing such pressures, and Eisenhower chose a surer, albeit more cautious and time-consuming, approach.
But Eisenhower surely had other good reasons to avoid a risky drive into Germany. Until Antwerp began replenishing Allied stores in late November, logistics remained the supreme commander's principal consideration. Quite simply, he strongly believed that the plans put forward by Montgomery, Bradley, or Patton for a single, deep drive into Germany could not be supported logistically. In addition, as evidence mounted that the Germans had recovered from their panicked flight from the Seine River, Eisenhower worried that the enemy would concentrate and hit the exposed flank of any thrust along a single axis. The quick German response to MARKET-GARDEN and their offensives in the Ardennes and the Alsace substantiated Eisenhower's concerns that the Germans were still an extremely dangerous enemy. Thus Eisenhower chose to press the German defenses continually, straining the enemy from Antwerp to Switzerland, and to increase Allied strength in men and materiel for the inevitable assault into the heart of the Reich. Consequently, he frequently changed the main Allied effort and executed secondary attacks when he saw opportunities across the broad front facing his armies. In many ways the Rhineland Campaign became a protracted, bloody battle of attrition, a battle the Allies had the resources to win. Nevertheless, for all the controversy over the single-thrust or the broad-front strategies, it is indisputable that the Rhineland Campaign ended in success, a triumph that paved the way for final Allied victory.
Eisenhower's tactful, yet determined, stewardship of a complex and often contentious coalition force made the successful conclusion of a difficult campaign possible. The indomitable soldiers fighting in the Allied cause, however, transformed the possibilities of high-level plans into victory on the ground. In incredibly harsh weather, over difficult terrain, and against a determined foe, Eisenhower's soldiers had triumphed. Of all these soldiers, the infantryman had had the hardest lot. In mid-December Eisenhower wrote to Ernie Pyle, the well-known war correspondent, that it was his foot soldiers who had demonstrated the 'real heroism--which is the uncomplaining acceptance of unendurable conditions.' At Aachen, at Metz, in the Huertgen Forest, in the Vosges Mountains, along the length of the Siegfried Line, and on to the Rhine River, the Allied infantryman had persevered and, through his determination, vanquished the Wehrmacht.
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