This is the story of the Allied forces–the U.S. 6th Army Group and French 1st Army–that landed in southern France on August 15th, 1944. The book follows the action from the French beaches to the Vosges Mountains, where the first Allied penetration along the entire Western front reached the Rhine River. First to the Rhine covers the vicious fighting during the German Nordwind counteroffensive in January 1945 and the French-American offensive to clear the Colmar Pocket. It then pursues the forces of the Third Reich across the Rhine to their ultimate destruction.
Unlike the forces landing in Normandy, these American divisions were hard-bitten veterans of the war in Italy, and, in the case of the 3d Infantry Division, North Africa. The French units included many veterans of the Italian campaign and comprised Frenchmen and Africans in almost equal numbers. As the campaign went on, the French ranks were swelled by tens of thousands of Free French Forces of the Interior, the famous maquis.
The German forces arrayed against the Allies included the famed 11th Panzer Division, an Eastern front veteran known as the “Ghost Division,” which would hit the Allied advance time and again only to slip away before it could be pinned and destroyed. This is the harrowing story First to the Rhine tells, from the strategic plane-down through the corps, division, and regimental levels to the personal experience of the men in combat, including the likes of Audie Murphy, Americas most decorated infantryman of the war.
The book features little-known battles, including one at Montelimar, when an ad hoc American armored command and the 36th Infantry Division came within a hairs breadth and several days of hard fighting of cutting off the entire German 19th Army. This is the first popular work in English to explore the French role in the fighting and the relationship between the U.S. Army and the French forces fighting under American command.