History of Colmar pocket battle

  • August 1944
  • November 1944
  • December 1944
  • January 1945
  • February 1945

D-day in Provence

August 15th 1944: the first units of general DE LATTRE’S B Army disembark in Saint-Tropez and make their way through the Rhône valley after having freed Toulon and Marseille.

Three weeks later, after a 750 km (465 miles) drive they reach the Vosges mountains.
 
September 15th 1944: the B Army takes the name of 1st French Army (composed of 2 Army Corps). It belongs to the 6th Army group (US general DEVERS). 
 
In front of the 1st French Army stood general WIESE’S German 19th Army.

Double breakthrough to the Rhine

November 14th 1944 : The allied offensive towards Alsace is launched

November 19th 1944 : Rhine is reached at Rosenau (Command Combat 3, 1st French armoured division).

November 21st 1944 : Mulhouse is freed by the 1st French armoured division (then Belfort by the 5th French armoured division and 2nd Moroccan infantry division).

At the very same time, Strasbourg is freed on November 23rd 1944 by the 2nd French armoured division (general LECLERC) attached to the 7th Army (US) of general PATCH.
The German 19th Army is reduced to only 20,000 soldiers, i.e. a size equivalent to only one single French division.
 

November 30th 1944 : without any warning, general DE LATTRE changes the direction of his offensive. What was initially a South to North offensive through the plain becomes an East-West attack through the mountain. 
Why? The whole Alsace could have been freed as soon as December the 3rd 1944 . A pocket is formed around Colmar: a 160 km (100 miles) bow-shaped front line running from the south of Strasbourg to Mulhouse and reaching up to by the top of the Vosges mountains.

Operations

Strenghtening of the German 19th Army : massive reinforcement by fresh troops from Germany (9 infantry divisions + 2 armoured brigades) 
  
December the 6th: Reichführer HIMMLER took the commandment of all troops present in the Colmar pocket personally.
 
December the 15th: general RASP took the commandment of the German 19th Army. French and American soldiers fight side by side to free the Colmar pocket.
 
In the morning of December 15th the main offensive is launched from the Bonhomme pass to the north of Sigolsheim along a 20 km (12 miles) east/west front.
Orbey is freed on December 16th. 
 
Some vineyard villages are freed:
Kientzheim on December 17th,
Kaysersberg and Ammerschwihr on December 18th,
Bennwihr on December 25th.

The enemy answers with fierce combats to this 
breakthrough but allied positions are held with 
outstanding efforts.
 
Colmar heard the sound of guns and lived in hope
but could not be freed. 
 
Late December 1944 : Strasbourg’s defence is tried by the counter offensive of VON RUNDSTEDT in the Ardennes (battle of the bulge).

EISENHOWER wants to leave his positions and bring back his lines on top of the Vosges.

Final offensive to reduce the Colmar pocket

January the 2nd 1945 : general EISENHOWER, general DE GAULLE and prime minister CHURCHILL hold a conference in Versailles.

The city will be defended.

Strasbourg is saved for the second time.

January the 20th of 1945 : The final offensive is launched.

From January 26th to 29th. 
Fierce combats took place in Jebsheim and Grussenheim

January 27th : The Colmar canal is reached. 

January 28th : The 21st US Corps reinforce the 1st French Army.

Final offensive to reduce the Colmar pocket

February the 2nd : Colmar is freed by units of Combat Command 4 of general SCHLESSER, of 5th French armoured division from general DE VERNEJOUL.
 
February 4th :  Turckheim is freed by the 112th US infantry regiment, 28th infantry division of general COTTA supported by elements of the french 1er bataillon de choc (kind of commando trained troops), 
 
February 9th 1945 : The last Colmar pocket defenders retreat. General DE LATTRE announces the end of the Colmar pocket battle.

 

February 1945 THE CITY IS FREE !