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6th Army Group

The 6th Army Group was organized in 1944 in Corsica to provide operational control over the combined French and American forces participating in the invasion of southern France. The Sixth Army Group, also known as the Southern Group of Armies, was commanded by Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers. It consisted of the French First Army under General de Lattre de Tassigny and the United States Seventh Army under Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch.

Its headquarters, activated on August 1, 1944, by Allied Force Headquarters of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, was at first responsible for completing plans for the invasion of southern France. On 15 August 1944, the Allies finally launched Operation ANVIL, code name for the amphibious assault against southern France. Long in the planning as an adjunct to the main effort in Normandy, the effort represented a victory for U.S. strategists seeking to focus Allied military strength against western Germany. The successful assault was rapidly followed up by the seizure of the important French Mediterranean ports of Marseille and Toulon and a concerted drive north up the Rhone River valley to Lyon. There the Franco-American Riviera Force, consisting of the US Seventh and the French First Armies, was combined into the Sixth Army Group under Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers as the southern element of General Eisenhower's northern European command.

In September 1944, the long-awaited final victory over Nazi Germany seemed close at hand for the Allies. In the East, the Red Army moved inexorably towards the German frontier. In the skies over the Third Reich and the occupied countries, Allied air power wreaked havoc on the Wehrmacht, German industry, and lines of communication. In the West, three Allied army groups stretched from the North Sea to Switzerland - poised for the final assault against the Nazi homeland.

From September to November 1944 the Sixth Army Group struggled east through the Vosges mountains and through the Saverne and Belfort gaps to the north and south, respectively. Inclement weather, rugged terrain, and stiffening defense by the German Nineteenth Army slowed the army group's progress toward the German border to a crawl. During the well-planned November offensive, however, Devers' forces surged through the German lines, rapidly advancing to the Rhine and destroying the cohesiveness of the defenders in the process. But rather than move directly into Germany, Eisenhower ordered the bulk of the Seventh Army to strike northward in support of the US Third Army's less successful offensive in Lorraine. In the process the Sixth Army Group lost its momentum, allowing the Germans to retain a foothold in the Vosges around the city of Colmar and in the north to conduct a more orderly withdrawal to the German border.

In December 1944 the German Ardennes offensive forced the Sixth Army Group to halt all offensive operations and extend its front northward. As a result, the German High Command launched Operation NORDWIND in January 1945, a major armor and infantry offensive against the extended Seventh Army. A stubborn but flexible defense finally wore the German forces thin, but both sides suffered heavily from the bitterly cold weather. In February 1945, Devers' forces resumed the offensive, eliminating the Colmar Pocket and the Nineteenth Army and setting the stage for the final drive into Germany.



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