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Ninth U.S. Army

By late 1944, the front was fast moving away from Brittany, and the Channel ports were essential. Ports posed a special problem, for with the stormy weather of fall and winter approaching, the Allies could not much longer depend upon supply over the invasion beaches, and Cherbourg had only a limited capacity. Even though Brittany now was far behind the advancing front, General Eisenhower still felt a need for the port of Brest.

When SHAEF became operational, its forces consisted of two army groups, 21st and 12th, and four armies, First U.S., Third U.S., First Canadian, and Second British. Another army group and three armies soon were added to the SHAEF force structure. One of the additional armies was the Ninth, commanded by Lieutenant General William H. Simpson. It became operational on 5 September 1944 and was assigned to the 12th Army Group. The Ninth U.S. Army took over control of the forces in the Brittany peninsula which had been part of Third Army, even though General Patton and most of his forces were on the opposite side of France.

When Brest fell two weeks later, the port was a shambles. The port problem nevertheless appeared to be solved when on September 4 British troops took Antwerp, its wharves and docks intact; but the success proved to be illusory. Antwerp is on an estuary sixty miles from the sea, and German troops clung to the banks, denying access to Allied shipping.

In early November resources were sufficient to enable the U.S. armies to launch a big offensive aimed at reaching the Rhine; but, despite the largest air attack in direct support of ground troops to be made during the war (Operation QUEEN), it turned out to be a slow, arduous fight through the natural and artificial obstacles along the frontier. Heavy rain and severe cold added to the difficulties. By mid-December the First and Ninth Armies had reached the Roer River east of Aachen, twenty-three miles inside Germany, and the Third Army had come up to the West Wall along the Saar River northeast of Metz, but only the Seventh Army and the 1st French Army in Alsace had touched any part of the Rhine.

A major realignment of commands occurred in December 1944 as a result of the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes, known as the Battle of the Bulge. The German counteroffensive never came close to reaching its goal of Antwerp and the division of Allied forces. The counteroffensive did catch the Allies weak and unprepared in the Ardennes, and the Germans were able to achieve surprise and penetrate over fifty miles beyond the Allied front line. The bulge which formed separated Lieutenant General Bradley's 12th Army Group Headquarters on the southern flank of the salient from the major part of the First U.S. Army and the Ninth U.S. Army, which were located on the northern flank. Communications between group and army headquarters were cut. To remedy this situation, Eisenhower's staff recommended that the American Ninth and First armies be shifted to the command of Montgomery's 21st Army Group which was in the north. On 20 December 1944, Eisenhower ordered the shift of forces.

This change in command left Lieutenant General Bradley in control of only one army the Third, while placing four armies under Field Marshal Montgomery's control. Bradley claims he made one of his biggest mistakes of the war by failing to resist the command change. "Giving Monty operational control of my First and Ninth armies," Bradley confided later, "was the worst possible mistake Ike could have made."60 Indeed, while Montgomery continued to assert his strategic and command concepts, he failed to destroy the German forces in the Ardennes. When contact between the First and Third armies was renewed after reduction of the German salient in the Ardennes, command of First Army reverted to Bradley. However, the Ninth Army remained under Montgomery until the reduction of the Ruhr pocket was completed in 1945.

Operation Grenade was the Ninth U.S. Army's crossing of the Roer River in February 1945. The 84th Infantry Division was the northernmost division in the operation. On 23 February 1945, the 84th Division crossed the Roer River in assault boats on a one battalion front. The 84th quickly advanced inland after the successful crossing. The crossing of the Roer River is a classic example of the methodical and deliberate planning process needed for success in a large and complicated operation. The accomplishments of the 84th Division are largely credited to effective reconnaissance and preparation, mission rehearsal, and swift execution of the operation.

A division of the Third Army on 22 March 1945 made a surprise crossing of the Rhine in assault boats. Beginning late the next day the 2I Army Group and the Ninth U.S. Army staged a full-dress crossing of the lower reaches of the river, complete with an airborne attack rivaling in its dimensions Operation MARKET. The Third Army then made two more assault crossings, and during the last few days of March both the Seventh Army and the 1st French Army of the 6th Army Group crossed farther upstream. Having expended most of their resources west of the river, the Germans were powerless to defeat any Allied crossing attempt.

As the month of April opened, Allied armies fanned out from the Rhine all along the line with massive columns of armor and motorized infantry. Encircling the Ruhr, the First and Ninth Armies took 325,000 prisoners, totally destroying an entire German army group. The Ninth U.S. Army would have enjoyed the distinction of taking Berlin since it nearly came within its grasp. But such visions assumed that the Germans would go on fighting the Red Army much more seriously than they resisted the Western Allies in the last days of the war even with their capital as the prize, which was not necessarily so. Eisenhower decided instead that Berlin was not worth the risk of high casualties if it could not be permanently retained. He thought it was worth more to placate the evident misconceptions and distrust of the Soviets and thus to do his part to head off a cold war following the hot war.

On 28 March 1945 Eisenhower sent an unprecedented personal message to Josef Stalin (through General Deane (U.S.) and AdmiralArcher (British), Military Mission to Moscow) detailing his plans forfuture operations. Eisenhower's message clearly outlined the Allies plans and ground missions for the next four weeks and he included the army group boundaries. Eisenhower hoped this message would serve several purposes: (1) to determine the Soviets' intent and location to prevent any unfortunate incidents between the Soviets and the Western Allies; (2) Eisenhower intentionally mentioned that the U.S. Ninth Army was being returned to Bradley's control, which would indicate that Montgomery would now provide flank security to Bradley and preclude any move on Berlin.

On 12 April 1945, the day of President Roosevelt's death and eighteen days before the Russians took Berlin, Ninth U.S. Army units crossed the Elbe River near Magdeburg, some fifty miles from the German capital. They established a second bridgehead farther south on the following day. German counterattacks forced them to withdraw from the northern position on the 14th, but the Americans held the southern bridgehead. On 15 April 1945 Eisenhower denied Ninth U.S. Army commander Lieutenant General Simpson's request to move on Berlin.

The shoulder sleeve insignia was approved on 21 September 1944. The Shoulder Sleeve Insignia consists of a red nonagon whose points lie on an imaginary circle 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in diameter, a white letter "A" within the outline of a rosette figure of four petals, all white. Red and white are the colors associated with armies. The nine-sided figure indicates the numerical designation of the organization.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:33:50 ZULU