Once the Allies had crossed the English Channel on D-Day the next large natural barrier would be the crossing of the Rhine into Germany.
Toward the end of 1944 the fighting had been hard, the Americans had slogged through the Hürtgen Forest, everyone had reeled against the German counter attack in the Ardennes. The Rhine is a perfect natural border, the crossing of which would be symbolically crossing the last line of defence in to Germany from the West.
The task was given to Montgomery’s 21st Army. As ever Monty put together an enormous set piece battle (Plunder), he knew the war was close to the end, many of the Allied troops in his command had fought for years. He couldn’t afford for the crossing to fail.
4,000 guns opened up on the 23rd March, in the American sector they fired 65,000 shells in one hour! Varsity, the airborne arm of the operation was the largest airborne operation in history, with over 16,000 troops flown in.
To discuss this, and the crossings that beat Monty to it, I’m joined by Marc DeSantis. If that name sounds familiar that is because Marc is also regular guest on the Ancient Warfare Magazine Podcast. He is also a regular contributor to many history magazines on WWII topics.
Seapower played a greater part in ancient empire building than is often appreciated. The Punic Wars, especially the first, were characterized by massive naval battles. The Romans did not even possess a navy of their own when war broke out between them and the Carthaginians in Sicily in 264 B.C. Prio in 264 B.C. Prior to that, the Romans had relied upon several South Italian Greek cities to provide ships in the same way as its other allies provided soldiers to serve with the legions. The Romans were nevertheless determined to acquire a navy that could challenge that of Carthage. They used a captured galley as a model, reverse engineered it, and constructed hundreds of copies. The Romans used this new navy to wrench maritime superiority from the Carthaginians, most notably at the Battle of Ecnomus where they prevailed through the use of novel tactics. Although not decisive on its own, Rome's new found naval power was, as Marc De Santis shows, a vital component in their ultimate victory in each of the three Punic Wars.