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Page Two


This decision, one of the most painful by Eisenhower, was based on a multitude of reasons, practical as well as tactical. All reasoning, based on then-contemporary evidence, was military, and not political. It had its beginnings before the final defeat of German forces in the Ardennes during the previous winter, during Patton's race across northern France and into Belgium in the summer and fall of 1944. Eisenhower's reasoning included his desire to end the European campaign as soon as possible. Bypassing Berlin, and its' expected resistance, was an avenue to this goal. In the United States, the war against Japan, in the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations (SWPTO) was the long term and considered goal. Redeployment of troops committed to the European Theater of Operations was being planned at high levels of the United States' government and military commands. Even the most positive of optimists believed that the spring of 1946 was the earliest possible date for the defeat of Japan. The fanatical Japanese resistance, among both the military forces and civilian populations, had been grimly and continually demonstrated during amphibious assaults onto Japanese-held territories as well as home islands. Eisenhower wanted to ensure that all German resistance ceased to exist by war's end. He did not want any pockets of enemy resistance, whether organized or not, to prolong the operations in the European theater. Eisenhower insisted that Model's army group, the most organized of the remaining German armies, be cut off in the Ruhr Valley. Also, Eisenhower was cognizant of the potential for accidental conflict between Allied and Russian armies as they rushed towards each other. There had been reports of incidents between the United States Army Air Force and the Russian Air Force in eastern Germany. The language barrier and lack of common communications equipment were factors General Eisenhower took into account in determining his reasoning. He was also concerned about possible misidentification by friendly forces and any resultant casualties, as well as the political fallout. Eisenhower wanted pre-set boundaries agreed to by Anglo-American and Russian ground forces beforehand. The most obvious answer to the boundary was geographical, and that geographical feature was the Elbe River. The Elbe River, approximately 720 miles long, flows north from northwest Czechoslovakia, west of Berlin, and into the North Sea at Hamburg, and was the most logical choice for Eisenhower's decision. It was, and is still, a wide (1,000 feet in some places), gently flowing river, used for commerce for centuries by European traders. The Russians agreed to the Elbe River boundary on March 30, 1945. The Elbe was the boundary, except in the north, where British forces were to cross, and in the south, where American army units were to utilize the Danube Valley into Austria. Red rockets for the Russians, and green for the Anglo-American allies, were to be used as recognition devices. Looking towards the future, plans had been drawn up for the military government of a defeated Germany. The Americans, British, French, and the Russians all had sectors for occupation and control of Germany. The Elbe River was to be the western boundary of the Russian-occupied zone, which included Berlin. Foremost in Eisenhower's mind in his decision not to take Berlin was a genuine concern for American casualties. In several discussions with General Bradley, commander of U.S. 12th Army Group, he learned that Bradley had anticipated over 100,000 American casualties, as well as similar percentages by Canadian and British forces, in taking Berlin. To Bradley, thought of as "the soldier's General", and to Eisenhower, the thought of this many casualties, especially after the near breakthrough by the Germans in the Ardennes resulted in similar total casualties, was a valid reason for not taking the capital. Eisenhower believed that figure too high for the prestige of taking Berlin. Lieutenant General Patton, the historical romanticist that he was, argued in vain with Eisenhower. General Simpson, whose Ninth Army was in a direct path to Berlin, was extremely disappointed. Field Marshal Montgomery, who had strongly desired a singular, British attack on Berlin, was angered. Montgomery believed that Eisenhower had made a political mistake in allowing the Russians to take Berlin. He did not make clear what the U.S. and England should have done with Berlin afterward. It is also fair to state, with all the evidence of Montgomery's legendary concern for the smallest of details, he might not have taken Berlin for several months. General George A. Marshall, Eisenhower's chief of staff, agreed with Eisenhower, "Personally and aside from all logistical, tactical or strategical implications, I would loathe to hazard American lives for purely political reasons." (2) What could be termed "organized" German resistance was taking place solely against Russian forces, somewhat based in the grim knowledge of retribution for warfare on Russian territory. Continued





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