Allied Forces Clear the Ruhr Pocket

The first step in realizing Eisenhower's plan was the eradication of the Ruhr Pocket.

Even before the encirclement had been completed, the Germans in the Ruhr had begun making attempts at a breakout to the east. All had been unceremoniously repulsed by the vastly superior Allied forces. Meanwhile the Ninth and First Armies began preparing converging attacks using the east-west Ruhr River as a boundary line. The Ninth Army's XVI Corps, which had taken up position north of the Ruhr area after crossing the Rhine, would be assisted in its southward drive by two divisions of the XIX Corps, the rest of which would continue to press eastward along with the XIII Corps. South of the Ruhr River, the First Army's northward attack was to be executed by the XVIII Airborne Corps, which had been transferred to Hodges after Operation VARSITY, and the III Corps, with the First Army's V and VII Corps continuing the offensive east. The Ninth Army's sector of the Ruhr Pocket, although only about a third the size of the First Army's sector south of the river, contained the majority of the densely urbanized industrial area within the encirclement. The First Army's area, on the other hand, was composed of rough, heavily forested terrain with a poor road network.

By 1 April, when the trap closed around the Germans in the Ruhr, their fate was sealed. In a matter of days they would all be killed or captured. On 4 April, the day it shifted to Bradley's control, the Ninth Army began its attack south toward the Ruhr River. In the south, the First Army's III Corps launched its strike on the 5th, and the XVIII Airborne Corps joined in on the 6th, both pushing generally northward. German resistance, initially rather determined' dwindled rapidly. By 13 April the Ninth Army had cleared the northern part of the pocket, while elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps' 8th Infantry Division reached the southern bank of the Ruhr, splitting the southern section of the pocket in two. Thousands of prisoners were being taken every day; from 16-18 April, when all opposition ended and the remnants of Army Group B formally surrendered, German troops had been surrendering in droves throughout the region. Army Group B commander Walther Model committed suicide on 21 April.

While Stalin’s hordes were ravaging the eastern territories of the Reich, it was on 1 April 1945 that Field-Marshal Walter Model’s Army Group ‘B’ was encircled inside the Ruhr pocket with all escape routes sealed. One of the great imponderable of World War II is the conduct of your father during the last campaign of his career. His final heroic stand for the Fatherland is clouded by several big question-marks which the military historians have failed to analyze. You and I know his style of operational command which was so consistently brilliant during his command of Army Groups North, Centre and South on the Russian front. He had already earned wide recognition as the master of flexible defence and he always displayed a remarkable knack of being able to scrape up reserves in emergency.