Last French province to be free
The liberation of the Alsace happened in stages. Logistical difficulties, broken terrain, stubborn German resistance, and differences among Allied commanders meant that fighting to liberate the region took many weeks.
Allied victory in Normandy and the success of Operation Dragoon sent German armies in headlong retreat. The rapid pursuit, however, consumed inordinate amount of petrol and other supplies, which all had to be transported from the beaches of Normandy or from ports in Provence. In early September logistical difficulties forced general Eisenhower to prioritize, and he chose to target the Ruhr industrial area.
Meanwhile, American and French forces met determined German resistance around Metz and in the Belfort Gap; the Allies were stopped short of their objectives in the Alsace. Only in mid-November 1944 did the Allies manage to break through the enemy lines. In the South the French liberated Belfort and reached the Rhine; in the North, the 7th U.S. Army penetrated German defences in the Vosges; the 2nd French Armoured Division exploited this success, liberating Strasbourg on 23rd November.
Despite this success, general Eisenhower forbade general Patch’s 7th Army to cross the Rhine and attempt to outflank German West Wall defences. To the south of Strasbourg, around Colmar, the Germans managed to hold on to a large pocket on the western bank of the Rhine. Again, a stalemate ensued.
On New Year’s Eve, 1944, German units began Operation Nordwind, the final German attempt to turn the tide in the West. After three weeks of bloody fighting, the German forces were stopped. From 20th January to 9th February the French 1st Army, reinforced by U.S. troops, cleared the Colmar Pocket, thus liberating the last large section of French land still under German occupation.
The American and French offensive in mid-November 1944 was a success, resulting in liberation of most of Alsace. However, the Germans retained a large bridgehead on the western bank of the Rhine around the city of Colmar, a thorn the side of Allied 6th Army Group.
After driving the Japanese out of Guadalcanal in 1943, General Patch commanded US Seventh Army from the landings of Operation Dragoon in August 1944 to the surrender of German 19th Army on May 5, 1945. He liberated the Alsace region with French general De Lattre and the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.