Vichy France finally enters the war at the beginning of May 1944. This has the potential to make life difficult for us, as the Western Alps have been left mostly undefended with all forces in that area committed to the thrust into Germany. Fortunately, Spain has taken a fairly substantial bite out of France since the Royal Marines were withdrawn. Our limited intelligence regarding the French disposition suggests most of their forces are deployed to cover their own western front against Spain. We end up losing a few miles of territory to the French 2e Division d'Infanterie, but it’s inconsequential and the attack continues.
The first sign of American help: the 101st Airborne arrives in Pisa on 8 May. It later parachutes in to capture the French airfields on Corsica. A slow start, but any help is certainly welcome.
Back in Germany, 4th Army gains an additional foothold with the capture of Neumünster. The gravity of their situation is beginning to sink in for the Germans, it seems.
While 10th and 5th Corps have been breaking through into Emden, German heavy armour and Panzergrenadier divisions have penetrated into Dutch territory. The Dutch are struggling to hold their lines (let alone make any headway with an offensive), so 5th Corps turns south, aiming to envelop the German attackers in a pocket centred on Enschede. The 11th and 42nd Armoured Divisions lead the race to try to close the loop on the Germans, while dive bombers from 5 Tactical Group attempt to paralyze any German movement with day-and-night ground attacks. Below is the situation as of 8 May.
Meanwhile, in the southern sector, the advance is picking up pace now that 1st and 2nd Army are clearing the mountain ranges. Munich falls to the 53rd Welsh Division on 15 May, providing us with another much-needed frontline airfield. Huge gaps are now opening in the German defences in the southern sector: several German corps, including 10th Corps retreating from Munich, now appear to exist only on paper…
Back up north, our attempt to catch the Germans in a kessel
along the Dutch border has failed. Fast-moving German mechanized infantry from the 29th and 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Divisions have counter-attacked along 5th Corps’s main axis of advance, forcing a retreat back towards Emden on 20 May. The German mechanized infantry can really rapidly outpace our foot infantry, making it next to impossible to manoeuvre into a good encirclement posture without the Germans either slipping out or counter-attacking.
What we lack in manoeuvrability is made up in brute strength. A new 13th Corps (Allied), comprised of joint Dutch-Canadian expeditionary infantry arrives in theatre on 20 May, and, along with the 10th Corps (Australian), forms 5th Army. With a cohesive front formed between 4th and 5th Army, the northern sector gradually pushes south and east towards Hannover and Berlin.
Two German infantry divisions managed to penetrate deep into Dutch territory before we could bring reinforcements into position. With the gaps in the line now sealed, the 42nd and 11th Armoured Divisions close in for the kill. There’s nowhere to run, and these two divisions are eventually cornered and destroyed.
Below is the situation as of 10 June 1944. Berlin is now within spitting distance, but the Soviets are getting precariously close as well, capturing Stettin in early June and rallying on the banks of the Oder.