The Russian Military Historical Society discussed the Ruhr Operation of 1945

В РВИО рассказали о Рурской операции 1945 года

According to Denis Shpolyanskiy, an expert researcher of the Russian Military Historical Society, the Ruhr offensive was the largest encirclement ever conducted by Anglo-American forces.

The Ruhr offensive occurred on the Western Front during WWII from March 23 until April 18, 1945. The goal of the allies was to destroy the German forces dug into the Ruhr industrial area in West Germany. From there, they would advance toward the Elbe river and link up with the Soviet army, thus dividing German-controlled territory controlled in two.

"The Ruhr offensive was one of the allies' most successful offensive operations on the western front, and it was the only time they managed to encircle a major group of German forces," Shpolyanskiy told RIA Novosti.

"Numerical superiority, near complete control over the skies, and a favorable strategic situation allowed them to use the classical military strategies of the time alongside a full range of military equipment. In essence, it was a standard 1941-style encirclement with tanks moving in to a pincer movement, massive use of airstrikes, tactical air parachute drops in the enemy's rear, and total war across the entire front of the advance," the military expert explained.

During the planning stage of the operation, the Western Allies took into account the fact that a large portion of battle worthy German troops were tied down on the Eastern Front. In the Ruhr area, the Germans managed to concentrate 29 divisions, but they had, at best, of half their troop numbers. By this stage of the war, the Germans were experiencing critical shortages of fuel, ammunition, and other supplies. The morale of most German troops was extremely low, with the exception of a handful of Waffen SS and other special operations units," Shpolyanskiy noted.

The military history expert noted that the allied troops facing the Germans comprised of 51 divisions supported from the air by about 9,000 combat aircraft.

"The success of the offensive was, to a large extent, achieved by air strikes that continued for almost two weeks. These destroyed key communication hubs, effectively cutting the German army's Ruhr group off from the rest of Germany," Shpolyanskiy added.

The historian noted that the Ruhr area was the most important military industrial district in Germany, and thus Germany depended on it in order to continue the war. As such, when it was lost to the Allies, the consequences were catastrophic for the German Army.

The bulk of the troops participating in the offensive advanced the night of March 24 after a powerful artillery barrage and a series of air strikes. The British 2nd Army and the American 9th Army crossed the Rhein and established bridgeheads on the right bank. On March 24, in the first half of the day, 22,000 troops parachuted into the German rear, east of the Rhein. 1,696 transport aircraft and 1,348 transport gliders were used in the airdrop, while 889 fighters provided air cover.

"18 German divisions, totaling 325,000 soldiers, ended up in the American cauldron," the military expert explained.

He pointed out that on a number of occasions German civilians actually interfered with their own troops, preventing them from mounting an effective defense. The majority of the antitank barriers erected on the rear flank were seized by advancing allied troops without a fight.

"The Ruhr offensive destroyed the last major group of German troops on the Western Front, after which the Germans effectively stopped fighting, and the war there came to an end. The route of the German Army in the Ruhr brought about the complete collapse of Germany's Western Front. Any organized resistance there came to a halt after the Western Allies moved swifty eastward, encountering only isolated pockets of resistance along the way. The Germans were now intent on running from the Soviet Army in order to surrender to the Western Allies. Eventually, over 300,000 German troops, including 24 Generals, were taken prisoner by the Anglo-American troops," Shpolyanskiy noted.

The military historian pointed out that the German Army in the Ruhr area was commanded by general field marshal Walter Model, generally regarded as one of the most successful German military commanders. His nicknames spoke for themselves: Hitler's Fireman and Defense Genius. But even his great talent in defense was not enough to remedy Germany's desperate situation on the Western Front. For three weeks, Model continued to fight, surrounded; however, upon realizing that there was no hope of winning, he sent his solders home and April 21, 1945, shot himself in a forest outside Duisburg, in the vicinity of the village of Wedau.