May 26, 2015

1944. The Wehrmacht is Broken in Belgium

Belgian Resistance Helps Rout the Germany Army
"A nurse working with the Belgian resistance bandages a minor wound for a British soldier in Antwerp, 11 September 1944." (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Brussels

September 5, 1944

This is Bill Downs speaking from Brussels.

Information about the British troops operating on the Belgian front is as confused as the scattered battles now being fought south of the Dutch frontier.

Antwerp has been taken. Other British troops are moving toward Ghent. On the right flank of the British drive, the city of Louvain has been taken.

Earlier reports that British forces are now into Holland cannot be confirmed here.

Antwerp was taken with very little resistance. The Germans tried to make a stand in the town, but British armor got behind the garrison in the city and they surrendered. The Nazi commandant of Antwerp, a major general, was taken with numerous other prisoners.

The British swing towards Antwerp cuts off a sizable pocket, and according to a British staff officer an estimated two hundred thousand Germans are cut off in this coastal bag in Northern France and Belgium. They are not believed to be very good troops. They include a number of coastal divisions, German air force troops, and ground personnel. Prisoners now being captured include a lot of elderly men—veterans of the last war—definitely not combat troops. The Old Germans have been labeled the "duodenal divisions" by the British units who are capturing them.

It is believed that a large number of the trapped Germans will be able to slip across the British lines of communications since now the distances are so great that they have to be protected with a very slim and thin line of troops. But Germans are being captured everywhere. One British division took a thousand yesterday. Yet it is impossible to get an accurate count with even canteen trucks picking up prisoners, and civil affairs officers capturing them, and the Belgian White Army netting Nazis like fish in a hatchery.

One of the most important results of the British march through Belgium is that now the big flying bomb sites in the coastal pocket have been completely cut off from their supplies.

One British unit estimates that they have taken between twenty and thirty in the last few days, but again, it is impossible right now to get a full count of them.

German resistance is entirely disorganized. The only coherent movement Nazis have in this part of Europe is eastward, and everyone is heading that way acting under nothing but his own orders to get away. One British armored unit reported that they have found German troops mixed in with the civilians of the liberated villages of Belgium—Germans and Belgians cheering the Allied advance. Follow-up units stop the Germans from cheering when they are taken prisoner.

But the German position is absolutely hopeless here. When the British armor got into Louvain, they found that the Belgian White Army had taken two of the three bridges over the Dyle River, an important river line which, without the bridges, might have been a serious obstacle to the advance.

The army officials have nothing but praise for the the White Army. Without their help, this rout of the Wehrmacht might not have been possible.

This is Bill Downs in Brussels returning you to CBS in New York.