World: Diversion at the River

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French civilians streamed out of Strasbourg, back into the Vosges Mountains. There was talk of evacuating the city. The Germans might be coming back.

For ten days Allied reconnaissance planes had been reporting troop move ments in the Palatinate (southwestern corner of the German Rhineland), so the attack could not have been another sur prise. But the U.S. Seventh Army troops in that area found it hard to deal with. The deepest thrust reached 15 miles to the south before it was stopped.

Faced by this sudden threat to its rear, the Seventh withdrew from its two footholds in Germany. Then the Germans began shelling Haguenau, a main communications center in northern Alsace. On the west bank of the upper Rhine, they attacked the French around the Colmar pocket. And they threw tanks across the Rhine, north and south of Strasbourg.

German boldness in this sector was obviously due to Allied preoccupation in the Ardennes. There were no military objectives in the region worth a really major effort, even if Rundstedt could spare the reserves to make one. It seemed more probable that the German was trying to draw off more strength from the Third Army's front between the Luxembourg border and Saarbrücken.

There were other Nazi diversionary attacks on the western front last week. In The Netherlands, German forces crossed the Maas River at two points, established one bridgehead north of Venlo (later wiped out by British counterattack), another near Geertruidenberg. The Germans claimed they had recaptured a town between the Waal and the Lek rivers northeast of Nijmegen. These northern sectors would probably now be flaring with all-out activity if Rundstedt's Ardennes offensive had kept on rolling beyond the Meuse.