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1945

Patton takes Frankfurt

On this day, Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army captures Frankfurt, as “Old Blood and Guts” continues his march east.

Frankfurt am Main, literally “On the Main” River, in western Germany, was the mid-19th century capital of Germany (it was annexed by Prussia in 1866, ending its status as a free city). Once integrated into a united German nation, it developed into a significant industrial city—and hence a prime target for Allied bombing during the war. That bombing began as early as July 1941, during a series of British air raids against the Nazis. In March 1944, Frankfurt suffered extraordinary damage during a raid that saw 27,000 tons of bombs dropped on Germany in a single month. Consequently, Frankfurt’s medieval Old Town was virtually destroyed (although it would be rebuilt in the postwar period—replete with modern office buildings).

In late December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, General Patton broke through the German lines of the besieged Belgian city of Bastogne, relieving its valiant defenders. Patton then pushed the Germans east. Patton’s goal was to cross the Rhine, even if not a single bridge was left standing over which to do it. As Patton reached the banks of the river on March 22, 1945, he found that one bridge—the Ludendorff Bridge, located in the little town of Remagen—had not been destroyed. American troops had already made a crossing on March 7—a signal moment in the war and in history, as an enemy army had not crossed the Rhine since Napoleon accomplished the feat in 1805. Patton grandly made his crossing, and from the bridgehead created there, Old Blood and Guts and his 3rd Army headed east and captured Frankfurt on the 29th.

Patton then crossed through southern Germany and into Czechoslovakia, only to encounter an order not to take the capital, Prague, as it had been reserved for the Soviets. Patton was, not unexpectedly, livid.

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