By David H. Lippman “It is very difficult to be an openly declared, courageous Nazi today, and to express one’s faith freely,” read the editorial in the Völkischer Beobachter newspaper, which further added, “We have no illusions now.” The official newspaper of the Nazi Party had good reason to sound a fearful note. As dawn broke on March 25, 1945, the British 21st Army Group had hacked a 30-mile-long and seven-mile deep bridgehead over the Rhine River. Operations Plunder and Varsity, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery’s massive set-piece Rhine crossing, had succeeded perfectly at a small cost in Allied casualties: 3,968 for the British 2nd Army and 2,813 for the U.S. 9th Army. In turn, some 16,000 Germans had been taken prisoner. Now, with Germany’s last major barrier breached, there was little to stop Monty’s 20 divisions and 1,600 tanks from fulfilling the Western Allied invasion of Germany, driving deep into the Nazi homeland and the Netherlands.  Even so, the drive would not be easy. First, all the bridges across the Rhine had been blown, and British and American engineers had to replace them with Bailey bridges. Up and down the Wesel bridgehead, sappers and engineers were hard at work. Bulldozers carved out approaches to the riverbank while engineers scrambled with wrenches and iron bars to finish two Bailey bridges. Buffalo amphibious vehicles shuttled back and forth across the river, hauling supplies and troops. The Soldiers That Crossed the


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