Eisenhower's Thorn on the Rhine

The Battles for the Colmar Pocket, 1944–45

Nathan N. Prefer

Date Published :
October 2015
Publisher :
Illustration :
16pp photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781612003221
Pages : 360
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
In stock


By the fall of 1944 the Western Allies appeared to be having it all their own way. The summer's Normandy invasion had finally succeeded and the Germans had been driven out of northern France and most of the Low Countries. In September the invasion of France's southern coast had met less opposition and Allied divisions had begun lining up along the Rhine.

But while the Americans were about to meet a nasty surprise in the Ardennes, the Germans never did let go of the province of Alsace, and in a hard pocket around the city of Colmar continued to resist. On New Year's Eve they launched a counteroffensive, Operation Northwind, that nearly put Allied forces back on their heels. While the Allies were eventually able to take care of their Ardennes problem the Colmar one still remained. On January 12, 1945, Eisenhower could only tell George Marshall, "It is a very bad thorn in our side today."

This is the story of the Sixth Army Group (7th US & 1st French Armies) which fought on the southern flank of the SHAEF front. The French had multiple problems during this campaign so that increasing number of US divisions needed to take part. In the process the 3rd and 28th Infantry Divisions, and 10th and 14th Armored, among others were able to cover themselves with heroism, though hardly less than the threadbare German 19th Army, which bravely resisted against enormous odds until finally the west bank of the Rhine was cleared.

Amidst a horrific winter and rough terrain, interspersed by demolished towns, both sides traded blows in a ferocious campaign often neglected in histories of the war. This book informs us fully of the tremendous and costly struggle waged on that often-neglected sector of the front.

About The Author

Nathan N. Prefer is retired with graduate degrees in Military History. His life long studyof the Second World War has resulted in three prior Military studies including MacArthur ‘s New Guinea Campaign, March-August 1944; Patton’s Ghost Corps, Cracking the Siegfried Line and Vinegar Joe ‘s War, Stilwell ‘s Campaigns in Burma. He resides in Fort Myers, Florida. His interest in the Tinian Campaign began when he served in the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve as a part of the 4th Marine Division. Researching that unit’s history he discovered that almost nothing had been written about one of it’s World War II campaigns. The resulting research became Tinian; The Perfect Campaign. He is currently working on a book covering the U. S. Army’s campaign on Leyte in the Philippines.


1 The Sixth Army Group
2 The French October Offensive
3 Seventh Army's October Offensive
4 St. Dié
5 Forming the Colmar Pocket
6 The Belfort Gap
7 Stalled on the Rhine
8 December 1944
9 Operation Nordwind
10 Strasbourg, Again
11 Operation Cheerful
12 Colmar
13 February 1945
14 Conclusion

Appendix A—Allied Order of Battle
Appendix B—Organization of German Military Units


"...scrutinizes a lesser-known campaign from the closing days of World War II. After the success of the Normandy invasion, as well as the expulsion of German forces from northern France and most of the Low Countries, a fierce pocket of German resistance around the city of Colmar continued to frustrate Allied forces. This last-ditch holdout was so fierce that in January of 1945, President Eisenhower said to George Marshall, It is a very bad thorn in our side today." Eisenhower's Thorn on the Rhine examines this military juncture from all perspectives; chapters describe in detail the military strategies utilized and their repercussions, as well as the hardships and bravery of troops pressed to their limit on both sides. Extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this scholarly military history, highly recommended especially for public and college library World War II collections."

- Midwest Book Review, January 2016

"Nathan N. Prefer has a reputation for re-examining World War II battles that history, for whatever reason, has overlooked, and in Eisenhower's Thorn On The Rhine, he's uncovered a humdinger"

- History of War, February 2016

"A brutal winter, rugged terrain and devastated towns are the backdrop for the writer's factual but dramatic chronicle of how Allied and Axis forces traded blows in this costly but relatively overlooked clash of arms."

- Toy Soldier and Model Figure Magazine, May 2016

"The difficult fighting in the Colmar Pocket is brought to vivid life in this new work. Details of many small actions are woven into the overall narrative, enabling the reader to get a sense of the hardship and cost the fighting in this region brought for the soldiers of both sides. Clear maps and good appendices provide added detail."

- WWII History, July 2016

"Prefer provides a compelling and lucid account of the combat operations of the 6th Army Group… Overall, Prefer provides a welcome addition to the history of the Allied campaign in Western Europe. This book is highly recommended because it fills a gap in the historiography of the Allied effort in the European theater and provides long overdue recognition to the noteworthy combat record of the 6th Army Group.”

- Army History

More from this publisher