George S. Patton, born in 1885, followed the family tradition of pursuing a military career. He graduated from West Point in 1909. Six years later he served under General John J. Pershing fighting Mexico’s Pancho Villa along our southern border.
In 1917, Patton again followed Pershing as the US entered World War I in Europe. He was the first officer assigned to lead the US Tank Corps, which had just been formed. Patton shined as a strategic leader of the Tank Corps.
In 1942, Patton led American forces into North Africa. It was during this time that he became known for his famous strategy of war, saying:
“We shall attack and attack until we are exhausted, and then we shall attack again.”
His lust for battle and iron fisted rule of his troops earned him the nickname of ‘Old Blood and Guts.’ After North Africa, Patton was involved with the invasion of Sicily.
In 1943, Patton hoped to lead the invasion of Normandy, but instead was given command of a non-existent Army unit that was supposed to make an invasion of Pas de Calais, France. Patton’s position was made very public and drew the attention of German intelligence. Their focus on Patton helped the Allied ruse that allowed them to carry out the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 4, 1944.
Once the US 1st Army penetrated the German lines, Patton led the 3rd Army through the opening and began a campaign of driving German forces through France and back to Germany.
By March 1, 1945, Allied forces had driven through France and Belgium and entered into the western parts of Germany. The US 9th Army captured München-Gladbach and Rheydt in western Germany.
On March 2, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Trier, along the Moselle River.
On March 9, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Andernach on the Rhine.
On March 10, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Bonn.
On March 11, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Kochem on the lower Moselle River.
On March 14, 1945, Patton leads the 3rd Army across the Moselle River on his way to the Rhine River.
On March 17, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Koblenz, located on the Rhine River northwest of Frankfurt.
Frankfurt was one of the most significant industrialized cities in Germany. The city manufactured a large portion of the weaponry and munitions used by Nazi forces. It had been a target of Allied bombers and was now the target of General Patton and the 3rd Army.
At the same time, British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was leading the British 21st Army Group out of the Netherlands towards the Rhine River in northern Germany. He gathered his forces near Wesel and Rees on Rhine.
The Germans were focused on the British forces in the north and Patton’s 3rd Army at Koblenz, northwest of Frankfurt. On March 22, 1945, under the cover of darkness, Patton and the 3rd Army began using assault rafts to cross the Rhine, not at Koblenz, but south of Frankfurt at Oppenheim. They also used large floats to build temporary bridges which would allow the 3rd Army trucks and tanks to cross the Rhine.
On March 25, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army captured Darmstadt.
On March 26, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army arrives at the outskirts of Frankfurt.
By March 27, 1945, five divisions of US forces had crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim. By March 31, 60,000 Allied military vehicles crossed the bridges built by the 3rd Army.
On this day, March 29, 1945, Patton and the 3rd Army captured Frankfurt, a key city to Germany’s war effort. Patton and the 3rd Army had cut to the very heart of Germany. Losing Frankfurt was a huge loss to Hitler and helped signal that the end of the war was growing near.
Patton and 3rd Army continued to march through southern Germany and eventually into Czechoslovakia. After criticizing the Allied de-Nazification policies, General Dwight Eisenhower removed Patton from his command of the 4rd Army in October 1945. In December, 1945, Patton was involved in a questionable auto accident near Mannheim, Germany. It was reported that he suffered a broken neck, which led to his death 12 days after the accident on December 21, 1945.
Sources for the above includes: World War II Axis Military History Day-by-Day: March; Patton takes Frankfurt; Crossing the Rhine; The U.S. Army in the Occupation, of Germany 1944-1946; George S. Patton; The Crossing of the Rhine River; Patton’s Third Army Crosses Rhine.