Fact File : Antwerp Captured
1 to 4 September 1944
Theatre: North West Europe
Location: North West France and Belgium
Players: Allies: Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group, comprising General Miles Dempsey's 2nd Army and Lieutenant General Henry Crerar's Canadian 1st Army; General Omar Bradley's US 12th Army Group comprising Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges' US 1st Army and General George Patton's US 3rd Army. Axis: General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen's 15th Army.
Outcome: Allied advance as far as Antwerp in Belgium.
Damage done by a V-2 missile on a main intersection in Antwerp, Belgium©
Following Operation Totalise, an Allied breakthrough from the French town of Caen to just outside the town of Falaise, what remained of the German Army Group B was trapped between the converging British/Canadian and US forces.
Army Group G, meanwhile, was taken prisoner en masse as it fell back before the Dragoon advance, the Allied invasion of southern France. As the Germans retreated towards the Reich, the British, Canadian and US armies converged on Paris. On 25 August 1944, the capital was symbolically liberated by French Resistance forces loyal to General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French. The war in France was over.
On 1 September, General Dwight Eisenhower assumed overall command of both Allied army groups - Montgomery's 21st Army Group and Bradley's 12th Army Group. Dissent now flared between Montgomery and Patton, with Patton favouring a southern attack through the Saar and Montgomery advocating a concentrated assault on the Ruhr. Wishing to hold the balance between the two and concerned that what he termed a 'pencil-like thrust' might be vulnerable to counter attack, Eisenhower ordered a 'broad front' advance. At the north of the line, Montgomery's forces were to be given priority until the port of Antwerp could be secured, shortening the Allies' increasingly stretched supply lines.
Monty's 21st Army Group reached Brussels on 3 September and took Antwerp the next day; thanks to co operation with the Belgian resistance, the port was undamaged. However, Zangen's retreating German 15th Army had been dislodged but not destroyed; it now took up positions straddling the Scheldt estuary, north of Antwerp. Until these German forces could be cleared, the port would remain unavailable.
The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.