In the early months of 1945, the war in Europe was coming to a conclusion. 

In mid-to-late February, the Russians, driving from the east, were pushing the German army backward and had arrived less than 100 miles from Berlin. Poland, where the war had begun in 1939, was almost completely in the hands of the Soviets. After the bloody Battle of the Bulge, the American, British, French, and Canadian troops pushed into Germany from the west and entered the Ruhr, where Germany’s industrial might was located. 

During this time, on March 2, 1945, General George Patton radioed one of the most brilliant and smart-assed messages to Allied Supreme Headquarters. 

Rising Tensions Between Allied Commanders

Despite how the war played out in the West, all was not well within the Allied ranks. There was a distinct rivalry between the Western Allies’ top two general officers, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Lieutenant General George Patton. Privately, the two detested each other and always tried to outdo each other.

With the war winding down, the Allied Supreme Commander in the West, General Dwight Eisenhower, again gave Montgomery’s 21st Army Group the main axis of attack. Eisenhower’s plan called for the destruction of German forces west of the Rhine River to be followed by the British and Canadian forces of the 21st Army Group attacking northern Germany, north of the Ruhr, and across the northern plain. His thrust included having the American Ninth Army under Lieutenant General William Simpson placed under his command. 

This chafed the Americans, Patton, and his superior, General Omar Bradley, the commander of the 12th Army Group. To make matters worse, the 95th Infantry Division and the 17th Airborne Division were taken from the 12th Army Group and assigned to Montgomery in the north. The 95th (the Iron Men of Metz) had taken part in the 3rd Army’s fiercest battles under Patton in the ancient fortress city of Metz and the German border town of Saarlautern and were some of his more experienced troops. 

Bradley and Patton, unfairly or not, pointed to Montgomery’s slow progress in taking Caen in Normandy and the failed Operation Market-Garden in Holland. 

The Canadians made Caen a D-Day objective because the town was a major hub of roads, railways, and communications. Yet, located nine miles inland, taking Caen on June 6 was overly ambitious. The Germans also reinforced the town with Panzer divisions. Caen wasn’t finally taken until two months later.