National Geographic : 1945 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine U. S. Army Signal Corps. Official In High Spirits, Winston Churchill Crossed the Rhine While the Battle Still Raged An American officer said the British Prime Minister, an old soldier, seemed "more perturbed about lighting his cigar in the wind" than about a shell which landed 50 yards away. With Churchill in the American manned LCVP are Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson, Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson, Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, and Field Marshal Sir Alan F. Brooke (in cap right). The oceanlike horizon is due to censor's airbrushing of identifying shoreline. during the Tunisian campaign of 1943. Day after day it was pounded by American and British medium bombers. When troops of the U. S. 60th Infantry finally entered the city, there was hardly a habitable house left and only a few hundred citizens remained. We wondered how anyone could have stayed alive under the bombing, to the intensity of which the ruined blocks gave terrible evidence. The Army moved on to Sicily and found that the destruction of Bizerte was relatively mild compared to the rains of ruin from the skies which had flattened the harbor districts of Palermo and Messina. We passed on to France, and the devastation in Sicily seemed mild in turn compared to that of a few towns in Normandy. The worst example was the once lovely and prosperous market town and railroad center, St. L6. Here was a town which was little short of pulverized. It was not rubble. It was dust. Probably for all time it will remain the out standing example of how thoroughly bombs from the sky and thousands of tons of shells from cannon can erase a city in a few days. But while passing through town after town in the Rhineland in the last few weeks, we remarked, over and over again, "This is almost as bad as St. L6." Sometimes, because of the dismal rainy weather, it looked even worse. Not that the Allied Armies followed any deliberate policy of destruction. Quite the contrary. They withheld artillery fire, some times to their own disadvantage and against their better judgment, to spare historic shrines. Bombardiers were thoroughly briefed before starting on their missions on spots which, if possible, should not be hit. Rhinelanders Sullen, Bewildered But war is war. These towns and cities re sisted-often foolishly and hopelessly. De struction was the only alternative to losing lives of Allied soldiers in clearing the way to the Rhine. The Allied soldier of 1918-19 would hardly recognize the Rhinelanders today. Then they were a rather pleasantly ingratiating folk. Now the troops passing through get only looks of sullen hatred from the people on the side walks.