The illustrations document the chaotic days toward the end of the war, when terrified Germans fled the Russian Army across the Elbe River, while members of the 102nd watched from the opposite shore. These captioned pictures portray a large fire with people in distress — “the cities … were in ruins,” a makeshift graveyard — “some stayed,” a medic tent — “some went back,” women in Russian caps — “the Russians had girls with them,” nude women jumping into the Elbe River — “they stripped and dove to escape the Russians,” and two troops viewing a schloss — “there was culture too.” The movement of the division is illustrated with arrows, starting at Aachen, going to Krefeld, the Ruhr, Wesel, Munster, Bielefeld, Hannover, to just north of Magdeburg.
The 102nd United States Army Infantry (informally known as “The Ozarks” for their origins as a Missouri/Arkansas Army Reserve unit) arrived in Cherbourg, France in September 1944. They were reassigned to the 9th Army, which advanced toward Hitler’s Siegfried line in early November. After heavy fighting, they succeeded in pushing the German army back to the banks of the Roer River. While they prepared to cross the Roer, a few weeks later, the Germans launched the final counteroffensive of “the Battle of the Bulge” through Luxembourg and Belgium, engaging the U.S. 1st Army while the 102nd defended an 8-mile stretch of the Roer. On January 26, 1945, the 102nd and a British division advanced without opposition and captured several small towns on the west bank of the Roer, from where they would spearhead the 9th Army’s drive into the Rhine a month later. The Ozarks advanced from the Roer to the Rhine River, frequently encountering heavy fighting as the Germans gradually retreated. Eventually, they crossed the Rhine on April 3rd, and six days later, the Weser River.
By April 12th, the Germans were on the verge of surrender, and the 102nd advanced toward the Elbe River with little opposition, although there were still pockets of resistance, and the fighting continued. Meanwhile, the Russian Army was pushing the Germans from the west toward the Elbe. On April 25th, as the Russians began their attack on Berlin, 48 miles east of the Elbe, German soldiers and civilians began surrendering en masse to the 102nd in a chaotic scene: terrified Germans fled the Russians across the Elbe on anything they could find that would float. Troops stripped off their uniforms and swam naked across the river. On May 7th, the 102nd watched as the Russians fought the remnant that refused to surrender in one last firefight. Finally, the Russians prevailed, advancing on the bridge and linking up with the 102nd. World War II ended on May 8th, on the banks of the Elbe.
Condition: Generally very good with light wear to margins of two tiles.
“The Ozark Emblem” and “Division History.” 102nd Infantry Division: “The Ozarks.” http://www.102ndinfantrydivision.homestead.com/history.html (26 May 2004).