In February 1945, Germany was collapsing on all fronts. In the East, Soviets were deep into German territory. In the south, the resistance in Italy was crumbling, and in the West, allied forces have reached the Rhine, the last major natural obstacle before them. Only one pocket of resistance on the west bank was still holding out, in the small town of Colmar.
Alsace and Lorraine province was a cause for several wars between France and Germany. The province changed hands numerous times. In 1870 it was given to Germany after the disastrous defeat French suffered in the war. It was returned after German defeat in World War 1. In January 1945 it was mostly in Allied hands, apart from 40 miles long and 20 miles wide Colmar Pocket, occupied by the German 19th Army.
After the bloody battle in the Vosges Mountains, Allied forces were stretched thin and lacked resources to attack Colmar. Still, it presented an opportunity for Germans to break through into their rear and it had to be eliminated before any other offensive could be undertaken. Allies gathered what forces they had in the region and on January 20 launched an attack to take Colmar.
French I Corps opened the offensive on the south side of the pocket. Its colonial troops were veterans, but the harsh winter in Alsace was a far cry from their African climate. Still, they managed to achieve success by attacking during the snowstorm, catching Germans off guard. Despite that, the attack was soon bogged down, after few miles of advance.
With German forces now occupied on the South, the combined American and French attack on the North started on January 22. The aim was to slip behind Colmar and cut the logistic lines to Germany. The fighting was harsh, and two Medal of Honors were awarded for heroism in that battle, to PFC Jose F. Valdez and Lieutenant Audie Murphy.
XXI Corps, under the command of General Milburn, was thrown into the fray, after the reports of heavy casualties reached Allied command. Germans were unable to parry this third attack and were soon in disarray. One by one, towns in the pocket fell to the Allies. Biesheim was taken on February 3 and Neuf-Brisach on February 6. Colmar itself was attacked on February 2 and was liberated the day after by French 152nd Regiment, which was stationed in the town before the war.
The remnant of German 19th Army crossed the Rhine to Germany at Chalampé and blew up the bridge. The core of its experienced troops was either killed and destroyed, and the Army was reformed with green conscripts, leaving a vital defensive sector weakly defended. Alsace and Lorraine were back in French hands.