Fulda Gap - Strategic Location

Strategic Location

The northern route through the Gap passes south of the Knüllgebirge and then continues around the northern flank of the Vogelsberg Mountains; the southern route passes through the Fliede and Kinzig Valleys, with the Vogelsberg to the north and the Rhön mountains and Spessart mountains to the south. Perhaps even more importantly, on emerging from the western exit of the Gap, one encounters gentle terrain from there to the river Rhine, which favoured Soviet chances to reach and cross the Rhine before NATO could prevent it.

The Fulda Gap route was less suitable for mechanized troop movement than was the North German Plain, but offered an avenue of advance direct to the heart of the U.S. military in West Germany. Frankfurt am Main is on the Main River, as indicated in its name. The Main River is a tributary of the Rhine River. Frankfurt/Main was not only West Germany's financial heart, but also home to two large airfields (the Rhein-Main Air Base) that were designated to receive U.S. reinforcements in the event of war.

The Fulda Gap is roughly the route Napoleon chose to withdraw his armies after defeat at the Battle of Leipzig. Napoleon succeeded in defeating a Bavarian-Austrian army under Wrede in the Battle of Hanau not far from Frankfurt; he safely escaped home to France. The route was also used by the U.S. XII Corps during World War II to advance eastward in late March and early April, 1945.

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