The British and Canadians congtinuing to hammar away at Caen on the eastern end of the Normandy bridgehead, but it was in the West that the American offensive finally broke the through badly streached German lines -- Operation Cobra (July 25). A month and a half of combat had battle attrited German strength. Once powerful Panzer divisions had been badly reduced. Replacements and new equipment was not being committed to the battle. The Allies on the other hand kept pouring men and equipment into the Normandy bridgehead. The Allied after weeks of costly fighting in the Bokage countty finally broke out from the Normandy beachhead at the end of July. The Bokage had favored the Germans who efficently used it to bottle growing Allied strength. The offensive named Operation Cobra finally broke through the badly streached German lines and into the flat French country side where they could put their superiority in numbers and mobility to full use. A concentrated carpet bombing shattered the vaunted Panzer Lehr Division. The American strikes left uoturned Panzer tanks in their wake. The Americans then pierced the German lines with armoured thrusts near St. Lô and then rapidly fanned out behind German lines. Patton's highly mobile Third Army was activated the sanme day Avranches was taken (August 1). While the Third Army's M-4 Sherman tanks were inferior to the German Panzers in terms of armor abd fire power, they were faster and much more numerous. They could not slug it out with the Germans one-to one, but they were perfect for a rapid advance behind enenmy lines. This was ideal for rapid maneur in the open terraine beyond the Normandy brokage country. Combined with Allied air power this made it impossible for the Germans to plug the gap and contain the American offensive.
The D-Day in Normandy had been on of the great Allied World War II successes. This surprised both the Germans and the Allies. Both expected massive Allied casualties. The Allies excpected to get ashore, but at considerable cost. The Germans hoped to be able to repell the invasion. And if properly handeled, the Germans could have succeeded. The Germans were surprised at the Allied choice of landing beaches. Hitler and OKW were convinced that the Allies would land at the Pas de Calais opposite Kent. This is where the Germans had considered invading in 1940. Here the Channel was the narrowest and was the cloest landing site to the Reich. As a result, the Germans concentrated their most powerful forces here. Here rthe Alloed FUSAG diversion proved highly effective. The Germans were also surprised at how light the Allied casualties were. The American Omsaha landings were an exception. And they were also surprised at how rapidly the Allies kanded abnd deployed forces. The Allies suceeded in capturing their primary objectives on the first day--exceot for Caen whjich Montgomery failed to take. The Allies were surprised byb how lightv the casualties were on the first day of the landings. They had expected to take heavy caualties on the beaches, but then once ashore to move rapidly inland. Just the opposite occurred. The Germans were fixated on the Pas de Calais for the first critical wek, but then began moving into Normandy in strength. This hardened the German defenses position around the beachhead (mid-June). They were not strong ebough gto reduce the Allied beachhead, but with the help pf the bokage defenses, they were strong enough to keep the Allies bottled up in Normandy.
Fighting for several weeks after D-Day was confined to the Normandy area. The most important inland objedtive for the D-Day invasion was Caen. This it was because Caen was a road junction with the most direct highway to Paris. Caen was the onjective of the British troops landing at Sword Beach. The Germans were well aware of the importance of Caen and it was well defended. The powerful German 21st Panzer Division was located near Caen. This division because of German confusion was not immeiately deployed against the landings and in the afternoon when it received orders to move toward the beeches it was engaged by Allied fighters. The division, however, played a key role in the defense of Caen, resisting repeated British and Canadians attacks. Thus the Allies under Montgomery in the east were heald up for weeks. Cherbourg at the tip of the Conteneau Peninsula was a key objective because of its important port. The Americans from Utah Beach cut off the Peninsula. The Germans in Cherbourg held out for a few weeks and did their best to destroy the port. The Germany thought that without a deepwater port that the Allies could not ammount a decisive military force in France. The Germans did not anticipate Mulberry. They also expected the German garrison to hold out longer than it did. General Sattler, deputy German commander, surendered June 27 bringing the end to directed German resistance on the Cotentin Peninsula, although some isolated German units around the city continued to hold out for a few days. Hitler ordered the garison to hold out to the last man. Few of the soldiers involved chose to do so. By July 1 all organized resistenced was ended. The Germans held the Allies at Normandy for several weeks, effectively using the hedgerows in the Bockage country to twart the American advances. After the fall of Cherbourg (June 27), the Normandy Bridgehead was complete. With Montgomery still stopped at Caen, Bradley began to focus on breaking out at the western end of the bridgehead on a line Carentan and Portbail. Bradley launched his offensive at the beginning of July with torrential rain in the middle of the Bockage country. Allied planners had failed to appreciate the potential tactical use of the fortress-like hedgerows in Normandy. The American offensive, however, soon bogged down.
The British were suposed to take Caen, but as this was the most direct route to Paris and the north. For the British with Polish and Canadian units, Caen was a priority. The Allies viewed Caen as necessary for any drive north toward Paris. The Germans were also capable of reading a map. And as the fighting in Normandy developed came to see Caen as the linchpin to their Normandy defences. They were determined to hild it and concentrated available forces there. As a result they hekld Caen for several weks despite repeated Allied attacks. This led to weeks of costly fighting in the Bokage county. The Germans held, but the building Allied forces severly streached the German forces. Finally the Allies prepared breakout. British and Canadian troops under Montgomery struck first with Operation Goodwin. It proved to be a costly battle. They finally captured Caen after a major air attack (July 9). They were unable to break the German lines, however, in part because the rubble created by the air attack in Caen slowed the advance and the Germans were able to regroup west of the city. The German forces were concentrated around Caen which weakened their perimeter to the south. The British and Canadians congtinuing to hammar away at Caen on the eastern end of the Normandy bridgehead, but it was in the West that the American offensive finally broke the through badly streached German lines -- Operation Cobra (July 25).
A month and a half of combat had battle attrited German strength. Once powerful Panzer divisions had been badly reduced. Replacements and new equipment was not being committed to the battle.
The Allies on the other hand kept pouring men and equipment into the Normandy bridgehead. The Allied after weeks of costly fighting in the Bokage countty finally broke out from the Normandy beachhead at the end of July. The Bokage had favored the Germans who efficently used it to bottle growing Allied strength.
Operation Cobra was designed to support British, Polish and Canadian assaults on the eastern end of the Notrmandy bridgehead. They focused on Caen which set astride the roads to Paris and the north. These assaults included Operation Atlantic, Spring, Totalise, Goodwood, and Tractable. They attracted much of the remaining German strength. Abd the British and Canadiabns sustained considerablr casualties. The Americans fighting through the bockage country took considerable caualties. The Americans decided to use the British attacks on Caen in the east as a smokescreen to divert German attention while they staged a breakout in the west--Operation Cobra. Supplies were still a major concern for the Allies. The one surviving Mulberry Harbor had helped. But it was from the beginning only a tempray sollution to the massive needs of the swelling Allied armies coming ashore in Normandy. What the Allies needed was a functioning deepwater port. Taking Cherbourg was an important step, althoughb the Grmans had wrecked the harbor (June 27). Now the Allies wanted Brittany and the deep-water port of Brest.
The senior American commander in Normandy was Omar Bradley who commabndedc thec First Army. He was the guiding forcec behind Cobra. The plan was initially to launch Cobra in mid-July. Poor weather delayed this. American air strikes were to be an importantb part of Cobra and good weather was needed for accurate targettung. This delayed the air strikes.
The offensive named Operation Cobra finally broke through the badly streached German lines and into the flat French country side where they could put their superiority in numbers and mobility to full use. The drive was to begin mid-July with a massive aerial and artillery bombardment (July 18). This had to be delayed because of poor weather. Bradley hoped that the shock value would disorient and dishearten the German defenders.
Amrrican artillery units in 7th and 8th Corps were massiveky supplied with some 170,000 shells. Bradley built up an attack firce of 2,25o1 tanks, mostly M-4 Shermans. About 60 percent of these tanks had a saw-toothed scoop fitted ion the front to help bust through the cement-like bocage (hedges). The bockage had provided thr Germans made to order fortresses. The klarge, heavy German tanks had to stick to the narriw roads in Normandy, The Shermans equipped with the sawtoothed plow were suddenly able to cut across fields rather than the lanes where the Germans had set up tank killing fields. Facing the Americans the Americans were only 190 German tanks. Many of their Panzers, including the heavyv Tigers, had been shifted east to hold Caen against repeated British attacks.
The American aerial offensive launched Cobra (July 24). The operation did not get off on a smooth tart. Poor weather and the limitations of World War II technology resulted in a friendky fire indident. American aircraft jit several forward American positions. These units suffered 25 soldiers killed and 130 wounded. Some American soldiers apparently fired on the aircraft. The Americans continued the aerial bombardment the next day. This was not an attack with small tactical fighter bombers, but involved the heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force which had been diverted from the Stategic Bombing Campaign, to support the Normandy landings. This allowed a concentrated carpet bombing in a relatively small area. As on the previous day, some bombs were dropped on forward American positions. This time 111 American soldiers were killed and 490 wounded.
The carpet bombing shattered the vaunted Panzer Lehr Division. Thhis was the stringest German position in gthe west, meant to secirec their left flank. The American strikes left upturned Panzer tanks in their wake. Bradley launched the ground assault (July 25). This was after Operation Goodwood and Atlantic to the displeaure of Field Marshall Montgomery who had hoped for a coordinated three-prong attack: two on Caen (east and west) and the Americans driving in the west along the coastline toward Brittany. The Americans ground forces then launched armoured thrusts near St. Lô. The Americans did not advance as far on first day as they had hoped. The 7th Corps moved onlt 2000 meters, a little more than a mile. It was not primarily because of German resistance. The bombing had created a huge number of bomb craters which proved to be an obstacle for Athe American vehicles. And the Germans moved some 88 mm guns into the rubble. The 88s were arguably the most effective artillery pieces of the War. Thec 88 could easily penetrate the relativelyv thin armor of the Shermans. Surviving German forces also stahed hit an run attacks in the rubble. But as a result of the bombing they could delay the American advance, but no longer stop it. And then the Americans rapidly fanned out behind German lines. Patton's highly mobile Third Army was activated the sanme day Avranches was taken (August 1). While the Third Army's M-4 Sherman tanks were inferior to the German Panzers in terms of armor abd fire power, they were faster and much more numerous. They could not slug it out with the Germans one-to one, but they were perfect for a rapid advance behind enenmy lines. This was ideal for rapid maneur in the open terraine beyond the Normandy brokage country. Combined with Allied air power this made it impossible for the Germans to plug the gap and contain the American offensive. Unklike the situation after D-Day the Germans non longer had reserves which culd be called forward.
Battlefield intelligence soon alerted Bradkey to the opportunity which presented itself. The Germans had no significant force behind their shatered front line. Not only was their no strength in depth, but there was no longer a contunuous front line facing the advancing Americans. Bradley and his staff decided to bypass German striong points which they called ‘hot spots’, The Germans there were no longer mobile with vekhicles destroyed an no fuel reserves. The American commanders with their highly mobile forces decided to leave them in the rear and to mop them up later. The 9th Division of 7th Corps reported that ghey were miving forward in rear areas without any German resistanve (July 27). The Germans attempted a counter-attack but it failed (July 28). What remained of the the Panzer Lehr Division was according to German reports 'finally annihilated'. German troops began aandoning their remaining vehicles and fleet east on foot to the German lines still intact, mostly moving at night. Any vehicle moving on the roads was likely to be engaged by Allied fighter bombers or advancing American ground troops.
Some of these units stood and fought. The American assessment, however, was that they wrec not a erious impediment and primarily interested in reaching German lines. The Americans were assisted by the further helped by the British who launched Operation Bluecoat, pinning down German units in the east aroundc Caen.
The Americans reached (July 30). Losing Avranches meant that the Germans could no longer anchior their left flankon the coast. Avranches also opened Brittanty to the advncing Americans. The Germans launched their final counter-attack, but with shaered firces there wa no possibility of success (July 31). but this was doomed to fail. Avranches also meant that gthe Americans had left the difficult bocage countryside behind and now their mechanized units would be able to use their speed and manoeuvrability to full advabntage.
Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges' First Army after a heavy bombing attack blew a hole punched a hole in the German defenses wide open at the French town of St. Lo. It is at this time that the Third Army was activated (August 1). Its commabnding officr, Gen. George S. Patton, immediately plunged his Sherman tanks into the hole in the German lines. It would be an advance that would last 9 months of connstanht attack that woul end in Czrcsoslovakia with a slight detiur through Beklgium because if the German Bulge offensive. Patton and the Third Army even without the superb German Panzers mastered Blitzkrieg mobile warfare in aay the Germans coukd only dream about. Patton gave out only one general order, "Seek out the enemy, trap him, and destroy him." The Germans had learned to respect Patton in Sicily. They never were entitely sure what to expect from him. His tactics were different from General Montgomery and the other, more conventional, American generals. Bradely orrdered Patton to attack into Brittanty. This was not what he wanted. He was never happy unless he was moving toward Berlin and Brittanty was in the opposite direction. He had been excluded from the Overlord team because of his indiscressions in Sicily, striking combat fatigued soldiers. As a result, he was relieved of his command. And even wghen brought to England, rather than being involved in Overlord, he was used for the FUSAG diversion in Kent. Thus uncharateristically he kept his mouth shut and drive into Brittany. Finally Patton was allowed to reverse course and drive north into France. The accoplishments were legend as the Third Army speed morth, liberating one French town after another in dizzying sucession. The Third Army established astonishing records. In terms of speed of advance, amount of ground liberated (in France) or captured (in Germany), and in terms of losses inflicted upon the Germans, Patton and his men blazed a trail in combat history.
The German response ordered by Hitler was the Mortain Counter-offensive. American units as part of Operation Cobra drove out of the Normany south into Brittany. Hitler determined to maintain his hold on France ordered a counter-attack--the Mortain offensive (Operation "Luttich"). It would be the last German effort to hold on to France. He ordered General Hausser's 7th Army to drive west and cut off the Americans. Hausser was ordered to attack from Mortain in Brittany toward Avranches and the Atlantic, cutting of the Americans seeping into the French countryside as a result of Operation Cobra. Hausser struck (August 7). The Germany Army, however, was no longer an overpowering force. They did have very effective tanks, but not very many. The German tanks were superior, but unlike 1940, the infantry now had had effective anti-tank weapons. And thanks to Ultra, the Allies were not totally surprised. Nor did the Germans have the critical air support needed for an effective offensive. The Germans advanced west, but within hours were stopped far short of the coast. They attacked with inadequate forces and simply did not have adequate reserves to exploit a break in the Amerucan lines. The result was that it simply put the German Panzers further west and in a more exposed position to the developing Allied encirclement. The Americans continued to attack behind the German lines. The German commitment of force to the far west of their position put them into a very vulnerable position with the Americans rapidly moving to close the developing pocket.
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