Breakout from Normandy: Mortain Result (August 7-13)

German Mortain counter offensive
Figure 1.--These French school children we think around Mortain are having a cautious look at an abandoned German Mk. V Panther, considered by many to be the best tank of World War II. They wwere todlers when the Germa arrived in Normandy. Imagine waking up in the morning and finding that on the way to school. Hitler as the Americans were breaking out of the Normandy pocket ordered the Mortain Counter Offensive. This meant moving what was left of German armor all the way to the coast, the exteme left flank of the German position. It might have worked if the Germans had a powerful force left in Normandy, but they did not. The Panzers were mauled and the Allies began an encirclement movement to pocket much of Army Group B. Von Kluge managed to extract many of the men, but few of the precius Panzers and little of the heavy equipment. This Panzer does not look damaged. We suspect that the crew just ran out of fuel and hoofed it back to German lines.

Operation Cobra broke out of the Normandy pocket. Hitler's Mortain Offensive put Army Group B in mortal danger and for a time looked like virtually the entire German Army in France would be destroyed. The result of the German Mortain offensive was as Von Kluge had forseen was that instead of withdrawing from Normandy in good order, Hitler moved the bulk of the German Panzer force further west and in a more exposed position to the developing Allied encirclement. Rather than cut off the Americans, much of the German armor was left in a vulnerable position, in danger of being surrounded themselves. The Americans continued to attack behind the German lines. The German commitment of force to the extreme west of their position put them in a very vulnerable position with the British (including Canadians and Poles) attacking south from Caen and the Americans rapidly moving to close the developing pocket around Falaise. Further eastand south , the American units that had broken out of Normandy wwrecmoving rapidly through one French town vafter another withblittke opposition. The U.S. VII and XV Corps began east and north toward Argentan near Falise. Americn units liberated Le Mans -- just as the Panzers were advancing toward Mortain (August 8). This put the Americans in a position from which they could encircle much of the Germany units in Normandy. Bradley was concerned, however, that the advancing units were vulnerable to counter attack. It became clear to von Kluge, as he had forseen, that the entire German military position in France was now in danger. He had to extricate what was left of the German armor around Mortain. This proved difficult as the Allied forces advanced. Fuel shortages were a prticular problem for gas (petrol) guzzeling Panzers. Von Kluge worked miracles, in part because of Bradley's cautious orders. Hitler issued suisidal orders, demanding that Van Kluge to stand and fight. Von Kluge was able, however, to get many of the men out, but many of the Panzers and much of the heavy equipment was lost The Germans lost 150 of their tPanzers to Allied artillery and and air strikes. That was a small number in World warII terms, but it was a very large part of the remaining German armor in France. For his efforts. Hitler removed Con Kluge from command and ordered back to Berlin. Hitler planned to court martial him and blame the disaster at Mortain on him. Von Kluge understandung this and as he was involved in the Bomb Plot shot himself (August 17). Failure was escusable, being right when Hitler was wrong was not advisable. The Allies had the opportunity of destroying Germany’s military forces in occupied France. This was an opportunity that came to few military commanders in their lifetimes. Patton saw it clearly. Bradley was, however, more cautious.


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Created: 6:18 AM 4/1/2015
Last updated: 6:19 AM 4/1/2015