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No matter, the rest of the airborne troops were on their way in. Initially, the drops in both the st and 82nd zones went very badly. Heavy antiaircraft fire forced some of the Skytrain pilots to climb into the clouds and others above them, breaking up what were supposed to be tight formations. Such evasive maneuvers protected the planes but almost guaranteed that the paratroops would be widely scattered as they jumped.

The failure of the Pathfinders to mark many of the drop zones only added to the woes of pilots trying to put all of their paratroops together in the right place. Some units were dropped miles from their target areas. Many of those who did make it close to where they were planned to be did not know it. Everywhere, units were broken up into small, isolated groups of men.

Here and there, soldiers struggled to find anyone in an American uniform. Alone and lost, paratroopers turned to toy noisemakers called crickets to issue challenges and passwords in the dark to fleeting shapes they hoped were GIs. More than a few of the paratroopers were injured as they hit the ground and subsequently captured. Some, who had the misfortune of snagging their parachutes in trees as they descended, were shot by German patrols as they dangled from the branches.

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Where the Germans had recently flooded the fields and marshes, paratroopers fell into water up to six feet 1. Many of them dropped within yards of German 51 52 D-Day and the Liberation of France defensive positions or, in the case of those assigned to capture St. At St. Having landed there in a tangle of parachute cord, Steele survived the battle for St. British glider troops under the command of Major John Howard had landed in six Horsa gliders at midnight near the crucial Orne and Pegasus bridges and quickly seized both. The Pegasus Bridge, in fact, was captured rather simply by surprising the lone German guard on duty there.

Within minutes, the exit route for the British divisions about to land on the Norman beaches was in friendly hands. The airborne drop that followed the gliders by 30 minutes, however, proved as confused and problematic as the American one. As with the American effort, the British Pathfinders were scattered widely, and their equipment was lost, damaged, or destroyed in the jump.

Six unfortunate men never even made it to France; they were mistakenly dropped over the English Channel. The British and Canadian paratroopers who followed the Pathfinders thus had a difficult morning in front of them. Still, the operation proceeded. Heavy fighting broke out at each location where a British or Canadian trooper touched down.

Bloody firefights pitted small groups of Allied and German soldiers against one another in a desperate struggle for control Parachutes in the Night of the target areas. Men fought and died in the predawn darkness. The destruction of the German artillery battery at Merville completed the British airborne mission for the morning. Now it would be up to the infantry to do its job. Confusion reigned as staff officers strove to sort out genuine sightings of British or American units from the reports of the hundreds of mannequins being used to deceive the Germans.

These dummies, known as Ruperts, were very nearly indistinguishable at a distance from real men and were packed with firecrackers that went off upon landing. The ruse was so convincing that some German soldiers fought for up to an hour against the lifeless doubles of actual troops. Among the reports of genuine contact was that of the German th Infantry Division behind Utah Beach. Gliders are landing in our sector.

The British and Canadian paratroopers and glider forces in the eastern sector had easily gained control of the two Orne River-Caen Canal bridges. The rest had been successfully demolished. How long the 6th Airborne could hold the bridges was another matter entirely. Far to the west, the U. The Operation Neptune force contained ships ranging from battleships to troop carriers. The soldiers aboard the transports had embarked from England with orders to assault and hold the five invasion beaches designated in the Overlord plan. All three divisions were scheduled to rendezvous after securing their beachheads and fight their way to Caen, the pivot point for an Allied invasion front that would wheel through northern France toward Paris.

Across a mile-long 1. The U. Rising gently from the sea toward a wide band of sand dunes, Utah fronted a series of causeways that led through flooded pastures Hitting the Beaches: The Americans A U. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore of Normandy, France, on June 6, Between these two American contingents stood the German th Infantry Division, manning 28 stationary gun batteries and dozens of fighting positions.

Although it was made up primarily of older German reservists and non-German troops, including even some Koreans, Allied planners expected the th to resist the landing to the best of its ability. Utah Beach, it was presumed, would be contested. The loading of the troops and their subsequent journey to Utah Beach were neither easy nor safe. Some had their arms or legs smashed as they tried to jump into the landing craft. Huge swells lifted the tiny landing craft and then brought them back down in a stomach-wrenching cycle of pitch and roll.

Our guts ached from the dry heaves. Scared as hell and sicker than the devil, we were drenched in salt water. As the troops made their approach, the beach bombardment opened up. The battleship Nevada and cruisers and destroyers in its battle group laid down a blanket of fire over the beach and its defenders. The object was to clear the beach of obstacles and landmines, while silencing the German shore batteries.

Simultaneously, 17 specially fitted LCVPs began showering the beach with rockets. As the rocket fire lifted some 20 minutes later, the 4th Infantry came ashore. Accompanied by 28 amphibious DD duplex drive tanks, the men quickly noticed that something was wrong. German resistance was surprisingly light, where the th resisted at all.

The soldiers lying on the sand did not know Hitting the Beaches: The Americans American troops advance over the crest of a concrete sea wall after successfully landing on Utah Beach in Normandy. Outflanked and soon outnumbered, the th collapsed quickly; its soldiers surrendered en masse. The 4th then moved inland, suffering only casualties, and made contact with the paratroops as planned. Utah, the first beach of the morning, was secure.

A secondary objective was to make contact with the British 50th Infantry and close the gap between the British and American beaches. Ambitious as it was, the Omaha operation depended on two things: an easy landing and the rapid defeat of the German nd Infantry Division. Neither came to pass. The beach itself, to begin with, conspired against the landing force.

It had characteristics that were quite different from the other four Allied beaches. The far western end of Omaha was really not a beach at all but rather a narrow strip of pebbles backed by steep cliffs identified on maps as Point du Hoc. The German battery located there was of great concern to Allied planners, and the job of silencing it was given to elements of the 2nd Ranger Battalion that had been specially trained to scale cliffs. Farther eastward along the shore, Omaha transitioned into a broad plain of sand heading inland toward a double seawall one natural, the other man-made before rising to a series of bluffs that overlooked the entire beach.

Perfectly suited to the needs of its defenders, Omaha Beach was heavily mined, thickly studded with beach obstacles, pre-sighted for extremely accurate machine gun and mortar fire, and garrisoned by perhaps the best of the German coastal divisions, the nd Infantry. The nd was the most formidable division in Normandy on June 6.

Recently reinforced by troops of the 6th Parachute Regiment, these German troops were well trained and highly motivated. In any case, the nd would have proved tenacious in defense, but surrounded as it was with the handiwork of Organization Todt, the division promised to give the Americans a tough fight. At this defensive point, the Atlantic Wall lived up to its name. Omaha Beach, moreover, was a veritable tangle of rifle positions, mortar batteries, machine-gun nests, gun emplacements, and casemated coastal artillery points. Behind these sunken batteries stood 18 positions containing the most lethal and accurate artillery pieces produced by either side in World War II, the devastating mm anti-tank guns.

Six Nebelwerfer multiple-barreled rocket launchers rounded out the German arsenal. A maze of communication and supply tunnels and trenches linked all of these strongpoints together into a single deadly network. Smashing through the German battle line would be no easy task. Yet the 1st and 29th divisions would have to break through the German defenses at Omaha to secure the center of the Normandy beachhead.

As at Utah, the process of doing so began with soldiers climbing down cargo netting into wavetossed landing craft. Like their counterparts at the other beaches on D-Day, the men assigned to take Omaha were very quickly transformed into a soaked, vomiting mass of soldiers racing toward a fate unknown. Preceded by minesweepers, the landing craft passed a line of battleships and cruisers commanded by Rear Admiral John L.

Looking seaward, the soldiers of the nd watched breathlessly as vessels of every type seemed to 61 62 D-Day and the Liberation of France American soldiers capture German soldiers on Omaha Beach shortly after the invasion. Near Bayeux, one of those officers, a major commanding a shore battery, froze at the very sight of the Allied armada materializing in front of his position.

A curtain of smoke and flame shot up into the air as shells exploded in quick succession. At exactly a. The approaching troops were treated to a display of raw power few had ever witnessed in the history of warfare. The Bs dropped more than 1, tons 1, metric tons of bombs on the German defenders, but none of the men in the landing craft and certainly none of the bomber crews knew at the time that, due to the overcast skies and smoke, the American pilots had delivered most of their deadly cargo too far inland. Some bombs landed up to 3 miles 4. As a result, despite the fire and noise, the German fighting positions were left intact and fully operational.

After the bombers had passed overhead, the German soldiers went to work pushing shells into cannons, laying belts of ammunition into machinegun receivers, and snapping magazines into rifles. Back at sea, LCT R s, rocket-firing landing craft , maneuvered to either side of the LCVPs carrying the initial assault wave and began discharging salvos of screeching rockets. The small howitzers and heavy machine guns mounted on the LCVPs themselves similarly opened fire just as the loading gates on the lead craft started to drop the invasion force onto the beach.

What took place next was nothing short of wholesale slaughter. As more Americans came ashore, more died. The fire of our battle positions and artillery was well placed and had inflicted considerable casualties upon the enemy. A great many wounded and dead lie on the beach. With bullets and shell fragments flying everywhere, no one dared to move. And still the killing continued. Out in the waves, the DD duplex drive amphibious tanks assigned to provide close fire support floundered.

Each had been fitted with a canvas apron that was supposed to allow the tank to float to the beach and land safely. But as the swimming tanks took to the water one by one, they sank, drowning the helpless crewmen inside. It was absolutely terrible. The Overlord plan envisioned an ascent by men, scaling feet Sectional ladders would also be employed, as would a firefighting ladder borrowed from the London Fire Department.

The Ranger operation was practiced repeatedly in England and all went well, but the real thing in Normandy proved to be a different matter. The German defensive fire was more intense than expected; the sectional ladders were 5 feet 1. Rangers dangling from rope ladders were subjected to rifle and machine-gun fire, as well as grenades lobbed from the cliff edge and timed to explode on the way down.

As the troops fought their way up the point, ladders disintegrated and Rangers plummeted to their deaths. Eventually, though, a few Americans reached the top, only to Hitting the Beaches: The Americans find that their adversaries had retreated. Although puzzled by the sudden departure of men who only moments earlier had seemed so determined to hold the cliff, the Rangers moved quickly to seize their objective, the Point du Hoc gun battery.

To their dismay, the soldiers discovered that the artillery pieces had long since been removed and replaced with logs painted to look like guns. The scene below the 2nd Ranger Battalion was still one of utter confusion. By a. The men already on the beach, meanwhile, were struggling just to stay alive.

Through all this, destroyers fired nonstop from the sea at German positions, approaching so close to the beach that many sailors were certain the ships would run aground. I agonized over the withdrawal decision and prayed that our men could hang on. Under the constant pressure of heavy naval bombardment, the Germans weakened. Here and there, small groups of American soldiers pushed forward.

As they reached the seawall, the men cut through the barbedwire entanglements using wire cutters or long pipes filled with explosive charges known as Bangalore torpedoes. Once over the wire, the troops destroyed whatever beach positions stood in their way and moved inland to the bluffs above Omaha. There, ferocious combat ensued as German strongpoints were cleared individually.

Fighting with rifles, grenades, flamethrowers, and, where need be, knives, the Americans made a slow but steady advance. Over time, first one section and then another of the German defenses fell to the men of the 1st and the 29th. Reinforcements poured through the gaps made by the initial assault units; landing craft put tanks on the beach 65 66 D-Day and the Liberation of France Saving Private Ryan In an effort to capture the chaos and bloodletting on Omaha Beach in his film Saving Private Ryan, American director Steven Spielberg used modern special effects techniques, sound mixing, and innovative camera angles to reproduce the first minutes of the landings made by the 1st and 29th Infantry divisions on D-Day.

The film tells the story of a Ranger company led by the fictional Captain John Miller. As his unit stumbles ashore on June 6, Miller and his men encounter death and destruction on a monumental scale as they storm the beach in the face of withering German fire. From that point forward, the film develops into a rather standard war movie. Because the film focuses solely on the American experience at D-Day, it does not present a complete picture of what occurred on June 6, Despite some attention to the development of German characters later in the film, at no point are the fears and anxieties of the men of the German nd Infantry given any real attention.

Hitting the Beaches: The Americans to provide supporting fire. By midmorning, reports began to come in confirming that the nd Infantry was in general retreat. The Germans were abandoning Omaha. The afternoon saw the beach in American hands and the 1st Army on the move toward its inland objectives. The toll of dead Americans left behind stood at 2, Farther to the east, the British and Canadians were having their turn. To the east of Omaha Beach, three divisions, two British and one Canadian, were scheduled to come ashore at separate locations almost simultaneously.

The westernmost of these places, Gold Beach, was the responsibility of the British 50th Infantry Division. The ultimate goal was to form a continuous Allied 68 Hitting the Beaches: The British and Canadians beachhead by closing the dangerous mile-long 1. This feat had to be accomplished within the first hours of the invasion, before the Germans had time to divide the invasion force.

If the Germans succeeded in keeping the two armies apart, they could concentrate their counterattacks more effectively. Opposing the British at Gold were some scattered elements of the nd Infantry Division and the bulk of the th Infantry Division, a weak formation consisting mainly of older German reservists and a large number of Poles and Ukrainians. Most of these reservists were either Poles of German extraction or Ukrainians who had been living in the southeastern part of pre Poland.

Lacking the training, armament, and morale of the soldiers in the nd, the men of the th also stood behind beach defenses that were nowhere near as formidable as those erected at Omaha. The heavy weapons at Gold were fewer in number and the infantry strongpoints were less well constructed and were connected more loosely. The beach itself was narrower and better suited to the quick landing of assault troops.

Perhaps sensing the deficiencies in their position, the th waited more nervously than most for the coming invasion. One of the first German infantrymen to see the ships of the Eastern Task Force, under Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, panicked at the very sight of so many vessels of so many different types in one place. Many pillboxes took direct hits from naval shells fired with such accuracy that they passed straight through the observation slits before detonating inside.

Despite the intense shelling and lopsided quality of the opposing forces in favor of the invaders, some German positions remained intact and offered stiff resistance, but it was shortlived. Gold Beach fell quickly to the 50th, and reinforcements poured ashore. There were dead men and wounded men and men brewing tea. There were men organizing for a battle advance and men doing absolutely nothing. There were some German prisoners waiting patiently for heaven knows what. There was a graveyard of wrecked ships and craft and tanks of every size.

Hiding in cellars or makeshift bomb shelters, the French citizenry sat out the fighting and emerged free people. For many, the news of their liberation came as it did for one family with a knock at the front door. The morning, however, was far from over for the liberators. Juno The assault on Gold Beach had gone smoothly and according to plan. British dead numbered , second only to Utah in the fewest casualties—a sharp contrast to the near-disaster just a short distance away at Omaha Beach and the bloody drama that would unfold to the east at the beach code named Juno.

If the Canadians assigned to take Juno hoped for anything remotely like the scene at Gold, they were to be sorely disappointed. Juno was assigned to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, whose job it was to secure a beachhead there before linking up with the British divisions on either side of it and moving inland toward Caen. As at the other four landing sites, the main ground attack was preceded by a massive naval and aerial bombardment of the German defenses. Next came the loading of men into landing craft and a race to the beach under the cover of close rocket fire.

Held by mixed units of the German th Infantry Division, Juno should have fallen quickly to superior Canadian forces soon after they hit the Hitting the Beaches: The British and Canadians beach. Unfortunately for the men of the 3rd Infantry, the situation developed far differently.

Everywhere, German gunners poured deadly fire into the Canadian ranks as they struggled through the water. Men were falling in the water and they fell on the beach. The machine-gun fire was so devastating. The Canadians ran into a crossfire. They were shelled and mortared. The Canadians pushed forward doggedly. Their refusal to allow the assault to bog down and men to pile up on the sand kept the momentum of the attack going.

The relentless forward movement and heavy fire from the tanks made for a slow but steady Canadian push inland, despite the losses inflicted by the German gunners. By midmorning, the Canadians had suffered more than 1, casualties, but they held the beach.


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Successive waves of soldiers, wading ashore carrying bicycles that soon proved useless to the troops due to balance problems on the rough Norman roads , encountered only scattered sniper fire. Their turn at combat, however, would come, as the 3rd Infantry moved to its 73 74 D-Day and the Liberation of France rally point with the British divisions landing on either side of it.

In the small seaside villages and towns that lay between Juno Beach and Caen, the Germans were regrouping and preparing to counterattack against the British 50th, the Canadian 3rd, and the British 3rd Infantry that had just splashed into the war at the beach code named Sword. The main force of the Sword assault units was to advance on Caen with the rest of the 2nd Army soon after hitting the beach.

A complex mission by any measure, the landing at Sword Beach began at a. Although the naval and air forces did their job well, many of the German strongpoints remained intact as the 3rd came ashore. The result was stiffer resistance than Allied planners had anticipated. The German defenders, mostly composed of men from the th Infantry Division, raked Sword with machine-gun fire and dropped mortar shells on the British with lethal accuracy. Whether it was the sound of the pipes or the speedy arrival of reinforcements that lifted their spirits, the British were able to break through the German lines and capture Sword Beach by a.

In pushing the Germans off the beach, the division left of its men dead on the sand. Yet Sword was the only one of the five invasion beaches to be bombed by the Luftwaffe during the daylight hours of June 6. Eight German Ju fighterbombers made a single bomb run against Sword, causing minor damage. Out of the Luftwaffe sortied aircraft on June 6, except for those above, none even made its target. No Allied plane was shot down in aerial combat on D-Day. All of the American and British aircraft lost were destroyed by ground fire.

The U-boats, in particular, suffered severe losses at the hands of Allied destroyers. Of the 43 German submarines that sailed on June 6, 18 were sunk outright, 12 were heavily damaged, and the rest either returned to base or were never seen again. Having sped back to France from Germany, the field marshal struggled to restore his frontlines and mount an immediate counterattack in response to the Allied landings.

By noon on D-Day, those divisions were ready to move, but no word came from Berlin about their disposition. With their motors running and ammunition loaded, the tanks of perhaps the finest armored divisions on either side during World War II sat idle in the face of the invasion. Rommel was furious. With these new weapons, Rommel could punch back at the Allies by attacking England itself.

The field marshal could use the V-1s to devastate London and other major cities and strike at the staging areas that were feeding a constant stream of men and equipment to the invasion beachhead. At a. Acting with the utmost speed, Rommel shifted his infantry reserves to the American zone and concentrated his armor against the British, after learning from these captured plans that his opponents planned to use Caen as the pivot for a swing out of Normandy toward Paris. Among the armored units sent north to reinforce Rommel was the battlehardened 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, recently arrived from the battlefields of Russia.

Trained to see themselves as racially superior warriors, the 2nd SS Panzer soldiers were enraged by the constant Maquis harassment and incessant Allied fighter-bomber attacks that punctuated their journey from the south of France to the invasion front. A trip that should have taken hours became an arduous slog spanning weeks. During those five and a half hours, in a fit of homicidal fury, the soldiers executed innocent men, women, and children. The women and children were then herded into the village church.

The SS men next locked the church doors and proceeded to set fire to the building, burning the screaming victims alive. The entire town was subsequently ransacked and burned. The culprits, who finally rolled up to the battlefield on June 26, were brought to justice facing the guns of the British 2nd Army near Caen.

None of the men who took part in the Oradoursur-Glane atrocity survived the battle for France. The 21st Panzer, backed up by elements of the th Panzer Division, could probably stop a British attempt to take Caen, but the German tanks could not hold off the British 2nd Army for long. Rommel needed the Waffen-SS armored divisions that Hitler still refused to part with.

Finally, at p. All of the German divisions had to advance through territory made deadly by a combination of French Resistance ambushes and relentless air attacks by Allied fighterbombers. Everywhere, Army Group B was under intense pressure, yet the Germans did not give ground without a fight, and through June 6 they were able to mount ferocious local counterattacks. At one point, a column of 21st Panzer Division tanks actually succeeded in breaking through the Allied front late in the afternoon and reaching the coast between Gold and Omaha beaches.

Having split the enemy in two, the tanks could have served as the point of a wedge capable of prying apart the Allied beachhead. Due to the lack of reinforcement, however, the unit was forced to withdraw at p. As the day came to an end, the survivors on both sides reflected on the meaning of what had just taken place. They had been participants in a historic event in which thousands of brave soldiers had died, but they had come through it alive.

Germain, Rommel proposed a two-stage operation. If they were denied Caen, the crucial pivot point for the Allied sweep through Normandy toward Paris, the Germans could push them back. Cherbourg and Caen, therefore, had to be held. Stage two involved forcing the Allies to fight in places where their advantages in the number of tanks and aircraft would be minimized, while the German advantages in tank quality and the superior combat skills of German soldiers, especially those of the Waffen-SS, would be maximized.

But Allied air supremacy made every German that dared to travel by day a target. This is only part of the invasion force Rommel believed he could throw back into the sea. SS stood ready to assist 21st Panzer in its efforts to repulse the approaching British 2nd Army. The battle lines in the bocage had been drawn. These hedge-bounded roads were ideal for the type of small-unit ambushes that the 83 84 D-Day and the Liberation of France Germans, especially the Waffen-SS, excelled at.

The fields themselves, usually having only one entrance, offered perfect opportunities to establish crossfire zones by placing machine guns at the far corners and triangulating their fire. Thus, Allied troops scrambling off the roads to escape an ambush would stumble directly into the muzzles of pre-sighted, heavily camouflaged machine guns. The losses inflicted on the Allies would prove even greater on the wider roads and in the larger fields, where the space permitted the Germans to often augment their machine guns with one or two concealed tanks.

Machine-gun infested fields and roads prowled by tanks guaranteed that the combat in the bocage country would be The German V-Weapons As the American divisions came ashore, the Germans were preparing a response that included two revolutionary weapons systems that would forever alter the nature of warfare: the V-1 rocket bomb and the V-2 missile. The V-2 ballistic missile, the forerunner of the Saturn V rocket that sent American astronauts to the moon in the late s and early s, was a gyroscopically guided, rocket-propelled weapon that became operational in September , too late to influence the course of the fighting in France.

The V-1, however, came into active service a week after D-Day and threatened to distract, if not disrupt, the Allied campaign.

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American units in particular measured success among the hedgerows one yard at a time as the advance into the bocage began in mid-June. Working in small teams, the U. The fighting was vicious, as the attackers and defenders did battle often with just a few short yards or even feet separating them. Given such close quarters, it is not surprising that it devolved into a struggle involving mortars, grenades, pistols, knives, and, in some cases, bare hands. First employed on June 15, , the first V-1s were aimed at London; of the that were launched from the Pas de Calais, nearly struck home.

Over the next three days, more than V-1s streaked toward England, causing serious damage in the British capital. In the end, it did. As the fighting in the bocage began, Rommel met with von Rundstedt and Hitler on June Allied air power was overwhelming; Luftflotte 3 essentially no longer existed. Every German division was on the defensive. Counterattacks were taking place, but they were local and had done nothing to unhinge the Allied front.

Here and there, Rommel noted, the Allied advance had been halted, but his men could not hold back the tide indefinitely. American air attacks in France had disrupted the fuel supply line, while those raids directed against German targets had crippled fuel production. Hitler commanded Rommel and von Rundstedt to hold Cherbourg at all costs and launch an immediate general counterattack.

Push the Allies back into the sea, he ordered. Hitler promised Rommel and von Rundstedt that new weapons systems were on the way, which would not only turn back the invasion but also win the war for Germany. He spoke of jet airplanes, guided missiles, long-range submarines, monster tanks, and, above all, the new pilotless rocket bombs, the V First launched on June 15, the V-1s were indeed wonder weapons and caused serious damage to targets in London but did little to alter the balance of power in France.

Despite repeated V-1 attacks, the Allies maintained their momentum in Normandy. German combat engineers, true, had already demolished the port facilities and mined key sections of the harbor before the Americans arrived, but the city had been captured. Rommel had based his entire battle plan on holding Cherbourg and denying the Allies a fixed port of entry for supplies and reinforcements. The Great Storm Outside Caen and around the Cotentin, the British and American armies fought their way forward, inch-by-inch, through the hedgerows of the bocage country.

The Germans offered stubborn resistance. The field marshal did all he could to motivate and inspire his troops. Some, especially the SS men, needed little encouragement; they welcomed combat with the Allies. Others, however, were losing faith in their ability to withstand an onslaught backed by the seemingly limitless resources and manpower of the enemy. The average German soldier believed his foe lacked nothing. As supplies poured into Normandy from England, the American 1st and British 2nd armies appeared to be better armed, equipped, and fed every time the men of Army Group B encountered them.

In truth, however, the Allied supply line was stretched thin by its exclusive reliance on PLUTO for fuel and the Mulberries for arms, ammunition, and reinforcements. Mulberry A American alone funneled , troops, 27, vehicles, and 68, tons 62, metric tons of supplies to the 1st Army. Mulberry B British brought in even larger numbers of the same to the 2nd Army. But the singular reliance on the artificial harbors meant that, if anything happened to them, the invasion might grind to a halt, allowing Rommel time to reinforce his line and perhaps even launch a general counterattack.

True, the Germans did not present anything close to a credible threat. The Luftwaffe had disappeared from the skies, and the Kriegsmarine, with its submarines and S-boats being hunted constantly by Allied destroyers, did not dare venture into the Channel. Nature, however, was another matter entirely.

The Mulberries depended on seasonably mild weather. Late June was supposed to be a time of calm seas and light winds. Thus it was a cause of great concern when SHAEF meteorologists detected the first signs of a storm that struck the Channel region on June Carrying winds of more than 30 miles 48 kilometers an hour, the storm generated ocean swells topping 8 feet 2. The wind and the waves were accompanied by rain that fell in torrents, creating an almost impenetrable haze of raindrops and sea mist. For three days, all Allied aircraft were grounded, giving the German commanders a much-needed respite from fighter-bomber attacks and thus an opportunity to rest their men and redeploy their units.

The commanders of the heavy Panther and Tiger tank battalions, who had experienced the most difficulty executing night maneuvers, particularly welcomed the break. During the storm, PLUTO transfers could not be continued; the fuel spigots had to be shut off, and shipping came to a halt, denying the Mulberries the supplies they were designed Bocage Country to transfer to land. Even worse was the fact that the artificial harbors themselves, after having been towed to Normandy, were anchored in place. For Mulberry B, this was the case.

It was battered but still usable, as the storm subsided. Mulberry A, though, was destroyed. Mulberry A was out of action, but American supply ships could still deliver their goods to 1st Army via the invasion beaches themselves.


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It was not an ideal situation, but it would allow the American advance to continue, albeit on less fuel, food, and ammunition. Repairs to Mulberry B began immediately. Supplies ran short but did not run out. Tanks and trucks kept rolling, if a bit slower than before. Operation Epsom Because Caen was the crucial location of the Normandy campaign, its capture was essential. Montgomery had planned to take the city on Day Two of the invasion, but the first attempt to do so did not take place until June 13— It failed miserably.

The Tiger ace ambushed a column of British Cromwell and Sherman tanks the latter 89 90 D-Day and the Liberation of France purchased from the Americans brought them to a halt, and then systematically destroyed them. Initially the British advance went smoothly but only due to the fact that the Germans, concealed in well-hidden fighting positions, allowed it. The troops had been ordered to hold their fire until the British had moved forward far enough to be caught in the crossfire.

As soon as they had, the German guns opened up. The subsequent battle devolved into a confused series of running tank duels and bitter hand-to-hand combat. Smoke rising from the battlefield, some of it laid purposefully to mask the British attack, combined with an unexpected light rain to produce a dense mist that made the struggle even more chaotic. At some points, the Germans brought the British to a complete halt. The ever-deepening mud made armored combat virtually impossible for the heavier German tanks and severely limited the movement of even the lighter British ones.

Allied air support disappeared, as the clouds and rain grounded the fighter-bombers. Yet neither side gave way, and they remained locked in brutal combat. By nightfall on June 30, after still bloodier fighting, the Germans and the British were both utterly exhausted, but the 1st Panzer Corps maintained its control of Caen. The British accepted the fact Bocage Country that the German defenses could not be penetrated, at least not at the moment, and withdrew.

Meindl was not new to the Normandy battle, but his immediate superior had only recently arrived in France. Von Kluge was convinced he could succeed where his predecessor had failed. He assured Hitler that he would turn things around in France. On this, von Kluge and Bradley would have agreed. He communicated as much to Corlett and made sure that the 19th Corps would have everything it needed when, on July 11, it opened the battle. When the infantry advance began, the 2nd Parachute Corps fought tenaciously. Although a major victory for the Allies, the battle that occurred there left the town in ruins.

They were determined to deny the Americans the prize they sought. Only the American seizure of a strategic hill overlooking the town was sufficient to convince Meindl that the position was no longer tenable. From its perch atop the hill, American artillery could pound the Germans into submission; Meindl had no intention of sacrificing his men needlessly. The general requested permission, through Hausser, to withdraw on July The reply from headquarters was uncharacteristically subdued. The German 7th Army had lost tanks and more than , men in the process. The other one, to be delivered by the British, would come at Caen, where General Montgomery was preparing to launch Operation Goodwood.

As commander of the 21st Army Group, Montgomery was second only to Eisenhower in the Normandy chain of command. Montgomery, for his part, acknowledged the slow pace of operations in the eastern sectors of the invasion area, but he reminded his detractors that the British 2nd Army, unlike the American 1st, had to contend with the vast bulk of German armor in Normandy. Von Kluge, like Rommel before him, decided to concentrate his tank reserves at Caen, forcing the British to move forward into the face of perhaps the best-armored divisions in the war.

Caen had been entered by the British and taken up to the Orne River on July 8, but the Germans maintained their hold on the parts of the city on the opposite shore. Montgomery had to clear them out before he could lay claim to Caen. Throughout the rest of the day, British troops pushed forward against ever-stiffening German resistance. The Germans had prepared well-fortified positions in advance of the British attack and had put in place any number of weapons, ranging from machine guns to field artillery pieces.

Nothing in the British arsenal could match the King Tiger, Bocage Country American troops advance through the woods near Valognes on the Cherbourg front in late June Nebelwerfer multiple-rocket batteries augmented the German artillery units around Caen. Altogether, the German defenses at Caen were stronger than anywhere in Normandy.

After a day of fighting, the 8th Corps, spearheaded by the 11th Armored Division, came to a halt with little to show for its efforts. German air raids on the afternoon of July 18 highlighted the British failure. The next morning, the British assault resumed but made no progress, despite the arrival of 95 96 D-Day and the Liberation of France fresh Canadian units to relieve the battered 11th Armored.

The British general claimed that although Goodwood had been a tactical defeat, it was in reality a strategic success. Furthermore, Montgomery asserted, the battle had cost the Germans more than they had gained. The German armored divisions had lost tanks that could not be easily replaced, given the fact that German factories were being savaged by daily Allied bombing raids, and had burned up precious quantities of fuel that likewise could not be replenished due to the air raids over the Reich.

Von Kluge, by late July , had no choice but to pull back. The Allies and the Germans could now be certain that the next act in the drama of the battle for France would take place beyond Normandy. It was followed by wholesale arrests of anyone, especially current and former Wehrmacht officers, suspected of disloyalty or harboring sympathy for the plotters of the coup. An atmosphere of distrust grew within the ranks. Commanded by General George S. Twenty minutes later, 1, heavy and medium bombers saturated the battlefield with ordnance. Caught in the open without air cover, entire German formations simply disappeared.

All my panzers had been put out of action. Over the course of the next five days, that hole widened, allowing the Americans to push though to the strategic town of Avranches on July He ordered von Kluge to fight to the last man to stop Bradley. He then, as usual, promised to increase V-1 strikes against England and speed up the deployment of the V-2 ballistic missiles scheduled to become operational in September. These weapons would devastate Britain and might even be deployed on floating platforms towed into the Atlantic by U-boats.

From these barges, the V-2s could be launched against the United States, Hitler claimed. Such fantasies did nothing to console von Kluge. The general knew all too well that his soldiers were exhausted and his machines were destroyed. Bayerlein, in a fit of sarcasm, told von Kluge not to worry about Panzer Lehr. Not a single man is leaving his post. Beyond Normandy Hitler was convinced that the recapture of Avranches would stabilize the German lines and offer an opportunity to roll back the American gains.

He ordered the 7th Army to counterattack using the 2nd SS Panzer as the spearhead of an armored strike involving the 5th Panzer Army, as the newly reformed Panzergruppe West was then called, commanded by General Heinrich Eberhard. As of August 1, Eisenhower replaced Montgomery as overall ground-forces commander. Montgomery remained in command of the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group. Bradley was given control of the new 12th Army Group, consisting of the U. The restructuring consolidated the American forces in France and gave greater independence of operations to Bradley.

Envisioned as a fluid, swift armored assault, the attack quickly bogged down near Mortain, as the Germans encountered strong resistance from the Americans holding the town. For the next week, bitter fighting raged all around Mortain as the German tanks struggled to either take the place or bypass it and continue on to Avranches. A week of fighting had gotten the Germans nowhere. General Bradley, elated by the news, openly gloated. The German commander, General Johannes Blaskowitz, knew that an Allied landing in his sector was inevitable, but he hoped that a successful defense of Normandy might delay it or even force its cancellation.

Such hopes were dashed, however, at a. Like the Normandy invasion before it, the operation, originally code named Anvil, began with a day bombing campaign on August 5 designed to cut transportation lines and weaken the defenses behind which the German 1st and 19th armies and 11th Panzer Division sat.

As the bombing intensified, Allied fighters, as they had done over Normandy, systematically shot the Luftwaffe from the skies of southern France, denying Blaskowitz the air cover his troops desperately needed. The landings in the south likewise mirrored the northern counterpart. On August 15, just after midnight, transport planes left their bases in Italy carrying more than 5, Pathfinders and paratroopers. Glider-borne troops would reinforce these men later in the day. At sea, a fleet of landing ships carried a Franco-American assault force Beyond Normandy assigned to take three beaches code named Alpha, Delta, and Camel.

The flanks of the first wave would be secured by the French commando teams, which had been ordered to silence German gun positions there before the landing. They had to accomplish their mission quickly and quietly. Operationally, Dragoon was nearly identical to Overlord.

D-Day and the Liberation of France (Milestones in Modern World History)

Its execution, however, proved to be quite dissimilar. At precisely a. As the twin bombardments lifted at a. Rather, Army Group G conceded the beaches to the Allies almost immediately and retreated inland in a preplanned effort to unite with Army Group B near Paris. The German high command had decided that southern France was not the place for a last stand; if that were necessary, the location would be the banks of the Seine River. The Dragoon landings, therefore, met little or no resistance. Patton in Brittany With the Allies now pressing in on two fronts, Hitler realized he was losing in France.

Still, Patton was Patton. Notwithstanding a desperate German holding action, the 3rd Army took Saint-Malo after brutal house-to-house combat. Brest, whose defenders were reported by U. Their maintenance was irrelevant, though. As they looked at a map of France, it became clear to Allied planners that an opportunity had arisen for Bradley and Montgomery to encircle and entrap what was left of the 7th Army.

To be sure, von Kluge and Hausser, and even Hitler, realized that a huge pocket had formed that contained the bulk of the withdrawing German forces. The mouth of the pocket was a narrow gap between the towns of Argentan and Falaise through which the 7th Army and the remnants of the 5th Panzer Army would have to pass, if they hoped to escape total destruction. If the Americans and British could close that gap, the war in Europe might well be over before the winter of Patton moved to exploit the Argentan-Falaise situation first.

That is the situation. Von Kluge, therefore, took it upon himself to act. Yet what began as an organized retreat soon degenerated into a rout under the pressure of relentless Allied air attacks and almost ceaseless artillery fire. German troops fled eastward in a panic. Entire divisions fell apart and ruined equipment piled up in open fields and along the roads. It was not until August 21 that the Falaise pocket finally closed, but by that time, nearly half of the German troops, minus their equipment, had escaped.

More than 50, Germans were taken prisoner. The field marshal knew that going home would mean arrest by the Gestapo and likely execution. A career soldier and German patriot, von Kluge chose suicide over dishonor. One final act remained in the drama. Paris, the City of Light, awaited liberation. Despite its historical and cultural importance and its supreme symbolic value to de Gaulle and the Free French Army, Eisenhower had initially planned to bypass Paris after the breakout from Normandy. General de Gaulle, however, was insistent. Paris had to be liberated in high fashion, and, he added, a French division had to do it.

De Gaulle appreciated the immense morale boost the French people would get from watching their capital being freed from German occupation by French soldiers. He requested, therefore, that the French 2nd Armored Division, operating in tandem with the FFI French Forces of the Interior resistance fighters in Paris, be accorded the honor of entering the city first, following what was sure to be a hasty German evacuation. But a German withdrawal was far from certain.

The son of a politically conservative and very patriotic professor, de Gaulle grew up devoted to France and was a keen student of French politics and history. Immediately after his graduation from college in , de Gaulle joined the French Army. He later fought in World War I. Yet, unlike his compatriots, de Gaulle did not spend his time sulking over his stalled career; rather he used it to indulge his intellectual appetite, writing several books on military tactics and strategy.

When Germany invaded France in May , de Gaulle rose to the defense of his country once again. He later created and led from exile the French Forces of the Interior resistance organization. Throughout the war years, de Gaulle worked tirelessly to promote French interests and ensure the respect of the other Allies. His triumphant entry into Paris in August represented the final fruit of those efforts.

Following liberation, de Gaulle continued his service to France as president of the provisional government from July to January , as prime minister and minister of defense from June to January , and as president from January to April After a political and military career that had spanned nearly six decades, Charles de Gaulle died on November 9, Beyond Normandy prematurely forced, however, by an FFI uprising that resulted in the Resistance taking control of key police stations and government buildings.

Street battles between Resistance fighters and German troops soon broke out, and ambushes of German units became commonplace. Choltitz quickly saw that any defense of Paris, under these conditions, was hopeless and would entail a senseless waste of life on both sides. Demolishing Paris, worse still, would be a crime against the future of Europe. Choltitz ordered his men who could escape capture to do so.

He then waited in his hotel room for the Allied army and his own imprisonment. De Gaulle thus entered Paris as a conqueror on August 25, much to the chagrin of his Anglo-American comrades, who found the ensuing ceremonies and parades to be a pointless waste of time and energy when there were still German units to be hunted and destroyed. Beyond the Seine On September 1, , Eisenhower moved his headquarters to France and freed Bradley and Montgomery to finish off their German adversaries, proceed to the Rhine River, cross it, and enter the German homeland itself.

From that point, the Allied advance picked up momentum with each yard of French soil the Germans surrendered in their headlong retreat. The port city of Antwerp, in Belgium, was taken on September 4; the nearby V-weapon launch sites were silenced soon afterward, sparing London further destruction. A few days later, Field Marshal von Rundstedt was recalled from his retirement, given command of the forces still in existence in the West, and told to conduct a staged withdrawal to the string of fortifications on the German border known as the Siegfried Line.

The fortress at Brest fell on September 18, and, although the German forts at Saint-Nazaire and Lorient continued to hold D-Day and the Liberation of France out, the battle for France was effectively over. Looking back on the invasion and liberation of France some years later, Eisenhower expressed the belief that the war in Europe had been won on the beaches, around the hedgerows, in the fields, and through the ancient towns of France during the spring and summer of During that time, a legend grew up that portrayed the American stay in Paris as one characterized primarily by selfless generosity.

French Résistance in 1944 (in color and HD)

Having freed France from Nazi domination, the story goes, the U. Army remained to defend the French people and help them rebuild. All the while, American and French interests harmonized, and the relationship between the two nations matured, based on their shared democratic ideals. This is a heroic tale; it is also not entirely accurate. Although the U. De Gaulle and the provisional French government complained endlessly about the conduct and attitude of the U.

Many French people resented being treated by the Americans as freed foreigners rather than as liberated allies. By comparison, as Norman M. Naimark observes, the Soviet army, during the German retreat, frequently raped, robbed, and murdered civilians, particularly Germans, in part because the German armies had done the same to their citizenry earlier in the war.

Ambrose notes that violent acts by U. Overall, it is simple fact to state that the American and British occupying armies, in comparison to the other conquering armies in World War II, acted correctly and honorably. Servicemen, especially in major cities such as Paris, routinely dealt illegally in any number of rationed or restricted commodities, including coffee, cigarettes, gasoline, whiskey, soap, and canned meats.

Nylons, coveted by French women, were a black-market staple. American soldiers often sold nylons to female customers or exchanged them for sexual favors. Trade in guns, ammunition, and war-surplus goods became so extensive that the military governor of Paris continues on page D-Day and the Liberation of France Retribution Liberation in was followed closely by a wave of retribution directed against those French men and women who had directly or indirectly collaborated with the Germans during the occupation.

With the tacit and sometimes open consent of the other Allied powers, France sought to exact revenge for any act that had in any way aided the German Army or civilian authority. Women who had been romantically involved with German soldiers were seized by local mobs, were stripped, had their heads shaved, had swastikas painted on their bodies, and were paraded in humiliation before jeering crowds. Merchants who had dealt with the occupation authorities had their stores looted and burned. Anyone suspected of helping the Germans in their campaign against the Maquis could expect a brutal beating or worse.

Summary executions of known or alleged collaborators and informants took place by the thousands. The former Vichy head of state, General Henri Petain, and ex-prime minister Pierre Laval were both tried after the war on charges of having aided the enemy. Found guilty of crimes against France, Petain was given a life sentence and died in prison in Laval, likewise convicted of crimes against the French nation and people, received a sentence of death and was shot in October Liberation A Frenchwoman is accused of being a Nazi collaborator in Paris shortly after liberation.

Her head has been shaved and a swastika has been painted on her forehead. Meanwhile, the commanders of the US and RAF bomber forces saw no need to deviate from their own aerial offensive against German war industry, which they believed could force a collapse of Germany on its own. Only reluctantly did they hand over control of the heavy bombers to the Allied Supreme Commander, Dwight D Eisenhower, for the duration of the invasion campaign.

But one tangible contribution to the success of D-Day had already been achieved. The very threat of invasion had a major impact on German strategy. Divisions were transferred from Russia and other theatres to France. Huge resources were poured into the Atlantic Wall defences. Hitler announced that he would quickly throw the Allies back into the sea and then divert all his armies to force a decision on the Eastern Front.

The German Army was comprehensively defeated in Normandy, its losses compounded by Hitler's refusal to allow his generals to conduct an orderly withdrawal. Allied delay in closing the Falaise-Argentan pocket allowed many German troops to escape, but around , were killed, wounded or captured during the campaign. But the German response to D-Day, when it came, was slow and confused thanks to a complex command structure and the successful Allied deception plan, which held open the threat of a landing in the Pas de Calais even into July. The key objective for D-Day - beyond establishing a firm foothold ashore - was the capture of the city of Caen, which lay south of the British assault area.

Caen was a strategically important road junction, beyond which lay open country suitable for the deployment of armoured formations and the construction of airfields. In the event, the city was not fully occupied until mid-July. But success in getting and staying ashore was tempered by an inability to capture ground inland. The Normandy campaign became a costly slogging match against a tenacious and often more experienced enemy who had the advantage of terrain well-suited to defence.

Caen was a key objective for D-Day, but the city was not completely liberated until 18 July. It suffered considerable damage from bombing raids and naval bombardment. The bulk of the city was destroyed and 2, civilians killed before the campaign ended. As attacks inevitably bogged down, the Allies relied increasingly on their artillery and air support. For its part, the German High Command was never able to gather sufficient resources for a concentrated counter-offensive. Instead, armoured divisions were fed into the line piecemeal to shore up depleted infantry formations.

It was a battle of attrition, which the Allies with their vast superiority in men and materiel were bound to win. The Allied plan for a broad, phased advance was overtaken by events, and the final breakout was dramatic. Hitler's refusal to allow his commanders freedom to give up ground, and insistence on reinforcing failure, gave the Allies a more complete victory than they could have hoped for, as enemy units were sucked in to the maelstrom and destroyed. Most of the divisions committed to the defence of France were either wiped out or reduced to remnants.

Some , German troops were lost. Allied numbers and material support clearly had an impact, but it was significant that the fighting forces had defeated even the most fanatical German formations in the field. The battle for Normandy was an impressive feat of arms as well as an exposition of Allied logistical and industrial muscle. The Allied advance in north-west Europe would slow dramatically that autumn as German resistance stiffened on the borders of the Reich. The war would not be over by Christmas.