This blog entry is dedicated to the memory of those who fought, without promise of reward or relief, for the liberation of Europe and the hope of a better world.
From D-Day, June 6, until July 24, 1944, Allied air, ground, and naval forces fought a costly battle of attrition against a determined enemy. On July 25 while the bulk of the German Panzer Divisions were concentrated in the British and Canadian sectors east of the River Orne First US Army launched Operation Cobra breaking through the enemy defenses at St. Lô. Second British Army added weight to the assault with Operation Bluecoat on July 30, and on August 1 Third US Army broke out of Normandy advancing east to Brittany and west towards Paris.
The enemy then began a counterattack through Mortain towards Avranches on August 6 in the hope of cutting off Third Army. The failure of the attack presented the Allied with an opportunity to encircle the German forces east of the River Orne. On August 8 Second Canadian Corps, with 51st Highland and 1st Polish Armored Division under command, employed tanks and improvised armored personal carriers in Operation Totalize a daring night attack. Well organized enemy forces prevented the breakthrough to Falaise but Third US Army’s 15th Corps including 2nd French Armored Division reached Argentan with little difficulty on August 12.
Intelligence reports indicating a major German counterattack on 15th Corps led to the controversial decision to stop the American advance and close the Falaise-Argentan Gap from the north. The 2nd Canadian Division together with the 53rd Welsh Division, advanced on Falaise from the west while 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions attacked across the Laison River in Operation Tractable on August 14. Falaise fell on August 14 and the 4th Canadian Armored Division reached Trun the next day. Elements of the Polish Armored Division linked up with the 90th US Division in Chambois on August 19 completing a loose encirclement of the enemy.
The German Army had begun to withdraw non-essential troops on August 12 and Hitler authorized a full-scale retreat on August 16. The Allied air forces inflicted enormous losses on the enemy, but many escaped the encirclement. On the night of August 19 and throughout the next day the enemy inside of the pocket made a last desperate attempt to reach Vimoutiers and the Seine River crossings. The Battle of Normandy ended on August 21, just 76 days after it had begun on the D-Day beaches. Success on the battlefield led to the liberation of Paris and much of France and Belgium, a giant step on the road to Victory in Europe.
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