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Continued european liberation

Discussion in 'War44 General Forums' started by ramiz, Oct 2, 2007.

  1. ramiz

    ramiz New Member

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    By the Spring of 1944, the Allied preparations for the invasion of France and the initial stages for the liberation of western Europe (Operation Overlord) were complete. They had assembled around 120 Divisions,consisting of over 2 million men, of which 1.3 million were Americans, 600,000 were British and the rest Canadian, Free French and Polish. The invasion, code-named Operation Neptune but commonly referred to as D-Day, was set for June 5th but bad weather postponed the invasion to June 6, 1944.[6] Almost 85–90% of all German troops were deployed on the Eastern Front and only 400,000 Germans in two armies, the German Seventh Army and the newly-created Fifth Panzer Army, were stationed in the area. The Germans had also constructed an elaborate series of fortifications along the coast called the Atlantic Wall, but in many places the Wall was incomplete. The Allied forces under supreme command of Dwight D. Eisenhower had launched an elaborate deception campaign to convince the Germans that the landings would occur in the Calais area which caused the Germans to deploy many of their forces in that sector. Only 50,000 Germans were deployed in the Normandy sector on the day of the invasion.

    The invasion began with 17,000 airborne troops being dropped in Normandy to serve as a screening force to prevent the Germans from attacking the beaches. During the early morning, a massive naval flotilla bombarded German defenses on the beaches, but due to lack of visibility most of the shots missed their targets. Additionally, most of the troop transport ships (with personnel, trucks, and equipment) were off-course, some as much as thousands of yards from their respective landing zone amongst the five beach areas (Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold). The Americans in particular suffered heavy losses on Omaha beach due to the German fortifications being left intact. However by the end of the first day, most of the Allied objectives were accomplished even though the British and Canadian objective of capturing Caen proved too optimistic. The Germans launched no significant counterattack on the beaches as Hitler believed the landings to be a decoy. Only three days later the German High command realized that Normandy was the actual invasion, but by then the Allies had already consolidated their beachheads.

    The bocage terrain of Normandy where the Americans had landed made it ideal ground for defensive warfare. Nevertheless, the Americans made steady progress and captured the deep-water port of Cherbourg on June 26, one of the primary objectives of the invasion. However, the Germans had mined the harbor and destroyed most of the port facilities before surrendering, and it would be another month before the port could be brought back into limited use. The British launched another attack on June 13 to capture Caen but were held back as the Germans had moved in large number of troops to hold the city. The city was to remain in German hands for another 6 weeks. It finally fell to British and Canadian forces on July 9.

    Allied firepower, improved tactics, and numerical superiority eventually resulted in a breakout of American mechanized forces at the western end of the Normandy pocket in Operation Cobra on July 23. The allied advance to this point had been considerably slower than expected. Seven weeks after D-Day, U.S. First Army was holding an east-west line that ran from Caumont to Saint-Lô to Lessay on the Channel. Pre-D-Day projections had put the Americans on that line by D Plus Five [7] . When Hitler learned of the American breakout, he ordered his forces in Normandy to launch an immediate counter-offensive. However the German forces moving in open countryside were now easily targeted by Allied aircraft, as they had initially escaped Allied air attacks due to their well camouflaged defensive positions.

    The Americans placed strong formations on their flanks which blunted the attack and then began to encircle the 7th Army and large parts of the 5th Panzer Army in the Falaise Pocket. Some 50,000 Germans were captured, but 100,000 managed to escape the pocket. Worse still, the British and Canadians—whose initial strategic objective to draw in enemy reserves and protect the American flanks so as to promote a later turning movement north had been achieved [8]—now began to break through the German lines. Any hope the Germans had of containing the Allied thrust into France by forming new defensive lines was now gone. The Allies raced across France, advancing as much as 600 miles (1,000 km) in two weeks[9] The German forces retreated into Northern France, Holland and Belgium.

    By August 1944, Allied forces stationed in Corsica launched Operation Dragoon, invading the French Riviera on August 15 with the 6th Army Group, led by Lieutenant General Jacob Devers), and linked up with forces from Normandy. The clandestine French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on August 19, and the Free French 2nd Armored Division under General Philippe Leclerc, pressing forward from Normandy, received the surrender of the German forces on behalf of General von Choltiz from Paris and liberated the city on August 25.

    Around this time the Germans began launching V-1's (known as the "buzz bomb"), the world's first cruise missile, at targets in southern England and Belgium. Later they would employ the much-larger V-2 rocket, a liquid-fuelled guided ballistic missile. These weapons were inaccurate and could only target large areas such as cities; they had little military effect and were intended to demoralize and/or terrorize Allied civilians.


    Allied paratroopers land during Operation Market Garden.


    Allied paratroopers land during Operation Market Garden.



    Logistical problems plagued the Allies as they fanned out across France and the Low Countries, advancing towards the German border. With the supply lines still running back to Normandy, and critical shortages in fuel and other supplies all along the front, the Allies slowed the general advance and focused the available supplies on a narrow front strategy. Allied paratroopers and armor attempted a war-winning advance through the Netherlands and across the Rhine River with Operation Market Garden in September (the goal was to end the war by Christmas). The plan was to land paratroopers near bridges on the Rhine River, hold the position, and wait for the armour to cut through enemy lines to reinforce them and then cross into Germany. The plan was conceived and led by British General Montgomery, and included British, American, Polish, and Canadian forces. Although the plan encountered some initial success, many of the bridges were blown up, and the advancing armored columns ran into delays. As a result, the British 1st Airborne Division, holding the last bridge, was nearly annihilated. The Germans were able to entrench all along the front and the war continued through the winter.

    In order to improve the supply situation, the Canadian First Army was assigned to clear the entrance to the port of Antwerp, the Scheldt estuary, which they successfully accomplished by late November 1944 making Canada the only country to successfully complete all D-Day objectives. In October, the Americans captured Aachen, the first major German city to be occupied.

    Hitler had been planning to launch a major counteroffensive against the Allies since mid-September. The objective of the attack was to capture Antwerp. Not only would the capture or destruction of Antwerp prevent supplies from reaching the allied armies, it would also split allied forces in two, demoralizing the alliance and forcing its leaders to negotiate. For the attack, Hitler concentrated the best of his remaining forces, launching the attack through the Ardennes in southern Belgium, a hilly and in places a heavily wooded region, and the site of his victory in 1940. Dense cloud cover denied the Americans the use of their reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft.


    US soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.


    US soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.



    Parts of the attack managed to break through the thinly-held American lines (about 4 divisions which were either new or refitting to cover about 70 miles (110 km) of the front-line), and dash headlong for the Meuse. However the northern section of the line held, constricting the advance to a narrow corridor. The German advance was delayed at St. Vith, which American forces defended for several days. At the vital road junction of Bastogne, the American 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B of the 10th Armoured Division held out, surrounded, for the duration of the battle. Patton's 3rd Army to the South made a rapid 90 degree turn and rammed into the German southern flank, relieving Bastogne.

    The weather by this time had cleared unleashing allied air power as the German attack ground to a halt at Dinant. In an attempt to keep the offensive going, the Germans launched a massive air raid on Allied airfields in the Low Countries on January 1, 1945. The Germans destroyed 465 aircraft but lost 277 of their own planes. Whereas the Allies were able to make up their losses in days, the Luftwaffe was not capable of launching a major air attack again.[10]


    US soldiers advance through the hazy ruins of Waldenburg, Germany, April 1945.


    US soldiers advance through the hazy ruins of Waldenburg, Germany, April 1945.



    Allied forces from the north and south met up at Houffalize and by the end of January they had pushed the Germans back to their starting positions. Many German units were caught in the pocket created by the Bulge and forced to surrender or retreat without their heavy equipment. Months of the Reich's war production were lost whereas German forces on the Eastern front were virtually starved of resources at the very moment the Red Army was preparing for its massive offensive against Germany. The final obstacle to the Allies was the river Rhine, which was crossed in late March 1945, aided by the fortuitous capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. Also, Operation Varsity, a parachute-assault in late March, got a foothold on the east bank of the Rhine River. Once the Allies had crossed the Rhine, the British fanned out northeast towards Hamburg, crossing the river Elbe and moving on towards Denmark and the Baltic Sea.


    US and Soviet soldiers meet near Torgau, Germany, in April 1945.


    US and Soviet soldiers meet near Torgau, Germany, in April 1945.



    The U.S. 9th Army went south as the northern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement, and the U.S. 1st Army went north as the southern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement. These armies were commanded by General Omar Bradley who had over 1.3 million men under his command (the 12th Army Group). On April 4, the encirclement was completed, and the German Army Group B, which included the 5th Panzer Army, 7th Army and the 15th Army and was commanded by Field Marshal Walther Model, was trapped in the Ruhr Pocket. Some 300,000 German soldiers then became prisoners of war. The 1st and 9th U.S. Armies then turned east, halting their advance at the Elbe river where they met up with Soviet troops in mid-April.


    Soviet-German War



    Main article: Eastern Front (World War II)



    The Eastern Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed the conflict in central and eastern Europe from June 22, 1941 to May 8, 1945. It was the largest theatre of war in history in terms of numbers of soldiers, equipment and casualties and was notorious for its unprecedented ferocity, destruction, and immense loss of life. It was here that the bulk of the European war was fought; where the Red Army halted the Germans in 1941 and then inflicted the first major defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943. The fighting involved millions of German and Soviet troops along a broad front hundreds of kilometres long. It was by far the deadliest single theatre of World War II, with over 5 million Axis deaths; Soviet military deaths were about 10.6 million (out of which 2.8 - 3.5 million Soviet prisoners of war (of 5.5 million) died in German captivity[11][12][13]), and civilian deaths were about 14 to 19 million.[14] More people fought and died on the Eastern Front than in all other theatres of World War II combined; the German army suffered 80% to 93% of all its casualties there.[15][16] Although the Soviet Union was victorious in the war, the cost to the nation was an estimated 27 million dead, about half of all World War II casualties and the vast majority of Allied deaths, and had devastated the Soviet economy in the struggle.[17] In Soviet and Russian sources, the conflict is referred to as the Great Patriotic War.
     

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