Escaping troops from German seventh army and fifth panzer armies are caught by rocket-firing typhoon aircraft in a narrow lane east of the river dives on 20 august 1944 By 19 August, the unstoppable advance of four Allied armies had squeezed Gen F.M. Model's forces in Normandy Into a pocket which was continuing to shrink by the hour. The only means of escape from what had become a burning cauldron was across the River Dives between Trun and Chambols. That night a final withdrawal was organised during which the bulk of those inside the trap were to flee eastwards towards Vimoutlers. Two main crossing places over the Dives were open: one a bridge at St Lambert, the other a ford at Molssy. From each of these two crossing places a narrow lane led over the valley floor across a landscape of small fields and high hedges, up to the heights above Coudehard at Mont Ormel. These were the only routes passable for transport. Individuals of all ranks, from private to general, had to take to the fields on foot. The operation got underway as soon as darkness fell, but the scale of the exodus and the numbers of vehicles converging on the crossing places inevitably led to congestion. Further confusion was added by the continual fire of Allied artillery which probed the night, seeking assembly points and crossing places. By morning, the stream of fleeing enemy was still in full spate. The dark which had screened the flight now slipped away and the long lines of helpless Germans were lit up by an unpitying August sunshine. Canadian and American artillery fire pounded the lanes whilst waves of rocket-firing aircraft (1) swept down to blast the enemy. It was a killing ground. The lane quickly became blocked by damaged vehicles and tanks, causing all progress to halt while the debris was pushed aside. Maddened horses harnessed to smashed wagons ran rampant until silenced by painful deaths. (2) Armoured tanks were blown completely apart by the explosive power of rockets. (3) Bodies of dead men and animals were crushed underfoot as the tanks and lorries all tried to charge their way through the melee. No one knows the true number of Germans killed in the onslaught; the total most likely ran into thousands. Gen Eisenhower later commented that it was possible to walk for miles stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh. Local civilians speak of a great black cloud hovering over the lanes during the days that followed the closing of the pocket, as swarms of flies and maggots devoured the bodies of the dead.