The Allies conducted their famous large-scale amphibious operation - "D-Day" - on June 6th, 1944. After intense fighting across five key landing zones, the beach head was officially established and ultimately held against countering German forces. However, the war could not simply be won by this single event - the landings only marked the beginning of the massive Allied drive through northern Europe towards Berlin - by way of a liberated Paris. Any elation brought about by the landings on June 6th were quickly replaced with lingering doubts once advancement into the French interior was stalled. Amongst the doubters stood the confident, perhaps arrogant, British General Bernard Law Montgomery.
By early July of 1944, there stood a force of determined and prepared German defenders some 30 miles inland across French territory. This would require a further investment of strategy, men, and machines on the part of the Allies to overtake key positions and clear the towns that lay ahead. Elements of the British, Canadian, and American armies - featuring the likes of General Montgomery, General Omar Bradley, and General George Patton - would enact several successful maneuvers during "Operation Cobra" to ultimately encircle the German defenders and force them on the retreat (of face captured or death).
Montgomery's grand scheme involved forcing the committal of a large portion of German elements across Normandy against the areas near Caen, thus opening lightly-defended routes for General Bradley's army to move out of the Contentin Peninsula and into portions of central France. Bradley could then make his way through Avranches and concentrate on severing German groups in the west. The Germans held something of an advantage in the region, however, for the terrain favored the defender in this case and a relatively small collection of soldiers and armor could hold a larger enemy force at bay for some time. Even a lone, well-concealed sniper could result in multiple high-profile casualties and lengthy delays for the advancing army meant that days may be required to clear a single French village.
The British and Canadians worked in conjunction to take the town of Caen. A controversial carpet-bombing campaign by the Royal Air Force (RAF) softened up defenses but it was still left infantrymen and bitter hand-to-hand fighting to ultimately take the area in whole. "Operation Goodwood" was enacted to take Caen and work towards Falaise. While Caen eventually fell to the Allied advance, Falaise was slightly out of reach before the operation halted after two days of progress.
General Patton, now in command of VIII, XIII, XV and XX corps - and having secured Brittany - moved eastward away from the Atlantic coast and targeted a gap between Chartres and Orleans. He placed it in his mind to become the first Allied commander to reach the French capital city of Paris. British, American, and Canadian land forces all moved along with calculated advancements designed to cover the flanks of the other. On Hitler's orders, the German defense committed four Panzer divisions in an attempt to sever Patton's supply line between Avranches and Mortain but this was met, and repelled, by a well-planned response on Bradley's part and two Corps from 1st Army.
Two Panzer armies were defending an inland line between Falaise and Alencon but were flanked by British and Canadian forces to the north near Falaise and the Americans in the south at Le Mans. The next move would then be to close the gap and encircle the German defenders, squeezing the noose ever so slowly until the head of the snake came off. Some 21 German divisions lay in the "Falaise Gap", a pocket running from Falaise to Argentan. The final drive would involve Patton's 3rd Army swinging eastwards from Avranches and Montgomery's 21st Army Group coming south from Caen.
German losses were steep but not entirely complete as some forces were able to retreat - but only after having received the official approval from Hitler himself - and relocate to more favorable defensive terrain. Despite this, some 10,000 German soldiers died in the fighting and a further 50,000 were taken prisoner. By the end of it all, classic military strategy prevailed as Patton's fast-moving 3rd Army traversed 200 miles from Avranches to the Seine River and the Americans, in whole, had liberated some 45,000 square miles of France in roughly two months of fighting. The Germans suffered heavily in the collapsing Falaise pocket and the Allied beach head had now turned into a protected static base of operations - the Contentin Peninsula could now be used as a major launch point for future campaigns against the Axis with the French capital city of Paris now within realistic reach. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com
There are a total of (25) entries in the Timeline of the Normandy Breakout (July 1944). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.