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The battle of normandy, which took place from June to September 1944, is a defining battle of World War II. She starts on June 6, 1944 by the massive landing of Allied soldiers on the Normandy beaches. Although very deadly on some beaches, the landing was a success. The surprise passed, the German army reinforced by armored divisions will nevertheless oppose fierce resistance on Norman soil until September.
A logistics operation on an unequaled scale
The landing, scheduled for spring 1944, was repeatedly postponed due to unfavorable weather. Meteorologists play such an important role that they have been working day and night for weeks. But on the morning of June 5, they announced that the weather would clear up in the next few hours. Allies decide now is the time to act.
During the night of June 5 to 6, from midnight, 25,000 paratroopers were dropped over Normandy by planes and gliders, while divers destroyed part of the German submarine defenses. From 5.30 am, the air force and several battleships bombarded the German coastal defense. Under the command of General Montgomery, around 5,000 ships, carrying 135,000 men and flanked by 10,000 planes, left the English coast to cross the Channel. At 6.30 am, at low tide, the first landing craft began to dock, dumping thousands of soldiers, immediately caught in enemy fire.
Two American divisions land on the beaches located west of the landing front and baptized for Operation "Utah" and "Omaha" (later nicknamed "Bloody Omaha" because of the large number of men who left there. life). In the eastern part of the front, British troops land at Gold and Juno, and Canadian troops at Sword, where 177 Free French Forces marines are also present under Captain Kieffer. In addition, two American divisions were dropped over the base of the Cotentin, and two British divisions at the mouth of the Orne.
A perilous landing
Machine gunned down by the Germans from the blockhouses, soldiers died before they even reached French soil. Some drown under the weight of their packs and the advance on the beach sometimes looks like a real carnage, especially in Omaha. But despite the large number of soldiers killed on the beaches, Allied troops are advancing. The Germans are caught off guard. Their leader, Marshal Rommel, is absent: having not taken a rest for six months and reassured by the bad weather, he went to Germany to celebrate his wife's birthday.
Due to the action of the French resistance, which blasted the telephone cables, German communications no longer work, or barely. Also the forces concentrated in the Pas-de-Calais were not informed until mid-afternoon that a landing had taken place in the morning.
But the German authorities persist in believing that this is a diversion. Even Hitler, who was slow to wake up, continues to believe that the Normandy landings are only a decoy and that the next, the real one, is imminent in the Pas-de-Calais. Thanks to this mistake, the Allies will only face 17 German divisions out of the 50 available. Likewise, of the 300,000 German soldiers present in the region, only 50,000 were present to confront the Allied forces. Their situation quickly turns out to be dramatic and they lose several thousand men during the day.
From the beaches to the Normandy countryside
On the evening of June 6, Operation Overlord, the largest and most famous naval air operation in history, was a success. Of course, the Americans deplore the loss of 3,400 men, the British 3,000 and the Canadians 335. But the Allies managed to land ten divisions and establish a solid bridgehead on the Normandy coast. To facilitate the arrival of new buildings, two artificial ports were installed over the following days in Arromanches and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.
Faced with the Allies, the German army is surprised: the landing was expected in Pas-de-Calais where Hitler maintains significant forces because he thinks that the Normandy landings are a diversionary operation. At the end of June 1944, Cherbourg was conquered. The Germans can only wait for the offensive of the Allies, whose air superiority is overwhelming. The Normandy campaign, which followed the landing, proved to be much more difficult than the General Staff had imagined. The Allies engage in the “war of the hedges”, thus nicknamed because of the vegetation of the Norman bocage which slows the advance of the tanks and which limits the visibility vis-a-vis the enemy. The cities are bombed, especially Caen, making 14,000 civilian victims.
It was not until the end of July, when they managed to land a total of 1.5 million soldiers and hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment (including the 16,000 French of the 2nd AD General Leclerc), that the Allies succeed in breaking through the Avranches front. The 7th German Army found itself surrounded in the "pocket" of Falaise with 50,000 men who ended up surrendering on August 21, 1944. The Battle of Normandy was definitively lost by the Wermacht and the last pockets of resistance ceded: Rouen was liberated on the 30th. August, Dieppe September 1.
Along with the operations in Normandy, the landing of Provence, carried out on August 15, was also a success. From now on, the liberation of France is near ... At the end of the Normandy campaign, the German forces lost 500,000 men: 250,000 were killed and 250,000 others taken prisoner.
- D-Day and the Battle of Normandy by Antony Beevor. Calmann-Levy, 2009.
- D-Day and the Battle of Normandy by Gérard Legout. 1998.
- The landing: the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy by Anthony Kemp. Editions Ouest-France 1996.
- The longest day. DVD fiction, Fox, 2005.
- The Battle of Normandy - the reconquest of France. DVD documentary, 2008.