battle of Normandy
6 June - 30 August 1944

The Battle of Normandy took place after an amphibious and airborne invasion of a magnitude unmatched in history, codenamed Operation Overlord, carried out successfully by the Western Allies during the World War 2.

Misinforming the Germans Before the Battle of Normandy

The Germans had built along the Atlantic coast of Western Europe, from Norway to France, a number of fortifications, called the Atlantic Wall, which were finished in a small proportion. These were defended mainly by reservist and were intended to a fixed defense, while armored, mechanized and airborne divisions were deployed in depth, ready to counterattack.

Before the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, the Allies had waged a broad campaign of disinformation to convince the Germans that the landing will occur to the north, in the French Pas de Calais region. The deception went so well that many days after the invasion had started, the Germans kept precious panzer divisions in the Pas de Calais area, expecting that the "real" invasion would take place there.

CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en), via Wikimedia Commons

From the Normandy Landings to Operation Cobra

On the night of June 6, D-Day, three airborne divisions - two American and one British - were released on the flanks and behind the beaches in the Normandy region of France, where the amphibious landings were to take place. At dawn, six infantry divisions - three American, two British and one Canadian - stormed the beaches.

The German defense produced significant casualties to the Allies, as well as delays in achieving the objectives in accordance with the planning. On the first day, the U.S. troops suffered the biggest losses on Omaha Beach, defended by an experienced division of the Wehrmacht.

Benefiting from a strong naval and air support, as well as tanks specially modified for amphibious assault, the Allies ultimately established steady beachheads, which they expanded in the coming days. However, the Allied advance was difficult, even deadlocked at times. For several weeks following the invasion, the British and Canadians tried unsuccessfully to capture the city of Caen, defended by elite panzer divisions.

The American advance also suffered, especially due to the so-called bocage - true walls of vegetation that were separating the plots - ideal for ambushes, but the U.S. Army managed to conquer the tip of the Cotentin peninsula by the end of June.

After several offensives and bombings that gradually weakened the Germans, the Anglo-Canadian forces under Montgomery's command captured Caen on 20 July. The repeated Anglo-Canadian attacks in Caen area had drawn the German reserves, which the U.S. 1st Army, led by General Omar Bradley, speculated. By the end of July, the Americans had managed to overcome the German defenses during Operation Cobra, getting out from the bocage area in open terrain, more appropriate to offensive maneuvers.

Closure of the Falaise Pocket

In early August, the U.S. 3rd Army, under General George Patton, quickly advanced on the southern flank. Hitler ordered to the already depleted panzer divisions to attack towards the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula, hoping to split the American front in two. The decision proved a major miscalculation as the American defense held out, helped by a strong air support, and the Allies advanced on the German flanks that were left vulnerable.

The Germans began a general retreat in an attempt to escape before the closure of the Falaise pocket, and the only good thing for them was that, indeed, a significant number managed to do it, but about 50,000 were captured. Paris was liberated on 25 August. What was left of the German forces withdrew towards Germany and the Netherlands.

The Allies had achieved a decisive victory that made the days of Nazi Germany be numbered.

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