There to Stay
Much hullaballo surrounds June 6, 1944, but the events following seemingly drop off our radar; the battle surely didn’t stop, though.
Success depended on pushing inland at Normandy and the Contentin peninsula, both to foil German counterattacks and to make way for succeeding waves of troops, weapons and support elements.
Airborne troops linked up and they with amphibious units, contesting the German presence which was of variable quality and strength.
Communications were a serious problem — Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, waited with extreme impatience for reports from General Bradley but nothing came. He chewed Bradley’s head off when he saw him only to find that Bradley had, indeed, sent frequent reports but they had been held up at Field Marshal Montgomery’s command center; Montgomery was ground commander.
None of the set objectives had been met on D-Day, they were too ambitious, or the German response was too vigorous or they were saved by the fog of war.
But the German high command failed to take advantage of the Allies slower pace; Hitler still lived in fear of another landing elsewhere and he held key armored reserves back.
A month in the Allies had nearly 1,000,000 troops on the ground and they were pushing south and west to break through the German defenses and to take the port of Cherbourg which would give them a real port to accelerate landings; unfortunately, the German garrison there wrecked the equipment, delaying its usefulness.
Once off the beaches, the Allied troops were confronted with one of the most deadly aspects of the battle for Normandy– hedgerow fighting.
Hedgerows, or bocage, used as fences in agriculture, were often fifteen feet high and consisted of fruit trees and dense foliage; they were superb cover for German snipers and artillery who made Allied soldiers pay dearly for the ground they gained.
Many rows were contested, one after the other.
The big event during the first month may have been Operation Epsom, the British attempt to seize Caen starting on June 26 and ending on the 30th without a breakthrough, they ran into determined resistance and the offensive stalled.
Nevertheless, the Allies were quite firmly back in Europe and the port of Cherbourg fell at the end of the month.
Perhaps the greatest fortune to befall the Allies was the overall poor quality of every aspect of the German defenses from troop quality to defensive measures.
The absence of General Rommel who was away on leave, sealed their fate.
Had he been at headquarters it is hard to believe that he would not have wisely chosen an Allied weak point, Omaha maybe, and rallied reserve elements forward in an all-out counterattack.
Rommel, when reached by phone and told of the attack, paused and said, “How could I have been so stupid?”