Allied Forces Break German Front in France Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After the D-day invasion at the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944, the Allies forced the Germans from France, gradually liberating first Paris and then all of France. The operation also led ultimately to the collapse of the German war machine.

Summary of Event

After securing the Normandy beachhead in France in the weeks following the beginning of Operation Overlord D day Operation Overlord Normandy, invasion of (1944) on June 6, 1944, Allied forces began to move to the interior of France to battle German forces and to liberate France. The Russians were moving against German forces from the east and the Allied forces from the west, which forced Germany to fight a two-front war. This caused a division of troops and material and weakened the German defenses on both sides. Further straining the German military was its need to defend its air space from continual Allied raids. These attacks almost wiped out the German air force in France, where the Allies enjoyed complete domination of the sky over the German ground forces. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];French campaign Falaise Gap, Battle of (1944) Operation Cobra France;liberation [kw]Allied Forces Break German Front in France (July 25, 1944) [kw]German Front in France, Allied Forces Break (July 25, 1944) [kw]France, Allied Forces Break German Front in (July 25, 1944) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];French campaign Falaise Gap, Battle of (1944) Operation Cobra France;liberation [g]Europe;July 25, 1944: Allied Forces Break German Front in France[01220] [g]France;July 25, 1944: Allied Forces Break German Front in France[01220] [c]World War II;July 25, 1944: Allied Forces Break German Front in France[01220] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;July 25, 1944: Allied Forces Break German Front in France[01220] [c]Military history;July 25, 1944: Allied Forces Break German Front in France[01220] Eisenhower, Dwight D. [p]Eisenhower, Dwight D.;World War II Montgomery, Bernard Law Bradley, Omar N. Rommel, Erwin Hitler, Adolf [p]Hitler, Adolf;French military campaign

For nearly two months following the so-called D-day invasion in Normandy, the Allied forces and the German troops, commanded by Erwin Rommel, were fighting a largely static war. D-day objectives and those for the days that followed went unrealized. The capture of Caen, France, was planned for D day, but after numerous failed attempts by the Allies, the city remained in German hands. Careful planning for a new massive operation occurred in the weeks following D day, leading up to the July 25, 1944, movements that would surround the German forces and cause their surrender.

Intentionally deceptive operations by the Allies before D day led the German commanders to spread their forces, albeit thinly, throughout the coastal areas of France. German commanders thought the Allies would invade other points in western Europe, but they reacted to their faulty intelligence by refusing to compromise any of their areas or forces. However, as the Germans came to realize the magnitude of the Allied campaign to retake France, they began slowly to reinforce their forces in the area, creating just enough resistance to keep the front static. During this period, the German Luftwaffe, or air force, was nearly nonexistent in France, because it was busy protecting Germany from incessant Allied air raids.

German forces in France were forced to dig in and camouflage during the day in order to elude the Allied air forces, which had a free hand in the area, but the Allied troops were faced with a static front. (German offensive operations were minimal, because they were limited to nighttime actions.) German troops, however, could alternate their fire on the Allied troops while moving during the day from different positions. The area’s towns and cities had been fortified by mine fields, barbed-wire entanglements, and tank traps, which provided German forces more of an advantage. The boscage, fields surrounded by earthen mounds covered with hedgerows and permeated with sunken lanes, which surrounded Normandy, proved to be another formidable obstacle to the Allied forces. The German forces found the boscage easy to hide in and to defend.

An American solider guards captured Germans, c. 1944.

(National Archives)

Operation Cobra, planned by U.S. Army general Omar N. Bradley, was launched on July 25 against the Germans near Normandy in an attempt to end this stalemate. In order to cut off German supply lines, the operation included tactical air strikes against railroads and roads to the rear of the German forces. Also, the nearly two months of static warfare had permitted the Allies to land more troops and materials in the Normandy area. In contrast, the Germans could not bring in nearly as many reinforcements from areas to their rear.

Prior to the battle, Operation Pluto Operation Pluto laid seventy miles of underwater oil and fuel pipelines from Great Britain to France to supply the Allied forces. Pluto would extend along with the advancement of the Allies, all the way to the Rhine, ensuring a constant fuel supply for the invasion force. Other operations, such as the British Operation Goodwood Operation Goodwood , weakened German defenses just before the launch of Operation Cobra. On the morning of July 25, the Royal Air Force began dropping nearly thirty-four hundred tons of high explosives on German positions. Devastated by the bombardment, the Germans lost four thousand yards on the front that day. The following day, the Allies gained another eight thousand yards as the German front crumbled.

By July 27, three full Allied divisions were committed to the operation, and by the next day the Germans had been pushed back 12 miles. Many key objectives were accomplished by this time, and the general direction of the war had taken on a mechanized and faster pace. Because the Germans were now running east, British general Bernard Law Montgomery, commander of the Allied ground forces, changed plans and sent Allied forces in pursuit of the Germans.

Operation Dragoon Operation Dragoon , the invasion of southern France, commenced on August 15. This invasion, made by three U.S. divisions and one Free French division, was extremely successful, as the Allies took 20 miles in the first twenty-four hours of the operation. The troops, along with several other divisions and supply lines, eventually made contact with the Allied forces that had invaded Normandy. Paris was surrendered by the Germans on August 25, even though German chancellor Adolf Hitler had ordered it held to the last round and then destroyed. The German troops were forced into an area known as the Falaise pocket, and were surrounded. Though some of the commanders, troops, and equipment eventually escaped to the east, some fifty thousand Germans were captured. In addition, nearly ten thousand Germans were killed and many vehicles, including five hundred tanks, were lost.

Significance

German losses in the invasion of France, including during its withdrawal from France, exceeded 400,000 troops, 1,500 tanks, and thousands of weapons. The campaign was one of the costliest defeats for the Germans during the war. Germany was defeated so soundly because, first, it failed to reinforce and supply its own forces. Also, it was fighting a war on two fronts. The Germans had nowhere to retreat but west, to the wall of Germany, but the fortifications there had been stripped earlier of their heavy guns.

Allied forces, meanwhile, had to stop their advances as well by the end of August because they had overrun their supply lines. The end of August, however, found the German forces out of France, badly wounded, and on the run. Most of the German high command favored negotiations with the Allied forces and some sort of surrender once they had witnessed Allied power during the campaign for France. Hitler, however, steadfastly maintained his stubborn “to the last man and the last bullet” ideology, which led to the total collapse of Germany. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];French campaign Falaise Gap, Battle of (1944) Operation Cobra France;liberation

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carafano, James Jay. After D-day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy Breakout. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2000. Provides a detailed history of Operation Cobra, with chapters that treat in depth the planning stages, the operation itself, and its aftermath.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carell, Paul. Invasion: They’re Coming! New York: E. P. Dutton, 1963. Written by a German soldier, this work is a great read that offers the German perspective on the invasion of France. Richly illustrated with drawings and photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hamilton, Nigel. “Montgomery, Bernard Law.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. A compelling account of the life of Bernard Law Montgomery, general of the British army and commander of the Allied ground forces during the European campaign.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hastings, Max. Warriors: Portraits from the Battlefield. New York: Knopf, 2006. An extensive account of the German invasion from British historian Max Hastings, focusing on individuals involved in the war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stewart, Richard W., ed. The United States Army in a Global Era: 1917-2003. Vol. 2 in American Military History. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 2005. Originally written and published in 1956 as a textbook for Army officers in training, this updated work provides a detailed history of the role of the Army in times of international strife. Includes many illustrations, maps, and photographs. Available at http://www.army.mil/cmh/. Click on image-link for the book.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Zaloga, Steven J. Operation Cobra, 1944: Breakout from Normandy. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004. Part of the Praeger Illustrated Military History series, this work examines Operation Cobra in all its details. Includes maps and other illustrations.

World War II: European Theater

French Resistance

Allied Forces Invade Sicily

Western Allies Invade Italy

Invasion of Normandy Begins the Liberation of Europe

Operation Dragoon

Allied Forces Begin the Battle for Germany

Battle of the Bulge

V-E Day Marks the End of World War II in Europe

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