Normandy Landing Operation of 1944
Normandy Landing Operation of 1944
the movement of American and British expeditionary forces from the British Isles across the English Channel, the landing on the coast of northwestern France, and the capture of a strategic beachhead; it took place between June 6 and July 24, 1944, during World War II (1939–45). The major victories of the Soviet armed forces on the Soviet-German front and the growing strength of the national liberation movement in France, Italy, and other countries of Western Europe forced the ruling circles in the USA and Great Britain to speed up the opening of a second front in Europe.
The coast of northern France, Belgium, and Holland was defended by the German Army Group B (commanded by Field Marshal E. Rommel), consisting of the Seventh and Fifteenth armies and the 88th Detached Corps (a total of 39 divisions). Its main forces were concentrated on the Strait of Dover, where the German command expected the enemy landing. There were just three divisions for the defense on the Bay of the Seine along a 100-km front from the base of Cotentin Peninsula to the mouth of the Orne River. The Allied expeditionary forces (commander in chief General D. Eisenhower) consisted of the Twenty-first Army Group (American First, English Second, and Canadian First armies) and the American Third Army, a total of 39 divisions and 12 brigades. The American and British navies and air forces had absolute superiority over the enemy (11,000 combat planes to the Germans’ 500, as well as more than 6,000 combat, transport, and landing ships). The total size of the expeditionary forces was more than 2,876,000.
The plan of the Normandy landing operation was to land sea and airborne parties on the Bay of the Seine and capture a beachhead 15–20 km deep, reaching the Avranches-Domfront-Falaise line on the 20th day. During the night of June 5 the Allies, under cover of massive air strikes, landed two American airborne divisions to the north of Carentan and one English airborne division northeast of Caen. Sea landing parties were disembarked in the morning. By the evening of June 6 the Allies had captured three beachheads and landed five infantry divisions and one armored tank brigade from the sea. By the evening of June 12 a beachhead 80 km along the front and 10–17 km in depth had been created; it contained 16 divisions (including two tank divisions).
By this time the fascist German command had introduced up to 12 divisions (including three tank divisions) into the fighting, and three more divisions were approaching. The German troops were fed into the battle by units and suffered great losses. By late June the Allies had widened the beachhead to 100 km along the front and 20–40 km in depth. More than 25 divisions (including four tank divisions) were concentrated in the area, and opposed to them were 23 weakened German divisions (including nine tank). The Germans had no operational reserves, because their main forces were pinned down on the Soviet-German front, where the Red Army was waging a successful offensive in Byelorussia. The Allies took the port of Cherbourg on June 29. By July 21 forces of the American First Army had advanced 10–15 km to the south and taken St. Lo, while British and Canadian troops took the city of Caen after bitter fighting. Between June 6 and July 24 the Allied losses were about 122,000, and the Germans’ about 117,000.
The beachhead captured in the Normandy landing operation of 1944 (up to 110 km on the front and 30–50 km deep) was half the size of that planned for the operation, but with absolute superiority in the air it proved possible to concentrate adequate forces and weapons in the area to conduct a subsequent major operation in northwestern France. The invasion of Allied forces into France marked the opening of a second front in Europe, which became an important factor in the military planning of the anti-Hitlerite coalition in the concluding stage of the war against fascist Germany.
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I. E. ZAITSEV