|Part of The Western Front of World War II|
Tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the breakout from Normandy
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day). A 12,000-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving almost 7,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June; more than three million allied troops were in France by the end of August.
Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Free French Forces and Poland also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also minor contingents from Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces.
The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, concluding with the closing of the Falaise pocket on 24 August, the Liberation of Paris on 25 August, and the German retreat across the Seine which was completed on 30 August 1944.
Preparations for D-DayEdit
In June 1940, German dictator Adolf Hitler had triumphed in what he called "the most famous victory in history" – the fall of France. The defending British Expeditionary Force, trapped in an area along the northern coast of France, was able to evacuate over 338,000 troops to England in the Dunkirk evacuation (27 May to 4 June). British planners reported to Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 4 October that even with the help of other Commonwealth countries and the United States, it would not be possible to regain a foothold in continental Europe in the near future. Two tentative plans code-named Operation Roundup and Operation Sledgehammer were put forward for 1942–43, but neither were deemed practical or likely to succeed. Meanwhile Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was pressing for the creation of a second front in Western Europe. But Churchill had to decline, as even with American help, the British still did not have adequate forces for such a strike, and he wished to avoid costly frontal assaults such as those that had occurred at Passchendaele and the Somme in World War I. Instead the Allies launched the invasion of Sicily in June and of Italy in September 1943. These invasions provided the troops with valuable experience in amphibious warfare.
The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion within the next year was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. Churchill favoured making the main Allied thrust from the Mediterranean theatre into Germany from the south, but was overruled by his American allies, who were providing the bulk of the men and equipment. British Lieutenant-General Frederick E. Morgan was appointed Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) to begin detailed planning. The initial plans were constrained by the numbers of landing craft available, which were reduced by commitments in the Mediterranean and Pacific. In part because of lessons learned by Allied troops in the Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942, the Allies decided not to directly assault a heavily defended French seaport in their first landings. The failure at Dieppe also highlighted the need for adequate artillery and air support (especially close air support) and specialised ships able to travel extremely close to shore. The short operating range of British fighters, including the Spitfire and Typhoon, greatly limited the number of potential landing sites, as comprehensive air support depended upon having planes overhead for as long as possible. Morgan considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and Pas de Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, it would be possible for the Germans to cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected.
The Pas de Calais is the closest point in continental Europe from Britain and was the location of launch sites for V-1 and V-2 rockets, which were still under development. The Germans considered it to be the most likely initial landing zone, so it was the most heavily fortified region. But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals, whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany. Normandy was a less-defended coast and an unexpected but strategic jumping-off point, with the potential to confuse and scatter the German defending forces. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site. The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial harbours.
The COSSAC staff planned to launch the invasion on 1 May 1944. The initial draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all of the land forces involved in the invasion. On 31 December 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the COSSAC plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions with two more divisions in support. The two generals immediately insisted that the scale of the initial invasion be expanded to five divisions, with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to undertake operations on a wider front and speed up the capture of the port at Cherbourg. The need to acquire or produce extra landing craft for the expanded operation meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June. Eventually, 39 Allied divisions would be committed to the Battle of Normandy: 22 American, 12 British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops all under overall British command.[i]
Allied invasion planEdit
In order to gain the required air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies undertook bomber attacks codenamed Operation Pointblank to target German aircraft production, fuel supplies, and airfields. Elaborate deceptions were planned to prevent the Germans from knowing the timing and location of the invasion. Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the Continent. The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Operation Neptune.
The landings were to be preceded by airborne drops near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of Carentan on the western flank. The initial goal was to capture Carentan, Isigny, Bayeux, and Caen. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, were to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword Beach and Gold Beach and Canadians at Juno Beach would protect the American flank and attempt to establish airfields near Caen. A secure lodgement would be established and an attempt made to hold all territory north of the Avranches-Falaise line within the first three weeks. Montgomery envisaged a ninety-day battle, ending when all the forces reached the Seine.
The invasion fleet, led by Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G Kirk) supporting the American sectors and the Eastern Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir Philip Vian) in the British and Canadian sectors. The American forces of the First Army, led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, comprised VII Corps (Utah Beach) and V Corps (Omaha Beach). On the British side, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey was in command of the Second Army, under which XXX Corps (United Kingdom) was assigned to Gold Beach and I Corps to Juno and Sword. Land forces were under the overall command of Montgomery, and air command was assigned to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory.
The Allied Expeditionary Air Force undertook over 3,200 photo reconnaissance missions between the beginning of April 1944 and the start of the invasion. Photos were taken at extremely low altitude of the coastline to show the invaders the terrain, obstacles placed on the beach, and defensive structures such as bunkers and gun emplacements. In order to not alert the Nazis as to the location of the invasion, this work had to be undertaken over the entire European coastline. Inland terrain, bridges, troop emplacements, and buildings were also photographed, in many cases from several angles, to give the Allies as much information as possible. Members of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties clandestinely prepared detailed harbour maps, including depth soundings.
The BBC appealed for holiday pictures and postcards of Europe, and received over ten million items, some of which proved to be useful. Information collected by the French resistance helped provide details on troop movements and the construction techiques used by the Germans for bunkers and other defensive installations.
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The Allies developed new technologies for Overlord. The "mulberry", a mobile, prefabricated concrete harbor, allowed the Allies to supply their beachhead without capturing one of the heavily defended Channel ports, as did the Pipe-Line Under The Ocean (PLUTO). Major-General Percy Hobart, an unconventional military engineer, assembled a force of modified Sherman and Churchill tanks known as Hobart's Funnies, which were used at Normandy.
The targeted beaches were underpinned in places by ancient woodland, which had created peat bogs not far below the surface. Tests on similar beaches in Norfolk in 1943 proved them unsuitable for taking the weight of heavy tanks and transport, so detailed maps of the area were required. In December 1943, Operation Postage Able used an X-craft to collect suitable data for all of the beaches. Where the areas of peat could not be avoided, they were to be covered with rolls of matting deployed from spools nicknamed "bobbins" (or more prosaically, "bog rolls") mounted on modified tanks.
In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a deception operation, Operation Bodyguard, designed to persuade the Germans that areas other than northern France would be threatened as well (such as the Balkans and the south of France). Then, in the weeks leading up to the invasion, in order to persuade the Germans that the main invasion would really take place at the Pas de Calais and to lead them to expect an invasion of Norway, the Allies prepared a massive deception plan, called Operation Fortitude. Operation Fortitude North would lead the Axis to expect an attack on Norway; the much more vital Operation Fortitude South was designed to lead the Germans to expect the main invasion at the Pas de Calais and to hold back forces to guard against this threat rather than rushing them to Normandy.
An entirely fictitious First U.S. Army Group ("FUSAG"), supposedly located in southeastern Britain under the command of General Lesley J. McNair and Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., was created in German minds by the use of double agents and fake radio traffic. The Germans had an extensive network of agents operating in the UK, all of whom had been "turned" by the Allies as part of the Double Cross System and were sending back messages "confirming" the existence and location of FUSAG and the Pas de Calais as the likely main attack point. Dummy tanks (some inflatable), trucks and landing craft, as well as troop camp facades (constructed from scaffolding and canvas) were placed in ports on the eastern and southeastern coasts of Britain and the Luftwaffe was allowed to photograph them. During this period, most of the Allied naval bombardment was focused on Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. The Allied Forces even went as far as to broadcast static over Axis radio frequencies and convinced Germany to expend efforts to try to decode white noise, further leading Germany away from the Normandy invasion.
In aid of Operation Fortitude North, Operation Skye was mounted from Scotland using radio traffic, designed to convince German traffic analysts that an invasion would also be mounted into Norway. Against this phantom threat, German units that could have been moved into France were kept in Norway.
Operation Cover (2–5 June) Eighth Air Force Missions 384, 388, 389, and 392 bombed transportation and airfield targets in Northern France and "coastal defenses, mainly located in the Pas de Calais coastal area, to deceive the enemy as to the sector to be invaded".
The last part of the deception occurred on the night before the invasion: a small group of SAS operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne assault had occurred; this diverted reinforcing troops and kept the true situation unclear. On that same night, two RAF squadrons (No. 617 Squadron and No. 218 Squadron) in Operation Taxable and Operation Glimmer created an illusion of a massive naval convoy sailing for the Cap d'Antifer (15 miles north of Le Havre). This was achieved by the precision dropping of "Window", strips of metal foil. The foil caused a radar return mistakenly interpreted by German radar operators as a fleet of small craft towing barrage balloons.
Rehearsals and securityEdit
Allied forces rehearsed their roles for D-Day months before the invasion. On 28 April 1944, in south Devon on the British coast, 749 American soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger.
The effectiveness of the deception operations was increased by a news blackout from Britain. Travel to and from the Republic of Ireland was banned, and movements within several miles of the coasts restricted. The German embassies and consulates in neutral countries were flooded with all sorts of misleading information, in the well-founded hope that any genuine information on the landings would be ignored with all the confusing chaff.
There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail. Another such leak was General Charles de Gaulle's radio message after D-Day. He, unlike all the other leaders, stated that this invasion was the real invasion.[j] This had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions Fortitude North and Fortitude South. For example, Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion. Nevertheless, the Germans did not believe de Gaulle and waited too long to move in extra units against the Allies.
The invasion planners set forth a set of conditions regarding the timing of the invasion that meant only a few days in each month were deemed suitable. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The Allies wanted to schedule the landings for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles the enemy had placed on the beach while minimising the amount of time the men had to spend exposed in the open. Specific criterion were also set for wind speed, visibility, and cloud cover. Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets. As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris was predicting two weeks of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to attend war games in Rennes, and men in many units were given leave. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet with Hitler to try to get more Panzers.
By the evening of 4 June, the Allied meteorological team, headed by Group Captain James Stagg of the Royal Air Force, predicted that the weather would improve sufficiently so that the invasion could go ahead on 6 June. He met with Eisenhower and the other senior commanders at the headquarters at Southwick House to discuss the situation. General Montgomery and Major General Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, were eager to launch the invasion. Admiral Bertram Ramsay also was prepared to commit his ships, while Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory was concerned that the conditions would be unfavourable for Allied aircraft to operate. After much discussion, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead.
Had Eisenhower postponed the invasion, the the next available date with the correct combination of tides (but without the desirable full moon) was two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. But during this period they would have encountered a major storm which lasted four days, between 19 and 22 June, that would have made the initial landings impossible to undertake.
German preparations and defensesEdit
The number of military forces at the disposal of Nazi Germany reached its peak during 1944 with 59 divisions stationed in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Overall commander on the Western Front was Oberbefehlshaber West (supreme commander West; OB West) West Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. The Calais region was defended by the 15th Army, and Normandy by the 7th Army, commanded by Generaloberst (colonel general) Friedrich Dollmann. Combat losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front, meant the Germans no longer had a pool of able young men from which to draw. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their Allied counterparts. Many in the Normandy area were Ostlegionen (eastern legions) – conscripts and volunteers from Russia, Mongolia, and elsewhere. They were provided for the most part with unreliable captured equipment and lacked motorised transport.
Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied invasion. He envisioned 15,000 emplacements manned by 300,000 troops, but due to shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, most of the strongpoints were never built. As it was expected to be the site of the invasion, Pas de Calais was heavily defended. In the Normandy area, the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo.
A report to Hitler in October 1943 by Rundstedt regarding the weak defenses in France led to the appointment of Rommel to oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected invasion front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg. Rommel was given command of the newly re-formed Army Group B, which included the 7th Army, the 15th Army, and the forces guarding the Netherlands. Nazi Germany's tangled command structure made it difficult for Rommel to achieve his task. He was not allowed to give orders to the Organisation Todt, which was commanded by armaments minister Albert Speer, so in some cases he had to assign soldiers to do construction work.
Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beach to delay the approach of landing craft and impede the movement of tanks. Expecting the Allies to land at high tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach, he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high tide mark. Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry. On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled. Given the Allied air supremacy (4,029 Allied aircraft assigned to operations in Normandy plus 5,514 aircraft assigned to bombing and defense, versus 570 Luftwaffe planes stationed in France and the Low Countries), booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) were set up in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings.
Rommel, believing that their best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore, requested that mobile reserves—especially tanks—be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (commander of Panzer Group West, and other senior commanders believed that the invasion could not be stopped on the beaches. They thought that the tanks should be positioned well away from the coast to prevent them from being damaged by naval bombardment and deployed only once the location of the invasion was certain. Rommel's opinion was that because of the overwhelming Allied air superiority, large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was underway. Hitler made the final decision, which was to leave three divisions under Geyr's command and give Rommel operational control of three tank divisions as reserves. Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders.
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.—Eisenhower, Letter to Allied Forces
To eliminate the Germans' ability to organize and launch counterattacks during the amphibious assault phase, airborne operations were used to seize key objectives, such as bridges, road crossings and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches and in some cases to neutralize German coastal defense batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead. Dropping behind enemy lines hours before the beach landings, the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to similar objectives on the eastern flank. 530 Free French paratroopers from the British Special Air Service Brigade, were assigned to objectives in Brittany from 5 June to August. (Operation Dingson, Operation Samwest, Operation Cooney).
On Sword Beach, the regular British infantry came ashore with light casualties. They had advanced about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) by the end of the day but failed to make some of the deliberately ambitious targets set by Montgomery. In particular, Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands by the end of D-Day and would remain so until Operation Charnwood on 9 July.
The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced machine-gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications and a seawall twice the height of the one at Omaha Beach. Juno was the second most heavily defended beach on D-Day, next to Omaha. Despite the obstacles, the Canadians were off the beach within hours and advancing inland with minimal casualties. The Canadians were the only units to wholly reach their D-Day objectives, although most units fell back a few kilometres to stronger defensive positions.
At Gold Beach, the casualties were also quite heavy, because the Germans had strongly fortified a village on the beach. However, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division overcame these difficulties and advanced almost to the outskirts of Bayeux by the end of the day. The link with commando units securing the Port-en-Bessin gave the Allies a base to deploy their PLUTO pipeline, as an alternative to the experimental 'Tombola', a conventional tanker ship-to-shore storage system.
The Americans who landed on Omaha Beach faced the veteran German 352nd Infantry Division, one of the best trained on the beaches. Furthermore, Omaha was the most heavily fortified beach and the majority of landings missed their assigned sectors. Commanders considered abandoning the beachhead but small units of infantry, often forming ad hoc groups, eventually infiltrated the coastal defenses. Further landings were able to exploit the penetrations and by the end of day two footholds had been established. The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days and the D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3.
At Pointe du Hoc, the task for the 2nd Ranger battalion commanded by Lt. Colonel James Rudder, was to scale the 30 metres (98 ft) cliffs under enemy fire and grenades with ropes and ladders and then destroy the guns there. The beach fortifications were vital targets since a single artillery forward observer based there could have directed fire on the U.S. beaches. The Rangers were eventually successful and captured the fortifications. They then had to fight for 2 days to hold the location, losing more than 60 percent of their men.
Casualties on Utah Beach, the westernmost landing zone, were the lightest of any beach, at 197 out of the roughly 23,000 troops that landed. Although the 4th Infantry Division troops that landed on the beach found themselves too far to the southeast, they landed on a lightly defended sector that had relatively little German opposition and the 4th Infantry Division was able to press inland by early afternoon, linking up with the 101st Airborne Division.
Once the beachhead was established, the Mulberry Harbours were made operational around 9 June. One was constructed at Arromanches by British forces, the other at Omaha Beach by American forces. Severe storms on 19 June interrupted the landing of supplies and destroyed the Omaha harbour. The Arromanches harbour was able to supply around 9,000 tons of materiel daily until the end of August 1944, by which time the port of Cherbourg had been secured by the Allies.
Despite this, the German 21st Panzer division mounted a counterattack, between Sword and Juno beaches and succeeded in nearly reaching the channel. Stiff resistance by anti-tank gunners and fear of being cut off caused them to withdraw before the end of 6 June. According to some reports, the sighting of a wave of airborne troops flying over them was instrumental in the decision to retreat.
The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches linked except Utah and Sword (the last linked with paratroopers) and a front line 10 to 16 kilometres (6.2 to 9.9 mi) from the beaches; none of these had been achieved. Casualties had not been as heavy as some had feared (around 10,000 compared to the 20,000 Churchill had estimated) and the bridgeheads had withstood the expected counterattacks.
In the western part of the lodgement, US troops were to occupy the Cotentin Peninsula, especially Cherbourg, which would provide the Allies with a deep water harbor. The country behind Utah and Omaha beaches was characterised by bocage; ancient banks and hedgerows, up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick, spread 100 to 200 metres (330 to 660 ft) apart, both seemingly being impervious to tanks, gunfire and vision, thus making ideal defensive positions. The U.S. infantry made slow progress and suffered many casualties as they pressed towards Cherbourg. The airborne troops were called on several times to restart an advance. The far side of the peninsula was reached on 18 June. Hitler prevented German forces from retreating to the strong Atlantic Wall fortifications in Cherbourg and after initially offering stiff resistance, the Cherbourg commander, Lieutenant General von Schlieben, capitulated on 26 June. Before surrendering he had most of the facilities destroyed, making the harbour inoperable until the middle of August, by which time the combat front had moved so far east that it was less helpful.
Whilst the Americans headed for Cherbourg, a unit of troops led by the British moved towards the city of Caen. Believing Caen to be the "crucible" of the battle, Montgomery made it the target of a series of attritional attacks. The first was Operation Perch, which attempted to push south from Bayeux to Villers-Bocage where the armour could then head towards the Orne and envelop Caen but was halted at the Battle of Villers-Bocage. After a delay owing to the difficulty of supply because of storms from 17 June until 23 June, a German counterattack (which was known through Ultra intelligence) was forestalled by Operation Epsom. Caen was severely bombed and then occupied north of the River Orne in Operation Charnwood from 7 July until 9 July. An offensive in the Caen area followed with all three British armoured divisions, codenamed Operation Goodwood from 18 July until 21 July that captured the high ground south of Caen while the remainder of the city was captured by Canadian forces during Operation Atlantic. A further operation, Operation Spring, from 25 July until 28 July, by the Canadians secured limited gains south of the city at a high cost.
Breakout from the beachheadEdit
An important element of Montgomery's strategy was to cause the Germans to commit their reserves to the eastern part of the theater to allow an easier breakout from the west.[dubious ] By the end of Operation Goodwood, the Germans had committed the last of their reserve divisions; there were six and a half Panzer divisions facing the British and Canadian forces compared to one and a half facing the United States armies. Operation Cobra was launched on 25 July by the U.S. First Army and was extremely successful with the advance guard of VIII Corps entering Coutances at the western end of the Cotentin Peninsula on 28 July, after a penetration through the German lines.
On 1 August, VIII Corps became part of Lieutenant General George S. Patton's newly arrived U.S. Third Army. On 4 August, Montgomery altered the invasion plan by detaching only a corps to occupy Brittany and hem the German troops there into enclaves around the ports, while the rest of the Third Army continued east. The U.S. First Army turned the German front at its western end. Because of the concentration of German forces south of Caen, Montgomery moved the British armor west and launched Operation Bluecoat from 30 July until 7 August to add to the pressure from the United States armies. This drew the German forces to the west, allowing the launch of Operation Totalize south from Caen on 7 August.
By the beginning of August, more German reserves became available with the realisation that no landings were going to take place near Calais. The German forces were being encircled and the German High Command wanted these reserves to help an orderly retreat to the Seine. However, they were overruled by Hitler who demanded an attack at Mortain at the western end of the pocket on 7 August. The attack was repelled by the Allies, who again had advance warning from Ultra. The original Allied plan was for a wide encirclement as far as the Loire valley but Bradley realized that many of the German forces in Normandy were not capable of maneuver by this stage and he obtained Montgomery's agreement by telephone on 8 August for a "short hook" further north to encircle German forces. This was left to Patton to effect, moving nearly unopposed through Normandy via Le Mans and then back north again towards Alençon. The Germans were left in a pocket with its jaws near Chambois. Fierce German defense and the diversion of some American troops for a thrust by Patton towards the Seine at Mantes prevented the jaws closing until 21 August, trapping 50,000 German troops. Whether this could have been achieved earlier with more prisoners taken has been a matter of some controversy. Patton's thrust prevented the Germans from establishing the Seine as a defensive line and the Canadian First and British Second Armies both advanced there, bringing the war in Normandy in their sector to a close ahead of the schedule set by Montgomery.
The liberation of Paris followed shortly afterwards. The French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on 19 August and the French 2nd Armoured Division under General Philippe Leclerc, along with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division pressing forward from Normandy, received the surrender of the German forces there and liberated Paris on 25 August.
Withdrawal to the SeineEdit
Operations continued in the British and Canadian sector until the end of the month. On 25 August, the 2nd U.S. Armored Division fought its way into Elbeuf, making contact with both British and Canadian armoured divisions there. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division advanced into the Forêt de la Londe, (where German troops had inflicted great loss on French troops in the siege of Paris in 1870—1871) on the morning of 27 August. The area was strongly held and the 4th and 6th Canadian brigades sustained heavy casualties over the course of three days as the Germans fought a delaying action in terrain well-suited to the defense. The Germans pulled back on the 29th, withdrawing over the Seine on the 30th.
The campaign in Normandy is considered by historians to end either at midnight on 24 July 1944 (the start of Operation Cobra on the American front), 25 August 1944 (the liberation of Paris), or 30 August 1944, the date the last German unit retreated across the River Seine. The original Overlord plan anticipated a ninety-day campaign in Normandy with the ultimate goal of reaching the Seine; this goal was met early. American forces were fighting in Brittany as anticipated by General Montgomery during the latter weeks of the campaign, and their historians consider the Normandy campaign to have ended with the massive breakout of Operation Cobra.[k]
The US official history describes the fighting beginning on 25 July as the "Northern France" campaign, and includes the fighting to close the Falaise Gap, which the British/Canadians/Poles consider to be part of the Battle of Normandy. Volume I of the Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War by C.P. Stacey, published in 1955, as well as the Canadian Army's official Historical Summary of the Second World War, published in 1948, define the Battle of Normandy as lasting from 6 June 1944 to 1 September 1944.[l] The definition of the Battle of Normandy is also evident in another publication by the Army's Historical Section entitled Canada's Battle in Normandy.
SHAEF and the governments were very nervous of stagnation, and there were reports of Eisenhower requesting Montgomery's replacement in July. The lack of forward progress is often attributed to the nature of the terrain in which much of the post-landing fighting in the U.S. and parts of the British sectors took place, the bocage (small farm fields separated by high earth banks covered in dense shrubbery, well suited for defence), as well as the usual difficulties of opposed landings. However, as at the battle of El Alamein, Montgomery kept to his original attritional strategy, reaching the objectives within his original ninety day target.
Victory in Normandy was followed by a pursuit to the French border in short order, and Germany was forced once again to reinforce the Western Front with manpower and resources from the Soviet and Italian fronts.
By September, Allied forces of seven field armies (two of which came through southern France in Operation Dragoon) were approaching the German frontier. Allied material weight told heavily in Normandy, as did intelligence and deception plans. The general Allied concept of the battle was sound, drawing on the strengths of both Britain and the United States. German dispositions and leadership were often faulty, despite a creditable showing on the ground by many German units. In larger context the Normandy landings helped the Soviets on the Eastern front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces and, to a certain extent, contributed to the shortening of the conflict there.
Allied logistics, intelligence, and air powerEdit
Victory in Normandy stemmed from several factors. The Allies ensured material superiority at the critical point (concentration of force) and logistical innovations like the PLUTO pipelines and Mulberry harbours enhanced the flow of troops, equipment, and essentials such as fuel and ammunition. Movement of cargo over the open beaches exceeded Allied planners' expectations, even after the destruction of the U.S. Mulberry in the channel storm in mid-June. By the end of July 1944, one million American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish troops, hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and adequate supplies in most categories were ashore in Normandy. Although there was a shortage of artillery ammunition, at no time were the Allies critically short of any necessity. This was a remarkable achievement considering they did not hold a port until Cherbourg fell. By the time of the breakout the Allies also enjoyed a considerable superiority in numbers of troops (approximately 3.5:1) and armored vehicles (approximately 4:1) which helped overcome the natural advantages the terrain gave to the German defenders.
Allied intelligence and counterintelligence efforts were successful beyond expectations. The Operation Fortitude deception plan before the invasion kept German attention focused on the Pas-de-Calais, and indeed high-quality German forces were kept in this area, away from Normandy, until July. Prior to the invasion, few German reconnaissance flights took place over Britain, and those that did saw only the dummy staging areas. Ultra decrypts of German communications had been helpful as well, exposing German dispositions and revealing their plans such as the Mortain counterattack.
Lack of a coherent strategy hampered the German defence. German leadership was split between Field Marshals von Rundstedt and Rommel. Von Rundstedt's staff advocated a strategy of keeping the most powerful units in reserve, mounting a powerful counterattack once the allied landing started. Rommel wanted to stop the allies at the beach, and thought that by the time reserve panzer units could be moved to the invasion site it would be too late. He tried to locate units so that they could counterattack quickly, with minimal allied air power intervention. While Rommel's strategy had promise, the reserve strategy suffered from the inability to move units during the day due to allied air strikes. In the end, following a hybrid of the two strategies proved to be more of a disaster than following one or the other. The beach defences were overcome and the counterattacks, after suffering attrition from allied air power and delays by the French resistance, were not strong enough.
German commanders at all levels failed to react to the assault phase in a timely manner. Communication problems exacerbated the difficulties caused by Allied air and naval firepower. Local commanders also seemed unequal to the task of fighting an aggressive defence on the beach, as Rommel envisioned. The German High Command remained fixated on the Calais area, and von Rundstedt was not permitted to commit the armored reserve. When it was finally released late in the day, success was immeasurably more difficult. Although the 21st Panzer Division, had counterattacked earlier but was stymied by strong opposition that had been allowed to build at the beaches. Overall, despite steadily growing considerable Allied material superiority, the Germans slowed the Allies advance from the bridgehead for nearly two months, aided immeasurably by terrain factors.
Although there were several well-known disputes among the Allied commanders, their tactics and strategy were essentially determined by agreement between the main commanders. By contrast, the senior German leaders were unable to prevent interference by Hitler, who possessed little knowledge of local conditions. Field Marshals von Rundstedt and Rommel repeatedly asked Hitler for more discretion but were refused. Von Rundstedt was removed from his command on 29 June after he bluntly told Field Marshal Keitel, the Chief of Staff at OKW (Hitler's Armed Forces HQ), to "Make peace, you idiots!" Rommel was severely injured by Allied aircraft on 16 July. Field Marshal von Kluge, who took over the posts held by both von Rundstedt and Rommel, was compromised by his association with some of the military plotters against Hitler, and he would not disobey or argue with Hitler for fear of arrest. As a result, the German armies in Normandy were ill-served by Hitler's insistence on counterattack rather than retreat after the American breakthrough. Kluge was relieved of command on 15 August and took his own life shortly afterwards. The more independent Field Marshal Walter Model then took command.
The cost of the Normandy campaign was high for both sides. From D-Day to 21 August, the Allies landed 2,052,299 men in northern France There were around 209,672 Allied casualties from 6 June to the end of August, around 10% of the forces landed in France. The casualties break down to 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. Split between the Army Groups, the Anglo-Canadian Army Group suffered 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded and 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825 casualties. The US Army Group suffered 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded and 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847 casualties. To these casualties it should be added that 4,101 aircraft were lost and 16,714 airmen were killed or missing in direct connection to Operation Overlord. Thus total Allied casualties were 226,386 men.
77 Free French SAS (Special Air Service) were killed and another 200 wounded or prisoners of war from 6 June to the beginning of August in Brittany. Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, of which approximately 2,000 were fighting in American units.
The German casualties remain unclear. The German forces in France reported losses of 158,930 men between D-Day and 14 August – the night before the start of Operation Dragoon in Southern France. Just in the following battle of the Falaise pocket, a minimum of another 50,000 men were lost in Normandy, of which approximately 10,000 were killed and 40,000 captured. Casualty figures range from a calculation based on German reports of approximately 210,000 men to estimates of between 393,689 and 450,000 men. The majority of the German casualties in Normandy consisted of POWs. Allied forces captured at least 200,000 men during the campaigns in France.
There are no exact figures regarding German tank losses in Normandy. Approximately 2,300 tanks and assault guns were committed to the battle of Normandy, of which only 100 to 120 crossed the Seine at the end of the campaign. However, the German forces reported only 481 tanks destroyed between D-day and 31 July. Yet research conducted by No. 2 Operational Research Section, of 21st Army Group, contradicts this German position. Between 6 June and 7 August 1944, 110 destroyed German tanks were examined however "owing to a lack of personnel no Pz Kw MK II and only a small proportion of Pz kw MK IV were examined.". Between 8 August and 31 August, 223 destroyed German tanks were examined, which "is considered to be approximately half the total" of German tank losses during this period. Milton Shulman states "It is safe to say that at least 550 of the 750 tanks deployed in Normandy were destroyed" by the end of July. In just some of the major battles of the campaign, German tank losses amount to over 600 tanks.[m]
Civilians and French heritageEdit
During the course of the liberation of Normandy between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed. Information held at Caen university concludes that 13,632 civilians were killed, includes the deaths of 7,557 within the Calvados department. Other French sources calculate that the death rate was only 15,000. However, the civilian casualty toll is actually much higher due to the greater number of people who were wounded: for example by D+7 French casualty estimates had reached 22,499. In addition to those who died during the campaign between 11,000 and 19,000 Normans are estimated to have been killed during pre-invasion bombing; the higher figure however is disputed. Following the end of the campaign mines and unexploded ordnance continued to inflict casualties upon the Norman population.
Many cities and towns in Normandy had been totally devastated by the fighting and bombings. In particular by the end of the Battle of Caen there remained only 8,000 livable quarters for a population of over 60,000. Out of Caen’s 210 strong Jewish community, on liberation, only one person had survived the occupation. By the end of the campaign 125,000 inhabitants of the Calvados department had been listed as war victims, including 76,000 who had lost everything including their homes.
Prior to the invasion SHAEF issued instructions (later the basis for the 1954 Hague Convention Protocol I) emphasizing the need to limit the destruction to French heritage sites, including looting and sacrilege. These sites were named in Official Civil Affairs Lists of Monuments, were not to be used by troops unless given express permission from the upper echelons of their chain of command, were defined as "structures or object of historic artistic, scientific, or literary value, or any part or fragment thereof". Eisenhower issued personal instructions that "all measures consistent with military necessity, to avoid damage to all structures, objects, or document of cultural, artistic, archaeological or historical value; and to assist, wherever practicable, in securing them from deterioration consequent upon the process of war". It was established that the German occupation forces had completed similar lists. However, on the seizure of these documents it was determined that they "would not have served to preserve many monuments during an operation" and that they were primarily concerned with ensuring the billets were kept in good order.
By 19 June British Second Army reported that no apparent damage had been caused to monuments in their area. However, as the campaign proceeded so did the levels of damage; by mid-July across Normandy three monuments had been destroyed, 16 damaged and seven seriously. By early August a survey of 69 monuments found seven destroyed, 12 badly damaged, nine damaged, six slightly and the remaining were intact. Other surveys found similar levels of destruction; for example, by the end of the campaign, of 18 Caen’s listed churches five had been destroyed and four seriously damaged while 66 other monuments within the city had been destroyed. In 18 communes, in the Calvados department, monuments had been destroyed and in other locations damaged. A particular example is the Château d'Harcourt, that was destroyed, which contained family records dating back to William the Conqueror. However, the Bayeux Tapestry was located in safe condition at the Château de Sourches in Mid-July and the destroyed roof of the Saint-Sepulcre, in Caen, was temporary repaired by French civilians and Royal Engineers to prevent further degradation of the historical and government records that had been exposed to the elements. Efforts were also made to comb the ruins and debris for artefacts before the rubble was removed.
During the Spring of 1944 French civilians had amassed plenty of evidence of newly arriving German troops looting civilian property; an issue that increased during the battle with all sides, including French civilians, taking part. Well known examples include British forces, generally lines of communication troops and not the infantry, looting Caen’s Musée des antiquaires and Bayeux’s Château d'Andrieu. Looting was never condoned by allied forces and proven perpetrators were punished. This was not the case for German forces.
The Normandy campaign in contextEdit
The landings were planned to take place in May 1944, but poor weather conditions and insufficient buildup delayed the landings until June. By then, the Allies had taken Rome in the Italian Campaign, and in the Pacific War, the Americans were launching their first strikes on Japan.
The Normandy landings threatened Hitler's hold on the Belgian and northern French coasts as bases for the "V" weapons, which had started launching against the UK. As the Allies were closing in on Paris and sealing the Falaise Gap, an invasion in southern France was also launched. The linkup with the Allied forces in southern France occurred on 12 September as part of the drive to the Siegfried Line.
On the Eastern Front, the Red Army were planning their own offensive, Operation Bagration, to drive the Germans away from Soviet territory. Combined with the Allied lodgement established at Normandy, the second front in Western Europe that had been demanded by Stalin since the Tehran Conference had been established, the Axis powers were driven back from all fronts.
While the Normandy landings are popularly believed to have signaled the "beginning of the end" for Nazi Germany, it is arguable that Germany's defeat had already been rendered inevitable by its huge losses on the Eastern Front. Germany had already been in almost continuous retreat on the Eastern Front since mid 1943, and the massive German defeats at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk in early and mid 1943 were arguably more decisive for the course of the war in Europe, whether measured in terms of forces committed, the number of German casualties, or the amount of German war material destroyed. The American historian Jeffrey Herf wrote that, "Whereas German deaths between 1941 and 1943 on the western front had not exceeded 3 percent of the total from all fronts, in 1944 the figure jumped to about 14 percent. Yet even in the months following D-day, about 68.5 percent of all German battlefield deaths occurred on the eastern front, as a Soviet blitzkrieg in response devastated the retreating Wehrmacht".
However, the Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, and they did hasten the end of the war in Europe, drawing large forces away from the Eastern Front that might otherwise have slowed the Soviet advance. The opening of a second front in Europe was also a tremendous psychological blow for Germany's military, who had long feared a repetition of the two-front war of World War I. The Normandy landings also heralded the start of the "race for Europe," between the Soviet forces and the Western powers, which some historians consider to be the start of the Cold War.
War memorials and tourismEdit
The beaches of Normandy are still known by their invasion codenames today. Streets near the beaches are still named after the units that fought there, and occasional markers commemorate notable incidents. At significant points, such as Pointe du Hoc and Pegasus Bridge, there are plaques, memorials or small museums. The remains of the Mulberry harbour still sits in the sea at Arromanches. In Sainte-Mère-Église, a mannequin paratrooper hangs from the church spire.
- Around 812,000 were American and 640,000 were British and Canadian. Zetterling 2000, p. 408.
- "When Operation Cobra was launched, the Germans had brought to Normandy about 410,000 men in divisions and non-divisional combat units. If this is multiplied by 1.19 we arrive at approximately 490,000 soldiers. However, until 23 July, casualties amounted to 116,863, while only 10,078 replacements had arrived". Zetterling 2000, p. 32.
- This is the total number of casualties suffered by the Allied forces up to the end of August. The Allied forces suffered 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. Split between the Army Groups: the Anglo-Canadian Army Group suffered 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded and 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825 casualties. The American Army Group suffered 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded and 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847 casualties. Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, p. 493.
- To these numbers should be added the losses of the allied air forces, who made 480,317 sorties directly connected to the operation with the loss of 4,101 planes and 16,696 lives.Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 341.
- Approximately 4000 Allied tanks was destroyed, of which 2000 were fighting in American units. Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 342.
- Tamelander states that the German army committed 600,000 men to Normandy and 230,000 to Southern France during the period between 1 June and 31 July. Of these forces stationed in France, 288,875 men were lost, a figure that breaks down to 23,019 dead, 67,240 wounded, and 198,616 missing. Tamelander notes that the number of missing corresponds to the number of men reported captured by the Allied forces during the fighting in France and as these figures also include losses from the fighting in Southern France as well as from the following retreat, he suggests roughly 79,000 men should be deducted from this total to give an accurate figure for the Normandy campaign. Total German losses for Normandy thus reach 210,000 men and Tamelander points out that this figure corresponds to the reported losses that previous to Operation Dragoon were 158,930, which together with the losses inflicted by the Falaise pocket reach approximately 210,000 men. Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 342–343.
- Shulman claims 240,000 men of the German army had been killed or wounded during the Normandy campaign and a further 210,000 had been taken prisoner.Shulman 2007, p. 192. Wilmot supports the figure of 210,000 prisoners being taken during the "10 week campaign". Wilmot 1997, p. 434.
- Wilmot quotes Günther Blumentritt, von Rundstedt's Chief-of-Staff, who states that around 2,300 tanks and assault guns had been committed to the battle in Normandy and "only 100 to 120 were brought back across the Seine." Wilmot 1997, p. 434.
- The British 79th Armoured Division never operated as a single formation (Buckley 2006, p. 13), and thus has been excluded from the total. In addition, a combined total of 16 (three from the 79th Armoured Division) British, Belgian, Canadian, and Dutch independent brigades were committed to the operation, along with four battalions of the Special Air Service. Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 521–523, 524.
- "We are told that an immense assault force has begun to leave the shores of Old England to aid us." de Gaulle 1944.
- Montgomery wrote of his intent to tie down German armoured forces near Caen in a policy directive on 30 June 1944: "My broad policy, once we had secured a firm lodgement area, has always been to draw the main enemy forces into the battle on our eastern flank, and to fight them there, so that our affairs on the western flank could proceed the easier." Stacey 1948, p. 195.
- Both publications are available online from the Directorate of History and Heritage, a department of the Department of National Defence, as free downloads at the Official Histories download page at the Canadian National Defence website.
- Sword Beach: 50+ tanks; During the course of Operation Perch through to the end of June saw the loss of over 90 tanks from the Panzer Lehr and 12th SS, as nine Tiger tanks destroyed and a further 21 damaged by 16 June; Operation Epsom: 126 tanks; Operation Charnwood: over 30 tanks; Operation Goodwood: Up to 100 tanks; Operation Totalize: at least 45 tanks; Operation Lüttich: 150 tanks.
- Badsey 1990, p. 85.
- Shulman 2007, p. 192.
- Wilmot 1997, p. 434.
- Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 341.
- Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 342–343.
- Flint 2009, pp. 336–337.
- Churchill 1951, p. 642.
- Dear & Foot 2005, pp. 627–630.
- Williams 1988, p. [page needed].
- Stacey 1960, p. 295.
- Dear & Foot 2005, p. 322.
- Churchill 1949, p. 115.
- Zuehlke 2004, pp. 20–21.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 9–10.
- Churchill 1951, p. 582.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 10–11.
- Beevor 2012, p. 319.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 11.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 10.
- Wilmot 1997, pp. 134–135, 171.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 9.
- Zuehlke 2004, p. 23.
- Gilbert 1989, pp. 397, 478.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 13–14.
- Beevor 2009, pp. 33–34.
- Wilmot 1997, p. 170.
- Ambrose 1995, Chapter 4 Paragraph 4.
- Ambrose 1995, chapter 4 paragraph 10.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 14.
- Gilbert 1989, p. 491.
- Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 12–13.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 13.
- Weinberg 1995, p. 684.
- Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 521–533.
- Beevor 2009, p. 3.
- Churchill 1951, pp. 592–593.
- Beevor 2009, Map, inside front cover.
- Weinberg 1995, p. 698.
- Churchill 1951, p. 594.
- Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 6.
- Whitmarsh 2009, Map, p. 12.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 25.
- Zuehlke 2004, p. 81.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 21.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 11.
- Wilmot 1997, p. 195.
- Weinberg 1995, p. 680.
- "8th Air Force 1944 Chronicles: June". Retrieved 25 May 2007.
- Bickers 1994, pp. 19–21.
- Fenton 2004.
- Dear & Foot 2005, p. 667.
- Keegan 1990, p. 379.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 31.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 33.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 131.
- Beevor 2009, pp. 42–43.
- Beevor 2009, p. 21.
- Wilmot 1952, pp. 224–226.
- Wilmot 1952, p. [page needed].
- Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 11.
- Beevor 2009, p. 34.
- Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 13.
- Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 16–19.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 30.
- Beevor 2009, p. 33.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 12.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 54–56.
- Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 31.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 15.
- Whitmarsh 2009, p. 42.
- Ambrose 1994, p. [page needed].
- Corta 1952, p. 159.
- Corta 1997, pp. 65–78.
- Martin 1994, p. 16.
- Video: Cherbourg, Gateway to Victory, 1944/07/02 (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Weigley 1981, p. 157.
- Stacey 1960, p. 286.
- Stacey 1948, p. 219.
- Stacey 1948, p. 295.
- Stacey 1960, p. [page needed].
- Corta 1952, p. many pages.
- Corta 1997, p. many pages.
- Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 342.
- Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 343.
- Lecouturier 2000, p. 109.
- Copp 2000, pp. 399–400.
- Shulman 2007, p. 166.
- Flint 2009, pp. 336, 370.
- Flint 2009, p. 336.
- Beevor 2009, p. 519.
- Flint 2009, p. 267.
- Flint 2009, p. 305.
- Beevor 2009, p. 520.
- Flint 2009, p. 337.
- Flint 2009, p. 350.
- Flint 2009, p. 354.
- Flint 2009, p. 352–353.
- Gilbert 1989, pp. 531, 540, 544.
- Herf 2006, p. 252.
- Gaddis 1990, p. 149.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1994). D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II (First ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80137-X.
- Ambrose, Stephen (1995). D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-67334-5.
- Badsey, Stephen (1990). Normandy 1944: Allied Landings and Breakout. Osprey Campaign Series. Botley, Oxfordshire: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-921-4.
- Beevor, Antony (2009). D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. New York; Toronto: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02119-2.
- Beevor, Antony (2012). The Second World War. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-02374-0.
- Bickers, Richard Townshend (1994). Air War Normandy. London: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-412-1.
- Buckley, John (2006) . British Armour in the Normandy Campaign 1944. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-40773-7.
- Churchill, Winston (1949). Their Finest Hour. The Second World War II. Boston; Toronto: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 396145.
- Churchill, Winston (1951) . Closing the Ring. The Second World War V. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 396150.
- Copp, J. Terry (2000). Montgomery's Scientists: Operational Research in Northwest Europe: The Work of No. 2 Operational Research Section with 21 Army Group, June 1944 to July 1945. Waterloo, Ontario: Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University. ISBN 978-0-9697955-9-9.
- Corta, Henry (1952). Les bérets rouges [The Red Berets] (in French). Paris: Amicale des anciens parachutistes SAS. OCLC 8226637.
- Corta, Henry (1997). Qui ose gagne [Who dares, wins] (in French). Vincennes, France: Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre. ISBN 978-2-86323-103-6.
- Dear, I.C.B.; Foot, M.R.D., eds. (2005) . The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280666-6.
- de Gaulle, Charles (6 June 1944). La Bataille Supreme est Engagee! (Speech). Radio broadcast. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Ellis, L.F.; Allen, G.R.G.; Warhurst, A.E. (2004) . Butler, J.R.M, ed. Victory in the West, Volume I: The Battle of Normandy. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. London: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-058-0.
- Fenton, Ben (26 April 2004). "The disaster that could have scuppered Overlord". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- Flint, Edward R (2009). The development of British civil affairs and its employment in the British Sector of Allied military operations during the Battle of Normandy, June to August 1944 (Ph.D. thesis). Cranfield, Bedford: Cranfield University; Cranfield Defence and Security School, Department of Applied Science, Security and Resilience, Security and Resilience Group. OCLC 757064836.
- Ford, Ken; Zaloga, Steven J (2009). Overlord: The D-Day Landings. Oxford; New York: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-424-4.
- Gaddis, John Lewis (1990) . Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-557258-9.
- Gilbert, Martin (1989). The Second World War: A Complete History. New York: H. Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-1788-5.
- Goldstein, Donald M.; Dillon, Katherine V.; Wenger, J. Michael (1994). D-Day: The Story and Photographs. McLean, Virginia: Brassey's. ISBN 0-02-881057-0.
- Herf, Jeffrey (2006). The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-02175-4.
- Keegan, John (1990) . The Second World War. New York; London: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-82359-7.
- Lecouturier, Yves (2000). De stranden van de landing (in Dutch). Rennes: Editions Ouest-France. ISBN 978-2-7373-2686-8.
- Martin, Charles Cromwell (1994). Battle Diary: From D-Day and Normandy to the Zuider Zee and VE. Toronto: Dundurn Press. ISBN 1-55002-213-X.
- Shulman, Milton (2007) . Defeat in the West. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger. ISBN 0-548-43948-6.
- Stacey, C.P. (1948). The Canadian Army 1939–45: A Historical Summary. Ottawa: Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence.
- Stacey, C.P. (1960). The Victory Campaign, The Operations in North-West Europe 1944–1945. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Vol. III. Ottawa: Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence.
- Tamelander, Michael; Zetterling, Niklas (2003) . Avgörandets Ögonblick: Invasionen i Normandie [Determining the Decisive Moments: The Invasion of Normandy] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedts. ISBN 978-91-1-301204-9.
- Weinberg, Gerhard (1995) [1st pub. 1993]. A world at arms – A global history of World War II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521558792.
- Weigley, Russell F. (1981). Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944–1945 I. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-13333-5.
- Whitmarsh, Andrew (2009). D-Day in Photographs. Stroud: History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5095-7.
- Williams, Jeffery (1988). The Long Left Flank: The Hard Fought Way to the Reich, 1944–1945. London: Cooper. ISBN 978-0-85052-880-0.
- Wilmot, Chester (1952). The Struggle for Europe. London: Collins. OCLC 753234755.
- Wilmot, Chester (1997) . The Struggle For Europe. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-85326-677-9.
- Zetterling, Niklas (2000). Normandy 1944: German Military Organisation, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness. Winnipeg: J.J. Fedorowicz. ISBN 0-921991-56-8.
- Zuehlke, Mark (2004). Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory: June 6, 1944. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 1-55365-050-6.
- Churchill, Winston (1940). "Dieu Protege (sic) la France". London: The Churchill Society. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
- Foot, M. R. D. (1984). SOE. BBC Publications.
- Keegan, John (1982). Six Armies in Normandy. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-005293-0.
- Leighton, Richard M. (2000) . "Chapter 10: Overlord Versus the Mediterranean at the Cairo-Tehran Conferences". In Greenfield, Kent Roberts. Command Decisions. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-7.
- Neillands, Robin (2002). The Battle of Normandy, 1944. Cassell.
- Raths, Aloyse (2008). Unheilvolle Jahre für Luxemburg – Années néfastes pour le Grand-Duché (in French). Luxembourg: Éd. du Rappel. OCLC 723898422.
- Steven Zaloga (2001). Operation Cobra 1944, Breakout from Normandy. Osprey Campaign Series #88. Osprey Publishing.
- Whitlock, Flint (2004). The Fighting First: The Untold Story of The Big Red One on D-Day. Westview.
- Numerous abbreviated summaries have been written. Among the most useful are:
- Charles MacDonald, The Mighty Endeavor: American Armed Forces in the European Theater in World War II (1969); and
- Charles MacDonald and Martin Blumenson, "Recovery of France," in Vincent J. Esposito, ed., A Concise History of World War II (1965).
- Memoirs by Allied commanders contain considerable information. Among the best are:
- Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951);
- Sir Bernard Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic (1948); and
- Almost as useful are biographies of leading commanders. Among the most prominent are:
- Stephen E. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1970), and Eisenhower, Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890–1952 (1983);
- Richard Lamb, Montgomery in Europe, 1943–1945: Success or Failure (1984).
- Numerous general histories also exist, many centering on the controversies that continue to surround the campaign and its commanders. See, in particular:
- Richard Collier, Fighting Words: The Correspondents of World War II (1989). CMH Pub 72–18
- "U.S. Army's official interactive D-Day website".
- Steven Zaloga. "Operation Cobra 1944: Breakout from Normandy".
- "WW2DB: The Normandy Campaign".
- "Operations:D-Day and the Normandy Campaign". Democracy: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War.
- "Encyclopaedia Britannica Guide to Normandy 1944". Encyclopaedia Britannica.
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- Guide to documents available online from the Eisenhower Presidential Center
- Booknotes interview with Stephen Ambrose, June 5, 1994, on his book D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
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