15-17 July 1944
Origins of operation Greenline
The Americans are preparing Operation Cobra in the south of the Cotentin, in order to pierce the front line and engage Brittany. This offensive is being coordinated with the 2nd Army, comprising Anglo-Canadian forces east of Vire. General Montgomery, commander of the land forces in Normandy, wants to set up an operation to fix the German armies In particular their heavy armored vehicles) in the Caen region. This would allow the Americans to move more easily south without being delayed.
For Montgomery, it is also a matter of preparing for Operation Goodwood (which starts on July 18) by maintaining sufficiently strong pressure along the front line so as not to allow time for the Germans to reorganize and counter-attack .
The operation is scheduled to begin on the evening of 15 July with the British 15th and 53rd infantry divisions (attached to the 12th corps) against the 276 and 277. Infanterie-Divisionen.
Conduct of operation Greenline
At 1530 hours on 15 July, operation Greenline began with a large artillery preparation carried out by 450 guns of various calibers in the area of Gavrus, Evrecy and Esquay-Notre-Dame.
The Germans react quickly and carry out a massive artillery barrage which separates the British columns into several isolated elements. This has the effect of slowing off the offensive and drastically reducing its effects.
At the dawn of 16 July, the operation is running out of steam and the losses are high on both sides. The German 276th and 277th infantry divisions are jostled despite a fierce defense. General Montgomery decides to relaunch the offensive by triggering in the evening a new operation, called Pomegranate.
On July 17th the SS Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen and the SS Panzer-Division Frundsberg were both engaged in the battle and prevented the British forces from piercing the front and seizing Evrecy.
Operation Greenline, extended by Pomegranate, ended on July 17, just before the launch of operation Goodwood.
Results of operation Greenline
The benefits of operation Greenline are virtually zero in the sector of the 2nd Army. Few land was taken from the Germans and the Allied casualties were particularly high with 3,500 soldiers put out of action in just three days from 15 to 17 July 1944. During the same period 2,000 German soldiers were wounded, missing.
If Greenline and Pomegranate do not change the strategic situation of the 2nd British Army southwest of Caen, the conduct of these combats offers a double advantage to the Allies.
On the one hand, these two offensives allow the Americans to prepare operation Cobra under the best conditions. In fact, German forces are stationed in the south-west region of Caen by the pressure of land forces and the destructive power of Allied bombing. The Germans can not disengage the front to strengthen the southern Cotentin, under penalty of seeing their line of defense west of Caen collapse.
On the other hand, this double Greenline-Pomegranate offensive corresponds to a logic of attrition: the Germans lose many men and equipment that are hardly replaceable before the launch of operation Goodwood.