The consolidation of the bridgehead (2/2)
D-Day+12 to D-Day+32 – June 18 to July 8, 1944
Continued from page “Bridgehead Consolidation (1/2)“:
The “Monty” case (continued)
The Anglo-Canadian front, commanded by General Miles Dempsey, then loses its offensive value despite the launch on 26 June of operation Epsom in the Caen region, which aim is to conquer the city. The forces of Dempsey’s 2nd Army are thus entrusted with the task of attracting the enemy to its zone (in particular its armored vehicles), pinning it down and thus disengaging the American front to the west.
Eisenhower also explains: “Marshal Montgomery continued throughout the month of July to use the relentless pressure of the 2nd Army to contain the enemy, while at the same time the American forces in the Cotentin began to move towards the south, alongside those who had landed east of the Vire river, in order to conquer the land necessary for the preparation of the attack which was to pierce the German lines at the end of the month“.
The German concern
German generals are forced to use all their armored units to counter-attack. But when Dollman committed suicide on 26 June, Rommel and von Rundstedt were in Berchtesgaden, where Hitler summoned them. Hausser replaces Dollman at the head of the 7th Army and on June 29, the Germans recapture hill 112, the scene of extremely violent fighting: the losses are very high (50% for the 15th British division) and reach 4,000 victims. Montgomery puts an end to operation Epsom.
In Germany, the meeting between the Chiefs of Staff and Hitler is disappointing for Rommel. He wished to undertake a strategic withdrawal behind the Seine, to call in reinforce the German armies of the south of France on a line Seine river-Switzerland.
But Hitler does not want to hear such orders: no withdrawal is allowed. The Führer asks his generals to defend their positions by all possible means in order to save time to create the German secret weapons.
But German losses are far too high to hold the ground: at the end of June they amounted to more than 50,000 prisoners and 300 tanks destroyed out of the seven deployed Panzer divisions.
|A Sherman tank from the British 50th Division in front of a destroyed German Panzer IV tank. Photo: IWM|
On the evening of the first of July, Marshal Keitel and von Rundstedt were talking on the telephone about the meeting with Hitler in Berchtesgaden. Keitel asks him: “What can be done?” Von Rundstedt answers: “Make peace, bunch of idiots! What else can you do?” Some time later, von Rundstedt was sacked by the Führer, previously informed by Keitel.
He is replaced by von Kluge, a German general with a strong reputation (Hitler calls on von Rundstedt before the fighting in the Ardennes, a few months later).
But on July 8, the northern part fell into the hands of the English and Canadians, following operation Charnwood. The conquests of the cities of Caen and Cherbourg on June 26, 1944, marked the acquisition of all the initially planned objectives of Overlord but also the end of the consolidation of the bridgehead in Normandy by the Allied troops .