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The "Falaise pocket" (#1)
From D-Day + 70 to D-Day + 75 - From August 15 to August 20, 1944
 

Operation Lüttich

The Germans launched their last major offensive in Normandy, Operation Lüttich, on the night of August 6 to 7, 1944, worried by the extremely rapid advance of the Americans in the sector of Mortain. General von Kluge preferred this date of attack, despite the orders of Hitler, who wanted that the offensive was ordered the next day, August 8.

All units planned for the attack had not met yet, but von Kluge ordered the start of Operation Lüttich, which aimed at cutting the 1st U.S. Army in two, according to a line joining Mortain to Avranches. Thus, the Allies supplies could not reach most parts of the 1st U.S. army and all the 3rd U.S. army.

145 German tanks attacked at dawn with the fog. The 2nd SS Panzer Division moved to Avranches over a distance of about 10 kilometers. The Americans decided to engage the 3rd Armored Division to counter the attack, knowing that the Sherman tanks are less resistant than the German Tiger tanks, but the German offensive had to be broken at all cost or even slowed.

The Allied air support could not intervene because of the weather, but around noon, the fog disappeared. Thus, the American fighters attacked Panzer columns. The take-off of American fighter-bombers marked the end of operation Lüttich because even before Tiger tanks could reach the 3rd Armored Division, the U.S. Air Force has fully stopped the German advance and about 60 German tanks were destroyed.

Von Kluge received a message from Hitler who wrote that he was extremely disappointed with this outcome and that he did not understand why did von Kluge not wait 24 hours before launching Lüttich. But the reinforcements which arrived on August 7 in the early afternoon were set aside for a new attack to be launched the next day at the same location.

On August 8, 1944, the Americans are already in Britanny and they have seven divisions, including two armored divisions, attached to the 7th corps of General Collins to fight with the 7th German Army led by General Hausser. Meanwhile, Canadian and British armies advanced south of the city of Caen toward Falaise.

Fighting continued in the region of Mortain, but operation Lüttich was finally arrested on August 10, 1944 and the Americans counterattacked to take control of this city.

Operation Totalize

A new offensive began on August 7 South Caen: operation Totalize, led by the 1st Canadian Army commanded by General Crerar. After heavy bombing during the night of August 7 to 8 on the flanks of the divisions around May-sur-Orne, Fontenay in the west and La Hogue, Secqueville in the east. Four divisions, including two armored, attacked toward Falaise along the Caen-Falaise road, while bombers attacked the villages of Bretteville-sur-Laize, Haut-Mesnil, Cauvicourt and Saint-Sylvain, south-east of Caen.

At the end of the day, the Canadians have advanced nearly nine kilometers. The 5th Panzer Army commanded by Eberbach was rushed and went back to the South.

On August 8, 1944, the 1st Polish Armored Division was involved in the offensive and attacked the east flank of the 85th German Infantry division.

The 2nd and 53rd Anglo-Canadian divisions attacked in the west through the Cinglais Forest while the 4th Canadian Armored division moved quickly on the the Caen-Falaise road.

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The 4th Armored Canadian division progressed impressively quickly and liberated en route the villages Gouvix and Urville, and reached on August 9 the hill 195 and the village of Les Estrees-la-campagne, defended by the 89th Infantry division and the 12nd SS Panzer division. Fierce fighting tanks gave the advantage to the 5th SS Panzer Army commanded by General Eberbach. The Canadians have lost 47 tanks on the 52 involved tanks in the region of Urville.

The 1st Armored Polish Division, led by General Maczek progressed towards the northeast region of Rouvres while the 49th and 51st iInfantry divisions attacked towards the south-eastern region of Caen, between Vimont and Saint-Sylvain defended by soldiers of the 272nd German Infantry division.

The 1st Canadian Army led by General Crerar continued operation Totalize and went close to the little town of Falaise, distant about ten kilometers from the front line at the end of the day.

German armies in troubles

On August 8, 1944, General Bradley noted that the German Army was attacked to the west by the U.S. and to the east by the British and the Canadians. Allied forces had the opportunity to surround their enemies. Bradley proposed to Eisenhower to perform this maneuver at Falaise. . For the Allies, it is a unique opportunity to hasten the destruction of the German army in the west of France.

On August 11, 1944, the 15th corps of the 3rd U.S. Army progressed toward Argentan. Hard fighting took place around the town of Alençon, besieged in the evening by the 2nd French Armored division of General Leclerc. French soldiers entered the town but it has taken a few hours to clean the entire city from German snipers. 25 km have been covered since August 10, by General Haislip 15th corps.

The German officers were convinced that only a rapid retreat behind the Seine river could save a large proportion of their troops and vehicles engaged in Normandy. But Hitler did not ordered his generals to leave their positions but told them to fight until death if necessary. The German officers in Normandy, however, were conscious of the urgency of the situation and decided to evacuate their troops behind the Seine river.

Meanwhile, the 1st Canadian army led by General Crerar joined quickly the city of Falaise to avoid any retreat for Germand soldiers and vehicles, as part of operation Totalize. On the evening of August 11, Canadians had advanced nearly 10 kilometers in five days of operation.

The 4th Canadian Armored division approached the village of Potigny, located northeast of Falaise, but heavy fighting took place against the 12nd SS Panzer and the 89th Infantry divisions. The 1st Polish Armored division also progressed south-east of the village of Saint-Sylvain and stopped counterattacks of the 85th Infantry division.

On August 12, south-west of Falaise, the 15th corps of the 3rd U.S. Army progressed to the North despite numerous skirmishes with the SS Panzer divisions. The 2nd French Armored division then controled the town of Alençon, were difficult fightings took place since the eve in the streets. The French went back en route and soon entered Ecouché on the road to Argentan. The 15th American corps managed to reach in the evening the region near Argentan: the 1st and 3rd American armies have pushed the German forces of fifty kilometers in a week.

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