The race to the Seine river
D-Day + 75 to D-Day + 84 – From 20 to 29 August 1944
Towards the end of the Battle of Normandy
The race at the Seine river does not begin properly speaking at the end of the closure of the pocket of Falaise but as of August 16, 1944. Anticipating the course of operations and aware that many Germans escape from the net, General Montgomery decided to carry out a new encircling maneuver in the context of operation Paddle. It begins on the night of August 15 to 16, 1944.
Indeed, the Americans of the 3rd Army led by General Patton are already en route to the Seine since August 15, 1944 while to the north, along the coasts of the English Channel, the 1st British Corps of General Crocker, subordinate to the 1st General Crerar’s Canadian army, stands ready to launch the offensive.
Crerar receives the mission of sending the 1st Corps in the direction of the Seine along the coast and liberating the localities without being delayed by the German forces. Eventually, the British had to join the Americans at Elbeuf, thus encircling the German forces who had not crossed the Seine yet.
The 5th US Armored Division is still making difficult progress in the Eure, precisely in the region of Elbeuf and Louviers. The Germans, leaving the left bank of the Seine, ordered a rear guard to halt the Allied advance for a time, thus enabling them to rejoin the right bank of the Seine, and then to reform. This German rear-guard causes many problems to the Americans, who do not have conventional units in front of them, and the Allied aviation ends its day with weak results, due to this lack of structure of the German divisions.
To the east of the Orne river, the Belgian motorized units of the Piron brigade manage to liberate the localities of Honfleur, Pont-l’Evêque, while the last defenders of Deauville and Trouville surrender.
In order to allow full access to the British 1st Corps, the Americans of the 15th and 19th corps return to their starting point. The Germans, leaving the left bank of the Seine, ordered a rear guard to stop the allied advance, thus enabling them to rejoin the right bank of the Seine, to reorganize thereafter.
From 26 to 29 August, the Germans continued to cross the Seine on floating bridges north and south of Paris. They are directly followed by US and British troops chasing the retreating soldiers to prevent them from regrouping and counter-attacking. However, the German rear-guards prevented the Allies from advancing rapidly and favored the withdrawal of the Wehrmacht and the Panzer units.
Operation Paddle results
Operation Paddle ceased when the Allies reached the Seine and secured the whole of its west bank, which was carried out on August 31, 1944. The encirclement of forces escaping from the Falaise pocket was not completely carried out but the threat of falling back into the trap prevented the Germans from reorganizing into a firm defense before reaching the Seine. The latter have multiplied the crossing points on this river, using all possible means: bridges still intact, boats, barges, ferries, rafts… A total of 165,000 Germans and 30,000 vehicles managed to escape the Allies.
This operation had the effect of maintaining constant pressure on the Germans, who no longer ceased to retreat as of the end of August 1944.
On August 29, the operations of crossing the Seine by the Germans on floating bridges, north and south of Paris, are now finished. Now the Allied forces are advancing towards the north, east and south, in pursuit of German divisions retreating to reorganize. The soldiers belonging to the 3rd Army of General Patton carry out a “flash advance” towards the east of France during the weeks that follow, before being slowed down by problems of supply.
To the north-east of Caen, soldiers belonging to Colonel Piron’s Belgian brigade cross the Seine at Caudebec-en-Caux and La Mailleraye.
The Battle of Normandy ends on August 29, after 85 days of furious fighting. 19,890 Norman civilians died during this period, another 300,000 became homeless. At the cost of blood, Normandy, and soon France and Europe, finally found Liberty. Germany surrendered unconditionally and the fighting cease in Europe on May 8, 1945, less than a year after D-Day.