The Liberation of France: Northern France (late-August 1944)

Figure 1.--Here we see children in Elbeuf having a romp on a Canadian anti-aircraft tank (late-August, 1944). Elbeuf is in north western France about 35 miles inland from Le Harve and close to Rouen. Unlike Normandy, the Germans cleared out and the Allies quickly moved in and just as quickly moved north toward Belgium. Elbeuf was a medieval textile town on the lower Seine. It was along the the dividing line between the Britsh 21st Army Group and American 12th Army Group. Both American and Canadian units passed through Elbeuf. The tank is one of the countless variants of the American Sherman. The reliable Sherman chasis was used for many specialized purposes, in this case a mobile platform for anti-aitcraft guns. Also notice the communications gear. At the onset of the War, he Germas had an advatahe because of their superior communications. This gradually changed as America turned on the Arsenal of Democracy. Not only did even small units have communications capable of calling up artillery and air support, but the massive Red Army was provided massive quantities of communicatins equioment.

The liberation of Paris (August 25, 1944) was one of the great moments of World War II. Once north of the Seine the Allies began to reach some of the horific battlefields of World War I, but this time there was little resistance. Nor was the campaign in northern France anything like the Normandy campaign. The German 7th Army was shattered. This was the result of the growing power of allied armies combined with Hitler's dissaterous mananagement if the Nirmabndy campaign such as the Mortain offensive. France has east-west rivers which could have proven defensive barriers, but the battering they suffered and the heavy equipment and supplies lost and that had to be abandoned meant that the 7th Army was no longer capable of making a stand. Most of the Germans in France had only one desire, to reach the preceived safety of the West Wall. Only in the far northwest did the Germans prepare to stand, using the difficult terraine of the Voges MJountains. The strategic situation also meant that major decisions about the defeat of Germany had to be made. Gen. Eisenhower was determinrd to continue the advance east and maintain the pressure on the retreating Germans. He had no intention at stopping at the Senine. This had been the original Overlord plan for D-Day. The question Eisenhower faced was how to proceed to achieve the most rapid defeat of Germany. After the D-Day Go decision, it would be the major decision he would make as Suprene Commander. Here the British and Americans were split. Field Marshall Montgomery wanted to make a war winning concentrated offensive north to cross the Rhine in the Netherlands. It would be conducted by the 21 Army Group (primarilky the British and Canadians) mand most of 12th Army Group (the most powerful American formation). They would drive into Belgium and the Netherland abd then cross the Rhine ino the Ruhr, the heart of industrial Germany. This was essentially what would become Market Garden. Gen Bradley favored a dual. more broad front thrust. He wiuld leavev 21 Army Group to drive into the Low Countries on its own. Most of the powerful American 12th Army Group would attack east to Metz and the Saar where they would cross the Rhine. The ultimate objective in both cases was the Ruhr without which Germay could no longer wage war. Eisenhower's major problem at his stage of the War was supplies. The Germans had held on to or destroyed the Channel ports. Most of the supplies for he Allies advance were still beung landed on Normandy beaches--which significantly restricted the quantities which could be delivered. Eisenhower who was having problems with Montgomery was skeptical of the British single thrust strategy, but Montgomery's plan offered favorable terraine and the shortest and least defended route to the Rhine. Moving east meant confrontung the Wesr Wall defenseswhuchg were beginning to harden. In addiution, the drive nort would offer more Channel ports (especially Antwerp) as well as rapidly over run V-weapon launch sites. Eisenhower provisonaly opted for Montgomery's single thrust, but awaited developments before making a final decision. Eisenhower's failure to definitively chose Montgomery's single thrust advance allowed Bradley to allot the resources to maintain Patton's drive toward Metz. This historical fortress city in the Rhineland, was just a few miles short of the Rhine and the Ruhr. And Gen. Paton who commanded the Third Army, with his historical pespective was focused like a laser on Metz. To reach Metz, Paton's Third Army has to cross major river barriers that an earlier geberation of Americans had to cross in World War I (the Marne, Vesle, Aisne, Meuse, and Moselle). The retreating and scattered Germans units in the area were only capable of buying a little time to delay the American advance and strengthen the West Wall defenses. The result was a continuation of the exhilarating experienced with the breakout from Normandy. American reconnaissance units and cavalry rushed forward to locate river crossings and to capture isolated German units with little motorized transport. XII Corps crossed the Marne and seized Chalons (August 29). They then rushed to establish a bridgehead over the Meuse (August 31). To the east, XX drove through the the storied World War I battlefields at Verdun and the Argonne in only days before crossing the Meuse (S eptember 1). Here one securing a beachhead (September 1). A pause was needed for needed supplies to reach the American forces. Further east on the shoulder of Montgonery's 21st Army Group, Hodges' First Army encountering a little more organized resistance , but sill only minor delaying actions.


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Created: 10:18 AM 5/13/2018
Last updated: 10:18 AM 5/13/2018