Edited by Sir James Butler

Victory in the West

Volume I
The Battle of Normandy

Major L.F. Ellis
C.V.O., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C.

Captain G.R.G. Allen, C.B.E., D.S.O., R.N.
Lieut-Colonel A.E. Walrhurst
Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb
G.C.B, K.B.E, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C.

LONDON: 1962

The authors of the Military Histories have been
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First published 1962

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Foreword xvii
CHAPTER I: The Origins of 'OVERLORD' 1
      Dunkirk to Pearl Harbour 1
  Anglo-American co-operation 3
  Combined Chiefs of Staff 4
  North Africa landings, November 1942 7
  Development of the Combined Bomber Offensive 9
  Appointment of COSSAC 10
  COSSAC's outline plan approved, August 1943 17
  Combined Bomber Offensive and OVERLORD 21
  Appointment of Supreme Allied Commander, December 1943 24
CHAPTER II. The Shaping and Command of OVERLORD 27
  Allied build-up in Britain 28
  Command and staff appointments 30
  Enlargement of plan 32
  Assault craft problems 34
  Subsidiary landing in southern France? 36
  OVERLORD's start postponed 36
  Directive to General Eisenhower 39
  Command of Allied Strategic Air Forces 40
CHAPTER III. The Situation in France 45
  The Vichy régime 45
  French Resistance and General de Gaulle 48
  Allied help 50
  Resistance in the Low Countries 51
  Evolution of German defence policy 52
  Appreciation by on Rundstedt, October 1943 54
  Rommel to command an army group 56
  Enemy situation, early 1944 56
  German war production and new weapons 59
CHAPTER IV. The Plan of Campaign 63
  NEPTUNE Initial Joint Plan, February 1944 63
  Naval, air and army plans 65
  Review of plans, April 1944 80
  Eisenhower's view of future strategy 82
  Administration and maintenance 83
  Artificial harbours ('MULBERRIES') 87
  COnditions governing choice of H-hour and D-day 91
CHAPTER V. Preparatory Operations 93
  New directive to strategic air forces 94
  'Big Week' and air superiority 94
  Attacks on airfields and radar 96
  Transportation Plan 97
  Assault on enemy railway system 98
  On coastal defences and other military targets 102
  Deception and reconnaissance 103
  Counter-offensive against V-weapons 105
  Effort expended and results achieved 109
CHAPTER VI. Developments in France 115
  Hitler's 'Atlantic Wall' 115
  German Army in the West 117
  Anti-invasion measures redoubled 119
  Von Rundstedt and Rommel differ 119
  German air and naval forces in the West 120
  Sabotage by the Resistance 121
  Security and de Gaulle 125
  Allied cover plans 127
  German forecast of Allied intentions 128
CHAPTER VII. The End of the Beginning 131
  Naval preparations 131
  Composition of Twenty-First Army Group 132
  Final exercises and assembly of shipping 133
  Briefing, maps and waterproofing 136
  Rôle of airborne divisions 137
  D-day provisionally 5th June 140
  Naval movements begin and midget submarines leave 140
  Postponement 141
  D-day finally decided for 6th June 144
  Assault forces sail 144
CHAPTER VIII. D-Day: Airborne Assault and Opening Bombardment 149
  The airborne divisions open assault 149
  Bomber Command attacks coastal defences 158
  Tactical surprise achieved 159
  Further measures to deceive 159
  Naval bombardment begins 161
  Allied fighters cover the fleets 161
  Assault forces reach lowering positions and deploy 164
  American bombers attack beaches 166
CHAPTER IX. D-Day: Seaborne Landings 169
  Run-in and touch-down 169
  50th Division at GOLD 173
  3rd Canadian Division at JUNO 178
  3rd British Division at SWORD 184
  Americans at UTAH and OMAHA 187
  Failure of German Air Force and Atlantic Wall 193
CHAPTER X. D-Day: Advance Inland 197
  German dispositions and reactions 197
  3rd British Division advance toward Caen 201
  6th Airborne Division reinforced 204
  3rd Canadian Division advance in centre 206
  50th Division close on Bayeux 209
  Allied air forces range the battlefield 211
  American progress at OMAHA and UTAH 213
  Germans prepare counter-attack 216
  Beach organisation and anchorage defence 217
  Casualties and the day's effort 222
CHAPTER XI. Consolidating Gains 225
  Army operations, 7th to 9th June 225
  Second Army repulses German armour 228
  First American Army's lodgements expanded 232
  German Air Force impotent 233
  Allied air operations delay enemy reinforcements 234
  Allied landings behind schedule 239
  Maritime operations, 6th to 16th June 240
CHAPTER XII. Expansion of the Bridgehead 247
  Second Army to outflank Caen 247
  Small gains east of the Orne 248
  Right repulsed at Villers-Bocage 255
  Americans take Caumont and cut Cotentin peninsula 256
  Von Rundstedt and Rommel report situation dangerous 257
  Hitler demands counter-attack 259
  MULBERRIES, small harbours and build-up 263
  Flying bombs start, 13th June 266
  Hitler visits his commanders in France 268
CHAPTER XIII. The Storm, 'EPSOM' and Cherbourg 271
  Storm delays Caen operations 271
  Second Army opens EPSOM operation, 25th June 277
  Heavy panzer counter-attacks beaten off 283
  Americans capture Cherbourg 288
  Maritime successes 289
  Naval reorganisation 293
  NEPTUNE officially ended, 30th June 294
  Von Rundstedt and Rommel visit Hitler in Germany 296
CHAPTER XIV. The Capture of Caen 299
  Maritime operations 299
  Effects of storm and los of American MULBERRY 301
  Normandy base and build-up 302
  Summary of Allied air operations since D-day 305
  Opposing armies' strengths at end of June 307
  Montgomery's policy unchanged 308
  Second Army takes Caen, 0th July 311
  Americans fight for St. Lô 318
  Von Rundstedt replaced by von Kluge 321
  Rommel injured and evacuated 326
CHAPTER XV. Operation 'GOODWOOD' 327
  Evolution of the plan 327
  Object to facilitate American break-out 330
  Preliminary air bombardments 337
  Progress of Second Army 340
  Additional German tanks drawn to British front 347
  Americans take St. Lô, 19th July 348
  Postponement of attempt to break out 348
  Public concern and SHAEF criticism 352
CHAPTER XVI. The Plot to Murder Hitler 361
  Earlier conspiracies 363
  Attitude of German commanders in West 366
  Plot misfires and Hitler reacts promptly 369
  Events at von Kluge's headquarters and in Paris 370
  Consequences for the German Army 374
CHAPTER XVII. The American Break-out 377
  First Canadian Army operational, 23rd July 377
  American break-out succeeds 382
  Enemy's left shattered and way to Brittany open 383
  Germans start reinforcing from Pas de Calais 385
  New British attack near Vire 386
  German generals discuss withdrawal 395
  Hitler admits its possibility, 31st July 395
  Achievements of Allies' heavy bombers 399
CHAPTER XVIII. Beginning of the Envelopment 401
  British hold German counter-attacks 401
  Third American Army operational, 1st August 402
  One corps to clear Brittany 403
  Main American forces to wheel left 403
  Hitler orders counter-thrust to west coast 405
  Montgomery orders advance to R. Seine 407
  Allied armies push ahead 408
  Hitler's counter-thrust defeated near Mortain 413
  Explosive motor boats, 'human torpedoes' and U-boats 416
CHAPTER XIX. Falaise 419
  Canadians attack towards falaise, 7th August 419
  Second Army progress 425
  American corps turns north from le Mans 425
  Bradley sends Third Army eastwards 429
  Canadians capture Falaise 432
  Hitler sanctions withdrawals 433
  Model replaces von Kluge 434
  Allies land in southern France, 15th August 437
CHAPTER XX. Advance to the Seine 439
  Germans in a shrinking pocket 439
  Allied air attacks devastating 442
  Gap finally closed, 21st August 447
  Allied and German intentions 449
  Americans at Seine wheel down left bank 453
  British and Canadians close to Seine 454
  Air attacks on enemy's escape routes 455
  Paris liberated, 25th August 457
  Eisenhower and Montgomery differ on future strategy 459
CHAPTER XXI. The Seine to the Somme 465
  Montgomery's objectives include Channel ports and Antwerp 465
  Passage of the Seine 466
  Second Army crosses the Somme 470
  Americans abreast and Canadians in Dieppe 471
  Le Havre blockaded from land and sea 471
  U-boats lose heavily 471
  Allied air operations 472
  Supply problem of fast-moving armies 473
  Eisenhower defines tasks 474
  Assumes command in the field, 1st September 476
  Naval contribution to OVERLORD 477
  Merchant Navy's part 478
  Artificial harbours, petrol and supplies 479
  Maintenance area and airfields 481
  Army specialist corps and services 481
  Contribution of the Air Forces 484
  German generalship 489
  Allied fighting efficiency 491
  Montgomery's conduct of the battle 493
  Allied progress on other European fronts 496



I. Directive to Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force 499
II. Allied Naval Forces in Operation NEPTUNE 501
  Part I. Command 501
  II. Organisation of Task Forces showing associated Army formations 503
  III. Bombarding Forces 504
  IV. Summary of Forces assigned to Operation NEPTUNE 507
  V. Landing ships and craft 511
III. German Naval Forces in the West, June 1944 519
IV. The Allied Armies 521
  Part I. Forces engaged on the Continent 521
  II. Notes on British Army organisation 533
  III. Notes on American Army organisation 540
  IV. British Army weapons, vehicles and equipment 541
  V. Tanks and anti-tank guns 545
  VI. Measures to deal with the German mortar 550
V. The Enemy 552
  Part I. German Command in the West 552
  II. German land forces encountered by the Allies 553
VI. Allied Air Forces 556
  Part I. Forces engaged 556
  II. Notes on Allied aircraft employed 563
VII. German Air Force in the West 567
  Part I. Organisation and strength 567
  II. Notes on German aircraft employed 569
VIII. Civil Affairs in France 571
IX. OVERLORD and French Resistance 573
X. CODE NAMES Mentioned in Text 575



Central Europe--At the outbreak of war, 3rd September 1939 15
The Normandy Battlefield 27
The British Assault Area 197
The Odon Battlefield 275
St. Lô to Falaise 389


German Army Dispositions, dawn 6th June 1944 120
The British Assault Area--Situation midnight 6th June 212
The American Assault Area--Situation midnight 6th June 222
Situation morning 10th June 248
Villers-Bocage, 11th to 15th June 256
Situation midnight 17th June 262
The EPSOM Battle, 24th June to 1st July 286
Situation midnight 30th June 288
Capture of Caen, 7th to 9th July 312
The GOODWOOD Battle Plan 350
The GOODWOOD Battle, 18th to 20th July 352
Situation midnight 24th July 378
The Break-out, 24th to 31st July 380
Situation midnight 31st July 386
Caumont and Mt. Pinçon, 29th July to 6th August 410
Mortain Counter-Attack, 6th and 7th August 414
The Envelopment, 1st to 6th August 428
Capture of Falaise, 7th to 16th August 432
The Falaise Pocket, 16th to 20th August 448
The Crossing of the Seine and Advance to the Somme, 21st August to 1st September 470



Combined Chiefs of Staff Organisation 4
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force 38
German Armies in the West, June 1944 57
Assault Force--Naval organisation 67
Allied Air Forces--Outline order of battle, 6th June 1944 74
Operation 'NEPTUNE'--Air cover for the assault of D-day 76
Assault Force--Army organisation 79
British Supply System 86
MULBERRY Harbour at Arromanches, 4th September 1944--D+90 days 89
Zerstörungskarte Mai 1944 (Railway Destruction) 112
Operation 'NEPTUNE'--Convoy Routes and naval covering forces 136
Fly-in Routes of the American Airborne Divisions 157
Operation 'NEPTUNE'--The naval bombardment 168
Organisation of the Seaborne Assault--British Second Army 172
'KING' Beach in 'GOLD Area--Showing the German defenses as known to Allied Intelligence, May 1944 176
Organisation of the Seaborne Assault--United States First Army 189
Beach Organisation--British Sector 218
Seaward Defence System--Assault Area 220
British and German forces, July 1944 333
Battle Forecast Diagrams--I 357
Battle Forecast Diagrams--II and III 359
Zerstörungskarte Juni, Juli 1944 (Railway Destruction) 400
The Rear Maintenance Area--Layout early August 1944 482
Europe, 5th June and 1st September 1944 495
OVERLORD--Chain of Command 500
German Naval Command Group West, June 1944 518
German Air Force in the West, June 1944--Location of headquarters 568



A majority of the illustrations are from copyright photographs supplied by the Imperial War Museum. In selecting the most suitable from its vast national collection the help of the Director and Staff of the Museum is gratefully acknowledged. Acknowledgements are also made of the help given by the U.S. Department of the Army, the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Air Ministry and the National Maritime Museum in supplying photographs which were not otherwise available.

1. General Paget Following page 30
2. General Morgan 30
3. General Eisenhower 30
4. Air Marshal Tedder 30
5. Admiral Ramsay 80
6. Admiral Kirk 80
7. Admiral Vian 80
8. General Montgomery 80
9. General Bradley 80
10. General Dempsey 80
11. General Eisenhower, General Brereton, Air Marshal Coningham, General Vandenberg, Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory 96
12. British Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Cunningham, Field-Marshal Brooke, Air Marshal Portal, Field-Marshal Dill, General Ismay 96
13. The President with the British and Canadian Prime Ministers. Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Mackenzie King 96
14. Field-Marshal von Rundstedt 144
15. Field-Marshal ROmmel 144
16. Field-Marshal von Kluge 144
17. Field-Marshal Model 144
  Preparation for D-day  
18.     Aircraft for the British airborne assault 144
19.     Landing craft for the naval assault 144
20. Enemy beach obstacles 160
21. Engineer tanks of the 79th Armoured Division 160
22. Mine-clearing (flail) tank 160
  Airborne Assault  
23.     Gliders near Ranville
24.     Bénouville bridge and gliders of coup de main party
  Seaborne Approach  
25.     British warships open fire 192
26.     Assault craft head for the beaches 192
  Landing on D-day  
27.     Infantry and amphibious (DD) tank 192
27.     Royal Marine Commandos 192
29.     Canadian troops 208
30.     Follow-up units 208
31. Beach organisation taking shape 208
32. MULBERRY harbour under construction 208
33. Rocket-firing Typhoon 280
34. General de Gaulle returns to France 280
35. Air Marshal Harris 280
36. General Doolittle 280
37. General Spaatz 280
38. Lancasters of Bomber Command attack armoured divisions near Villers-Bocage 280
  Air attacks on railways  
39.     Near Paris 280
40.     At Vire in Normandy 280
41. Spitfires in flight 320
42. Air Marshal Sholto Douglas 320
43. Air Marshal Hill 320
44. In the Normandy bocage 320
45. In the Normandy bocage 320
46. General Hodges 336
47. General Patton 336
48. General Crerar 336
49. Lancaster bomber and Spitfire fighter 336
50. Cromwell and Sherman tanks advance south of Caen 336
51. Infantry with Churchill tanks attack in the cornfields 336
52. German dual-purpose 88-mm gun 424
53. Knocked-out German Tiger tank 424
54. British medium (5.5-in.) gun 424
55. Shermans in the Caumont country 424
56. ROcket-firing Typhoons over the Falaise 'pocket' 424
57. German transport destroyed by air attack 424
58. Knocked-out German Panther tank 424
59. Six-barrelled German mortar ('nebelwerfer') 424
60. Mosquito of Coastal Command 476
61. Seine bridges, old and new 476
62. Trail of a beaten army at the Seine 476
63. Advance of a victorious army from the Somme 476



A CAMPAIGN which began with the greatest assault that has ever been made on a fortified and strongly defended coast by combined sea, land and air forces, and ended with the total defeat and unconditional surrender of Germany, must hold an outstanding position in military history. Such was the Allied campaign in North-West Europe in 1944 and 1945, of which the British operations in particular are the subject of these volumes.

Before describing how it was fought and won, the reader may be reminded of two under-lying considerations about which there can be no dispute.

This campaign could not have been fought at all if the Allies had not possessed the power to make full use of the sea and air.

All the Allied forces which defeated Germany in the West and all their material equipment reached the Continent from overseas. The combined maritime power expressed by the Allies' naval and air forces and their merchant shipping enabled the to control and use sea communications stretching thousands of miles across the oceans of the world. Had the Allies not been able to transport their strength overseas how little would it have availed them. Hitler on his successors might still be holding in thrall most of western Europe.

Moreover, the Allies' mastery in the air was not only a necessary ingredient of their maritime power but of all operations of war. The most significant revolution of warfare during the present century has been effected by the development of air power. The essential part it played in the war against Germany will appear as Allied operations are described.

Yet in spite of the Allies; maritime power, the strength of their armies, and their almost complete mastery in the air,

the campaign could hardly have been fought successfully in 1944-1945 if Germany had not at the same time been fighting for life against Russia.

To measure the relative strengths of armies it is usual to take a division as the yardstick, thought divisions vary greatly in size, composition and fighting value. In June 1944, Germany had some sixty divisions with which to fight the Allies on the western front; at the same time she had over two hundred divisions fighting the Russian armies on the eastern front and about twenty divisions opposing the Allied armies in Italy. In the course of the war relative strengths changed, but it is certainly true that the western Allies defeated much


less than half of the German forces and that much more than half were defeated by Russia--assisted by over £400,000,000 of war material provided by her western Allies. In appraising the conduct of the western operations these fundamental facts should not be forgotten.

Apart from its size, the dramatic completeness of the Allied victory, and the fact that it destroyed Hitler's Nazi régime and freed western Europe from German domination, the campaign has several distinctive features which add to its military significance.

In the first place Allied co-operation, built on a foundation of Angl-American partnership, was closer and more effective than in any former war. This was indeed the key to success. In this history attention is focused on operations under British command. That must not seem to imply under-valuation of Britain's allies; American forces were responsible for a major share of the fighting and of the Allied victory but it must also be remembered that French, Polish, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak fighting men also contributed to the Allied victory, so fare as they were able. The American history is being written by their own historians and several volumes are already published; we are greatly indebted for permission to use their historical studies and the results of their research. Here only enough is told of American operations to explain the conduct and progress of the fighting and the setting in which their operations took place. We also owe much to the work done by Canadian historians and gratefully acknowledge their help in describing Canadian operations under British command.

Another noteworthy feature of the campaign was the successful conjunction of sea, land and air forces in combined operations. The potential unity of military power was realised more fully than ever before and in planning, training and execution the three Services combined their distinctive skills to weave the final pattern of victory. The establishment of a British Combined Operations Headquarters was evidence of the new emphasis on inter-Service co-operation.

During the years that preceded the opening of the assault in the West the Allies had enlarged their experience of warfare with Germany in North Africa and Italy and had greatly developed their military strength. Science was called on increasingly to reinforce military knowledge and full use was made of technical skill and of organised industrial capacity. For their conclusive defeat of Germany's armed forces the Allies were equipped with advantages that no invading army had ever enjoyed before. As in every war human courage, character and skill were ultimately deciding factors, but in all three Services the human element was supported by unparalleled wealth of material power, scientifically developed and supplied on an unprecedented scale through the faithful and sustained labours of the civil population. The millions of men and women engaged in


war production knew that they were indeed essential partners of those in the fighting Services, and the latter gained not only material but moral support form this knowledge of their common purpose.

Yet military success depends largely on leadership, as does the use in wartime of a nation's human and material resources. It is perhaps to the political leadership of the British and American peoples as well as to the quality of their respective military leaders and of the forces they commanded that history will largely attribute the Allied victory in the West.


This account of the British share in the campaign will be published in two volumes. The present volume contains the story up to the end of August 1944; the second will describe the remainder of the campaign which ended with victory in May 1945.

Our account is based mainly on the vast quantity of contemporary records of all three Services and of those captured form the enemy. References to published sources have been given but our far more numerous references to contemporary documents, which are not available for public inspection, are included only in a confidential edition. This should be available for use by students when the archives are opened.

We have had the advantage of personal advice and help from many of the leading commanders who were concerned and from members of the Editor's Advisory Panel. We are greatly indebted to them. We also wish to thank Mrs. R. Donald, Mrs. H. Southern, Miss D.J. Dawson and Lieut.-Colonel G. W. Harris who at various stages have helped us in our researchers; Mr. B.M. Melland, Mr. R.R.A. Wheatley and Mr. A.M. Sefi for the study and translation of captured German documents; and Mr. D.K. Purle who, under the guidance of Colonel T.M. Penney, has drawn all the maps and diagrams. We are deeply grateful to them and we acknowledge thankfully how much we owe to their work. We have learnt much from the criticism and counsel fo Sir James Butler and we thank him for his unfailing kindness and help.

We have had unrestricted access to naval, army and air force records and to other relevant documents which are not available to the public, and complete freedom in using them; the Historical Sections of the Cabinet Office and the Service Ministries have been consistently helpful and we have never been asked to modify our text in order to conform to an 'official' view. What is written in the following chapters is our own view of the campaign, formed after very careful study. For any errors of fact or judgement we alone are responsible.


December 1960


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