CENTER OF MLITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1961
The campaign in the summer of 1944 related in this volume included some of the most spectacular ground action of the U.S. Army during World War II. It began with the slow and costly hedgerow fighting against determined German efforts to contain the Normandy beachhead; it entered its decisive stage when the breach of German defenses permitted full exploitation of the power and mobility of U.S. Army ground troops; and it reached the peak of brilliance with successive envelopments of principal German forces and the pursuit of their remnants north and east to free most of France, part of Belgium, and portions of the Netherlands. By late August the war in the west appeared to be almost over, but the tyranny of logistics gave the enemy time to rally at the fortified West Wall and delay surrender for another eight months.
In the European Theater subseries the backdrop for this volume is Cross-Channel Attack, which carries the story to 1 July. Breakout and Pursuit follows the U.S. First Army through 10 September (where The Siegfried Line Campaign picks up the narrative), and the U.S. Third Army through 31 August (where The Lorraine Campaign begins). The logistical factors that played so large a part in governing the pace and extent of combat operations are described in much greater detail in Volume I of Logistical Support of the Armies.
The tremendous scope of this campaign, and its partially improvised character, have left a heritage of controversies to which no final answers can be given. The author has had free access to the records and to many of the leading players in the drama, and his account should have wide appeal to the general reader as well as to the serious military student of grand tactics.
Washington 25, D.C.
15 June 1960
JAMES A. NORELL
Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History
Martin Blumenson, a graduate of Bucknell University, received M.A. degrees in History from Bucknell in 1940 and from Harvard University in 1942. Commissioned in the Army of the United States, he served as a historical officer of the Third and Seventh Armies in the European theater during World War II. After the war he taught history at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) and at Hofstra College. Recalled to active duty with the U.S. Army in 1950, he commanded a historical detachment in Korea before beginning work on Breakout and Pursuit in June 1952. He wrote the book while on active duty in the Office of the Chief of Military History. After a tour of duty as Historian, Joint Task Force SEVEN, he returned to OCMH as a civilian historian and is writing a volume on the war in the Mediterranean theater--Salerno to Cassino. His works include Special Problems of the Korean Conflict (Washington, 1952); The Atomic Weapons Tests in the Pacific, 1956 (Washington, 1957); two essays in Command Decisions (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1959); and numerous articles in military and historical journals.
Covering the period 1 July to 11 September 1944, Breakout and Pursuit takes up the story of the European campaign at the time when the Allies considered their cross-Channel beachhead well established on the Continent. How the Allies exploited the initial success of their landings and drove from the shores of Normandy to the German border is the subject of the volume.
The events of the period comprise a rich variety of military experience. Virtually every sort of major operation involving co-ordinated action of the combined arms is found: the grueling positional warfare of the battle of the hedgerows, the breakthrough of the main enemy position, exploitation, encirclement, and pursuit, as well as a number of actions falling under the general heading of special operations--an assault river crossing, the siege of a fortress, and night combat, among others. In their variety and complexity, these operations frequently bring into sharp focus the delicate problems of coalition warfare.
The point of view is from the top down--how the situation appeared to the commanders and what decisions they made to solve their problems. Though the author has tried to present at some time or other the situation at each command echelon on the Allied side, the most consistent observation post is at the corps level where, because of the nature of the operations, particular independence of judgment and great initiative in action were required.
The emphasis is on the ground combat performed by U.S. Army troops. The activities of the other Allied forces and of the opposing Germans are included to the extent required to bring the American effort into proper perspective. Air support and logistical arrangements have been detailed when necessary for a better understanding of ground operations.
The attempt has been made to fulfill two objectives, each of which has sometimes excluded the other. On the one hand, the author has endeavored to present material of interest to the career soldier, who may seek instruction and who may perhaps be prompted to further study. On the other hand, the author has tried to write an account of interest to the general reader, who may be motivated by curiosity and the hope of learning in some detail about the conduct of the campaign, the expenditure of men and materiel, and the problems that face military leaders engaged in war.
The dates in the volume are all in 1944 unless otherwise noted.
The author has had the privilege and pleasure of working with many who have lightened his task and to whom he is greatly indebted. Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff, Deputy Chief Historian for Cartography, gave liberally of his military sophistication, perspective, and wisdom; his contributions to the military content and language of this volume were considerable. Mr. James B. Hodgson did most of the research in the German records; his knowledge of enemy operations was always a tonic to an author struggling to reflect both sides of the same battle in a single mirror. Miss Mary Ann Bacon, the editor, saved the author embarrassment by discovering before it was too late many inconsistencies and contradictions in fact as well as in style. Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, the former Chief Historian, by his very presence an inspiration in the cause of scholarship, gave invaluable help in military as well as historical matters during the writing and revision of the manuscript.
Mrs. Lois Aldridge at the Federal Records Center, Alexandria, was never too busy to locate and make available pertinent documents, which otherwise would not have come to the author's attention. Mrs. Helen V. Whittington, copy editor, performed a painstaking task with cheerful patience. Ruth Alexandra Phillips selected the photographs. Nicholas J. Anthony compiled the Index.
Among those to whom the author owes a special debt of appreciation are the present Chief of Military History, Brig. Gen. James A. Norell, as well as Maj. Gens. Orlando Ward, Albert C. Smith, and John H. Stokes, former Chiefs of Military History, and Cols. George G. O'Connor and Ridgway P. Smith, Jr., former Chiefs of the War Histories Division.
The work was undertaken under the guidance of Dr. Hugh Cole and the supervision of Dr. Roland A. Ruppenthal, former chiefs of the European section. It was completed under the direction of Mr. Charles B. Mac-Donald, Senior Historical Adviser of the World War II Branch, whose understanding of military operations, felicity of phrase, and patient and unsparing counsel put him without question first among those who helped to give the volume whatever value it may have.
To these and many more go my sincere thanks.
For the facts presented, the interpretations made, and the conclusions drawn, for inadequacies and errors, I alone am responsible.
15 Junen 1960
Page Forward v The Author vi Preface vii Chapter PART ONE
In the Wake of the Invasion
I. The Allies 3 Mission 3 Forces 7 Terrain 10 Tactics 13 II. The Enemy 17 The Machinery of War 17 The Changing Strategy 20 Tactical Dispostions 29 III. The Situation 36 American 36 German 47 PART TWO
The Battle of the Hedgerows
IV. The Offensive Launched 53 The Preparations 53 The Defenses 58 Poterie Ridge 60 Mont Castre 63 Montgardon Ridge 72 V. The Offensive Broadened 78 The Carentan--Périers Isthmus 78 The Vire and Taute Bridgehead 90 VI. The Attempt to Exploit 102 VII. The Offensive Continued 119 The Battle for Caen 119 Toward Lessay 123 Toward Périers 128 Counterattack 133 Toward the Périers-St. Lo Road 140 VIII. The Battle for St. Lô 146 The Objective 146 Hill 192 149 Down the Martinville Ridge 153 Hill 122 159 "Come Hell or High Water" 163 A Legend is Born 166 IX. The Conclusions 175 The American Point of View 175 The German Point of View 180 PART THREE
X. The Breakthrough Idea 185 In Search of a Panacea 185 In Search of a Breakthrough: GOODWOOD 188 XI. COBRA Preparations 197 Preliminary Operations 198 The Troops 204 The Plot Against Hitler 210 The Breakthrough Plan 213 XII. COBRA 224 The Opposition 224 Bombardment 228 Effect on the Enemy 238 Groud Attack 241 XIII. The Breakthrough 247 German Reaction 247 Penetration 249 Commitment of Armor 252 Limited Exploitation 255 XIV. The Breakthrough Developed 264 The Second Thrust Toward Coutances 264 The Pressure Force 266 COBRA Completed 272 XV. Exploiting the Breach 282 The COBRA Diversion 282 The Post-COBRA Plan 286 East of the Vire River 290 A Clash of Spearheads 295 XVI. Breakthrough Becomes Breakout 305 The Outflanking Force 305 The Breakout to Avranches 309 XVII. The "Incalculable" Results 323 The Riesensaurerei 323 The Explanation 325 The Allied Outlook 331 PART FOUR
Breakout Into Brittany
XVIII. Plans, Personalities, and Problems 339 German Plans 339 A New Army 343 Personalities and Concepts 347 Problems 351 XIX. Rennes, Lorient, and Nantes 357 XX. "Take Brest" 369 XXI. St. Malo and the North Shore 389 The Decision at St. Malo 389 Sweeping the North Shore 391 "To the Last Stone" 393 The Reduction of Dinard 399 Seige Operations 402 The Citadel 406 Cèzembre 411 PART FIVE
Breakout to the East
XXII. Week of Decision 419 The German Decision 419 Commitment of a Coprs 424 OVERLORD Modified 430 "Don't Be Surprised" 432 XXIII. Opportunities and Intentions 440 The American Task 440 The German Task 442 The Drive to Mortain 444 The Battle for Vire 449 Montgomery's Intentions 454 XXIV. The Mortain Counterattack 457 German Intentions 457 The Attack 460 The American Reactions 465 PART SIX
Encirclement and the Drive to the Seine
XXV. Encirclement 479 Envelopment from the North 479 The German Dilemma 481 The Battle at Mortain 486 Concepts of Encirclement 492 Envelopment from the South 497 XXVI. The Argentan-Falaise Pocket 506 Bradley's Decision 506 The Canadians at Falaise 509 The German Decision to Withdraw 510 The German Decision to Withdraw 515 The Allied Decision to Close the Pocket 523 XXVII. Closing the Pocket 528 The Beginning of the End 528 Enter Model, Exit Kluge 532 The Pocket Closed 537 The German Breakout 542 Escape 547 The Results 556 XXVIII. The Drive to the Seine 559 South to the Loire 559 The Drive to the East 563 To the Seine and Across 572 The Second Encirclement Attempt 575 Through the Paris-Orléans Gap 583 XXIX. The Liberation of Paris 590 Allied Plans 590 German Hopes 591 French Aims 594 The Critical Days 595 The French Point of View 598 Eisenhower's Decision 602 On to Paris 606 The Liberation 610 The Aftermath 618 PART SEVEN
XXX. The Battle for Brest 631 The Post-OVERLORD Decision 631 The Problems at Brest 634 The Fight for Brest 640 The Best Laid Plans 655 XXXI. The Drive Beyond the Seine 657 The Framework of the Pursuit 657 Patton's Advance to the Meuse 664 The Main Effort 670 XXXII. Toward the Heart of Germany 676 The Mons Pocket 676 Broad Front versus Narrow 684 The Nature of the Pursuit 688 To the West Wall 692 The End of the Line 696 Appendices A. Table of Equivalent Ranks 703 B. Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross 704 Bibliographical Note 707 Glossary Basic Military Map Symbols Index 723 MAPS 1. The Bocage Country 7 2. Order of Battle OB WEST, 2 July 1944 61 3. Attack of VIII Corps, 3-7 July 1944 137 4. Attack of VIII Corps, 4-7 July 1944 169 5. Attack of XIX Corps West of the Vire River, 7-10 July 1944 227 6. Battle for Caen, 8-9 July 1944 232 7. Panzer Lehr Attack, 11 July 1944 315 8. Attack on Hill 192, 11 July 1944 150 9. Attack of Second British Army, 18-21 July 1944 190 10. Operation COBRA, VII Corps Plan, 20 July 1944 216 11. Reduction of St. Malo, 4-17 August 1944 395 12. XV Corps, 208 August 1944 426 13. First U.S. Army, 1-6 August 1944 445 14. 12th Army Group Plan, 8 August 1944 493 15. Normandy Front, 7-11 August 1944 496 16. XV Corps, 9-13 August, 1944 498 17. Argentan-Falaise Pocket, 12-16 August 1944 512 18. Into the City, 25 August 616 Maps I-XLIII are in Inverse Order Inside Back Cover I. Normandy Front, 2 July 1944 II. First Army Front West of the Vire River, 8-15 July 1944 III. The Battle of St Lo, 11-18 July 1944 IV. German Troop Disposition, Night 24-25 July 1944 V. Breakthrough, 25-27 July 1944 VI. Enlarging the Breach, 28-29 July 1944 VII. Exploitation, 30-31 July 1944 VIII. Breakout into Brittany, 1-12 August 1944 IX. Regrouping of German Forces, 1-6 August 1944 X. German Counterattack at Mortain, 7 August 1944 XI. Closing the Argentan-Falaise Pocket, 17-19 August 1944 XII. Drive to the Seine, 16-25 August 1944 XIII. Liberation of Paris, 23-25 August 1944 XIV. Battle for Brest, 25 August-18 September 1944 XV. Pursuit to the German Border, 26 August-10 September 1944 ILLUSTRATIONS Typical Cotentin Terrain 5 General Dwight D. Eisenhower 7 General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery 8 Hedgerow Position in the Cotentin 13 Adolf Hitler 18 Generaloberst Alfred Jodl 19 Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel 22 Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt 23 Generaloberst Paul Hausser 46 Generalfeldmarschall Guenther von Kluge 47 La Haye-du-Puits 56 Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett 92 Stone Bridge at Airel 98 German Bicycle Brigade 103 Congestion at Airel Bridge 108 British Troops in Caen 123 Shelled Church in Sainteny 132 German Panther Tanks 139 St. Lô 147 Martinville Ridge 155 Sunken Road Near Carillon 160 German HedgerowPostion 161 After Securing Hill 122 165 Infantrymen in St. Lô 170 Ruins of St. Lô 171 Symbol of St. Lô 173 Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey 188 Advancing Toward St. Germain 202 Rhino Tank with Hedgerow Cutter 206 Advancing Toward Périers-St. Lô Road 230 155-mm Howitzer 232 Waiting for the COBRA Bombardment 234 After the COBRA Bombardment 235 9th Division Troops After COBRA Bombardment 237 Troops Rolling Through Canisy 255 Engineers Clearing Mines in Lessay. 268 Wrecked German Armor Near Roncey 278 Tessy-sur-Vire 293 Knocked-out American Tanks 312 Abandoned German Equipment 320 Destroyed Enemy Vehicles in Avranches 321 General Bradley with Lt. Gens. Courtney H. Hodges and George S. Patton, Jr. 348 Pontaubault Bridge 371 Beach at Dinard 401 Artillerymen Firing 3-inch Gun 404 Street Fighting in St. Malo 405 The Citadel, St. Malo 410 Interior of the Citadel 411 Bombing of Ile de Cèzembre 412 St. Malo Prisoners 414 Maj. Gen. Wade H. Haislip 424 Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy 425 Troops Advancing Frm Juvigny 446 Clearing Operations in Vire 453 Artillery Observation Post 459 North of Mortain 468 Scurrying Along Hedgerow 487 Antiaircraft Postion Near St. Hilaire 488 Through the Rubble of Mortain 489 Wrecked German Armor, Sourdeval Area 491 Mamers 501 Signal Corps Troops in Domfront 518 Le Bourg-St. Léonard 526 Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model 531 Generl der Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl 539 A Polish Soldier 542 Truckloads of Prisoners 554 The Pocket Deserted 556 11th Infantrymen 560 Maj. Gens. Walton H. Walker and Lindsay McD. Silvester 569 Armored Bivouac Area 571 German Removing Boobytrap 573 Ferrying Jeeps Across the Seine 585 Advancing Under Fire Toward Fontainebleau 587 Allied Airlift, Paris 605 Maj. Gen. Jacques Philippe Leclerc 611 French Soldiers Attack Toward Châteaufort 612 In the Rue de Rivoli 617 General von Choltitz and High-Ranking German Prisoners 619 General Charles de Gaulle 621 French Resistance Fighters 623 Parisian's Welcome to General de Gaulle 627 Supllies for Brest 637 Ancient Wall and Moat, Brest 639 Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton 640 2d Division Troops Near Brest 645 Gun Crew Firing 646 Troops Fighting in Brest 647 Remains of Fort Keranroux 648 Fort Montbarey 649 Generalmajor Hans von der Mosel 650 Generalleutnant Herman B. Ramcke 651 Drydock Destruction at Brest 654 Demolished Bridge at Châlons-sur-Marne 665 Liberated 689 Dragon's Teeth, the Siegfried Line 698 Illustrations are from the Department of Defense files.