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Invasion of Normandy
The Invasion of Normandy was the invasion by and establishment of Western Allied forces in Normandy, during Operation Overlord in 1944 during World War II; the largest amphibious invasion to ever take place.
D-Day, the day of the initial assaults, was Tuesday 6 June 1944. Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on that day came from Canada, the Free French forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy.
The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings on five beaches codenamed Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword began and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed. Land forces used on D-Day deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth.
Battle of Saint-Lô
The Battle of Saint-Lô is one of the three conflicts in the Battle of the Hedgerows, which took place between July 9–24, 1944, just before Operation Cobra. Saint-Lô had fallen to Germany in 1940, and, after the Invasion of Normandy, the Americans targeted the city, as it served as a strategic crossroads. American bombardments caused heavy damage (up to 95% of the city was destroyed) and a high number of casualties, which resulted in the martyr city being called “The Capital of Ruins”, popularized in a report by Samuel Beckett.
Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II. American Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s intention was to take advantage of the German preoccupation with British and Canadian activity around the town of Caen, in Operation Goodwood, and immediately punch through the German defenses that were penning in his troops while the Germans were distracted and unbalanced. Once a corridor had been created, the First Army would then be able to advance into Brittany, rolling up the German flanks and releasing itself of the constraints imposed by operating in the Norman bocage countryside. After a slow start the offensive gathered momentum, and German resistance collapsed as scattered remnants of broken units fought to escape to the Seine. Lacking the resources to cope with the situation, the German response was ineffectual, and the entire Normandy front soon collapsed. Operation Cobra, together with concurrent offensives by the Second British and First Canadian Armies, was decisive in securing an Allied victory in the Normandy Campaign.
Having been delayed several times by poor weather, Operation Cobra commenced on 25 July with a concentrated aerial bombardment from thousands of Allied aircraft. Supporting offensives had drawn the bulk of German armored reserves toward the British and Canadian sector, and coupled with the general lack of men and materiel available to the Germans, it was impossible for them to form successive lines of defense. Units of VII Corps led the initial two-division assault, while other First Army corps mounted supporting attacks designed to pin German units in place. Progress was slow on the first day, but opposition started to crumble once the defensive crust had been broken. By 27 July, most organized resistance had been overcome, and VII and VIII Corps were advancing rapidly, isolating the Cotentin peninsula.
By 31 July, XIX Corps had destroyed the last forces opposing the First Army, and Bradley’s troops were finally freed from the bocage. Reinforcements were moved west by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge and employed in various counterattacks, the largest of which (codenamed Operation Lüttich) was launched on 7 August between Mortain and Avranches. Although this led to the bloodiest phase of the battle, it was mounted by already exhausted and understrength units, and had little effect other than to further deplete von Kluge’s forces. On 8 August, troops of the newly activated Third United States Army captured the city of Le Mans, formerly the German Seventh Army’s headquarters. Operation Cobra transformed the high-intensity infantry combat of Normandy into rapid maneuver warfare, and led to the creation of the Falaise pocket and the loss of the German position in northwestern France.