The Battle of the Falaise Pocket, fought during the Second World War from 12–21 August 1944, was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy. Taking its name from the pocket around the town of Falaise within which Army Group B, consisting of the German Seventh and Fifth Panzer Armies, became encircled by the advancing Western Allies, the battle is also referred to as the Falaise Gap after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape. The battle resulted in the destruction of the bulk of Germany’s forces west of the River Seine and opened the way to Paris and the German border.
Following Operation Cobra, the American breakout from the Normandy beachhead, rapid advances were made to the south and south-east by General George Patton’s Third Army. Despite lacking the resources to cope with both the U.S. penetration and simultaneous British and Canadian offensives south of Caen, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge—in overall command of Army Group B on the Western Front—was not permitted by Adolf Hitler to withdraw; instead, he was ordered to counterattack the Americans around Mortain. The remnants of four panzer divisions—which was all that von Kluge could scrape together—were not strong enough to make any impression on the U.S. First Army, and Operation Lüttich was a disaster that merely served to drive the Germans deeper into the Allied lines, leaving them in a highly dangerous position.
Seizing the opportunity to envelop von Kluge’s entire force, on 8 August the Allied ground forces commander General Bernard Montgomery ordered his armies to converge on the Falaise-Chambois area. With the U.S. First Army forming the southern arm, the British Second Army the base, and the Canadian First Army the northern arm of the encirclement, the Germans fought hard to keep an escape route open, although their withdrawal did not begin until 17 August. On 19 August, the Allies linked up in Chambois but in insufficient strength to seal the pocket. Gaps were forced in the Allied lines by desperate German assaults, the most significant and hard-fought being a corridor past elements of the Polish 1st Armoured Division, who had established a commanding position in the mouth of the pocket.
By the evening of 21 August, the pocket was closed for the last time, with around 50,000 Germans trapped inside. Although it is estimated that significant numbers managed to escape, German losses in both men and materiel were huge, and the Allies had achieved a decisive victory. Two days later Paris was liberated, and by 30 August the last German remnants had retreated across the Seine, effectively ending Operation Overlord.
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