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Operation Suzerain (Operation European Freedom)

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Operation Suzerain
DateNovember 17th, 1950 - 1951
LocationNormandy
ResultGerman Minor Victory
Belligerents
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945) Nazi Germany Flag of the United States United States of America
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom,
Flag of France Free French,
Strength
Axis:

1,000,000 men,
657 tanks,
120 aircraft

Allies:
1,100,000 men,
700 tanks,
611 aircraft
Casualties
Military casualties:
108,021 killed,

42,212 wounded
112 missing

Military casualties:203,126 killed,

89,383 wounded,
1,001 missing

Opposing sides

United States/British/Free French

The USA's victory was now only a matter of time. The Third Reich was on the defensive ever since the abysmal failure of Gotterdammerung and the liberation of Britain. But to force peace terms on Hitler, they had to breach the now reinforced Atlantic wall, which was no mean feat.

The Armies of the Allies were mainly equipped with American Equipment, like the M4 Super Sherman, the M26 Pershing and the M47 Patton battle tanks. M26 Chafee light tanks were also on hand. The Allies had Partial Air Superiority.

The Free French were ready to do their part, sabotaging German Supply routes and ambushing German Columns.

Normandy Map

Greater German Reich

The German OKW knew that the writing was on the wall, but they still had several cards to play. One of them was the Atlantic wall itself; another was to stop the mass of first rate German Divisions in the Area.

The Germans had large numbers of the Leopard 1 Battle tank, fast and equipped with a powerful 105mm Gun. Large numbers of Panther and Panther II Battle tanks were still in service. The Tiger II was also there, though now on the verge of obsolescence. Two battalions of Maus super heavy tanks were also ready to move to the front.

The Luftwaffe was in dire straits. The Allies had bled it almost white.

Order of battle

Order of battle of Nazi Germany:


Order of battle of the invading forces:








Operation Poseidon

Allied Invasion Force

Line up of Opposing Forces

The American Landings

The American Landings were to Capture Caen and Bayeux, and Drive for Paris

Omaha Beach

The American forces that landed on Omaha Beach faced 12 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 11 medium batteries of 75 mm guns, as well as machine-gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications, and a seawall twice the height of the one at Sword Beach.

Elements of the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division faced the veteran German 352nd Infantry Division, one of the best trained on the beaches. Allied intelligence failed to realize that the relatively low-quality 716th Infantry Division (static) had been replaced by the 352nd the previous March. Omaha was also the second most heavily fortified beach, with high bluffs defended by funneled mortars, machine guns, and artillery, and the pre-landing aerial and naval bombardment of the bunkers proved to be ineffective. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landings to drift eastwards, missing their assigned sectors, and the initial assault waves of tanks, infantry and engineers took heavy casualties. Of the 16 tanks that landed upon the shores of Omaha Beach only 2 survived the landing. The official record stated that "within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded […] It had become a struggle for survival and rescue". Only a few gaps were blown in the beach obstacles, resulting in problems for subsequent landings. The heavily defended draws, the only vehicular routes off the beach, could not be taken and two hours after the first assault the beach was closed for all but infantry landings. Commanders (including General Omar Bradley) considered abandoning the beachhead, but small units of infantry, often forming ad hoc groups, supported by naval artillery and the surviving tanks, eventually infiltrated the coastal defenses by scaling the bluffs between strong points. Further infantry landings were able to exploit the initial penetrations and by the end of the day two isolated footholds had been established. American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 5,000 out of 34,000 men, most in the first few hours, while the Germans suffered 1,200 killed, wounded or missing. The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the original D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3.


Utah Beach

At Utah Beach, the casualties were also quite heavy, partly because the swimming Sherman DD tanks were delayed, and the Germans had strongly fortified a village on the beach. However, the 23rd Infantry Division overcame these difficulties and advanced almost to the outskirts of Bayeux by the end of the day. With the exception of the Americans at Iowa, no division came closer to its objectives than the 23rd.


Iowa Beach

The assault on Iowa Beach began at about 03:00 with an aerial bombardment of the German coastal defences and artillery sites. The naval bombardment began a few hours later. At 07:30, the first units reached the beach. These were the DD tanks of the 2nd Armoured followed closely by the infantry of 3rd Division.

On Iowa Beach, the regular American infantry came ashore with Medium casualties. They had advanced about 12 km (eight mi) by the end of the day and Successfully linked up with the Paratroops in Caen.

A major counterattack by the 21st Panzer reached the sea at Lion Sur Mer before being repulsed by Naval gunfire.

The British Landings

The British were to cut the Cotentin peninsula, and capture Cherbourg. Commonwealth troops from Canada, Africa, Oceania and India were assisting in this massive operation.

Gold Beach

Casualties on Gold Beach, the westernmost landing zone, were the lightest of any beach, with 197 out of the roughly 23,000 troops that landed. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division troops landing at Gold Beach found themselves in the wrong positions because of a current that pushed their landing craft to the southeast. Instead of landing at Tare Green and Uncle Red sectors, they came ashore at Victor sector, which was lightly defended, and as a result, relatively little German opposition was encountered. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was able to press inland relatively easily over beach exits that had been seized from the inland side by the 1st Airborne Division. This was partially by accident, because their planned landing was further down the beach. By early afternoon, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had succeeded in linking up with elements of the 1st. Canadian casualties were light, and the troops were able to press inward much faster than expected, making it a near-complete success.

Sword Beach

British

British Troops with captured Goliath Demolition Charges at Sword beach

The Fall of Caen

The 21st Panzer Division now struck at the join between Omaha and Iowa Beaches. they reached the sea at Lion Sur Mer, before massed glider and Paratroop landings from the 17th Airborne behind them forced the 21st to withdraw. it ran smack into the American Paratroops, and was forced to fight it's way out. Caen fell by 18:00 that evening, the only D-Day objective to be taken.

Operation Sledgehammer

Normandy Beachhead

Troops Landing at Iowa Beach on D + 3

Sledgehammer was to drive to Villers-Bocage, and then turn back and link up the British and American Zones. The 101st Airborne division was to land on a wide front from Villers Bocage to Aunay-sur-Odon to Thury-Harcourt to act as a shield for the advancing forces

On the morning of the 13 June, the lead elements of the 22nd Armoured Brigade of the 4th Armoured Division arrived in the town of Villers-Bocage, and linked up with the 501st.

The Regimental Headquarters and A Squadron of Combat Command B drove on through the town and A Squadron captured the hill beyond, however they were then ambushed by three King Tiger tanks of the 1st Company Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, led by the renound Tiger Ace, SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann which resulted in the loss of 19 tanks, 3 Observation Point tanks (armed with only a machine gun), four anti tank guns and several half-tracks for the loss of one Tiger.

With the town still in American hands, the 1st Infantry Brigade, were moved up and took up positions in and around Villers-Bocage. During the afternoon they along with B and C Squadrons, 4th Battalion fought a six hour-long battle against German forces now made up of elements of the Panzer Lehr Division, additional forces from the Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101 and elements of the 2nd Panzer Division which resulted in many casualties on both sides including the loss of six more Tiger tanks before the American forces decided to withdraw, ending the battle.

The attack, which had gone in with such high hopes, was a dismal failure. A large amount of territory around the Orne River had been captured, creating a large salient (bulge in the front line). This salient would be hard to defend, and immediately Rommel prepared plans to attack this salients.

Operation Redcoat

In the British sector, the final assault on Cherbourg, Operation Redcoat, was unleashed. The VII Corps was to begin a drive westwards to cut off the Cotentin peninsula. Already, three infantry divisions had landed to reinforce the Corps. Its commander, Major General Miles Dempsey, drove his troops hard.

The Germans facing him were a mix of regiments and battlegroups from several divisions, many of whom had already suffered heavy casualties fighting the British airborne troops in the first days of the landings. Practically no armoured or mobile troops could be sent to this part of the front because of the threat to Caen further east. Infantry reinforcements arrived slowly. The Germans' flooding of the Douve worked against them, because it secured the British' southern flank.

By November 16, there were no further natural obstacles in front of the British troops. The German command was in some confusion. The commanders (including Field Marshal Erwin Rommel) wished to withdraw their troops in good order into the Atlantic Wall fortifications of Cherbourg, where they could have withstood a siege for some time. Adolf Hitler, issuing orders from his headquarters in East Prussia, demanded that they hold the line, even though this risked disaster.

Late on November 17, Hitler agreed that the troops might withdraw but specified a new, illogical defensive line, spanning the entire peninsula just south of Cherbourg. Rommel protested against this order; but nevertheless dismissed General Farmbacher, commanding the German LXXXIV Corps, who he thought was trying to circumvent it.

In two days, the American divisions were within striking distance of Cherbourg. The garrison commander, Lieutenant General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, had 21,000 men but many were hastily drafted naval personnel or from labour units, and the fighting troops who had retreated to Cherbourg (including the remnants of von Schliebens own Division, the 709th Infantry Division) were tired and disorganised. Food, fuel and ammunition were short. The Luftwaffe dropped a few supplies, but these were mostly items such as Iron Crosses, to bolster the garrison's morale. Nevertheless, von Schlieben rejected a summons to surrender and began carrying out demolitions to deny the port to the Allies.

Dempsey launched a general assault on November 22. Resistance was stiff at first, but the British slowly cleared the Germans from their bunkers and concrete pillboxes. On November 26, the 51st Division captured Fort du Roule, which dominated the city and its defences. This finished any organised defence. Von Schlieben was captured. The harbour fortifications and the Arsenal surrendered a few days later, after a token resistance. Some German troops cut off outside the defences held out until December 1.

Operation Roundhammer

Operation Roundhammer boom

An Ammunition Carrier exploded during Operation Roundhammer

As the fighting simmered along the flanks, Bradley threw another punch, codenamed Roundhammer. Three divisions, the 1st, 29th and 2nd were to wheel southwest around Bayeux to outflank the German troops near the Orne river. The attack proceeded well, causing a dilemma at OBW, and Rommel was forced to commit the 12th SS Panzer prematurely. An American war correspondent wrote:

“Those Hitler youth were beardless killers whose highest aim was to die, whose only God was Hitler, who came on and on without end”

By nightfall on the third day of the offensive the estimates of total losses were six thousand killed, wounded or missing.

Unternehmen Weststurm

Oberkommando West and Rommel now planned a counter stroke to hit the Orne River Salient. An element of the plan that excited them all was that a front was to descend on Normandy that night, shrouding the coast in dense rain. this would prevent American Air power from intervening.

Assembled for the attack was the 2nd Panzer, the 12th SS Panzer, the 1st SS Panzer and Panzer Lehr.

Breakthrough

The US 17th Infantry Division was surprised by the sudden onslaught of the German attack, and were rapidly wiped out. Soon the German troops were driving north, against weak resistance.

The Battle of Highway 13

With the sea ten miles away, the German Panzers drove forth. But out of the mist emerged massed American Tanks, as Hell on Wheels and Spearhead were committed to the fight, in a desperate attempt to halt the panzers. The American tankers drove at speed into the middle of the German formations to get flank and rear shots on the German Panthers, Leopards and Tigers.

By the end of the day the Americans were spent. Over 2/3rds of the American force had been destroyed. But it had done its job, and its suicidal attack halted the German spearheads, giving Patton one more day.

The Caen Pocket

2nd Attacks

Panther of the 2nd Panzer attacks during Operation Weststurm

Phase two of Weststurm was started by 2nd Panzer's attack out of Buron in the early morning. flight was in two directions, either south into Caen, or north to the Beaches. The Americans fought hard to defend the town of Bienville, and it lasted two hours before it fell.

Struggle along the Seulles

At 17:00 at night on December 7th, Eisenhower called an emergency conference with Patton and Bradley.

"Gentlemen, within 12 Hours the Germans will have sheared off a quarter of our lodgement and isolated another Quarter. The Kraut's have given us a hard knock, but time is on our side. We can hold them off for one more day, then the rain will stop and our Air Force can come up to pound them. They will be caught out in the open and overstretched. All we have to do is to hold the line along the Seulles River"

The Struggle along the Seulles River was one of the bloodiest of the whole war, and was even bloodier than the battle for Washington DC. American troops fought until their guns ran out of ammo. Skillfully using the high ground to the north to rain fire down on the Germans.

Starting Over

Early the next morning, masses of American fighter-Bombers rose up into the now clear sky to pound the German troops, but despite all the damage they did, they could not undo the damage of Weststurm. Four American Divisions, the 9th, 79th, 90th and 6th Armoured were cut off in the Caen Pocket, three more divisions were wrecked beyond repair.

The Twin Plagues

The Channel Storm

A Huge storm hit the English Channel on the 29th November, and wrecked both of the Mulberry harbours. Barely 2000 troops were landed during the storm period, while the Germans sent in the 9th Panzer, which reached the front relatively unscathed. the storm set the relief attempt back by two weeks

The Missile Barrage

The first V-1D Cruise Missile fell on London on December 2nd. The V-1D was a massive improvement over the old V-1 missile, twice as fast and with a primitive guidance system that made them accurate and hard to hit. Large numbers of the missiles were diverted to hit the channel ports, hamstringing supplies. Newhaven harbour was put out of action when a V-1D landed in the middle of a group of Ammunition ships. the blast tore at the harbour, killing 8000 men and closing the harbour for three weeks.

Operation Crescendo

Crescendo was the plan to break into Caen and relieve the divisions trapped within, General Patton was to lead the assault personally. All that stood in his way was the 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions, which had been shifted there.

Opening Moves

At first light on the 14th of May, the Allied air forces came in wave after wave to strafe and bomb the Germans from Bayeux to Caen. Next the two Navies took up where the planes had left off. At 06:50 VII Corps launched a sharp attack on the German 17th Luftwaffe field division. The Division crumbled as the two larger American divisions hit it. The 2nd Armoured Division immediately ran smack into the 10th SS Panzer, with fighting breaking out around the villages of Mathieu and Columby. the 1st division hit the 9th SS, and soon the two were jostling for space. The 101st Paratroop was pulled in as a flank guard.

In the Balance

At 13:09, the 6th Armored Division led the breakout from Caen. Barely a third of its tanks were in working order. however it pushed back elements of the 10th SS and 331st Infantry, and barely three miles separated the lead elements of the 2nd Armoured from the Caen breakout. That night both sides paused to consolidate.

Early the next morning the 2nd and 3rd armoured resumed their drive, and at 10:46 ther advance elements of the 2nd linked up with the 6th Armoured. The news was broadcast back to Bradley and Patton that the relief had been effected.

Rommel's Surprise

It was at this point that Rommel unleashed his carefully prepared trap. The 1st SS, Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, and Großdeutschland, the Pride of the German Army. Supporting them was the heavy SS battalion 101, and its leader, Michael Witmann. The 101st Paratroop was rapidly savaged, but refused to give in. When early the next morning the Germans approached the paratroops with surrender terms, their answer, 'Nuts!' became legend. However they were too few to halt the best the German army could offer, and by 12:00, the 101st ceased to exist as a division.

German forces now bore down on the escape route from Caen, crashing headlong into the American forces that had just opened the way. soon the escape route became a death trap. Orders were quickly sent out to retreat back into Caen, or back to the Seulles.

Caen's defences had been denuded in order to break out, and the city fell in less than two hours. The American divisions rapidly fragmented and fell into captivity

Vae Victis?

The Invasion of France seemed doomed to failure. The failure of Crescendo meant that three veteran American divisions were captured by the enemy, and Caen was recaptured. There was no way to break out, and the beach head was effectively penned in by German troops. At the chaeau de Creuller, Generals Patton and Bradley waited for the inevitable relief. Over 14,000 dead and 30,000 more just surrendered was too much. This accelerated the Deployment of Atomic Weapons.

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