June 1944 saw the highest winds and roughest seas experienced in the English Channel in June for 20 years.
From 1 June onward, my commanders and I met daily to correlate our last-minute preparations and to receive the weather forecasts upon which we had to base our final decision as to the date of launching the assault. The provisional D-day was 5 June, but the meteorological predictions which came in on the 3d were so unfavorable that at our meeting on the morning of the 4th I decided that a postponement of at least 24 hours would be necessary. By that time part of the American assault force had already put out into the Channel, but so heavy were the seas that the craft were compelled to turn about and seek shelter.
By the morning of 5 June conditions in the Channel showed little improvement, but the forecast for the following day contained a gleam of hope. An interval of fair conditions was anticipated, beginning late on the 5th and lasting until the next morning, with a drop in the wind and with broken clouds not lower than 3,000 feet. Toward evening on the 6th, however, a return to high winds and rough seas was predicted, and these conditions were then likely to continue for an indefinite period.
The latest possible date for the invasion on the present tides was 7 June, but a further 24-hour postponement until then was impracticable as the naval bombardment forces which had already sailed from their northern bases on the 3d would have had to put back into port to refuel and the whole schedule of the operation would thus have been upset. I was, therefore, faced with the alternatives of taking the risks involved in an assault during what was likely to be only a partial and temporary break in the bad weather, or of putting off the operation for several weeks until tide and moon should again be favorable. Such a postponement, however, would have been most harmful to the morale of our troops, apart from the likelihood of our losing the benefits of tactical surprise. At 0400 hours of 5 June, I took the final and irrevocable decision: the invasion of France would take place on the following day.
On D-day the wind had, as forecast, moderated and the cloud was well broken, with a base generally above 4,000 feet. This afforded conditions which would permit of our airborne operations, and during the hour preceding the landings from the sea large areas of temporarily clear sky gave opportunities for the visual bombing of the shore defenses. The sea was still rough, and large numbers of our men were sick during the crossing. The waves also caused some of the major landing craft to lag astern, while other elements were forced to turn back.
As events proved, the decision to launch the assault at a time when the weather was so unsettled was largely responsible for the surprise which we achieved. The enemy had concluded that any cross-Channel expedition was impossible while the seas ran so high and, with his radar installations rendered ineffective as a result of our air attacks, his consequent unpreparedness for our arrival more than offset the difficulties which we experienced.
The weather was not the only circumstance surrounding the Allied landings which was contrary to the enemy's expectations. Apparently he had assumed that we should make our attempt only when there was a new moon and on a high tide, and that in choosing the place of main assault we should pick the immediate neighborhood of a good harbor and avoid cliffs and shallow, dangerous waters. In point of fact, we assaulted shortly after low tide, when the moon was full; we landed away from large harbors and at some points below sheer cliffs; and the waters through which we approached the shore were so strewn with reefs and subjected to strong currents that the German naval experts had earlier declared them to be impassable for landing craft.
While our assault forces were tossing on the dark waters of the Channel en route for France, the night bombers which were to herald our approach passed overhead. Shortly after midnight the bombing commenced, and by dawn 1,136 aircraft of RAF Bomber Command had dropped 5,853 tons of bombs on 10 selected coastal batteries lining the Bay of the Seine between Cherbourg and Le Havre. As the day broke, the bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force took up the attacks, 1,083 aircraft dropping 1,763 tons on the shore defenses during the half-hour preceding the touchdown. Then medium, light, and fighter-bombers of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force swarmed in to attack individual targets along the shores and artillery positions farther inland. The seaborne forces bore witness to the inspiring moral effect produced by this spectacle of Allied air might and its results as they drew in toward the beaches.
During the remainder of the day, the heavy bombers concentrated their attacks upon the key centers of communication behind the enemy's lines, through which he would have to bring up his reinforcements. Fighters and fighter-bombers of the AEAF roamed over the entire battle area, attacking the German defensive positions, shooting up buildings known to house headquarters, strafing troop concentrations, and destroying transport. During the 24 hours of 6 June, the Strategic Air Forces flew 5,309 sorties to drop 10,395 tons of bombs, while aircraft of the tactical forces flew a further 5,276 sorties.
The lightness of the losses which we sustained on all these operations is eloquent of the feeble enemy air reactions and testifies to the effectiveness of our diversionary operations. Such reconnaissance and defense 20 patrols as were flown by the Germans were mainly over the Pas-de-Calais area while over the assault beaches and their approaches only some 50 half-hearted sorties were attempted. Our heavy bombers were permitted to carry out their allotted tasks without any interference from enemy fighters. One result of this absence of opposition was that our own fighter-bombers were able to operate in small units of one or two squadrons, thus permitting their all-important harassing attacks to be more continuously maintained and their activities to cover a wider field. Not until two days after the initial landings did the enemy reinforce his air strength over the invasion zone to any appreciable extent.
As the night bombers were finishing their work in the early hours of 6 June, the Allied sea armada drew in toward the coast of France. The crossing had, as Admiral Ramsay reported, an air of unreality about it, so completely absent was any sign that the enemy was aware of what was happening. No U-boats were encountered, the bad weather had driven the enemy surface patrol craft into port, the German radar system was upset as a result of our air attack and scientific countermeasures, and no reconnaissance aircraft put in an appearance. Not until after the naval escort fleets had taken up their positions and commenced their bombardment of the shore defenses was there any enemy activity, and then, taken unprepared as the Germans were, it was mainly ineffective. We achieved a degree of tactical surprise for which we had hardly dared to hope. The naval operations were carried out almost entirely according to plan. The damage to his communications by the Allied bombing caused the enemy to remain in the dark as to the extent and significance of the airborne landings which had already been carried out. He was still uncertain as to whether he had to deal with invasion or merely a large-scale raid while our first assault wave was plunging shoreward to discover the truth about the vaunted Atlantic Wall.
The layout of the defenses which the Allied armies had to breach in order to establish their beachheads on French soil had been largely determined by the Germans' experience at the time of the Dieppe raid in 1942. This raid convinced the enemy that any attempt at invasion could, and should, be destroyed on the beaches themselves, and the defense system subsequently constructed on this principle was lacking in depth.
Appreciating that one of our chief initial objectives would be the capture of a port, the enemy had developed heavy frontal defenses during 1943 at all the principal harbors from Den Helder to Brest. As the invasion threat grew, Cherbourg and Le Havre were further strengthened, while heavy guns were installed to block the entrance to the Bay of the Seine. Between the ports stretched a line of concrete defense positions, and coastal and flak batteries, each self-contained, heavily protected against air bombing and lavishly equipped. These positions were usually designed for all-round defense, their frontal approaches were mined, and where possible artificial flooding was used to guard the rear approaches. Fixed heavy and medium guns, intended to bombard approaching shipping, were sited well forward at the rear of the beaches, while divisional artillery of light and medium guns, which were to lay down a barrage on the beaches themselves, were located some two to three miles inland. Behind these defenses, however, there was no secondary defense line to check our invading armies if they should succeed in penetrating beyond the beach areas. The enemy was so confident in the strength of his "wall" that when our landings came upon him he had not the mobile reserves necessary to stem our advance and prevent our establishment of a lodgement area. Therein lay the main factor behind our successes following the debarkations.
The assumption of command in France by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during the winter of 1943-1944 was marked by a vigorous extension and intensification of the defensive work already in progress, and this continued up to the very day on which our landings took place. While the coastal guns were case mated and the defense posts strengthened with thicker concreting against the threat of air attack, a program was commenced in February 1944 of setting up continuous beds of under-water obstacles against landing craft along the entire length of all possible invasion beaches. It was intended by this means to delay our forces at the vital moment of touchdown, when they were most vulnerable, and thus to put them at the mercy of devastating fire from the enemy positions at the rear of the beaches. These obstacles-including steel "hedgehogs," tetrahedrons, timber stakes, steel "Element C," curved rails and ramps-were developed to cover high- and low-tide contingencies, and most of them had affixed mines or improvised explosive charges. The program was not completed by 6 June, and the obstacles which our men encountered, though presenting considerable difficulties, nevertheless fell short of current German theory. Few mines were laid on the actual beaches, while the mine fields at their exits were often marked and proved less troublesome to our troops than we had feared might be the case.
Despite the massive air and naval bombardments with which we prefaced our attack, the coastal defenses in general were not destroyed prior to the time when our men came ashore. Naval gunfire proved effective in neutralizing the heavier batteries, but failed to put them permanently out of action, thanks to the enormous thickness of the concrete casemates. Air bombing proved equally unable to penetrate the concrete, and after the action no instances were found of damage done by bombs perforating the covering shields. Such of the guns as were silenced had been so reduced by shellfire through the ports. The pre-D-day bombing had, nevertheless, delayed the completion of the defense works, and the unfinished state of some of the gun emplacements rendered them considerably less formidable than anticipated.
The defenses on the beaches themselves were also not destroyed prior to H-hour as completely as had been hoped. The beach-drenching air attacks, just before the landing, attained their greatest success on Utah beach, where the Ninth Air Force bombed visually below cloud level. But elsewhere patches of cloud forced the aircraft to take extra safety precautions to avoid hitting our own troops, with the result that their bombs sometimes fell too far inland, especially at Omaha beach.
Nevertheless, the air and naval bombardments combined did afford invaluable assistance in insuring the success of our landings, as the enemy himself bore witness. Although the strongly protected fixed coastal batteries were able to withstand the rain of high explosives, the field works behind the beaches were largely destroyed, wire entanglements were broken down, and some of the mine fields were set off. Smoke shells also blinded the defenders and rendered useless many guns which had escaped damage. The enemy's communications network and his radar system were thrown into complete confusion, and during the critical period of the landings the higher command remained in a state of utter ignorance as to the true extent, scope, and objectives of the assault. The German gun crews were driven into their bomb-proof shelters until our forces were close inshore, and the sight which then confronted them was well calculated to cause panic. The terrible drumfire of the heavy naval guns especially impressed the defenders, and the moral effect of this bombardment following a night of hell from the air was perhaps of greater value than its material results. Such return lire as was made from the heavy batteries was directed mainly against the bombarding ships, not the assault forces, and it was generally inaccurate. The close support lire from destroyers, armed landing craft, rocket craft, and craft carrying self-propelled artillery, which blasted the beaches as the infantry came close to shore, was particularly effective.
The men who manned the static beach defenses were found to be a very mixed bag. A large proportion of them were Russians and other non-Germans, but with a Teutonic stiffening, and under German officers. Of the German troops, many companies were found to be composed of men either under 20 or over 45 years of age, and a large proportion were of low medical categories. Their morale was not of the best: the lavishness of the defenses and the concrete protection to their underground living quarters had produced a "Maginot Line complex," and, having gone below when the bombing began, they were not prepared for so prompt a 22 landing when the bombs stopped falling. The field troops who manned the mobile artillery and many of the works between the heavy batteries, on the other hand, were of a different caliber and offered a stout resistance to our landings. By themselves, however, they were powerless to prevent our gaining a foothold
The high seas added enormously to our difficulties in getting ashore. Awkward as these waters would have been at any time, navigation under such conditions as we experienced called for qualities of superlative seamanship. Landing craft were hurled on to the beaches by the waves, and many of the smaller ones were swamped before they could touch down. Others were flung upon and holed by the mined under-water obstacles. Numbers of the troops were swept off their feet while wading through the breakers and were drowned, and those who reached the dry land were often near exhaustion. It was, moreover, not possible on every beach to swim in the amphibious DD tanks upon which we relied to provide fire support for the infantry clearing the beach exits. These were launched at Sword, Utah, and Omaha beaches, and, although late, reached land at the two former; at Omaha, however, all but two or three foundered in the heavy seas. At the remaining beaches the tanks had to be unloaded direct to the shore by the LCT's, which were forced, at considerable risk, to dry out for the purpose. Fortunately the beaches were sufficiently flat and firm to obviate damage to the craft.
Despite these difficulties, the landings proceeded, and on all but one sector the process of securing the beachheads went according to plan. Meanwhile, four and a half hours before the first seaborne troops set foot upon the shore of France at 0630 hours, the air transport commands had commenced dropping the airborne assault forces on either flank of the invasion zone. In this operation, the biggest of its kind ever to date attempted, 1,662 aircraft and 512 gliders of the U.S. IX Troop Carrier Command and 733 aircraft and 355 gliders of 38 and 46 Groups, RAF, participated.
In the British sector, the very accurate work of the Pathfinder force enabled the RAF groups to overcome the difficulties arising from the use of different types of aircraft, carrying various loads at various speeds, and the 6 Airborne Division troops were dropped precisely in the appointed areas east of the Orne River. Thanks to this good start, all the main military tasks were carried out, and at a lower cost than would have been paid in using any other arm of the service. The party charged with the mission of securing the Benouville bridges over the Orne and Caen Canal was particularly successful. Landing exactly as planned, in a compact area of just over one square kilometer, the troops went into action immediately and secured the bridges intact, as required, by 0850 hours. The tactical surprise achieved, coupled with the confusion created by the dropping of explosive dummy parachutists elsewhere, caused the enemy to be slow to react, and it was not until midday that elements of 21st Panzer Division counterattacked. By that time our men had consolidated their positions and the enemy's efforts to dislodge them were in vain. During the day reinforcements were safely landed by gliders, against which the German pole obstructions proved ineffective; the operation went off like an exercise, no opposition was encountered, and by nightfall the division had been fully resupplied and was in possession of all its heavy equipment. This formation continued to hold the flank firmly until our lodgement area had been consolidated and the break-out eastward across France relieved it of its responsibility.
On the western flank, at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, the American airborne forces of the 82d and 101st Divisions were faced with greater initial difficulties. Owing to the cloud and atmospheric conditions, the Pathfinders failed to locate the exact areas fixed for the parachute drops, and the inexperience of some of the pilots led to wide dispersal of troops and supplies. The 6,600 parachute elements of the 101st Division were scattered over an area 25 miles by 15 miles in extent, and 60 percent of their equipment was lost in consequence. Nevertheless, the operation represented an improvement upon those undertaken in Sicily, and the great gallantry with which the troops fought enabled them in general to accomplish their mission successfully. Gliders flown in during the day suffered considerable casualties, but reinforcements were introduced during the night of 6-7 June. While the 101st Division held the exits to Utah beach and struck southward toward Carentan, the 82d Division, despite heavy shelling in the Ste-Mere-Eglise area, also established contact with the troops pushing inland from Utah beach early on 7 June. The element of surprise was as effective in the western as in the eastern sector, and the enemy himself bore witness to the confusion created by the American troops in cutting communications and disorganizing the German defense. The success of the Utah assault could not have been achieved so conspicuously without the work of the airborne forces.
The seaborne assault on the British-Canadian sector was carried out according to plan, and despite the rough approach, substantial beachheads were established on D-day. In the I Corps area, on the left flank, British 3 Division assaulted Sword beach, west of Ouistreham. The initial opposition ashore was only moderate, although light batteries shelled the landing craft as they came in to beach. The obstacles were forced, the DD tanks swam ashore to give fire support, and by 1050 hours the powerful coast defense battery in this sector was taken and elements of the assault forces had advanced to Colleville-sur-Orne. By evening a considerable penetration inland had been made and reinforcements were coming in over the beaches. To the west, the Canadian 3 Division landed on Juno beach, in the region of Courseulles-sur-Mer and Bernieres-sur-Mer. Though met by considerable shelling and mortar fire, the troops succeeded in clearing the beaches by 1000 hours and pushed inland toward Caen.
In the 30 Corps sector, the British 50 Division landed on Gold beach, near Asnelles-sur-Mer. Although strong points on the left flank caused some trouble, the enemy opposition as a whole was found to be less than anticipated, and the defenses at the rear of the beaches were successfully overcome. During the day Arromanches, Meuvaines, and Ryes were occupied and a firm footing was obtained inland.
It was in the St-Laurent-sur-Mer sector, on Omaha beach, where the American V Corps assault was launched, that the greatest difficulties were experienced. Not only were the surf conditions worse than elsewhere, causing heavy losses to amphibious tanks and landing craft among the mined obstacles, but the leading formations- the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division at Vierville-sur-Mer and the 16th Infantry of the 1st Division at Colleville-sur-Mer-had the misfortune to encounter at the beach the additional strength of a German division, the 352d Infantry, which had recently reinforced the coastal garrison. Against the defense offered in this sector, where the air bombing had been largely ineffective, the naval guns were hampered by the configuration of the ground which made observation difficult and were able to make little impression. Exhausted and disorganized at the edge of the pounding breakers, the Americans were at first pinned to the beaches but, despite a murderous fire from the German field guns along the cliffs, with extreme gallantry, they worked their way through the enemy positions. The cost was heavy; before the beaches were cleared some 800 men of the 116th had fallen and a third of the 16th were lost, but by their unflinching courage they turned what might have been a catastrophe into a glorious victory.
The American 4th Division (VII Corps) assault on the Utah beaches just west of the Vire Estuary met with the least opposition of any of our landings. Moreover, an error in navigation turned out to be an asset, since the obstacles were fewer where the troops actually went ashore than on the sector where they had been intended to beach. The enemy had apparently relied upon the Hooding of the rear areas here to check any force which might attempt a landing, and the beaches themselves were only lightly held. Complete surprise was achieved and a foothold was obtained with minimum casualties, although it was here that we had expected our greatest losses. The airborne troops having seized the causeways through the inundated hinterland and prevented the enemy from bringing up reinforcements, the 4th Division struck northwest toward Montebourg, on the road to Cherbourg.
Apart from the factor of tactical surprise, the comparatively light casualties which we sustained on all the beaches except Omaha were in large measure due to the success of the novel mechanical contrivances which we employed and to the staggering moral and material effect of the mass of armor landed in the leading waves of the assault. The use of large numbers of amphibious tanks to afford fire support in the initial stages of the operation had been an essential feature of our plans, and, despite the losses they suffered on account of the heavy seas, on the beaches where they were used they proved conspicuously effective. It is doubtful if the assault forces could have firmly established themselves without the assistance of these weapons. Other valuable novelties included the British AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) and the "flail" tank which did excellent work in clearing paths through tile mine fields at the beach exits.
The enemy's confusion in the face of our assault was very clearly shown in the telephone journal of the German Seventh Army Headquarters which subsequently fell into our hands. Although Field Marshal von Rundstedt claimed on 20 June that the Germans were not taken by surprise, the evidence of this document told a very different story. Convinced that the main Allied assault would be delivered in the Pas-de-Calais, the Army HQ was at first of the opinion that the Normandy operations were of a diversionary nature and unlikely to include seaborne landings, even after the airborne operations had been followed by the opening of the naval bombardment. When, on 8 June, an operation order of the U.S. VII Corps fell into the Germans' hands, they concluded that while this unit was in charge of all the Cotentin operations, the V Corps mentioned in the order must embrace all the Anglo American forces assaulting the Calvados area from the Vire to the Seine. The enemy assumed, in view of the anticipated further landings in the Pas-de-Calais, that the Allies could not afford to employ more than two corps elsewhere.
On D-day, because of the chaos in communications produced by our bombing, the Seventh Army HQ did not hear of the Calvados landings until 0900 hours, and then the information was both meager and inaccurate. It was not until 1640 hours that Army learned of the Utah seaborne assault, having previously received reassuring reports as to the progress being made against the airborne forces dropped in that area. Meanwhile at noon, the German LXXXIV Corps had optimistically, but prematurely, announced that the attempted landings by the V Corps troops at St-Laurent had been completely smashed. Thanks to such misinformation and to a faulty estimate of the situation, Seventh Army decided by the evening of D-day that the landings near the Orne constituted the chief danger in the area so far invaded, and took steps to commit its strongest and most readily available reserves in that sector. Little was known of the strength or objectives of the American landings, and the operations in the Cotentin continued to be regarded simply as a diversionary effort which could easily be dealt with. This estimate of the situation dominated the enemy's policy, with fatal results, during the ensuing days.
On 7 June I toured the assault area by destroyer, in company with Admiral Ramsay, and talked with Field Marshal Montgomery, General Bradley, and the Naval Force Commanders. All were disappointed in the unfavorable landing conditions and longed for an improvement in the weather that would enable our troops to exploit to the full their initial successes. After noon on this day the weather did show some signs of moderating, and a chance was offered for us to catch up in part with our delayed unloading schedule. On Omaha beach, which continued to cause us most anxiety, General Bradley reported some improvement, but in view of the check received here I decided to alter the immediate tactical plan to the extent of having both V and VII Corps concentrate upon effecting a link-up through Carentan, after which the original plan of operations would be pursued. Of the morale of the men whom I saw on every sector during the day I cannot speak too highly. Their enthusiasm, energy, and fitness for battle were an inspiration to behold.
During the next five days our forces worked to join up the beachheads into one uninterrupted lodgement area and to introduce into this area the supplies of men and materials necessary to consolidate and expand our foothold.
In the British-Canadian sector, chief interest centered in the thrust by the British 3 and Canadian 3 Divisions toward Caen. Exploiting the success achieved on D-day, they pushed southward, and, despite heavy casualties, succeeded on 7 June in reaching points some 2 or 3 miles north and north west of the city. However, the enemy fully appreciated the danger in this sector and, employing the tanks of 21st Panzer and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, counterattacked successfully in ideal tank country. This counterattack penetrated nearly to the coast, and drove a wedge between the two Allied divisions, preventing a combined attack upon Caen for the time being. Subsequent events showed that the retention of the city was the key to the main enemy strategy, and during the struggles of the following weeks the Germans fought furiously to deny us possession and to prevent our breaking out across the Orne toward the Seine. Farther west Bayeux was taken on 8 June and the beachhead expanded inland.
Meanwhile the Allies had their first experience of the enemy's skill and determination in holding out in fortified strongpoints behind our lines. Although German claims of the effect of these strongpoints in delaying the development of our operations were greatIy exaggerated, it was undeniably difficult to eliminate the suicide squads by whom they were held. The biggest of these points was at Douvres in the Canadian sector, where the underground installations extended to 300 feet below the surface. It was not until 17 June that the garrison here was compelled to surrender.
In the American sector the V Corps assault forces, having overcome their initial difficulties, reached the line of the Bayeux-Carentan road by midday on 7 June, and on the next day established contact with the British 50 Division on their left Rank. On 9 June, reinforced by the 2d Infantry Division, V Corps advanced rapidly to the south and west, reaching the line Caumont-Cerisy Foret-Isigny by 11 June. Reinforcements then stiffened the German defenses, particularly in the hills protecting St-Lo. At the other end of the American zone, the enemy rushed forces to bar the Cherbourg road at Montebourg. In the center there was a stern struggle to link the two beachheads across the marshlands of the Vire Estuary. The prevention of this junction was regarded by the enemy as second in importance only to the defense of Caen, but on 10 June patrols of the two American corps made contact, and on the 12th Carentan fell. The Germans made desperate but fruitless efforts to recover the town and reestablish the wedge between our forces. Our initial lodgement area was now consolidated, and we held an unbroken stretch of the French coast from Quineville to the east bank of the Orne.
Meanwhile, on and off the beaches, the naval, merchant marine, and land force supply services personnel were performing prodigies of achievement under conditions which could hardly have been worse. Enormous as was the burden imposed upon these services even under the best of conditions, the actual circumstances of our landings increased the difficulties of their task very considerably. The problems of unloading vast numbers of men and vehicles and thousands of tons of stores over bare beaches, strewn with mines and obstacles, were complicated by the heavy seas which would not permit the full use of the special landing devices, such as the "Rhino" ferries, which had been designed to facilitate unloading at this stage of operations. The beaches and their exits had to be cleared and the beach organizations set up while the fighting was still in progress close by, and on either Rank the unloading had to be carried on under fire from German heavy artillery. Off shore, enemy aircraft, although absent by day, laid mines each night, requiring unceasing activity by our mine sweepers. By 11 June, despite these complications, the machinery of supply over the beaches was functioning satisfactorily. Initial discharges of stores and vehicles were about 50 percent behind the planned schedule, but against this we could set the fact that consumption had been less than anticipated. Reserves were being accumulated and the supply position as a whole gave us no cause for concern. The artificial harbor units were arriving and the inner anchorages were already in location. During the first 6 days of the operation, 326,547 men, 54,186 vehicles, and 104,428 tons of stores were brought ashore over the beaches. These figures gave the measure of the way in which all concerned, by their untiring energy and courage, triumphed over the difficulties which confronted them.
On 11 June, with the linking up of the beachheads, the stage was set for the battles of the ensuing 2 months during which the fate of France was to be decided. The enemy never succeeded fully in recovering from the confusion into which he was plunged by the surprise of our attack and the effects of our air and naval bombardment. During the first 5 days of the campaign all the symptoms developed which were to characterize the Germans' resistance in the subsequent battles. Desperate attempts to repair the shattered communications system met with little success while the Allied air forces continued their onslaught against the enemy lines and far to the rear. At some critical moments Army lost touch with corps, corps with divisions, and divisions were ignorant of the fate of their regiments. Already the panzer divisions were reporting that they were halted through lack of fuel, reinforcements were unable to reach the battle area for the same reason, and by 13 June the Seventh Army had no fuel dump nearer than Nantes from which issues could be made. Ammunition was also scarce, and the fall of Carentan was explained as due to the fact that the defending forces lacked shells. These things were lacking, not because the Germans did not possess the means to wage war, but because the movement of supplies to the fighting zone was practically impossible when the Allied domination of the skies was so complete. All this explains the enemy's failure to regain the initiative following his loss of it when our forces broke through the Atlantic Wall defenses upon which Rommel had, with such fatal misjudgment, pinned his faith.
From 11 June onward the enemy strove desperately but vainly to contain the beachheads which he had been unable to prevent us from securing. The orders of 7 June that the Allies were to be driven back into the sea were already obsolete; the aim now was to save Cherbourg, to attempt to reestablish the wedge between the Cotentin and Calvados at Carentan, and to hold fast on the eastern flank by denying us possession of the city of Caen. The next 6 weeks were to see the failure of all three of these aims before the moral and material superiority of the Allied armies.
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