Wrold War II Battles (Western Front)


Saar Offensive

September 7, 1939 - September 16, 1939

The Saar Offensive is the name given to a French assault on western Germany during World War II from September 7-16, 1939. In September, 1939, German forces were largely concentrating on fighting and defeating Poland, which at that stage was still an active adversary. While they were so engaged, French soldiers made a somewhat hesitant advance on to German soil. The attack was not a success, and by the end of the month, the French forces had been withdrawn.

Battles of Narvik

April 9, 1940 - June 8, 1940

The Battles of Narvik were fought from 9 April to 8 June 1940 as a naval battle in the Ofotfjord and as a land battle in the mountains surrounding the north Norwegian city of Narvik as part of the Norwegian Campaign of the Second World War.

The two naval battles in the Ofotfjord on 10 April and 13 April were fought between the British Royal Navy and the German Navy (Kriegsmarine), while the two-month land campaign was fought between Norwegian, French, British, and Polish troops against German mountain troops, shipwrecked Kriegsmarine sailors and German paratroops (Fallschirmjäger) from the 7th Air Division. Although defeated at sea off Narvik, losing control of the town of Narvik and being pushed back towards the Swedish border, the Germans eventually prevailed due to the Allied evacuation from Norway in June 1940 following the Battle of France.

Narvik provided an ice-free harbour in the North Atlantic for iron ore transported by the railway from Kiruna in Sweden. Both sides in the war had an interest in securing this iron supply for themselves and denying it to the enemy, setting the stage for one of the first large-scale battles during the Second World War, since the invasion of Poland.

Prior to the German invasion, British forces had considered Narvik as a possible landing point for an expedition to help Finland in the Winter War. Such an expedition might also take control over the Swedish mines and open up the Baltic for the Allies. French politicians were also eager to start a second front as far away from France as possible.

Battle for The Hague

May 10, 1940

The Battle for The Hague was the first opposed paratroop assault in history. It took place on 10 May 1940 as part of the Battle of the Netherlands between the Royal Netherlands Army and Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger (paratroops). German paratroopers dropped in and around The Hague in order to capture Dutch airfields and the city. After taking the city, the plan was to force the Dutch queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to surrender and to thus defeat the Kingdom of the Netherlands within a single day. The operation failed to capture the Queen, and the German forces failed to hold on to the airfields after Dutch counterattacks. The main body of surviving troops under Von Sponeck retreated toward the nearby dunes where they were continually pursued and harassed by Dutch troops until the Dutch supreme command, due to major setbacks on other fronts, surrendered five days later.

Battle of Fort Eben-Emael

May 10, 1940 - May 11, 1940

The Battle of Fort Eben-Emael was a battle between Belgian and German forces that took place between 10 May and 11 May 1940, and was part of the Battle of Belgium and Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries and France. An assault force of German Fallschirmjäger was tasked with assaulting and capturing Fort Eben-Emael, a Belgian fortress whose artillery pieces dominated several important bridges over the Albert Canal that German forces intended to use to advance into Belgium. As some of the German airborne troops assaulted the fortress and disabled the garrison and the artillery pieces inside it, others simultaneously captured three bridges over the Canal. Having disabled the fortress, the airborne troops were then ordered to protect the bridges against Belgian counter-attacks until they linked up with ground forces from the German 18th Army.

The battle was a decisive victory for the German forces, with the airborne troops landing on top of the fortress via the use of gliders and using explosives and flamethrowers to disable the outer defences of the fortress. The Fallschirmjäger then entered the fortress, killing a number of defenders and containing the rest in the lower sections of the fortress. Simultaneously, the rest of the German assault force had landed near the three bridges over the Canal, destroyed a number of pillboxes and defensive positions and defeated the Belgian forces guarding the bridges, capturing them and bringing them under German control. The airborne troops suffered heavy casualties during the operation, but succeeded in holding the bridges until the arrival of German ground forces, who then aided the airborne troops in assaulting the fortress a second time and forcing the surrender of the remaining members of the garrison. German forces were then able to utilize two bridges over the Canal to bypass a number of Belgian defensive positions and advance into Belgium to aid in the invasion of the country. The bridge at Kanne was destroyed.

Battle of Maastricht

May 10, 1940

The Battle of Maastricht was one of the first battles that took place during the German Campaign on the Western Front. Maastricht was a key city in order to capture the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael and split the allied armies in half.

Battle of Zeeland

May 10, 1940 - May 18, 1940

The Battle of Zeeland was a little-known struggle on the Western Front during the early stages of the German assault on France and the Low Countries during World War II. Several Dutch and French units attempted to hold off the German onslaught by making a determined defense of the Dutch province of Zeeland. The battle lasted eight days and was a disappointing defeat for the French and Dutch forces defending the province.

Battle of Rotterdam

May 10, 1940 - May 14, 1940

The Battle of Rotterdam was a Second World War battle fought during the Battle of the Netherlands. Fought between 10-14 May 1940, it was a German attempt to seize the Dutch city. It ended in a German victory, following the Rotterdam Blitz

Battle of Sedan

May 12, 1940 - May 15, 1940

The Battle of Sedan was a Second World War battle fought during the French Campaign. The battle was part of the German Wehrmacht's operational plan codenamed Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), to encircle the Allied armies in Belgium and north-eastern France. German Army Group A crossed the Meuse river with the intention of capturing Sedan and pushing northwards towards the Channel coast, in order to entrap the Allied forces that were advancing east into Belgium, as part of the Allied Dyle Plan strategy.

Sedan was situated on the east bank of the Meuse River. Its capture would give the Germans a base from which to capture the Meuse bridges and cross the river. Should this occur, the German divisions could then advance across the open and undefended French countryside, beyond Sedan, and to the English Channel. On 12 May, Sedan was captured without resistance. In the following days, the Germans would defeat the French defences surrounding Sedan on the west bank of the Meuse. This was largely achieved by the Luftwaffe. As a result of German bombing and low morale, the French defenders broke down psychologically and were unable to mount a coherent defence. The Germans captured the Meuse bridges at Sedan allowing them to pour reinforcements and armour across the river. On 14 May, the Allied air forces, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) tried to destroy the bridges, and prevent German reinforcements reaching the west bank. The Luftwaffe prevented them from doing so. In large air battles, the Allies suffered very high losses which devastated Allied bomber strength in the campaign.

The crossing of the Meuse enabled the Germans to break into the strategic depths, or undefended rear, of the Allied front and to advance to the English Channel without opposition. The French attempted to launch counter-attacks against the German-held bridgeheads, from May 15-17 , but the offensives fell victim to delay and confusion. Five days after consolidating their bridgeheads at Sedan, on 20 May, the German Army reached the Channel. The victory at Sedan had managed to achieve the operational goal of Fall Gelb and encircled the strongest Allied armies, including the British Expeditionary Force. The resulting battles destroyed the remaining French army as an effective fighting force, and expelled the British Army from the continent, leading to the defeat of France in June 1940. The battle at Sedan was instrumental in the fall of France.

Battle of Hannut

May 12, 1940 - May 14, 1940

The Battle of Hannut was a Second World War battle fought during the Battle of Belgium which took place between 12 and 14 May 1940 at Hannut, Belgium. It was the largest ever tank battle at the time.

The primary purpose of the Germans was to tie down the strongest elements of the 1st French Army and remove it from the German's Army Group A main thrust through the Ardennes, as laid out in the German operational plan Fall Gelb, or "Case Yellow", by General Erich von Manstein. The German breakout of the Ardennes was scheduled for 15 May, five days after the German attacks on the Netherlands and Belgium. The delay was to entice the Allies into believing the main thrust would, like the Schlieffen Plan in World War I, come through Belgium and then down into France. When the Allied armies advanced into Belgium, they would be tied down by German offensive operations in eastern Belgium at Hannut and Gembloux. With the 1st French Army flank exposed, the German could thrust to the English Channel which would encircle and destroy the Allied forces. For the French Army, the plan in Belgium was to prepare for a prolonged defence at Gembloux, some 21 miles to the west of Hannut. The French sent two armoured divisions to Hannut, to delay the German advance and give strong French forces time to prepare a defence at Gembloux. Regardless of what happened at Hannut, the French planned to fall back on Gembloux.

The Germans reached the Hannut area just two days after the start of the invasion of Belgium. The French won a series of delaying tactical engagements at Hannut and fell back on Gembloux as planned. However, the Germans succeeded in tying down substantial Allied forces at Hannut which might have participated in the decisive blow through the Ardennes.

The Germans failed to neutralise the French 1st Army completely at Hannut, despite inflicting significant casualties and it withdrew to Gembloux. There, the French once again scored tactical successes at the battle of Gembloux during May 14-15. In the aftermath of that battle, although seriously damaged, the French 1st Army was able to retreat to Lille, where it delayed the Wehrmacht and was instrumental in the British Expeditionary Force's escape from Dunkirk.

Battle of the Afsluitdijk

May 12, 1940 - May 14, 1940

The Battle of the Afsluitdijk was an unsuccessful attempt by the German Army to seize the Afsluitdijk in May 1940, during World War II. If the Germans had taken the dyke, they could have taken North Holland from its north. The Dutch troops were led by Captain Christiaan Boers and the Germans by General Kurt Feldt.

Battle of Gembloux

May 14, 1940 - May 15, 1940

The Battle of Gembloux (or Battle of the Gembloux Gap) was a battle fought between French and German forces in May 1940 during the Second World War. On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht, invaded Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Belgium under the operational plan Fall Gelb (Case Yellow). The Allied Armies attempted to halt the German Army in Belgium, believing it to be the main German thrust. After the Allies had fully committed the best of the Allied Armies to Belgium on the 10th through the 12th of May, the Germans enacted the second phase of their operation, a break through, or sickle cut, through the Ardennes, and advanced to the English Channel.

Unaware of the German plan, the French Army intended to halt the German advance into central Belgium and France by organising two defensive positions at the towns of Hannut and Gembloux. They committed their strongest field force, the French First Army, to the defence of the Gembloux Wavre axis. French armoured forces were sent to form an advanced guard, or screen, at Hannut, in order to delay German forces while preparing their main defence at Gembloux.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Hannut, some 35 km (22 mi) to the northeast, the town of Gembloux represented the last major prepared defensive position for the French on the Belgian front after the withdrawal from Hannut. Throughout the two-day battle, the French repeatedly defeated attempts by elements of the German Sixth Army to break through or circumvent French defences. However, in operational terms, the damage done to the French First Army, and developments elsewhere, forced it to retreat from Gembloux, out of Belgium and eventually toward the city of Lille inside the French border. The retreat caused the absence of coherent defence on the central sector of the Belgian front which in turn allowed the Wehrmacht to advance its operations toward French territory and subdue central Belgium. In strategic terms, the battle was inconclusive. Both sides benefitted from the engagement. For the Wehrmacht, it delayed and distracted the most powerful French Army from their decisive breakthrough point near Sedan, which allowed the Germans to achieve their strategic goals as laid out in Fall Gelb. However, the French First Army survived the initial battles and diverted German forces from the Battle of Dunkirk, which allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape to continue military operations after the French surrender in June 1940.

Battle of Arras

May 21, 1940

The Battle of Arras took place during the Battle of France, in the early stages of World War II. It was an Allied counterattack against the flank of the German army, that took place near the town of Arras, in north-eastern France. The German forces were pushing north toward the channel coast, in order to entrap the Allied Forces that were advancing east into Belgium. The counterattack at Arras was an Allied attempt to cut through the German spearhead and frustrate the German advance. Although the Allies initially made gains, they were repulsed by German forces and forced to withdraw to avoid encirclement.

Seige of Calais

May 22, 1940 - May 26, 1940

The Siege of Calais was a battle for the port and town of Calais during the German blitzkrieg which overran northern France in 1940. It immediately preceded Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force through Dunkirk. It has long been a subject of debate whether the sacrifice of the largely British garrison at Calais contributed to the successful evacuation from Dunkirk.

Battle of Dunkirk

May 26, 1940 - June 4, 1940

The Battle of Dunkirk was an important battle in the Second World War between the Allies and Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 26 May-4 June 1940.

After the Phoney War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May 1940. To the east, the German Army Group B had invaded the Netherlands and advanced westward. In response, the Supreme Allied Commander—French General Maurice Gamelin—initiated "Plan D" and invaded Belgium to engage the Germans in the Netherlands. The plan relied heavily on the Maginot Line fortifications along the German-French border, but the Germans had already crossed through most of Holland before the French forces arrived. Thus, Gamelin committed the forces under his command, three mechanised armies, the French First and Seventh and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the River Dyle. On 14 May, German Army Group A burst through the Ardennes and advanced rapidly to the west toward Sedan, then turned northward to the English Channel, in what Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein called the "Sickle Cut" (known as "Plan Yellow" or the Manstein Plan), effectively flanking the Allied forces.

A series of Allied counter-attacks—including the Battle of Arras—failed to sever the German spearhead, which reached the coast on 20 May, separating the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) near Armentières, the French 1st Army, and the Belgian Army further to the north from the majority of French troops south of the German penetration. After reaching the Channel, the Germans swung north along the coast, threatening to capture the ports and trap the British and French forces before they could evacuate to Britain.

In one of the most widely-debated decisions of the war, the Germans halted their advance on Dunkirk. Contrary to popular belief, what became known as "the Halt Order" did not originate with Adolf Hitler. Gerd von Rundstedt and Günther von Kluge suggested that the German forces around the Dunkirk pocket should cease their advance on the port and consolidate, to avoid an Allied break. Hitler sanctioned the order on 24 May with the support of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). The army was to halt for three days, giving the Allies time to organise an evacuation and build a defensive line. Despite the Allies' gloomy estimates of the situation, with Britain discussing a conditional surrender to Germany, in the end over 330,000 Allied troops were rescued.

Operation Paula

June 3, 1940

Operation Paula is the German codename given for the Second World War Luftwaffe offensive operation to destroy the remaining units of the Armée de l'Air (ALA), or French Air Force during the Battle of France in 1940. On 10 May the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) began its invasion of Western Europe. By 3 June, the British Army had withdrawn from Dunkirk and the continent in Operation Dynamo, the Netherlands and Belgium had surrendered and most of the formations of the French Army were disbanded or destroyed. To complete the defeat of France, the Germans undertook a second phase operation, Fall Rot (Case Red), to conquer the remaining regions. In order to do this, air supremacy was required. The Luftwaffe was ordered to destroy the French Air Forces, while still providing support to the German Army.

For the operation, the Germans committed five Air Corps to the attack, comprising 1,100 aircraft. The operation was launched on the 3 June 1940. However, British intelligence had warned the French of the impending attack and the ensuing operation failed to achieve the strategic results desired by the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force). Fortunately for the Luftwaffe, the plight of the French ground and air forces at this stage meant the failure of the operation would not impede the defeat of France.

Battle of Saumur

June 18, 1940 - June 20, 1940

The Battle of Saumur occurred during the last stages of the Battle of France during World War II, when officer cadets from the Cavalry School at Saumur, led by superintendent Colonel Michon, made a defensive stand along the Loire River at Saumur and Gennes. For two days the Cavalry School, and other assorted units which had fallen back before the German advance, held off a German attack. Since the battle occurred after the message by Marshal Pétain which called for an end to fighting (on 17 June 1940), the event is often considered one of the first acts of the French Resistance.

The Hardest Day

August 8, 1940

The Hardest Day was the name of a Second World War air battle fought during the Battle of Britain on 18 August 1940 between the German Luftwaffe and British Royal Air Force (RAF).

By June 1940 the Allies had been defeated in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Rather than come to terms with Germany, Britain rejected all overtures for a negotiated peace resulting in Adolf Hitler issuing the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) Directive No. 16 ordering the invasion of the United Kingdom.

The invasion of the United Kingdom was codenamed Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe) however before this could be carried out, air superiority or air supremacy was required. The Luftwaffe was to destroy the RAF in order to prevent it from attacking the invasion fleet or providing protection to the Royal Navy's Home Fleet that might attempt to intercept a landing by sea. Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe's commander-in-chief, Reichsmarschall (Empire's Marshal) Hermann Göring and the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force) to prepare for the assault.

The primary target was RAF Fighter Command: the destruction of which, would deny the British their air superiority asset. In July 1940, the Luftwaffe began military operations to destroy the RAF. Throughout July and early August the Germans targeted convoys in the English Channel and occasionally RAF airfields. On 13 August a major German effort, known as Adlertag (Eagle Day), was made against RAF airfields but failed. The failure did not deter the Germans from persisting with air raids against the RAF or its infrastructure.

On 18 August 1940 the Luftwaffe made an all-out effort to severely damage Fighter Command. The air battles that took place on this date were amongst the largest aerial engagements in history at that time. Both sides suffered very heavy losses. The British outperformed the Luftwaffe in the air, achieving a favourable ratio of 2:1. However, a number of RAF aircraft, including around six to eight fighters, were caught and destroyed on the ground, equalling the total losses of both sides. Further large aerial battles would take place, with heavy casualties being suffered, but both sides lost more aircraft combined on this day than at any other point during the campaign, including Battle of Britain Day, generally considered the climax of the campaign. For this reason, the air battles of the 18 August 1940 became known as The Hardest Day.

The Blitz

September 7, 1940 - May 21, 1941

The Blitz (from German, "lightning") was the period of sustained strategic bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 there were major aerial raids (attacks in which more than 100 tonnes of high explosives were dropped) on 16 British cities. Over a period of 267 days (almost 37 weeks), London was attacked 71 times, Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth eight times, Bristol six, Glasgow five, Southampton four, Portsmouth and Hull three, and there was also at least one large raid on another eight cities. This was a result of a rapid escalation starting on 24 August 1940, when night bombers aiming for RAF airfields drifted off course and accidentally destroyed several London homes, killing civilians, combined with the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill's immediate response of bombing Berlin on the following night.

Starting on 7 September 1940, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London. Ports and industrial centres outside London were also heavily attacked. The major Atlantic sea port of Liverpool was also heavily bombed, causing nearly 4,000 deaths within the Merseyside area during the war. The North Sea port of Hull, a convenient and easily found primary and secondary target for bombers unable to locate their primary targets, was subjected to 86 raids within the city boundaries during the war, with a conservative estimate of 1200 civilians killed and 95% of its housing stock destroyed or damaged. Other ports including Bristol, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, and Swansea were also targeted, as were the industrial cities of Birmingham, Belfast, Coventry, Glasgow and Manchester. Birmingham and Coventry were heavily targeted because of the Spitfire and tank factories in Birmingham and the many munitions factories in Coventry; the city centre of Coventry was almost completely destroyed.

The bombing did not achieve its intended goals of demoralising the British into surrender or significantly damaging their war economy. The eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British production, and the war industries continued to operate and expand. The Blitz did not facilitate Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of Britain. By May 1941 the threat of an invasion of Britain had passed, and Hitler's attention had turned to Operation Barbarossa in the East. In comparison to the Allied bombing campaign against Germany, the Blitz resulted in relatively few casualties; the British bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 alone inflicted about 42,000 civilian casualties, about the same as the entire Blitz.

Several reasons have been suggested for the failure of the German air offensive. The Luftwaffe High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, or OKL) failed to develop a coherent long-term strategy for destroying Britain's war industries, frequently switching from bombing one type of industry to another without exerting any sustained pressure on any one of them. Neither was the Luftwaffe equipped to carry out a long-term strategic air campaign, lacking among other things a heavy four-engined bomber, and its intelligence on British industry and capabilities was poor. All of these shortcomings denied the Luftwaffe the ability to make a strategic difference.

Battle of Britain Day

September 15, 1940

The Battle of Britain Day is the name given to the large-scale aerial battle that took place on 15 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England or Luftschlacht um Großbritannien).

In June 1940, Nazi Germany had conquered most of Western Europe and Scandinavia. At that time, the only other major power standing in the way of a German-dominated Europe was the British Empire and the Commonwealth. After having several peace offers rejected by the British, Adolf Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) in order to gain air superiority or air supremacy as a prelude to launching Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious assault by the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) onto the British mainland.

In July 1940, the Luftwaffe started by closing the English Channel to merchant shipping. In August, Operation Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack) was launched against RAF airfields in southern England. By the first week of September, the Luftwaffe had not gained the results desired by Hitler. Frustrated, the Germans turned towards the strategic bombing of cities, an offensive which was aimed at British military and civil industries, but also civilian morale. The attacks began on 7 September 1940, but were to reach their daylight climax on 15 September.

On Sunday, 15 September 1940, the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk. The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain.

RAF Fighter Command defeated the German raids. The Luftwaffe formations were dispersed by a large cloud base and failed to inflict severe damage on the city of London. In the aftermath of the raid, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Having been defeated in daylight, the Luftwaffe turned its attention to The Blitz night campaign which lasted until May 1941.

Battle of Graveney Marsh

September 27, 1940

The Battle of Graveney Marsh, which occurred on the night of 27 September 1940 in Kent, England, was the last action involving a foreign invading force to take place on mainland Great Britain. The fighting took place between the crew of a downed German Junkers Ju 88 bomber and a detachment of soldiers from the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles in Seasalter.

On 27 September, British Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighter planes from No. 66 and No. 92 Squadron RAF attacked what they recognized as a new variant of Junkers 88 over Faversham. An order had been issued to them to capture one such aircraft intact if possible. One of the bomber's engines had already been damaged by anti-aircraft fire during a raid on London and the Spitfires were able to destroy its remaining engine, forcing the pilot to make a crash landing on Graveney Marsh.

When the London Irish Rifles arrived at the scene from their billet at the Sportsman Inn in nearby Seasalter, the four German crew members had unexpectedly armed themselves with machine guns from the aircraft and a submachine gun. After a heavy exchange of gunfire, during which one German airman was shot in the foot, the Germans surrendered to their opponents and were taken prisoner.

Captain John Cantopher succeeded in disarming a demolition charge. This action meant the bomber, which was equipped with a new and very accurate type of bombsight, was captured for examination by British experts. The aircraft was taken to Farnborough Airfield where it was said to have "provided highly valuable information".[1] Cantopher was subsequently awarded the George Medal for his action.

Channel Dash (Operation Cerberus)

February 11, 1942 - February 13, 1942

The Channel Dash, codenamed Operation Cerberus by the Germans, was a major naval engagement during World War II in which a German Kriegsmarine squadron consisting of both Scharnhorst-class battleships, and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen along with escorts, ran a British blockade and successfully sailed from Brest in Brittany to their home bases in Germany via the English Channel.

On 11 February 1942, the Kriegsmarine's ships left Brest at 21:14 and escaped detection for more than 12 hours, approaching the Straits of Dover without discovery. As the German ships passed through the straits and on into the North Sea, British armed forces intercepted them, and the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Artillery attacked. The attacks and bombardment were unsuccessful, and by 13 February all the Kriegsmarine's ships had completed their transit. In support of the German naval operation, the Luftwaffe launched Operation Donnerkeil (Thunderbolt) to provide air superiority for the passage of the ships.

The Channel Dash remains the only occasion since the Anglo-Dutch Wars that enemy warships have successfully traversed the English Channel.

Operation Donnerkeil

February 11, 1942 - February 12, 1942

Operation Donnerkeil was the codename for a German military operation of the Second World War. Donnerkeil was designed as an air superiority operation to support the Kriegsmarine's (German Navy) Operation Cerberus, also known as the "Channel Dash".

In 1941 Kriegsmarine surface vessels had carried out commerce raiding sorties in support of the German U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. In January 1941 Operation Berlin was launched followed by Operation Rheinübung in May 1941. The dominance of the Royal Navy's surface fleet prevented the German units returning to ports in the Baltic sea or Germany. The surviving ships, the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, docked in the port of Brest, France. Throughout 1941 RAF Bomber Command attacked the ships in dock. The close proximity of the ports to Royal Air Force (RAF) airfields allowed a large number of sorties to be flown against the targets in quick succession. The Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command), and Adolf Hitler himself desired to move the ships out of range from potential air raids.

In December 1941 the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force) was ordered to formulate an air superiority plan for the protection of three German capital ships to escape from France to Germany through the English Channel. General der Jagdflieger (General of the Fighter Force) Adolf Galland prepared the aerial assets for the operation. Both Cerberus and its supporting operation, Donnerkeil, were launched on 11 February 1942. During the first phase of the operation the Germans achieved surprise. The German ships reached Germany on 13 February 1942, just two days after the start of Cerberus and Donnerkeil.

During the Channel Dash the Luftwaffe succeeded in defeating air attacks on the German ships during the operation, thus allowing them to reach German waters. In the air battles that took place over the Channel the British suffered heavy losses for a non-existent return. German losses were modest, and the operation achieved its objective.

St. Nazaire Raid

March 28, 1942

The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy and British Commandos under the auspices of Combined Operations Headquarters on 28 March 1942. St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz, to return to home waters rather than having a safe haven available on the Atlantic coast.

The obsolete destroyer HMS Campbeltown, accompanied by 18 smaller craft, crossed the English Channel to the Atlantic coast of France and was rammed into the Normandie dock gates. The ship had been packed with delayed-action explosives, well hidden within a steel and concrete case, that detonated later that day, putting the dock out of service for the remainder of the war and up to ten years after. A force of commandos landed to destroy machinery and other structures. Heavy German gunfire sank, set ablaze or immobilised all the small craft intended to transport the commandos back to England; the commandos had to fight their way out through the town to try to escape overland. They were forced to surrender when their ammunition was expended and they were surrounded.

After the raid 228 men of the force of 622 returned to Britain; 169 were killed and 215 became prisoners of war. German casualties were over 360 dead, mostly killed after the raid when Campbeltown exploded. To recognise their bravery, 89 decorations were awarded to members of the raiding party, including five Victoria Crosses. After the war St Nazaire was one of 38 battle honours awarded to the Commandos; the operation has since become known as The Greatest Raid of All within military circles.

Dieppe Raid

August 19, 1942

The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter and, later, Operation Jubilee, was a Second World War Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe. The raid took place on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 a.m. and by 10:50 a.m. the Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by a Canadian Armoured regiment and a strong force of Royal Navy and smaller Royal Air Force landing contingents. It involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, and 50 United States Rangers.

Objectives included seizing and holding a major port for a short period, both to prove that it was possible and to gather intelligence. Upon retreat, the Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings. The raid had the added objectives of boosting morale and demonstrating the firm commitment of the United Kingdom to open a western front in Europe.

Virtually none of these objectives were met. Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was largely trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire. After less than 10 hours since the first landings, the last Allied troops had all been either killed, evacuated, or left behind to be captured by the Germans. Instead of a demonstration of resolve, the bloody fiasco showed the world that the Allies could not hope to invade France for a long time. Some intelligence successes were achieved, including electronic intelligence.

A total of 3,623 of the 6,086 men (almost 60%) who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Royal Air Force failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 96 aircraft (at least 32 to flak or accidents), compared to 48 lost by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy lost 33 landing craft and one destroyer. The events at Dieppe influenced preparations for the North African (Operation Torch) and Normandy landings (Operation Overlord).

Battle for Caen

June 6, 1944 - July 20, 1944

The Battle for Caen was a battle between Allied (primarily British and Canadian troops) and German forces during the Battle of Normandy.

Originally, the Allies aimed to take the French city of Caen, one of the largest cities in Normandy, on D-Day. Caen was a vital objective for several reasons. Firstly, it lay astride the Orne River and Caen Canal; these two water obstacles could strengthen a German defensive position if not crossed. Secondly, Caen was a road hub; in German hands it would enable the enemy to shift forces rapidly. Thirdly, the area around Caen was relatively open, especially compared to the bocage country in the west of Normandy. This area was valued for airfield construction.

On D-Day, Caen was an objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and remained the focal point for a series of battles throughout June, July and into August. The battle did not go as planned for the Allies, instead dragging on for two months, because German forces devoted most of their reserves to holding Caen, particularly their badly needed armor reserves. As a result German forces facing the American invasion thrust further west were spread thin, relying on the rough terrain of the back country to slow down the American advance. With so many German divisions held up defending Caen, the American forces were eventually able to break through to the south and east, threatening to encircle the German forces in Normandy from behind.

Invasion of Normandy

JUne 6, 1944 - August 19, 1944

On 6 June 1944 the Western Allies landed in northern France, opening the long-awaited "Second Front" against Adolf Hitler's Germany. Though they had been fighting in mainland Italy for some nine months, the Normandy invasion was in a strategically more important region, setting the stage to drive the Germans from France and ultimately destroy the National Socialist regime.
It had been four long years since France had been overrun and the British compelled to leave continental Europe, three since Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union and two and a half since the United States had formally entered the struggle. After an often seemingly hopeless fight, beginning in late 1942 the Germans had been stopped and forced into slow retreat in eastern Europe, defeated in North Africa and confronted in Italy. U.S. and British bombers had visited ruin on the enemy's industrial cities. Allied navies had contained the German submarine threat, making possible an immense buildup of ground, sea and air power in the British Isles.
Schemes for a return to France, long in preparation, were now feasible. Detailed operation plans were in hand. Troops were well-trained, vast numbers of ships accumulated, and local German forces battered from the air. Clever deceptions had confused the enemy about just when, and especially where, the blow would fall.
Commanded by U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Normandy assault phase, code-named "Neptune" (the entire operation was "Overlord"), was launched when weather reports predicted satisfactory conditions on 6 June. Hundreds of amphibious ships and craft, supported by combatant warships, crossed the English Channel behind dozens of minesweepers. They arrived off the beaches before dawn. Three divisions of paratroopers (two American, one British) had already been dropped inland. Following a brief bombardment by ships' guns, Soldiers of six divisions (three American, two British and one Canadian) stormed ashore in five main landing areas, named "Utah", "Omaha", "Gold", "Juno" and "Sword". After hard fighting, especially on "Omaha" Beach, by day's end a foothold was well established.
As German counterattacks were thwarted, the Allies poured men and materiel into France. By late July these reinforcements, and constant combat, made possible a break out from the Normandy perimeter. Another landing, in southern France in August, facilitated that nation's liberation. With the Soviets advancing from the east, Hitler's armies were shoved, sometimes haltingly and always bloodily, back toward their homeland. The Second World War had entered its climactic phase.

Operation Perch

June 7, 1944 - June 14, 1944

Operation Perch was a British offensive of the Second World War which took place between June 7-14, 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to encircle and seize the German occupied city of Caen, which was a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of northwest Europe. A combination of fierce German resistance and failures at the British command level foiled the operation before its objectives were achieved.

Operation Perch was originally intended to take place immediately after the British beach landings, and was to be an advance to the southeast of Caen by XXX Corps. This depended on Caen's early liberation, but three days after the invasion the city was still in German hands so the operation was altered. Perch was expanded to include I Corps and became a pincer attack aimed at capturing Caen. Beginning the following day XXX Corps, forming the western arm of the encirclement, pushed south before becoming embroiled with strong German forces in a hotly contested battle for the town of Tilly-sur-Seulles, which would change hands several times before its liberation. I Corps's eastern thrust was launched two days later from the Orne bridgehead, secured on D-Day by British airborne forces during Operation Tonga, but made little progress in the face of determined resistance and constant counterattacks. With mounting casualties and no sign of an imminent German collapse, by 13 June the offensive east of Caen was abandoned.

Meanwhile, to the west, American pressure had opened up a gap in the German lines. In an attempt to keep operations mobile the 7th Armoured Division was diverted from the combat around Tilly-sur-Seulles and ordered to advance through the gap in a flanking manoeuvre intended to force the Germans to fall back. After two days of intense fighting that included the Battle of Villers-Bocage, on 14 June the division's position was judged untenable and it was withdrawn. Plans were made to resume the offensive once 7th Armoured had been reinforced, but these were dropped when a severe storm in the English Channel seriously disrupted allied supply operations.

Both the decision to exploit the gap and the handling of the subsequent battle have been subjects of controversy. Historians generally agree that, because of failures at the British divisional and corps command levels, an early opportunity to capture Caen was squandered. However, to contain the offensive the Germans had been forced to commit their most powerful armoured reserves in a defensive role, in which they incurred heavy losses and were incapable of counteroffensive operations.

Battle of Carentan

June 10, 1944 - June 14, 1944

The Battle of Carentan was an engagement in World War II between airborne forces of the United States Army and the German Wehrmacht during the Battle of Normandy. The battle took place between 10 and 15 June 1944, on the approaches to and within the city of Carentan, France.

The objective of the attacking American forces was consolidation of the U.S. beachheads (Utah Beach and Omaha Beach) and establishment of a continuous defensive line against expected German counterattacks. The defending German force attempted to hold the city long enough to allow reinforcements en route from the south to arrive, prevent or delay the merging of the lodgments, and keep the U.S. First Army from launching an attack towards Lessay-Périers that would cut off the Cotentin Peninsula.

Carentan was defended by the 6th Parachute Regiment, two Ost battalions and remnants of other German forces. The 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, ordered to reinforce Carentan, was delayed by transport shortages and attacks by Allied aircraft. The attacking 101st Airborne Division, landed by parachute on 6 June as part of the American airborne landings in Normandy, was ordered to seize Carentan.

In the ensuing battle, the 101st forced passage across the causeway into Carentan on 10 and 11 June. A lack of ammunition forced the German forces to withdraw on 12 June. The 17th SS PzG Division counter-attacked the 101st Airborne on 13 June. Initially successful, its attack was thrown back by Combat Command A (CCA) of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division.

Battle of Bloody Gulch

June 13, 1944

The Battle of Bloody Gulch took place near Hill 69 (U.S. Army designation) approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Carentan in Normandy, France on June 13, 1944, between elements of the German 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division and 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, and the American 501st, 502nd and 506th, Parachute Infantry Regiments (PIR) of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, reinforced by elements of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division.

Battle of Villers-Boscage

June 13, 1944

The Battle of Villers-Bocage took place during the Second World War on 13 June 1944, one week after the Allies landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of German-occupied France. The battle was the result of a British attempt to improve their position by exploiting a temporary vulnerability in the German defences to the west of the city of Caen. After one day of fighting in and around the small town of Villers-Bocage and a second day defending a position outside the town, the British force retired.

Both British and Germans regarded control of Caen as vital to the Normandy battle. In the days following the Allied D-Day landings of 6 June, the Germans rapidly established strong defences in front of the city. On 9 June a two-pronged British attempt to surround and capture Caen was defeated, but on the British forces' right flank, neighbouring American units had forced open a wide gap in the German front line. Seizing the opportunity to bypass Caen's defences, a mixed mobile force of tanks, infantry and artillery, formed around the 7th Armoured Division's 22nd Armoured Brigade, advanced through the gap in a flanking manoeuvre towards Villers-Bocage. British commanders hoped that the appearance of a strong force in their rear would force the German defenders of Caen's western approaches—principally the Panzer Lehr armoured division—to surrender or withdraw.

Under the command of Brigadier William "Loony" Hinde, the 22nd Armoured Brigade group reached Villers-Bocage without serious incident, but as its lead elements moved beyond the town on the morning of 13 June they were ambushed by Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. In fewer than 15 minutes numerous tanks, anti-tank guns and transport vehicles fell victim to the German force, the vast majority being destroyed by SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann's tank. With reinforcements arriving the Germans then launched an assault on the town. Although this was repelled, after six hours Hinde decided to withdraw his force to a more defensible position outside Villers-Bocage. The following day fighting resumed in the Battle of the island. The British defended their position until a controversial decision was taken to pull the Brigade group back from its salient. Villers-Bocage played no further role in the Second Army's Battle for Caen; the town was eventually liberated on 4 August, although by then it had been bombed twice by the Royal Air Force and was largely in ruins.

The Battle of Villers-Bocage has proved a contentious subject among students of the campaign because the British withdrawal marked the end of the post D-Day "scramble for ground" and the start of a grinding attritional battle for Caen. Most historians conclude that its failure was due to a lack of conviction among some senior commanders rather than a military defeat, although a few also maintain that the force committed was inadequate for the task. In particular Michael Wittmann's single-handed action during the battle's early stages has excited imaginations, to the extent that recent historians argue that it has disproportionately dominated the historical record and that, while "remarkable", Wittmann's role in deciding the battle's outcome has been exaggerated.

Operation Epsom

June 26, 1944 - June 30, 1944

Operation Epsom, also known as the First Battle of the Odon, was a Second World War British offensive that took place between 26 and 30 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The offensive was intended to outflank and seize the German-occupied city of Caen, a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of northwest Europe.

Preceded by attacks to secure lines of advance, Operation Epsom was launched early on 26 June with units of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division advancing behind a rolling artillery barrage. Air cover was sporadic for much of the operation because poor weather in the United Kingdom forced the last-minute cancellation of bomber support. Accompanied by the tanks of the 31st Tank Brigade, the 15th Scottish made steady progress and by the end of the first day had overrun much of the German outpost line, although some difficulties remained in securing the flanks. In heavy fighting over the following two days, a foothold was secured across the River Odon and efforts were made to expand this by capturing strategic points around the salient and moving up the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. In response to powerful German counterattacks, by 30 June some of the British forces across the river were withdrawn, bringing the operation to a close.

Interpretations of both the intention and conduct of Operation Epsom differ widely but there is general agreement concerning its effect on the balance of forces in Normandy. Although the Germans had managed to contain the offensive, to do so they had been obliged to commit all their strength, including two panzer divisions newly arrived in Normandy and earmarked for an offensive against British and American positions around Bayeux. Casualties were heavy on both sides but unlike General Bernard Montgomery, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was unable to withdraw units into reserve after the battle as they were needed to hold the front line. The British retained the initiative and launched further operations over the following two weeks, eventually capturing Caen in mid-July.

Operation Windsor

July 4, 1944 - July 5, 1944

Operation Windsor was a Canadian offensive launched as part of the Battle of Normandy during the Second World War. Taking place on July 4-5, 1944, the attack was undertaken by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division in an attempt to capture the Norman town of Carpiquet and the adjacent airfield from German forces. The attack was originally intended to take place during the later stages of Operation Epsom, as a means of protecting the eastern flank of the main assault.[3] It was postponed and launched the following week.

On 4 July 1944, four battalions of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division attacked Carpiquet in conjunction with flanking attacks by armoured regiments of the Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade. Although the Canadian 8th Infantry Brigade succeeded in capturing Carpiquet by mid-afternoon, German resistance to the south prevented the airfield from being captured—despite significant Allied armour and air support. The following day, Canadian forces defeated German counterattacks and succeeded in holding Carpiquet in preparation for British attacks on Caen as part of Operation Charnwood.

Operation Charnwood

July 8, 1944 - July 9, 1944

Operation Charnwood was a Second World War Anglo-Canadian offensive that took place from 8 to 9 July 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to at least partially capture the German-occupied French city of Caen which was an important Allied objective during the opening stages of Operation Overlord. It was also hoped that the attack would forestall the transfer of German armoured units from the Anglo-Canadian sector to the lightly screened American sector, where a major US offensive was being planned. The British and Canadians advanced on a broad front and by the evening of the second day had taken Caen up to the Orne and Odon rivers.

Preceded by a controversial bombing raid that destroyed much of Caen's historic Old City, Operation Charnwood began at dawn on 8 July, with battalions of three infantry divisions attacking German positions north of Caen behind an artillery creeping barrage. Supported by three armoured brigades, the forces of the British I Corps made gradual progress against the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and 16th Luftwaffe Field Division. By the end of the day the 3rd Canadian and British 3rd and 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Divisions had cleared the villages in their path and reached Caen's outskirts. Moving into the city at dawn the following morning, the Allies encountered resistance from remnants of German units who were beginning a withdrawal across the Orne. Carpiquet airfield fell to the Canadians during the early morning and by 18:00, the British and Canadians had linked up and were on the Orne's north bank. Discovering Caen's remaining bridges to be defended or impassable and with German reserves positioned to oppose their crossing, I Corps closed down the operation.
With northern Caen's capture and the heavy casualties inflicted on the two German divisions defending the sector, Operation Charnwood was a tactical success despite I Corps' losses. Operationally, it achieved mixed results; although it forced the Germans to pull back all formations north of the Orne River, it did not stop the flow of formations to the American front. The Germans were able to establish a strong second defensive line along two ridges to the south of the city but the Allies maintained the initiative and launched the simultaneous Anglo-Canadian operations Goodwood and Atlantic a week later, during which the rest of Caen was secured.

Operation Jupiter

July 10, 1944 - July 22, 1944

Operation Jupiter was an attack launched by the British Second Army's VIII Corps on 10 July 1944. The objective of the attack was to capture the villages of Baron-sur-Odon, Fontaine-Étoupefour, Chateau de Fontaine and recapture Hill 112. Following the capture of these objectives the Corps would then capture Éterville and the village of Maltot and the ground up to the River Orne. Tanks from the 4th Armoured Brigade, supported by infantry, would then advance through the captured ground and secure several further villages to the west of the River Orne.

It was hoped that all objectives could be captured by 0900 hours on the first day following which, elements of the 4th Armoured Brigade, could start their attacks. The operation was initially very successful however heavy fighting for Hill 112 went on all day and the village of Maltot changed hands several times.

Operation Goodwood

July 18, 1944 - July 20, 1944

Operation Goodwood was a Second World War British offensive that took place between 18 and 20 July 1944. British VIII Corps, with three armoured divisions, launched the attack aiming to seize the German-held Bourguébus Ridge, along with the area between Bretteville-sur-Laize and Vimont, while also destroying as many German tanks as possible. Goodwood was preceded by preliminary attacks dubbed the Second Battle of the Odon. On 18 July, British I Corps conducted an advance to secure a series of villages and the eastern flank of VIII Corps. On VIII Corps's western flank, Canadian II Corps launched a coordinated attack—codenamed Operation Atlantic—aimed at capturing the remaining German-held sections of the city of Caen south of the Orne River.

When Operation Goodwood ended on 20 July, the armoured divisions had broken through the initial German defences and had advanced seven miles before coming to a halt in front of the Bourguébus Ridge, although armoured cars had penetrated further south and over the ridge. Since 1944, there has been controversy over what the actual objective of the operation was: whether it was a limited attack to secure Caen and pin German formations in the eastern region of the Normandy beachhead, preventing them from disengaging to join the counter-attack against the US Operation Cobra, which began on 25 July or a failed attempt to break out of the Normandy bridgehead. At least one historian has called the operation the largest tank battle that the British Army has ever fought.

Battle of Verrières Ridge

July 19, 1944 - July 25, 1944

The Battle of Verrières Ridge was a series of engagements fought as part of the Battle of Normandy, in western France, during the Second World War. The main combatants were two Canadian infantry divisions—with additional support from the Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade—against elements of three German SS Panzer divisions. The battle was part of the British and Canadian attempts to break out of Caen, and took place from July 19-25, 19444, being part of both Operation Atlantic and Operation Spring.

The immediate Allied objective was Verrières Ridge, a belt of high ground which dominates the route from Caen to Falaise. The ridge was invested by battle-hardened German veterans, who had fallen back from Caen and entrenched to form a strong defensive position. Over the course of six days, substantial Canadian and British forces made repeated attempts to capture the ridge. Strict German adherence to defensive doctrine, as well as strong and effective counterattacks by Panzer formations, resulted in heavy Allied casualties for little strategic gain.

From the perspective of the Canadian 1st Army, the battle is remembered for its tactical and strategic miscalculations ��?the most notable being a highly controversial attack by the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch) of Canada on 25 July. This attack—the costliest single day for a Canadian battalion since the 1942 Dieppe Raid—has become one of the most contentious and critically analysed events in Canadian military history.

Operation Cobra

July 25, 1944 - July 31, 1944

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, 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 freeing 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.

Operation Spring

July 25, 1944 - July 27, 1944

Operation Spring was an offensive operation conducted by II Canadian Corps during the Normandy campaign. The plan was intended to create pressure on the German forces operating on the British and Canadian front simultaneously to American offensive operations in their sector known as Operation Cobra, an attempt to break out from the Normandy lodgement. Specifically, Operation Spring was intended to capture Verrières Ridge and the towns on the south slope of the ridge.[1] However, strong German defenses on the ridge, as well as strict adherence to a defensive doctrine of counter-attacks, stalled the offensive on the first day, inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking forces, while preventing a breakout in the Anglo-Canadian sector.

Operation Lüttich

August 7, 1944 - August 13, 1944

Operation Lüttich was a codename given to a German counterattack during the Battle of Normandy, which took place around the American positions near Mortain from 7 August to 13 August 1944. (Lüttich is the German name for the city of Liège in Belgium, where the Germans had won a victory in the early days of August 1914 during World War I.) The offensive is also referred to in American and British histories of the Battle of Normandy as the Mortain counter-offensive.

The assault was ordered by Adolf Hitler, to eliminate the gains made by the First United States Army during Operation Cobra and the subsequent weeks, and by reaching the coast in the region of Avranches at the base of the Cotentin peninsula, cut off the units of the Third United States Army which had advanced into Brittany.

The main German striking force was the XLVII Panzer Corps, with one and a half SS Panzer Divisions and two Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions. Although they made initial gains against the defending U.S. VII Corps, they were soon halted and Allied aircraft inflicted severe losses on the attacking troops, eventually destroying nearly ½ of the tanks involved in the attack. Although fighting continued around Mortain for six days, the American forces had regained the initiative within a day of the opening of the German attack.

As the German commanders on the spot had warned Hitler in vain, there was little chance of the attack succeeding, and the concentration of their armoured reserves at the western end of the front in Normandy soon led to disaster, as they were outflanked to their south and the front to their east collapsed, resulting in many of the German troops in Normandy being trapped in the Falaise Pocket.

Battle for Brest

August 7, 1944 - September 19, 1944

The Battle for Brest was one of the fiercest battles fought on the Western Front during World War II. Part of the Allied plan for the invasion of mainland Europe called for the capture of port facilities, in order to ensure the timely delivery of the enormous amount of war materiel required to supply the invading Allied forces. It was estimated that the 37 Allied divisions to be on the continent by September 1944 would need 26,000 tons of supplies each day. The main port the Allied forces hoped to seize and put into their service was Brest, in northwestern France.

Operation Totalize

August 8, 1944 - August 13, 1944

Operation Totalize was an offensive launched by Allied troops of the First Canadian Army during the later stages of the Operation Overlord, from 8 to 13 August 1944. The intention was to break through the German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy and exploit success by driving south to capture the high ground north of the city of Falaise. The overall goal was to precipitate the collapse of the entire German front, and cut off the retreat of German forces fighting American and British armies further west. The battle is considered the inaugural operation of the First Canadian Army, which had been formally activated on 23 July.

In the early hours of 8 August 1944, II Canadian Corps launched the attack using mechanized infantry. They broke through the German front lines and captured vital positions deep in the German defences. It was intended that two fresh armoured divisions would continue the attack, but some hesitancy by these two comparatively inexperienced divisions and German armoured counter-attacks slowed the offensive. Having advanced 9 miles (14 km), the Allies were halted 7 miles (11 km) north of Falaise, and forced to prepare a fresh attack.

Battle of the Falaise Pocket

August 12, 1944 - August 21, 1944

The Battle of the Falaise Pocket 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.

Operation Tractable

August 14, 1944 - August 21, 1944

Operation Tractable was the final offensive conducted by Canadian and Polish Army troops, supported by one brigade of British tanks, as part of the Battle of Normandy. The goal of this operation was to capture the strategically important French town of Falaise, and following that, the smaller towns of Trun and Chambois. This operation was undertaken by the Polish 1st Armoured Division and the Canadian 1st Army against the Wehrmacht′s Army Group B, and it was a part of the largest encirclement on the German Western Front during the Second World War. Despite a slow start to the offensive that was marked by limited gains north of Falaise, novel tactics by Polish 1st Armoured Division—under the command of Generał brygady Stanisław Maczek during the drive for Chambois—enabled the Falaise Gap to be partially closed by 19 August 1944, trapping about 150,000 German soldiers in the Falaise Pocket.

Although the Falaise Gap had been narrowed to a distance of several hundred yards, a protracted series of fierce assaults and defenses between two battle groups of the Polish 1st Armoured Division and the II SS Panzer Corps on Mont Ormel (Hill 262) prevented the quick closing of the Falaise Gap, allowing thousands of German troops to escape from Normandy. During two days of nearly continuous fighting, Polish forces using artillery barrages and close-quarter fighting managed to hold off counterattacks by seven German divisions. On 21 August, elements of the Canadian 1st Army relieved the surviving remnants of Polish units and were able to finally seal the Falaise Pocket by linking up with the troops of the U.S. 3rd Army. This led to the surrender and capture of the remaining units of the German 7th Army which were trapped in the Falaise Pocket.

Operation Dragoon

August 15, 1944 - September 14, 1944

Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on 15 August 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army. The landing caused the German Army Group G to abandon southern France and to retreat under constant Allied attacks to the Vosges Mountains. Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well-executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon is not well known; it came in the later stages of the war and was overshadowed by the earlier and larger Operation Overlord.

Battle of Hill 262

August 19, 1944 - August 21, 1944

Hill 262 is an area of high ground above the village of Coudehard in Normandy that was the location of a bloody engagement in the final stages of the Normandy Campaign during the Second World War. By late summer 1944, the bulk of two German armies had become surrounded by the Allies near the town of Falaise. The Mont Ormel ridge, with its commanding view of the area, sat astride the Germans' only escape route. Polish forces seized the ridge's northern height on 19 August and, despite being isolated and coming under sustained attack, held it until noon on 21 August, contributing greatly to the decisive Allied victory that followed.

The American success of Operation Cobra provided the Allies with an opportunity to cut off and destroy most German forces west of the River Seine. American, British and Canadian armies converged on the area around Falaise, trapping the German Seventh Army and elements of the Fifth Panzer Army in what became known as the "Falaise pocket". On 20 August Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model ordered a withdrawal, but by this time the Allies were already blocking his path. During the night of 19 August, two battlegroups of Stanisław Maczek's Polish 1st Armoured Division had established themselves in the mouth of the Falaise pocket on and around the northernmost of the Mont Ormel ridge's two peaks.

On 20 August, with his forces encircled, Model organised attacks on the Polish position from both within and outside the pocket. The Germans managed to isolate the ridge and force open a narrow escape corridor. Lacking the fighting power to close the corridor, the Poles nevertheless directed constant and accurate artillery fire on German units retreating from the pocket, causing heavy casualties. Exasperated, the Germans launched fierce attacks throughout 20 August which inflicted losses on Hill 262's entrenched defenders. Exhausted and dangerously low on ammunition, the Poles managed to retain their foothold on the ridge. The following day, less intense attacks continued until midday, when the last German effort to overrun the position was defeated at close quarters. The Poles were relieved by the Canadian Grenadier Guards shortly after noon; their dogged stand had ensured the closure of the Falaise pocket and the collapse of the German position in Normandy.

Operation Market Garden

September 17, 1944 - September 25, 1944

Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time.

Field Marshal Montgomery's goal was to force an entry into Germany over the Lower Rhine. He wanted to circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line and this required the operation to seize the bridges across the Maas (Meuse River) and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to encircle Germany's industrial heartland in the Ruhr from the north. It made large-scale use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armored units into Northern Germany.

Initially, the operation was marginally successful, and several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured. However, Gen. Horrocks' XXX Corps ground force's advance was delayed by the demolition of a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal, an extremely overstretched supply line, at Son and failure to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal before 20 September. At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered far stronger resistance than anticipated. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, they were overrun on 21 September. The rest of the division, trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, had to be evacuated on 25 September. The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force and the river remained a barrier to their advance until the offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.

Battle of the Bulge

December 16, 1944 - January 25, 1945

The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard and became the costliest battle in terms of casualties for the United States, whose forces bore the brunt of the attack. It also severely depleted Germany's war-making resources.

The battle was known by different names. The Germans referred to it as Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), while the French named it the Bataille des Ardennes ("Battle of the Ardennes"). The Allies called it the Ardennes Counteroffensive. The phrase "Battle of the Bulge" was coined by contemporary press to describe the way the Allied front line bulged inward on wartime news maps and became the best known name for the battle.

The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Greif, and Währung. Germany's goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capture Antwerp, and then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favour. Once that was accomplished, Hitler could fully concentrate on the eastern theatre of war.

The offensive was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. The Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, and Ultra indicated that a "substantial and offensive" operation was expected or "in the wind", although a precise date or point of attack could not be given. Aircraft movement from the Russian Front and transport of forces by rail, both to the Ardennes, was noticed but not acted upon, according to a report later written by Peter Calvocoressi and F. L. Lucas at the codebreaking centre Bletchley Park.

Near-complete surprise was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance. The Germans attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive around Elsenborn Ridge and in the south around Bastogne blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success; columns that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This and terrain that favoured the defenders threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. Improved weather conditions permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.

The battle involved about 610,000 American men, of whom some 89,000 were casualties, including 19,000 killed. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.