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Liveblogging World War II: August 8, 2014: Operation Totalize

NewImageOperation Totalize - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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....

On 25 July the Americans launched their breakout offensive, Operation Cobra, which gained immediate success. By the end of the third day of the operation, American forces had advanced 15 miles (24 km) south of the Cobra start line at several points. On 30 July, American forces captured Avranches, at the base of the Cotentin peninsula. The German left flank was now open and within 24 hours, units of the American Third Army had entered Brittany and began advancing south and west through open country almost without opposition. Three German Panzer divisions—the 1st SS, 9th SS and 116th—were shifted westward from Verrières Ridge to face this new threat....

During the evening of 7 August 1944, the attacking forces formed up in six columns, each only four vehicles wide, of tanks, Kangaroo APCs, half tracks, self-propelled anti-tank guns and Mine flail tanks. At 23:00, the heavy bombers of RAF Bomber Command commenced their bombardment of German positions along the entire Caen front. At 23:30, the armoured columns began their advance behind a rolling barrage.... The attack succeeded in punching significant holes in the German defenses. By dawn, the attacking columns from the British 51st Division had reached their intended positions. The infantry dismounted from their Kangaroo APCs within 200 yards (180 m) of their objectives, the villages of Cramensnil and Saint-Aignan de Cramesnil, and rapidly overran the defenders. The columns from the Canadian 2nd Division were delayed by fog and unexpected opposition on their right flank, but by noon on 8 August, the Allied forces had captured the entire Verrières Ridge....

SS General Kurt Meyer, commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division, had already ordered infantry from various formations shattered by the bombardment by Bomber Command and by the armoured attack to occupy Cintheaux. He also moved forward two battlegroups from his own division, consisting of assault guns, infantry and Tiger tanks, positioning them across the Canadian front. Shortly after midday, he ordered these two battlegroups to counter-attack the leading Allied troops. At this point, the Allied offensive plan called for additional bombardment by the USAAF Eighth Air Force before the 4th Canadian Armoured Division and the Polish 1st Armoured Division pushed south towards Falaise on either side of the Caen-Falaise Road. While the counter-attack by the 12th SS Panzer Division was unsuccessful, it did place Meyer's tanks north of the target area that the Eighth Air Force bombarded in preparation for the second phase of the Allied attack. These tanks, spared the effects of the bombing, slowed the advance of the Polish 1st Armoured Division, preventing a breakthrough east of the road. West of the road, the German infantry at Cintheaux likewise held up Canadian Armoured formations. Neither division (both in combat for the first time) pressed their attacks as hard as Simonds demanded, and "laagered" (went into a defensive formation while vehicles and troops were resupplied and rested) when darkness fell...

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