Military History Q&A Series Q12

Brett’s question: Allies went so slow in Normandy, but then so fast after. Why? Was it mostly terrain?


Top: Fighting in the Bocage; the Normandy countryside was marked by high, narrow trees and shrubs. This reduced visibility to narrow lanes and armor could not operate.

Justin’s answer:


Although terrain played a huge factor, it was not the only factor. Some other factors:

  1. Weather despite all the war movies about Normandy looking it was perfect weather, in reality, there was a channel storm the week before which almost postponed the invasion until better weather and tidal conditions in July. In mid June, there was another huge storm that wrecked the artificial harbor. It was not smooth sailing until much better weather later.
  2. Stiffening German resistance. Heavy German units like the elite paratrooper division, the SS 2nd and 12th Divisions and several other panzer units finally arrived. Monty said he would take Caen on D-Day. It would take him until July 18 before Caen was captured.
  3. Unimaginative British commanders
    1. Historians criticized the Brits for not being aggressive enough.
    2. Historians also criticized the Brits for not using the Canadians units well enough. Although the Canadians fought bravely, liaisons with higher ups like Monty were strained.

  4. Massive Buildup of US forces. On D-Day, the US had committed only 3 infantry divisions for the initial invasion: 1st, 4th, and 29th, and 2 airborne divisions: 82nd, and 101st. In July 25, when Operation Cobra was launched – the breakout, there were not one but 2 armies: the 1st Army and the 3rd Army under Patton. Patton favored bold attacks; the US 3rd Army crossed France in a matter of weeks and reached Paris on August 25.



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