August 3, 2017

1944. German Forces Retreat Across Normandy as Allied Victories Continue

Pockets of Resistance Remain in Liberated Areas
"British Sherman tanks and infantry during the advance on Caen, Normandy, 9 July 1944" (source)
From The Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror, July 10, 1944:
Strategic Gateway to French Interior Falls
Caen, a strategic gateway to Paris and the interior of France, is in British hands, fifty miles to the west; La-Haye-du-Puits has fallen to the Americans.

These substantial victories at both ends of the Normandy front were announced from General Montgomery's headquarters last night.

Caen, the seventh port of France and the stubbornly held hinge of Rommel's right flank, fell yesterday, 36 hours after the assault on the city opened.

Many pockets of resistance remain, but are being dealt with. Local gains have been made in the Odon bridgehead and in the Caumont-Tilly sector.

General Montgomery's headquarters announced last evening that Caen has been captured. The town was taken by British and Canadian troops entering it from the north. Clearing up pockets of resistance in and around the town is likely to go on for some time.

Communiqué 68 from General Eisenhower's Headquarters last night said:—

"The town of Caen has been liberated. Many pockets of enemy resistance remain, but these are being systematically dealt with.

"Local gains have been made in the Odon bridgehead and in the Caumont-Tilly sector.

"In the base of the Cherbourg Peninsula German resistance in La-Haye-du-Puits was crushed after the town had been by-passed on both sides. Some ground has also been gained towards Sainteny, although enemy resistance is intense both in this area and beyond Saint-Jean-de-Haye.

"Heavy bombers attacked the airfield at Châteaudun and bridges in the Tours area. This morning escorting fighters shot down on enemy aircraft and bombed and strafed ground targets, including locomotives, rolling stock and motor transport.

"Medium bombers, one of which is missing, attacked a road bridge south of Orléans. They were escorted by fighters, which also bombed gun positions south of Rennes and near Saint-Malo.

"Naval patrols made contact with groups of enemy E-boats off the south of the Seine early on Saturday morning. During the actions which followed two E-boats were severely damaged and one was set on fire before the enemy escaped into Le Havre.

Blow to Nazis

"Early this morning destroyers on patrol sighted and chased a force of five armed trawlers off Cape Fréhel. The enemy force escaped inshore under shelter of batteries, but not before they had received serious punishment."

A correspondent at S.H.A.E.F. says the capture of Caen opens the way to what General Montgomery has most needed after his build-up room to maneuvre with armour. For over 20 miles beyond Caen the direct road to Paris there lies flat country almost without ditches. It reproduces the desert conditions in which Montgomery routed Rommel in Africa.

The River Orne has not yet been crossed. The southern suburbs of Caen are still in German hands. But with the powerful fortifications north of the town forced there is still little chance of a lengthy stand by the Germans south of the river. The German retreat from Caen was orderly and the number of prisoners taken may not be large.

Caen, with a peace time population of 52,000, is the Departmental capital of Calvados. It lies 130 miles from Paris. It is the only important port on the River Orne, and it is linked to the sea by a canal over nine miles long which joins the Channel at Ouistreham.

Reports from Normandy last night said that the Germans had opened the floodgates east of the Orne, letting in the sea over the lowland near the river mouth. The town's importance arises from its proximity to the Norman coalfields, and the port formerly handled 2,000,000 tons yearly, mainly coal and minerals, like the still larger inland port of Rouen.

Five-Day Siege

William Stringer, Reuters special correspondent with the First U.S. Army in Normandy, stated last night: "American troops, after a five-day siege, to-day stormed into and captured La-Haye-du-Puits, highway hub near the western base of the Cotentin Peninsula.

"The Doughboys, closed in from three sides—north, west and east—to break what is described as 'determined' opposition last night. But minor pockets holding out at various points, including the network of pillboxes in the railway yards, delayed the capture of the town until nine o'clock this morning."
Bill Downs, C.B.S. correspondent in Normandy, in a special dispatch to Reuters last night, said: "In the Caen area Allied troops driving from the north have now contacted the troops that drove into Caen from the west.

"Right now the Normandy twilight is falling over the city. British troops are moving cautiously from street to street mopping up dug-in Nazis in the center of the city.

"It was about two o'clock this afternoon that British infantry reached the River Orne running through the centre of Caen. They were followed not by tanks, but by bulldozers, which had to plough the roads because the damage is so great.

"When I was in Caen a few hours ago this road building was underway, but the Germans are still just across the river and in strength.

"The city proper has been cleared, but there are still the important railroad suburbs just south-east of the river to be taken from the Germans. To-day there is still a substantial victory which will be completed when the entire metropolitan area of Caen is in our hands.

Two Alternatives

"Up to the north-west of the city there are still pockets of encircled Germans resisting. They now have only two alternatives—surrender or death. It is not believed that there are a lot of Nazis trapped, and it is getting increasingly obvious that the Germans have pulled out a lot of men and equipment from the Caen area during the past few days.

"Entering the city there is the most complete devastation I have ever witnessed outside the Carentan. There is a strip of land around the northern suburbs of Caen about a quarter of a mile wide which is nothing but a mass of rubble."

Charles Lynch, Reuters special correspondent with the Canadian Forces in Caen, in a message dispatched at 8 p.m. and received in London shortly after 11 p.m. said:—

"British and Canadian forces joined up to-day to occupy all sections of Caen north of the Orne River after an assault which in 36 hours had cleared almost all the Germans out of the Caen area."
A German High Command report last night stated:—

"General Eisenhower has stepped up the intensity of his attacks both on the western and eastern extremities of the invasion front.

"General Dempsey's divisions, backed by a continuous barrage from Allied warships, have drilled a deep wedge into our positions north-east of Caen. Marshal von Kluge's men are still trying to eliminate this wedge and violent fighting is raging on the sector.

"Grim battles are also raging north and north-west of Caen, which is now a mere heap of ruins. The British forces are receiving continuously fresh reinforcements.

"On the right flank the American attacks are becoming hourly more violent. For instance, on a 10-miles sector between the Vire and the Prairies Marécageuses de Gorges, American batteries fired 20,000 shells against the German positions in the last 24 hours.

"In spite of this powerful artillery support and the arrival of fresh armour and infantry the Americans have made only limited advances."

The German News Agency stated that 12 British infantry and tank divisions, supported by numerous squadrons of battle planes and dive-bombers, assaulted Caen.