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The D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy

This map is part of a series of 15 animated maps showing the history of The second World War, 1939-1945.

Right up to the last moment, the German staff headquarters were uncertain as to the probable landing place for the immense army gathered by the Allies in Southern England.

The area around Calais seemed to be the best solution, as the distance across the English Channel was short and would allow the army to land close to the German border.

However, it was decided to launch Operation Overlord against the Normandy coast, halfway between the ports of Cherbourg and Le Havre early in the morning of 6 June, after delaying the conveys by one day because of difficult weather conditions.

Under the cover of artillery fire from battleships lying offshore, American troops landed on two beaches code-named Omaha and Utah.  

British regiments landed on Gold and Sword beaches, and the Canadians on Juno beach.

By the evening of 6 June, the initial objectives, including the capture of Caen, had not been met and the American troops were still fighting on Omaha beach. Nevertheless, more than 150,000 soldiers and a massive amount of equipment had been landed in France.

During the days that followed, the Allies consolidated their bridgeheads. Faced with strong resistance from the Germans, they advanced slowly, and more than a week passed before the troops on Utah and other bridgeheads could join forces.

In the west, the American troops managed to isolate the Cotentin peninsula on 18 June and cut off the Germans, who were forced to withdraw to Cherbourg before surrendering on 26 June.

Near Caen, the British and Canadian armies under Montgomery suffered heavy casualties in fighting with German armoured divisions. The city itself was largely destroyed by successive waves of air bombing and was not completely liberated until 19 July.

The German front was penetrated south of the Cotentin peninsula. On 24 July, several thousand airplanes launched a huge carpet bombing attack on the Norman marshes, opening the passage for General Patton’s American tank divisions. On the 28th, they reached Coutances and arrived at Avranches on 30 July, before quickly turning towards Brittany and the Loire Valley.

On 7 August, the Germans launched a counterattack in an attempt to cut American lines, but they were quickly caught in a pincer movement by Patton moving northwards. The Falaise pocket was encircled on 19 August with some divisions of Germany’s 5th and 7th armies trapped inside.

During the Battle of Normandy, losses were estimated at 40,000 for the Allied troops and 50,000 for Germany.

On 25 August, Paris was liberated by the 2nd Tank Division led by General Leclerc as part of Patton’s army. The same day, the British and Canadian regiments crossed the Seine and advanced along the Channel coast.