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tv   Aftermath of D- Day Invasion  CSPAN  August 3, 2014 8:55am-9:58am EDT

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chief. that is a direct assault on civilian control. that is what the wikileaks attempted to do. on the one hand. on the other hand, let us recall one year ago, just about exactly one year ago, when president obama was in the throes of the loc long, drawn out attempt to figure out what he wanted to do about afghanistan. well before he had reached the conclusion there was a leak. what was leaked was the mcchrystal plan. and what the leak of the mcchrystal plan was hijacked the entire policy process. it handcuffed the president. and what i would say is, what pfc manning allegedly did was wrong, then whoever leaked the mcchrystal report did a much more serious wrong.
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basically gave to al qaeda and the taliban a detailed explanation of what u.s. strategy was going to be. and i don't remember the secretary of defense or other people last summer getting all hot an bothered about the mcchrystal leak. i think that was a far more egregious assault on civilian control of the military. thanks very much. i really enjoyed it. [applause] . >> you're watching american history t.v. all weekend, every weekend. on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. at c-span history. >> coming up, author and professor john mcmanus talks about what happened in the days
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and weeks following the june 6th, 1944 d-day invasion of normandy, france. he explores some of the challenges the allied forces faced, including the difficult terrain, and the german fortifications in the towns surrounding the beaches. this hour-long event was part of the national world war ii museum's commemoration of the 70th anniversary of d-day, in june. >> the focus today is post june 6th when to some extent the hardest work is beginning for the allies, getting ashore obviously is a monumental effort that requires years of planning, years of compromises and politics and whatever else. what follows from june 7th on we'reed is just an absolute bloody slog that ultimately leads deep into germany and the end of hitler's nazi germany. so here's where we are sort of
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begin. now, the aftermath of d-day in about the next five to six days, sees this basic situation. you've got the five distinctive landing beaches, obviously, gold and sword for the british, junejuno is sandwiched between them and, the west, omaha beach, the americans carved out a lodgement there and to the west of that, utah beach. for the americans, and that will be my primary focus today, is the american experience in normandy, and a little about what that was like and i'll draw some of the highlights for you. for the americans in the after a math of d-day the main objective is to get the caravan and link up the two distinctive beachheads. you will not do much of anything in normandy until omaha and utah beaches are linked up as one continuous entity and a kind of basepoint from which you will
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advance and take your other objectives in normandy and caravan, simply by the accident of geography, happens to be the spot where that must happen. it is really not a very big town, it is 4,000 people, in 1944, it is located near low ground, much of which is flooded or marshy around it and one time in napoleon's day, 100 years before this, it was almost like an island because french engineers manipulated the locks in the water and the sea canals nearby, in such a way, as to almost isolate it. it wasn't like that in 1944. but, much of the land around it was inundated and i'm sure many of you know it was one of the german defenses against the normandy invasion is to flood certain portions of normandy in hopes of foiling airborne landing operations and the like. so, it is the focus for what
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remains of the 101st airborne division in the aftermath of the landings. and, of course the 101st had been scattered around southward and the three or four days after d-day their fight is a matter of capturing some of the key d-day objectives, and sort of for taylor, the division commander, putting together a coherent, cohesive divisional entity he can maneuver, distinctive battalions and regiments, and so it becomes his primary focus from june 12th, june 10th through june 12th, 1944. here's how he will do it. he'll approach from the north. take his 327 glider regiment and envelope around to the right. as you can see it on the map. i know this is something of a busy map but these are some of
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the better maps you will get in terms of accuracy of the phase of the normandy campaign and comes from west point atlas, an on-line web site. i highly encourage you to check it out, not just the world war ii maps but many throughout military history. really well done, so, it will be enveloped, the 327th glider infantry regiment along with elements of the 501st paratrooper infantry regiment swings around to the right of the city. east of it. the 502nd parachute infantry regiment will take the lead in coming in from the north and swinging around and on their heels will be probably the most famous regiment in the 101st, the 506 parachute regiment including the famous band of brothers. the problem with all of this is the 327 and the 501 are fighting in marshy ground east of the city and this is a slow and literally difficult slog. for the 502, the main problem is
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there is only one way in there from the north on a raised cause way over the marshy ground, the germans know this. the causeway is mind and there are obstacles to prevent american movement. there is also in one instance, a german plane, a long american column of infantry. which is a really unusual experience for americans in normandy, usually the germans are on the wrong end of a strafing attack and as i mentioned the onbstacles, the paratroopers will get caught up and, spread out, taking cover on the embankments, above the causeway, it is an extremely difficult situation but there are distinctive farms north of the town that eventually, some 502 paratroopers get in there. most notably a battalion, by a
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fascinating figure, a 27-year-old west pointer, a soldier's soldier. we often associate army language with general george patton. cole was sort of patton's equal in terms of colorful army language. and a colorful personality. cole had this manner of speaking gruffly but affectionately to his soldiers. he was kind of larger than life commander in terms of leading from the front. the kind of person who liked to give his soldiers a hard time. you know, to kind of test them in that sense to give them a hard time and see how they'd react to his rather unique sense of humor but he was also an inspirational commander in combat in terms of his kurn and professionalism. so cole had one of sort of the key moments of this push into the northern outskirts and is going to loosely organize what is rare in american -- modern
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american military history and that is a bayonet charge. a bayonet charge against a group of germans who control a farm building and surrounding hedgerows, more on that in a moment and is basically about 60 to 80 502 troopers charging forward with their bayonets over open ground with cole leading the way with a pistol. there is almost a kind of absurdly humorous moment that happens during the incredible assault. cole doesn't see this like drainage gully or drainage ditch and falls straight into it. and he splashed up to here with water and has these guys around him, going past him or following him and looks back and says, don't follow me, the anti-infantry credo. fort benning, the infantry credo is follow me, and he goes
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against it and don't fall me into here. doesn't want everybody falling into the ditch. he works out of there and others work straight at the germans, there are literally instance when they will sort of bayonet the germans in their stomachs, believe it or not, and they kind of get their foot in the door by overrunning the german position in one of the key spots, north of the town, once they get artillery reinforcement, the germans are not able to counterattack and dislodge them and it opens the doorway into the town for the rest of the 101 airborne division including most notably the 506. they swing around to the left and come at the town from the south, and, then basically take it street by street. there were concerns if you had an entire german parachute regiment, the 6th, in the town and as it turned out they left a rear guard of a company in there and, this is portrayed famously
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in the miniseries, band of brothers and portrayed very well. so, the key lep now, once they have taken the town on june 10th is to defend it against an approaching attack, from the south. why did they want the town back? they understand if it remains under american control omaha and utah beach link up and the americans advance from there and the germans are cognizant of the importance of the objective. so, this fighting in the german counterattack, which takes place mainly like june 11 through 13th, 1944, takes place outside of the city limits. not really in the town. but outside in the fields and hedgerows, and is one of the instances of the entire campaign of world war ii allied leaders are able to receive intelligence, what is called you
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ext -- ultra intelligence, to break the german operational codes and figure out something of their intentions. general bradley, the first army commander, the u.s. first army commander, had the ultra intelligence and knows what panzer grenadier is going to do and has tanks available to deal with them coming from the second armored division. they have been landed hastily and will enter the town fight alongside the paratroopers who are lightly armed to deal with tanks and armored personnel carriers and will stave off the counterattack, successfully, by june 12th and 13th. allowing the two american beachheads to link up. obviously, this is important. this is significant. so, from there, where do the allies go? they are each dealing, the two distinct allied forces now, the americans and their allies from britain and canada are dealing with different points of resistance. different obstacles. on the british side, canadian
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siesh side, closer to cannes, the biggest add vary you have are the german units, some of the most powerful units in the german army are forming around cannes to deal with the british and canadians there. that means 12th fs panzer, 21st panzer. you have pretty good rolling ground around cannes. rolling plains, plateaus and farm fields that are right there, in the summertime, you know, getting close to harvest. good tank country, there are good roads around cannes and the british want cannes for the obvious reason. the biggest city in normandy and the perfect pivot point to advance out of normandy. also an inland port to help your logistics, to land supplies and people and whatever else. so, british general montgomery, 21st army group commander had hoped to have cannes the first day.
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after d-day. he will deny later in life, disingenuously and hoped to have it and, instead it takes a month. they are facing the toughest unit in the entire german army. one example the canadian third division will ultimately end up in a blood feud with the aforementioned 12th ss panzer division, a youth division, 16, 17, 18-year-old alumni of the hitler youth alongside hardened russian veterans. there will be the killings of canadian prisoners by 12 ss, most notably, at an abbey west of cannes, the western suburbs of cannes when the ss captures canadian prisoners, initially they shoot them, just almost out of hand. out of sorts, they head down on the eastern front at times. eventually they will collect them and take them to the abbey des jardins and one by one execute them, at least 25 are
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killed in the garden of the abbey des jardins and you can go there in this day and age and visit it and see a memorial marker to the canadians killed there. the canadian third division then will take no prisoners from the ss, at least they say. and these will basically lock horns throughout much of june and much of july, 1944. and destroy each other. 12th ss ends up really completely destroyed ultimately but the canadian third division is severely depleted and one thing about the canadian war effort in world war ii: this was a kind of hangover from world war i, in world war i you could get drafted and sent to the western front and they had taken massive casualties and world war ii you had to be a volunteer to be sent overseas to fight in a combat unit, you could be drafted to serve and defend canada at home but not necessarily be drafted to serve in the canadian third division fighting in normandy so it was difficult to replenish the manpower once they were losing people and the british are having the same problems, though obviously they have a draft in
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which you can serve everywhere. for the americans, their main challenge is the terrain itself. not that the german opposition is -- you know, should be taken lightly. but the terrain can do some of the defensive work for the germans in normandy. you are looking at the honeycombed hedgerows and it is an aerial view from 1944, almost a checker board sense of the area. this place, these fields. what are the hedgerows? well, it is mostly, hedgerows in normandy are structured thusly. you have a four to 8 foot embankment, earthen embankment, sometimes reinforced with stones or other fencing material but often reinforced with deep and thick roots that date back many, many hundreds, if not thousands of years, the foliage is
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extensive. especially in summertime. this is a formidable natural obstacle. the hedgerows have been deliberately cultivated by normand farmers for two millenn millennia, dating back to roman times and were used to delineate whose field was whose and to have a border area. so, you can see, probably have deeply rooted trees, foliage and deeply packed earth. the northern man soil is moist and the consistency of clay, adhesive in the sense, it is beautiful, beautiful soil but obviously, it is very formidable. you know, for any attacker who is hoping to deal with it. kind of a present-day look at how confining this will be. think of sort of -- isn't there a claustrophobic effect to this? your visibility is limited. you're in the middle of the
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green and, you don't often sense how thick some of the hedgerows are until you are right upon them and, in this circumstance you can imagine it will be difficult to manipulate and maneuver units to know what is going on, even a quarter of a mile away, and have any kind of sense of what the german opposition might be. and you can also sense that any opening in the hedgerows is going to be covered by german weaponry, isn't it? and, so, how will you move and take land and maneuver under these circumstances? this is what the us army comes face-to-face with. kind of a stunning situation by you know -- by the second week of june or so. how to deal with this and the germans learned quickly how to fortify the various hedgerows and make the americans pay dearly. and, i as you don't want to say there are none in the british sector. there are but the heaviest is on the american part of normandy. so, the us army from an
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operational and command standpoint is not really prepared to deal with these hedgerows. most of the training focused on getting ashore. and maneuvered war fare. what the us army will do well. maneuver with vehicles, use a lot of fire power, use air power, all these kind of things, though there is certainly recognition that the hedgerows exist, you know, at high command level the french resistance of course told them all about this. normandy is not a mystical place. many americans and britons and canadians visited there. george patton is a good example. he visit there during world war i and thereafter. you know, so, it is not like this is brand new but there is this disconnect between understanding, yes, there are hedgerows in normandy but maybe they are sort of like those in britain which are more like hedges. and, maybe we will have to deal with that, you know, as a commander at the small unit level, platoon company your people are probably not prepared for this. and so u.s. orthopedic is going to have to improvise and
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initially, the performance in the hedge rows for sup units is really not good. really problematic. the 90th infantry division is an example. the tough hombres, texas-oak ho-- text-oklahoma national guard. and two regiments will land and they'll fight on the peninsula and were trained as an am fib use unit and their senior leadership was not up to the path and there will be a lot of firing and turmoil and as the 90th is going to be in this kind of learning curve throughout the weeks of june, 1944. and, a lot of soldiers lose their lives, or get wounded, as people figure out how to deal with this. ultimately, i should point out, the 90th will end you say as one of this finest units in the us army in europe but, as i mention it is a steep learning curve
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and, there are other units that struggle, too. not quite as much as the 90th but it is a problem. so how will they deal with them? improvization. a bottom-up kind of thing. senior commanders aren't noodling with how to deal with the hedgerows, it is the sergeants and the junior officers dealing with it on a day-to-day basis and, the solution to the whole thing is combined arms. certainly the first thing you have to do is create a new opening in the hedgerows, right? you will not go through their opening they pre-sighted and get killed. how do you create it? what they think of first is, we have engineers with tnt and we'll blow holes that way but you don't have enough engineers or tnt. your infantry can't get through on their own. they don't have the weapons for it. and your tanks, what about them? well, one thing they'll start doing is welding prongs onto the front of united states army
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tanks in order to punch holes through the hedge rows. now, you will often hear claims, oh, this guy does it first and this guy did it first and that guy, whatever. all of those are debatable because it is going on uniformly. across the board. each unit figuring it out on their own kind of thing. it isn't as much a unified kind of approach. so i'm giving you sort of the general picture of the fact that people are improvising and figuring out, okay. we'll punch holes with tanks. but the tanks are going to be vulnerable on their own. if you send a tank through, punch through the hedgerow, there is a very good possibility a german will wait on the other side, crouching en a ditch with a panzer faust, an anti-tank weapon, basically a fire and forget weapon, he can basically punch a hole in your armor and destroy the tank if he's close enough and you have anti-tank weapons that are dug in. so this is where you need the
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infantry, it might be alongside the tank as they punch through, tanks punch through a hedge row like you see there sand will figure there must be germans in the ditches or in the nekxt hede row line or the field if they are dumb, maybe close by. they saturate the area with white phosphorus shells. white phosphorus is a nasty weapon. basically designed to burn through all of the way to the bone. when you burn by white phosphorus you don't put it out with water. it feeds it and makes it worse. only way to stop it is cut off the oxygen supply and that means packing it with mud or something like that. which can create infection of course. so, no german soldier want to have the bits of white phosphorus come down on him, catch his uniform on fire and burn through to his skin. it would be a deterrent to get to flush them out of there. saturate them with white phosphorus shells or perhaps high explosive shells and the infantry will act as a bodyguard for the tanks, coming along the
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side, cleaning out the ditches to use the army's euphemism which means kill people, move along the ditches, shoot people, take them prisoner. whatever it would be and engineers will sometimes be used maybe as demolition specialists or deal with mines they go through or sometimes impromptu infantry. it varies but us army is going to begin to learn to fight this way in june and july of 1944. hedge row to hedge row throughout normandy and it is still a slow and rather torturous process and very casualty-intensive but it works. especially because the germans don't have enough manpower or fire power to really hold off this growing us army. so, that is kind of the overview of how many of these battles will be fought. once you have the link-up at the town of utah and omaha beach the main focus for the us army oddly enough is to move westward. wait, shouldn't they move eastward towards germany?
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well, true. but they want to take the peninsula first, inland from utah beach all the way to the opposite coast. the american planners believed they must have shared border, the port city, right at the tip of the peninsula. ch charbourg is the largest harbor and the more people you put ashore, the more you need to sustain you need thousands of tons of supplies, and it will get deeper as you get into france, from an american point of view, 2/3 of the effort will be american. in terms of the manpower and materiel power and you need charbourg.
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and, the first push across the country is barnville, which is on the west coast and this 9th infantry, takes it on june 1st, 1944, the ninth division, an interesting unit, fought in the mediterranean, and it was more or less a regular army division, had a reputation for being a strong unit in combat, known as the old reliables. and will be a key player in normandy and when they take barneville on june 1st. the germans are sealed off in their perimeter around charbourg and farther to the south, from a german point of view they are mainly preoccupied with surviving and holding the lionel. the focus of the us army's efforts from june 18th through most of the rest of june, is to
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get there. and, brandtly lines up three us army subdivision in the peninsula, and sends them toward charbourg the second half of june, you have the 9th division on the western coast, as you expect and the middle the 79th infantry division, the cross of lorraine division. and the cross of lorraine division fought in world war i. it is new to combat in world war ii under general weisch and one of the things about the cross of lorraine division, if you have seen photographs of us army soldiers from the normandy campaign is that during this phase of the campaign you can instantly recognize the 79th division soldier. in most cases us army soldiers have a very tight pattern netting on their helmets. particularly nonairborne soldiers. the 79th division had wide netting on their helmets in june, 1944. almost to the point where you wonder why is it there? you will not be able to put
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camouflage or hold any cover in place, when you see this wide netting in any picture you will know that the 79th division soldier probably the latter half of june, 1944. on the right side, or really the original landing coast near utah beach is the fourth infantry division. they had assaulted and taken utah beach on d-day. this is a rec army unit new to combat on d-day and earned a reputation for significant bravery and competence as well. so three divisions, basically advancing shoulder-to-shoulder, under the command of j. lawton collins who emerges as one of the most competent of all us army commanders in the european theatre. he once commanded the 25th division, in -- at guadalcanal in the 1942 and since the division was known as the tropic
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lightning division it earned him the nickname lightning joe. well, the push is through thick country and the battle is fought more or less as i illustrated a moment ago with these kind of combined arms efforts. so you have not a full armor division like the second armor division. you have tanks, parceled out among infantry units in 4s and 5s and a dozen or whatever. to help that incremental adva e advance. and it is intensive and the navy is helping the eastern coast advance. one problem you are running into, though 4th division is heavy bunkers and for t fortifications, as you advance north. by june 23rd, 24th, you are approaching the outskirts of cherbourg. you have thousands of german soldiers there. and this is a mish-mash group under the general, you have
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naval people and you have luft waft and, you have tanks and you mainly are relying for the germans upon built in fortifications, such as fort de roule, the center point of the entry outskirts to cherbourg and coastal fortifications and all of this. for the crowning assaulted on cherbourg, collins is going to do something quite unusual and to some extent innovative. the u.s. navy is helping sustain the entire beachhead regardless of talking about the british or americans, by guarding the beaches, where most of the real supplies are being landed, still, over omaha beach, primarily but you have a lot of powerful ships, cruisers, destroyers, and battleships that
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can be useful for any operation, and cherbourg, at cherbourg collins coordinates with the naval colleagues to have a fleet available that features two battleships and they will shell the german position in the harbor and tie done the gun position and designed to fire in shifts. but, provide a level of close support for the troops of those three us army divisions as they move into the urban morass of cherbourg. so, most of the time from the perspective of a, say, a gunner aboard a navy cruiser and asked to shell a hostile shore in support of american troops, usually, maybe assault troops, most of the time it is no problem, no big deal if you fire too long. you don't want to do that. but if you fire too long you miss it and it land in the german or japanese rear area, right? well this is different. you are now firing in the same direction where your troops are
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coming from. you don't want to fire long and this requires a great deal of precision gunnery and precision coordination with collins. so, you can imagine here's the army soldiers advancing toward their own navy's guns. so, it is what i consider to be remarkable is there are few, if any, friendly fire intentions during this battle. the navy does a remarkable job of precision fire. and not firing too long. and, why is it difficult to coordinate? not in the initial part of it, certainly but once stuff happens, you think about it, you've got squads and platoons that are on this street versus this street versus that street. it is an uneven, jagged advance, so it is hard to know who is where at any given time and hard to coordinate that and have communication even in that urban
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setting so i view that as somewhat remarkable that they don't end up with any sort of disasters on their hands. so, quickly, the germans find themselves, you know, just bombarded, out-classed, out-fought. kind of building-to-building, bar-to-bar, sewer-to-sewer, within cherbourg, and, there are orders from hitler to fight to the last man and the last cartridge, very hitler sort of rhetoric. he will surrender with at least 20 to 30,000 german troops by the end of june, 1944. and cherbourg is taken. so, wonderful, right? well, i have bad news, really. german engineers had demolished the harbor. they made it basically unusable at least in the near term at cherbourg. they filled in the docks. they had destroyed the cranes. they had put concrete block ships in there.
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they just wrecked every quay and, demolition and it was a major to be for us army engineers to try and recover the place and rebuild it. it takes the better part of the summer to do this. cherbourg will not be running all that much for the allies until about september, 1944. by then, it is far away from the front lines that are, you know, in eastern france. a bit anticlimactic in that respect. so you wonder where in the world are the supplies coming from then? we, of course the most famous answer to that question is, is mulberry harbors. the code name for artificial harbors the allies have created through remarkable and ingenius engineering and manufacturing, basically create your own artificial harbors off the landing beach. one at gold beach, the british beam and one at hoomaha beach, d you have block ships to create
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breakwaters and then you have kind of ramps and platforms you unload stuff that way. those are in place, within about a week or so of the invasion. but, a terrible storm hits normandy from june 18th through 20th, 1944, heavily damaged the british mulberry harbor and destroys the american mulberry harbor for good. to the normandy said you can see ve vestiges of the harbors. they will only count for 10% of it. most of your supplies are just simply being languagedded on th beaches, especially omaha beach, by oversized lfts which the crews nicknamed, long, slow target and it often is. not a pretty ship but utilitarian and moved a lot of vehicles and freight and opened it up at low tide as you go into
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the beach, unload and wait for the tide to come in and come back out. not what they planned but that is how the majority of the supplies will be landed in the campaign in northern europe for quite some time. so, you have of course a unified allied sector, as the map shows you. and the british are going to get caen july 7th, by destroying it by air, fighting for the ruins and the rubble. and montgomery tries to pivot from there and advance southeastward. in a -- an offensive, operation good-wood which is disastrous and he loses 4,000 men and several hundred tanks in the space of two days and goes almost nowhere. the american front is more or less stalemated inland from omaha beach like you see there and not far from bardville. for instance, brandtly decides to attack on the extreme western flank and you see there to push
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for a town. and he want to unhinge the western part of the german, red line that you see there, unhinge that, and that will compromise the entire position, german position in normandy. well, what happens instead is a slow and bloody slog through very marshy ground, bad for tanks and vehicles. they can't provide fire support there and bradley gained 7 miles of ground in two weeks and suffers 40,000 american casualties. 40,000. in a two-week period for 7 miles of more or less worthless ground. mush. so that is what normandy is devolving to. the weather is not good, normandy has a wet climate especially in the summer. rainy and moist. so it makes it tough to use your air power accurately. and heavendgerow to hedgerow fighting and problems with supply on both side. it is turning into a kind of campaign of attrition which is not what either side wants in a
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way. so bradley's concept on the heels of the failure is to redouble his efforts to make st. lo which is in the middle of our map. st. lo is not a new objective for the americans, they hope to have it a lot sooner than this. and the reason it is important -- you notice, by a glance at the map, practically every road leads through st. lo, a market town dating back to ancient times. not a big place but a communication and transportation and market center for norman culture and it was invaded many times because it was valuable for these reasons: it had bern en invaded by kingsd napoleonic armies and, you name it. obviously the germans in 1940. and all of those invaders in the
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old days had wanted, what invaders throughout history generally wanted. plunder. you know? stuff. domination. power. women, whatever. you know? and the americans come in 1944, they don't want any of those things. they want to liberate the town as they see it. so what is supremely ironic and tragic about this whole thing. >> the most benevolent of invaders at st. lo do more dang, arguably than all the others combined. the allied air forces bombed st. lo on d-day. why? because it is a crossroads and it would be the natural place the germans would use to counterattack omaha beach so it creates ruins and kills many french civilians who are certainly caught in the middle of all of this. and of course as the push for st. lo matures into a major ground battle it leads to even more destruction. ultimately, leading one us army soldier to say, after the battle, with sort of awe and
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sorrow in his voice, we liberated the hell out of this place. st. lo will be the focus point for bradley's army in july of 1944. he pushes forward with three us army divisions, 35th, which is missouri, kansas, nebraska, national guard, new to combat in july 1944. second infantry division, which is the indianhead division which lands the day after d-day, omaha beach and many of you have seen a famous image of soldiers ascending omaha beach with vehicles and supplies landed on the beach below them and they are looking up at the camera with the long column, that took place at wn-65 in the heart of omaha beach and it was on june 7th, 1944. the second division was regular army division and took pride in having the largest actual patch in the entire us army. the indianhead patch and it still exists. and the other division is the 29th. the blue-gray division that
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carried out the famous assault on omaha beach on d-day. a month later, if you were in a rifle company and the 29th division, and you had been there on d-day, you were a real fugitive from the law of averages. the casualties the unit took on d-day were of course extensive. and the fighting ever since had been extremely costly. the 29th division had been replenished to some extent with replacements and it will really have the lead role in the push for st. lo. it gives you a closer look at it. at st. lo, you can see where the americans primarily are coming from and the various units in play. and the 29th having the lead role. now, this is really some of the thickest of the bocage country, the 29th division fights from july 10th to july 1st, 1944. it is a 3 to 4 mile area one
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historian estimate it would take an hour, hour-and-a-half, two hours to walk it in regular peacetime life. it took days to take it for the 29th division and get into st. lo itself. hed hedgerow to hedge row fighting against german army paratroopers and survivors from the 52nd infantry division, parts of which were at omaha beach on d-day. another battle to extinction and hole to hole, hedge row to hedge row in terrible circumstances, sometimes rain with losses like you wouldn't believe, if you are in a rifle company and started out with 160 guys, on july 10th, you are probably down to about 15 or 20 by july 18th. not everybody is dead, the majority or wounded or skulked away and you have intense
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casualties but the germans are worse off. the americans get st. lo july 18th and find it is nothing more than a field of ruins. incredibly tragic but the roads are impacted and they have to come in with bulldozers and move the rubble aside and it makes the destruction even worse. for the town -- from townspeople's point of view. the symbol of the american effort for st. lo is embodied in major thomas howie who through the attrition of the battle became a battalion commander in the course of the fight for st. lo, and, in civilian life he was an english teacher and a football coach. he was a man of great intellect and a man of great sensitivity, and anybody who met him tended to like him. except his division commander, major general charles gerhart, never the most sensitive individual you could meet tended to think he was too nice, too soft. too sensitive to be a great combat leader.
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he was wrong. howie turns out to be beloved by his men and one of the people who really leads the push into st. lo. and during one of the last drives for st. lo is killed by german shell fire, either mortar or artillery, not really sure. his body is carried by other soldiers into st. lo and is placed under a flag, what they think is the remains of the church of st. lo and is put there basically on display, as a kind of symbol of what american youth have done in st. lo. he is known to this day as the major of st. lo, thomas howie. so with this key objective, finally, innis hand, bradley hopes to kind of pivot out of st. l of ao and beyond, i menti the goodwood offensive. originally he hoped to coordinate that with a major
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offensive by bradley pushing southwest out of st. lo. and both would like -- both want to use the air forces to carpet-bomb the front lines ahead of them. well, because of the weather patterns in normandy the weather was simply too bad in the american sector to launch the offensive, plus the fighting around st. lo is so costly the americans will not be in a position to begin to push until july 24th and that is several days after after the goodwood offensive and coming piecemeal allows the germans to react. to either one of them. so july 24th, 1944, bradley launches what is called operation cobra. he coordinated with the 8th air force in england to bomb in front of his lines, saturate the german lines primarily the panzer lair division in front of the us army decisions, will be bombed heavily by the four engine bombers and relentlessly
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to create some a path and swath of destruction the germans will not be able to stop a combined advance of the us army, basically three division with infantry mounted on tanks. so, like troops of the big red one for instance, the first infantry division, are going to be mounted on tanks from the third armor division like a mobile task force under general collins, to exploit that hopeful breach in the german line and then, you know, basically create a mobile campaign in normandy. well doesn't quite work out that way. the coordination by bradley with the air commanders is not good. riven with miscommunication and the air commanders told bradley clearly, though he'll deny it later they could not basically bomb horizontally through the american line. this is theest line here. the bombers would come over the german lines and drop their bombs but if they do that they'll run a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire along the german line there in normandy and plus it will take them
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forever. hours and hours and hours to do this. they said no. we'll come over vertically, straight over theest lines and then drop our loads, once we are past theest lines. -- the u.s. lines. yeah, right. this is what happens, they come from that direction the drops are short and there is loss of life on the u.s. side. ground commanders demonstrated great frustration during the run-up to cobra. because they had taken hard won ground and they said, from above were told, no you have to give up the ground and withdraw 1,000 or 2,000 yards so the air force will bomb ahead of you and we don't them to bomb you and then the ground commander says, great i have to take it again. even with that, they were still getting bombed by their own air force. dozens of lives lost on july 24th. bradley has to decide, a tough senior leader decision, should i unleash the bombing again on july 25th knowing this danger this time? and he decides to go ahead with it. but, this time he said we'll mark it with orange colored
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smoke which tells us okay. don't bomb on this side of the orange colored smoke and that is the u.s. line so the crewmen are briefed, not to do that. none of them wants to bomb their own troops. so anything happens on july 25th, murphy's law in effect. which way do you think the wind is blowing? toward the u.s. line. orange smoke is coming back toward the american line, and there is confusion by at least one or two groups, that is all it takes, they will unload their bombs, over the u.s. lines and there will be more friendly fire casualties. ultimately, you'll have 111 americans killed. many come from the 30th hickory division commanded by a fiery general, leland hobbs, who i can assure you by july 25th hates the us army air force, fairly or unfairly, and the 30th division -- if you heard of the great war
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correspondent ernie pyle he wrote a wonderful account what it was like to be bombed by his own air force, he was there with the fourth division. so when the us army troops go forward on july 25th, they find the germans are still in a good position to resist unfortunately. some of those front lines position have not been hit that hard. the bad news. the good news, the rear areas have been really made. tanks flipped up side town, communications destroyed. people destroyed, horse columns destroyed. all this kind of stuff and so once you get past the hard crust of initial resistance there is room to maneuver. and collins had to make the decision, there is cratering and we don't know what is ahead of us. should i send the task force of infantry riding on tanks, send them forward and really go for the kill? he does by july 26th and 27th and leads to basically what you see on the map. a breakthrough through that
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rectangle, that has been bombed and on beyond and now is where the germans are really in trouble. now you see a breakthrough in normandy, late july, 1944. and the kind of mobile campaign the americans had always wanted. now, it doesn't mean that it is safe out there. there are powerful german units moving and retreating, trying to get out to avoid encirclement. the second armor division on the evening of july 28th and 29th will be in a roadblock position and run into a very powerful german armored task force that leads to a confused night battle with significant loss of life on both sides. there is plenty of very serious fighting going on, from a bigger picture point of view, to the americans' advantage now. the persons are really in tum trouble. on august 1st, of course, they activate the famous third army. under general george patton. you have two operational u.s. armies in play now, the first and the third. and bradley moves up to in an
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army group commander of the 12th army in control of all the u.s. ground portions an patton's third army has a reputation for being armored. armored heavy. because he liked mobile cavalry type maneuver and mechanized war fare. precisely what they'll do on the western side of the map. basically flash and dash. move quickly. just hit the germans hard. get to the rear areas, encircle them, this is what patton's army excelled at. they get to... you can see on the man, they move into britney. the german army finds itself in a very difficult and very mortal position at this stage. and from a kind of conceptual viewpoint, history is not just memorizing facts or dates or even military history.
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it isn't about that, either. there is a larger analysis and purpose to it all in a sense, and, what is interesting me is as an american historian is the us army that you now see in late july, august, 1944, after what is generally known as the breakout from normandy like you see portrayed on the map there, reflects the society that has created it and is sustaining it. at that time, the united states is the most automated society in the world. when you think of world war ii you think of the germans and vehicle and tanks an blitzkrieg and all of that. the german army is moving their supplies with horse-drawn wagons. they are running their vehicles on ersatz fuel. they are not even in a class with the united states army in this sense. the us army hardly even knows what a horse is anymore. by 1944. everything is vehicles of every type and description. not just the famous tank but jeeps, and trucks and recovery
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vehicles, and aircraft and all of it is designed for mobile/transportation-oriented mechanized maneuver war fare, ground and air and what you have is a fast-hitting, fast-moving force, now with excellent close-air support, this is the flip side of the air force, you know? the heavy bombers had been asked in operation cobra to do something not in their skill set to bomb a precision target right in front of friendly troops. okay? now, in this instance you are talking about fire bombers, medium bombers, that are more accurate, can fly lower, moving ahead of ground formations, to act as eyes and ears and to give them close support and this is precisely what happens. if you are a german column of any type moving on the roads of normandy, you are going to be in trouble. and you have bodyguard in the sky above you if you are a ground commander at that point. throughout the early days of august, 1944, the german
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position gets worse and worse as you see on the map. they kind of get bent around and now are in danger of encirc encirclement and if you are a german commander you might say it is time to get out of there. hitler being hitler, he doesn't think that way and wants to attack. gives orders forbidding retreat and says, let's counterattack and brings together the best remaining armored division in normandy, and attacks on august 7th, 1944 and, the purpose is to get ten miles away and cut off patton and reverse the whole tide. now, certainly, it takes the americans off guard. and leads to furious fighting around maurtain, three or four days, but the operation is a dismal failure. he loses 1/3 of his armor and when it is over it is clear the germans have to get out of
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normandy or risk losing everything that is left. in the wake of mauertain the americans hope to encircle the remains of the certain army and destroy it. patton has had to siphon off formations in brit they which he doesn't want to do. why? they are a supply force, the original plan, and like cherbourg, they will have garrisons that are told to fight to the end and they'll destroy the port cities when they have the chance. but the rest of patton's army will swing around eastward. patton hopes to swing the north toward the landing beaches and snap that trap shut, join hands with the 21st army group, british and canadians coming from the other direction. well, originally it is the concept of the allies and eventually bradley will tell him to halt at argentine and it is a controversial decision in normandy because it is thought of by some historians and allows germans to escape who otherwise
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might not have. well, regardless of that you do end up with an encirclement v-- eventually by august 1st, 1944. tens of thousands of germans had escaped, some tanks escaped, some vehicles escaped, equipment and the like. but, is the two sides do join hands and -- in a taunt, champeau, it is not a link-up of americans and british, it is americans and polish. captain waters from the 90th decision, a company commander is reconning ahead of his unit on that day, and they are under heavy artillery fire and he's taking cover in a ditch and, he has orders to move forward and take the town and he notices a guy in a funny uniform, braving the shell fire and knows he not german and, doesn't know who he
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is and decides to go from cover, he doesn't want to and find out who he is and talk to him and turns out it is a polish army commander. you have a poll. >> -- poll. >> army commander, from a polish aarped division and says it is the first meeting of polish and american soldiers on a battlefield and they coordinate to snap the trap shut. for the germans. and, they will do so but the germans will continue trying to attack furiously eastward to get out of there. collectively this part of the battle of normandy is phone as the phalais gap and it is over by august 18th, 19th, 20th. 1944. the german losses have been terrible. 25 to 50,000 men captured. over 10,000 dead in the pocket alo alone. it is a concentrate area. you are talking about enormous destruction by allied artillery, allied air and ground forces. killing of horses. thousands of horses.
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blood running in the norman lanes as you saw one of them portrayed earlier in our slide show there. the extent. like you wouldn't believe. the allied fighter pilots that are flying above it, opening the canopies are hit with the extent. of burning flesh, immediately. on the ground the horror is unspeakable for the germans there. it is humbling enough for the allies and troubling enough for them. you can imagine the germans. and that is really the end of the battle of normandy. the germans have lost the better part of two field armies in normandy, hundreds of thousands of troops. well over a thousand tanks. the allied losses are significant. the americans lose 126,000 men at normandy. almost all men. wounded, captured, missing. the british, canadians and poles, 83,000. there were -- by the way, over 21,000 americans killed. in the battle of normandy. paris is liberated august 25th.
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figures to the end of the whole thing and from the larger point of view, how we interpret the battle of normandy, it is the beginning of the end for germany. the pivot point in europe. it is not a turning point. the turning point happened earlier, stalingrad and other places like that. it is the pivot point. after normandy the germans will not win the war. it is just a matter of time but also doesn't mean that it is over now. there is plenty of hard fighting ahead. from an american point of view, the legacy of the whole thing is this is really the beginning of an american military and economic and political superpower. that has now accepted the baton to lead the western allied coalition and in a longer view, the beginning of a major american military presence in europe that will remain to this day, through nato. it really is a seminal moment in american history. so the battle of normandy, i think, it is fair to say, is probably the most significant in the entire history of a campaign
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in northwest europe. thank you. [applause]. >> we have time for a few questions for dr. mcmanus. >> dr. mcmanus, we were building up in normandy, and slowly grinding the germans down, which you see on the map, the 15th army. how long did it take the germans to figure out that maybe normandy was the real invasion and not secondary? >> the allies hoped to deceive the germans, the real invasion, second invasion would be coming at calais, later in the summer. i would say it takes half that summer for the germans to figure this out. but part of the issue is once they have figured it out it is easier said than done to move elements of the 15th army from calais to normandy because of allied air. the germans have difficulty
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maneuvering. and, a subsequent invasion does come but it's not as well-known, the invasion of south france which happens on august 15th. this is one of the things i should have mentioned, i envisioned the normandy invasion as one part of two complementary invasion, an immediate invasion in south france and put major pressure on germans for both sides and it turns out it takes two months to invade south of france mainly because of the paucity of landing craft and other shipping and when the landing happens on august 15, at that point, in tandem with ma r mauertain, says, let's retreat and the germans are kicked out of the south of france but, to specifically answer your question, it takes half the summer to figure out there isn't another... coming at calais. >> dr. mcmanus, the question concerns the german high command and hitler. on the strategy of committing
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the armored divisions. by the second or third day after d-day, when hitler literally woke up and figuratively woke up and saw this was the invasion, he then committed the reserves. rommel said it is too late. what is your take on that? >> my take -- again, you know, purely my personal opinion. i think rommel's concept was wrong and proven wrong. the reason i think that, is what happened earlier in the war, that when they -- the germans had moved armor near the allied landing beaches and had a naval presence they had come to regret it. cicely and salerno, it had not work out well for them. they probably would not foil the invasion at the water line. they could have stalemated the allieds terribly in the bocage country, and iee


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