Normandy planning

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Lucky Forward, Aug 19, 2015.

  1. L J

    L J Senior Member

    That most PzD were located in the Caen region was not because the Germans expected there an allied breakout attempt,but because from the first day on,the Allied Schwertepunkt was in the Caen region .

    Before D Day,there were 3 German PzD south of the Seine between Caen and Paris (the UK sector) and none in the US sector for logistical reasons (it was easier to supply them in the UK sector than in the US sector) and because a successful breakout attempt in the Caen region was much more dangerous than a successful breakout attempt in the US sector.

    That the Germans did not succeed to mount a massed panzer counterattack on the beaches was not caused by the chain of command,personality clashes and poor coordination,but by the fact that from the first day on,the German infantry divisions were not able to stop the allied attacks and that the PzD had to intervene ,and,as the PzD were forced into a defensive position, a counterattack was excluded .
  2. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    Slightly off-topic so apologies to Lucky.
    If you study the actual commitment of the panzer divisions in Normandy, it is a generalisation to say that the panzer divisions were just used to hold the frontline in Normandy. The first week of the campaign when the beaches were most vulnerable was the best opportunity for a counterattack, but one the Germans failed to grasp. It was not until the end of Operation Perch (Villers Bocage) that the frontlines for the Second Army had actually coalesced. After the left hook east of Caen was blocked by 21st PzD, the right hook with 7th Armoured Division actually found a hole in the frontline to advance through before it was stopped at Villers Bocage and the penetration sealed.
    In the first few days after D-day, the panzer divisions were subject to Corps, Seventh Army, Army Group B, Panzer Gruppe West and OKW control, ie 5 levels of command (six if you include von Rundstedt as C-in-C West). In the first week, the panzer divisions with the exception of 21st PzD around Caen were mobile and their movements were unhindered.
    The orders and plans for the use of panzer divisions in the first week were as follows:
    6th June – 21st Pzd first attacks paratroops east of Caen then at Markes request are diverted west of Caen and make only counterattack of D-Day. The march to the beaches of Lehr and 12th SS as ordered by von Rundstedt before the landings even began is halted by OKW. Released by Hitler personally at about 3pm.
    7th June - 1st SS Panzer Corps under Diettrich is entrusted with counterattack. Preparations for a coordinated attack by one battalion 12th SS and 21st PzD are interrupted by advance of Canadian 27th CAR (SFR) and 21st PzD does not join in, leading to recriminations between Meyer and Feuchtinger.
    8th June - First units Lehr arrive and find forming up points allocated already occupied by 12th SS troops, attack on Canadians stopped by Rommel. The 12th SS Panther bn arrives and goes straight into unsupported night attack on Rots with heavy losses. Von Schweppenberg arrives in the evening to take command of newly created Panzer Gruppe West. Dollman of Seventh Army forced to visit command post Diettrich to find out what is going on.
    9th June - Attack by Lehr ordered by Rommel towards Bayeaux goes ahead anyway, stopped by orders of 1st SS Panzer Korps and part of division diverted to Tilly.
    10th June von Schweppenburg’s HQ destroyed by air attack and proposed attack night 10th/11th June by 1st SS Panzer Corps cancelled. Control of panzer division reverts to 1st SS Panzer Korps again.
    11th June 12th SS are deployed to meet advance of 69th Brigade and when this attack is halted are able to redeploy to engage 6CAR at Le Mesnil Patry.
    15th June Rommel, von Rundstedt and Hitler meet at Soissons, future attacks depend on arrival 2nd SS Panzer Korps from Russia.
    Order, order, counterorder produces disorder...
    The panzer divisions were not pinned in place in the frontline but periodically pulled out of the front line to rest, refit and establish a reserve. The 12th SS was pulled out after Epsom and was in reserve for Goodwood. The entire 1st SS Panzer Korps was in reserve before Operation Totalize in early August.
    The 21st Panzer divn was in reserve at the start of Bluecoat.
    For Operation Luttich, five panzer divisions were assembled for the attack.
    After the war, in a possibly self-serving paper, MS B-466, von Schweppenburg maintained that there was still an opportunity for Lehr, 2nd PzD and 17th SS to attack 13th June.
  3. L J

    L J Senior Member

    After the first day,any chance to drive the allies back in sea had vanished :given the distance between Caen and St Mère Eglise,it was out of the question that after 6 june ,the few operatinal PzD could round up the allies .

    It was the intention to establish a Pz reserve and to use it in a attacking manner,but nothing came out,because the ID could not hold against the Allied divisions .After the first day,the Allies had the initiative and never lost it :the Germans were dancing to the allied tune.

    Exemple :eek:n 11 june,HJ was deployed to meet (= stop) the advance of 69 Brigade = HJ was used in a defensive matter .

    1 SS PzK was in reserve in early august,and when it was committed,it was committed in a defensive way .
  4. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    "from the first day on,the Allied Schwertepunkt was in the Caen region."
    Didn't Montgomery claim that the main effort was to be by the Americans?
    The German counterattacks of 7th/8th/9th June were badly co-ordinated, characterised by poor staff work and communications by 1st SS Panzer Korps, so were bound to fail.
    It is debatable whether Lehr and 12th SS could have attacked on the 10th June as per von Schweppenburg’s plan before his HQ was knocked out. Meyer (History 12th SS p208-209) claims that half of 12th SS was held up by stout Canadian defence at Norrey so only half of division was available for the attack and half of Lehr was also unavailable . For Lehr, Ritgen (The Western Front p42) claims that Lehr was ordered on the defensive on the 11th June. Meyer records a certain amount of dissension at Army Group B that night.
    Bennett (Ultra in the West) claims that the initiative passed to Allies with the destruction of Panzer Gruppe West on 10th June.
    Von Schweppenburg claimed that a counterattack could have still been made on 13th June with Lehr, KG of 12th SS, 2nd and KG 21st PzD.....

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  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    The US Army interrogators asked Guderian this question post war. He said Panzer Grenadiers were trained to work with tanks in small groups. The country in the WEest was much closer than in the East this kind of training was part of the training for panzer Divisions transferring from the East to the West. The 21 Panzer Division, the Panzer Lehr, 12 SS Panzer Division and the II SS Corps were all formed in the West with purpose of defeating an allied landing.

    The .
  6. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi Sheldrake,

    I don't know how long the 12 SS Div had been in Normandy though - had they practiced carrying out counter-attacks against a landing in Normandy specifically. The 2 Panzer Div posted on another thread recently asked an interesting question as to the suitability of the 44 Pz Div for fighting in Normandy.


  7. L J

    L J Senior Member

    II SSPzKorps was only a HQ and had no own units .
  8. L J

    L J Senior Member

    12 SS arrived in Normandy in the spring,when it had to evacuate the training camp of Beverloo,when the remains of the LSS arrived .
  9. Lucky it would seem this blunder was not immune to Normandy but a repetition of what happened at Anzio also when the Allies failed to push forwards - different reasoning - but same results.
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    Really? What do you mean that Normandy repeated the blunders of Anzio? How do you think Anzio would have played out if the allies had "pushed forwards"? Suppose VI Corps had pressed forwards beyond the range of naval gunfire and reached Rome? The allies landed three divisions at Anzio with limited logistic support. Would these have a) precipitated a German withdrawal from Italy or b) resulted in an over extended perimeter and piecemeal destruction as handed out to the 1 SS Brigade and 1st Infantry division as they advanced inland five days after the landings.. The views of the commanders at the time was that a dash for Rome might have brought 24 hours in Rome but 24 months in a POW Camp.

    Similarly a mad charge inland on D Day and D + 1 towards Villers Bocage might have led to possibly the only circumstances where the allies might have lost the battle for Normandy.
  11. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    My own thoughts:

    1. Yes, the main focus of the planning (and even more of the training) was on the beach assault. That was only natural, given the formidable obstacles posed by the beach defenses. The hope and the plan was that the Allies would move inland rapidly enough to avoid bogging down in the bocage. If they had gotten Caen, Villers Bocage, and Carentan sooner that might well have happened, but it did not.

    2. I have seen the documents for 50th Division, and there seems to be no doubt that little serious consideration was paid to the bocage country and the difficulties it posed for a mechanized army in the attack. The pre-invasion descriptions of the terrain I read in the 50th Div WD read more like a travelogue than a serious military appreciation. As regards the similar nature of terrain in some parts of Britain--well, there are hedges and then there are hedges, and practically everyone who saw the bocage said that in thickness and difficulty it exceeded anything to be found in Britain. Of course, if the towns I mentioned above had fallen sooner the Allies might have gotten into more open country and the bocage would not have mattered.

    3. As to Montgomery's overall plan, I am dubious about the assertion that he intended for 2nd Army to play a holding or attritional role from the beginning. Carlo d'Este does not think so, and he read the documents. If that was really Montgomery's plan at the time (and not what he said his plan was ex post facto), then it was a poor one and at least partly contrary to common sense. The Anglo-Canadian forces were well equipped and well trained for the kind of set-piece attritional battles that developed around Caen, but their manpower reserves were perilously thin. Montgomery was well aware of this, and I find it a little hard to believe that he would have delberately committed 2nd Army to an attritional fight that he must have known would burn up his infantry strength. Understand, I think Montgomery did manage the battle that developed quite well, but I don't think it went according to plan.

    4. As to Anzio, I believe also that VI Corps could not have held Rome even if it had gotten there. It simply was not strong enough to do so and maintain its link to the beachhead at the same time. That's what Truscott thought, and no more aggressive general ever wore American uniform. I do not think the analogy with Normandy holds, though. There was an opportunity for more rapid and aggressive action (which did NOT have to be a mad dash) on the XXX Corps front after the landing, certainly on D+1 and possibly later, but it was not taken in time. This was an old problem in 8th Army, and XXX Corps was of course an 8th Army HQ with four 8th Army formations under command. Bucknall was not the kind of commander who seized opportunities, as his subsequent record showed.

    5. The best opportunity on GOLD came early, but in fairness to XXX Corps it should be noted that on D+1 the beach battle was not entirely over. The 50th Division had little in front of it and had linked up with the Canadians, but its right flank was wide open. The 47 RM Commando and elements of 231 Brigade were were heavily engaged at Port en Bessin. 2nd SWB had a nasty and largely unsuccessful fight on the same flank at Sully with retreating German elements. Thanks to the near-disaster on D-Day at OMAHA, US V Corps still had some fighting to do to secure its beachhead; when the Americans moved inland they did so very slowly and it was some time before they linked up with 50th Division. The 2nd Army seems to have had its attention fixed mostly around Caen, where 3rd Division tried another attack and 6th Airborne was under heavy pressure from German counterattacks. The 7th Armoured began to come ashore fairly quickly, but the mobile column (8th Armd Brigade plus infantry) could not assemble fast enough because of beachhead problems which delayed the landing of units. PERCH was a good idea, but by the time it was launched three panzer divisions were already arriving in the area.
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    Re 1 where was the desire to capture Caen, Villers Bocage and Carenten expressed on "not getting bogged down in the bocage" as opposed to staking out territory for airfields and depth to the beach head? Which documents mention the bocage as a factor? I am sceptical but happy to be proved wrong.

    Re 2 Sorry but I don't buy this. Spot the difference

    Sussex sunken lanes

    Devon hedgerows

    Kent Orchards

    Normandy Bocage

    I can take you to examples of thick double hedges in Normandy, but the difference is one of degree.

    Re 3 I am wary of Carlo D'Este. His book was not a history, nor without bias. He was a US Officer and his central thesis was about the difference between allied planning and actual decisions made. His aim seems to be to prove that Montgomery changed his mind.

    Decision in Normandy is flawed as history as he seems to treat Op Overlord as some kind of construction project rather than a battle. He ignores the Germans entirely as if their decisions have no relevance!

    Of course there is no pre d D Day documentation about where the breakout would occur. The allies had not expected to "break out " until sometime after C+90, and after they had assembled their full strength. The allies could not to determine where the Germans would give ground or where a breakout would occur. It was up to the Germans to decide where to send their troops and where they would risk a breakout.when they ran short. The phase line map drawn up before D Day by the planners was based on the expectation that the Germans would be drawn to the Caen sector. This would be the decision of any German following German doctrine thus condemning the British and Canadians to an attrition battle rather than a breakout. Montgomery must have known this. He spent a lot of his effort trying to out think his enemy adversary,hence the photo of Rommel in the caravan.

    Montgomery expected to fight an attrition before the allies would prevail. His own words before El Alemein explained that he expects any battle to be a break in, a dog fight with hard fighting and a break out Stephen Hart in Colossal Cracks explains how Montgomery's methods were designed to work within the limitations of British manpower. He had been appointed because he was the best British Commander for that task.

    Alanbrooke's diary for 27th July summed up the real problem. After an evening with Churchill, Eisenhower and Bedell Smith he wrote
    How much of the ink spilt in post war analysis of Normandy is coloured by the press perception, clouded chauvinism and historic grievances rather than the military reality?
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  13. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Once more illuminating discussion.

    On the bocage issue, although it is often anecdotally commented upon - what is rarely considered is that the Germans also put little thought to this terrain. Its fairly well documented that von Schweppenberg wished to his options in the area but was never given the troops or POL to test out his theories. This also contributed to some absolutely ridiculous engagements where German armour failed just as embarrassingly (if not far worse) than their British counterparts.

    While the bocage was an issue, by around D+15 we start seeing freshly arrived units conducting acclimatisation TEWTs, Conferences covering the difficulties etc. Pouring water on the old adage 'it was a surprise' is overly simplistic, likely covering up other failings.

    Regarding D'Este... its flawed, for its day it was a seminal work but as time has gone the cracks have begun to show, just as Hasting's work that accompanies it is similarly flaking. The problem is that both these books underscored study that followed for the next... 20 to 30 years, defining an entire view on the campaign and 'educating' a generation.

    The Revisionists were brilliant to start with but lost their way, I penned a piece on this fairly recently:

    It does not help that more recent publications have not had the penetration of popular conciousness one would wish. Beevor's D-Day was curious as it was thoroughly savaged, its a middling book but continued the argument of Hastings/D'Este - rather than embracing the intervening three decades of study.

    What is needed, is a full grounds up reappraisal of the fighting in NWE, from Company level upwards - a gigantic task, which has never been comprehensively undertaken. Otherwise we are left with a patchwork of factoids, half-truths and mis-remembered anecdotes colliding together in a wonderfully seductive, if erroneous and simplistic, narrative.
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  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    I have just enjoyed reading your blog piece- which reminds men how we know each other. I am personally still fighting my way through their bocage in pursuit of the history of the Royal Artillery. John Buckley edited an excellent anthology in 2004.

    One point which hasn't been highlighted enough is the extent to which the German counter measures taken in the spring of 1944 derailed allied plans for D Day. Allied intelligence is portrayed as excellent - except where the failure to pick up the redeployment of the 352 Division is quoted as a reason for the problems at Omaha Beach. I have recently plotted the D Day 2nd British Army fire plan against the actual German defended localities and reserve positions. I was surprised how many German infantry and artillery positions had not be located by the allies prior to D Day or how much on the 21st Panzer Division was North of Caen.
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There’s a nice animated map of the Normandy campaign here:

    And some detail on the advanced landing grounds many of which were placed in areas that the early advances were aiming to secure:

    Control of the air, close air support and swift evacuation of the wounded also helped.

    I scanned through this:

    Which was a development that some perhaps were not putting too high on their list of planning concerns. I suspect that the “big” German tanks were hampered somewhat more by the bocage and a lot had to be “fixed” in place rather than be more mobile as they might have preferred because moving German armour was a prime target for allied air.

    In terms of planning though isn’t it a bit like chess where you are looking ahead so many moves and attempting to seize ground, avoid traps as well as setting a few of your own. Landing on the beach might be the “first move” but thereafter it isn’t often too many moves before you start to enter “uncharted territory” and regardless of your original intentions you end up playing against your opponents moves and not just merely sticking to some original "fast breakout" plan. Some part of which I assume would have had to entail what on earth to do if the Germans somehow managed to push you back into the sea.
  16. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    I agree with this view. Although there is a case to make that the aim to take Caen by D+1 could have been seen as "a mad dash inland" that was somewhat over-optimistic but at least it was intended to be undertaken by a "fresh" follow-on Brigade with adequate armoured support and within the range of NGS. The traffic chaos in the Sword sector, some undiscovered fortifications, stiffer resistance and the attempted counter-attack by 21st Panzer did for that - not a mere repetition of "the errors of Anzio".

    If I may muscle in? Last week I was talking to a gentleman - no fool, he has an MA in Naval History on a WW2 subject - who told me that his father had been a US Navy Yeoman at SHAEF HQ who was cleared for invasion plans. Interesting enough. But he tried to tell me that BIGOT was an acronym - for "British Invasion of German Occupied Territory". I suspect, and told him so politely, that this is bunk and a myth, being rather a term from a pre-determined list. Please reassure me!
  17. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The Normandy invasion plan although a few set backs and delays fulfilled its purpose The Allies reached the Seine with 39 divisions starting on D Day + 75 when Patton crossed the river at Mantes-Gassicourt and all reached the Seine by D Day +90 which conformed to Montgomery's plan as set out in London.

    The Allies success in Normandy was better than anticipated due the weakness of the German strategy superintended by Hitler who contrary to the professional advice of his general chose not to withdraw and contain the invasion in NW France from behind the defensive lines of the Seine and the Loire.Instead,Hitler chose to slog it out in Normandy where the Allies had air superiority.It resulted in the loss of nearly half a million men with over 40 divisions eliminated or reduced to cadre numbers.

    The landings on Omaha gave some concern....reinforced by the Germans and unknown to the Allies,by the deployment of their No 352 Division said to be an high quality force..the beach crowded with infantry and landing craft milling about as stampeded cattle was one description of the situation..... at one point it was reported that Bradley was about to make the decision and pull out of Omaha and divert to Utah.

    Having visited Omaha a few times,from my understanding it must have been a real hellhole with the defenders having the upper hand.Only 5 beach exits Available and well covered by the defenders.Of the 32 DD tanks launched,only 5 reached the beach.It must have been a monumental task to reach the bluffs above the beach....little wonder this beach cost the US forces the highest casualties on the day.

    As regards the Bocage....I think the problem was soon recognised and innovation delivered the solution...the fitting of bulldozer blades to the front of tanks enabled a tank to make short work of a hedgerow and progress into open country.
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    I agree with this view. Although there is a case to make that the aim to take Caen by D+1 could have been seen as "a mad dash inland" that was somewhat over-optimistic but at least it was intended to be undertaken by a "fresh" follow-on Brigade with adequate armoured support and within the range of NGS. The traffic chaos in the Sword sector, some undiscovered fortifications, stiffer resistance and the attempted counter-attack by 21st Panzer did for that - not a mere repetition of "the errors of Anzio".

    If I may muscle in? Last week I was talking to a gentleman - no fool, he has an MA in Naval History on a WW2 subject - who told me that his father had been a US Navy Yeoman at SHAEF HQ who was cleared for invasion plans. Interesting enough. But he tried to tell me that BIGOT was an acronym - for "British Invasion of German Occupied Territory". I suspect, and told him so politely, that this is bunk and a myth, being rather a term from a pre-determined list. Please reassure me!

    The British were very careful to avoid picking code names that gave any clues about the item coded. (This wasn't always followed by US Planners who picked Omaha and Utah based on the home states of the corps commanders.) .

    This did not stop soldiers of different nations from giving their own meanings. The name changes for the British contribution to 21 Army group may have been the result of soldierly acronyms. British Expeditionary Force = BEF -> Back Every Friday; British Liberation Army = BLA -> "Burma Looms Ahead."

    BIGOT as "British Invasion of German Occupied Territory" gives a hint of inter national rivalry. Morgan as COSSAC and Eisenhower as SHAEF both worked hard to try to overcome inter service and inter national frictions. Morgan even encouraged a skit evening about Operation Overboard British Most Stupid American Top Stupid .

    The high casualties at Omaha Beach and the failure to capture D Day on the 6th June had the same cause. The Germans reinforced the Coastal defences in Normandy in the weeks before D Day and the reinforced positions were not located or identified before D Day. The allies intelligence was not as good as they thought at the time, or have portrayed post war.

    The 352 Infantry Divisions took over the Bayeux Sector from the 716th infantry Division superimposing two of its regiment on the existing coastal garrison. The 716th was itself reinforced by the ianti tank guns, artillery and half of the infantry of 21st Panzer Dvision which was deployed north of Caen r5athert than 20 miles south of the city.

    Once the Germans had deployed a strong battlegroup north of Caen, it was almost impossible for the British to break through the beach defences AND capture Caen in one day.. Each panzer grenadier battalion had about as much firepower as an Infantry regiment.

    Omaha beach was bloody, but very far from a failure. The leading regiments of the two divisions of V Corps lost C 2,500 casualties on D Day. On 1 July the ntwo divisions of XIII corps lost 6,000 in the successful, attack on nthe southern theee miles of the Somme. Four canadian divisions lost 10,000 casualties in their successful assault on Vimy Ridge. The allies were prepared to accept 80% casualties among the first waves - which only happened opn part of Omaha beach. The landings could only have failed had the Allied commanders lost their nerve. However, the concentration of weapons at Omaha on the beah itself meant that resistance crumbled inland very quickly, leaving a big gap into which the US advanced to Caumpnt and the British to Villers Bocage.
  19. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    PR Puff for the IWM by ill informed Journos. Nothing particularly new - and misrepresenting Montgomery as the author of tactics developed over the past year. .
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