D-Day, Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings. It is, IMO, the pivotal battle of the western campaign in WWII. The following material is taken from various books. It's stuff which I find interesting.
"A mass of men, vehicles and equipment piling up on the beaches, the strip of sand steadily narrowing as the tide came in; the beach exists blocked or inadequate: the leading troops pushing on, but the follow up formations delayed; the slowing down process inexorably transmitted to the giant organizational machine behind them, in England, inevitably affecting the tempo of the whole campaign." Caen: Anvil of Victory, pg 12.
This description of the beaches in the British sector on the morning of June 6 covers it all. From here you can understand and appreciate why most of the first day objectives were not reached.
"Above all, the university town of Caen and the dominating heights around it should have fallen quickly and easily to the British on D-Day. But because they advanced only six miles instead of ten that day, it was not to fall for another six weeks" ibid., page 13.
Caen was the most important objective for the British. This town is the nerve center in the British sector with roads radiating east, west, and south like spokes on a wheel. There's also the Orne river and the Caen Canal cutting the city in two. These two waterways can be used by barges to bring supplies to the area. There's also Carpiquet airfield and surrounding countryside which leads to Paris and is excellent tank country.
"the fate of the 'New Order' depended largely on some ten Panzer divisions, which the British and Canadians were to try to pin down at Caen, in order to allow their American allies to make the decisive breakthrough at the other end of the beachhead." ibid, page 16.
IMO, regardless of the propaganda pushed by Montgomery and his supporters this area was perfect for a breakout. That British and Canadian divisions could not do so can be attributed to both German defensive prowess and British/Canadian hesitancy. Monty tried, and very successfully thanks to a very efficient propaganda machine, to convince the public that it was always his intention to use the forces under his direct command (Monty was overall ground commander until Bradley became 12th AG commander) that is, the British sector of the Normandy campaign, to act as a magnet for German armor so as to permit the Americans under Bradley to breakout further west.
"The countryside in the British and Canadian sectors - a relatively open, flat, dry expanse stretching from Caen to Paris - was more favorable for offensive warfare. Paradoxically, those conditions made fighting there perhaps more difficult than in the American sector. The nature of the ground and the strategic importance of the area compelled the Germans to mass the bulk of their panzer units and their best troops in the path of Montgomery's forces. They turned the checkerboard of villages that dotted the region into an interlocking, mortar-and-concrete version of the bocage.
Montgomery's commanders appear to have been little more prepared than the Americans for the sort of resistance the Germans mounted. Poorly versed in combined arms tactics, they allowed their tanks to advance without the protection of accompanying infantry units. That approach gave German soldiers wielding highly effective Panzerfausts (the enemy version of the American bazooka) and teams firing formidable, high-velocity antitank cannons a relatively free hand in dealing with the advancing forces.
What Montgomery intended to do remains shrouded in controversy. Time and again he appeared to delay. The terrain and the heavy weight of the German defenses facing his forces were undoubtedly part of the reason. He may also all along have planned to allow the
offensive to develop in the direction that time and circumstance dictated, whether in the American sector or his own. In that sense, it is possible that he decided Bradley's front offered the most opportunities and that his own army should concentrate on holding the enemy in place to allow his ally the fullest latitude. Or he may have thought that Allied advances elsewhere would allow him to achieve his objectives without incurring the level of casualties that had consumed an entire generation of his countrymen during World War I. He had been warned of a shortage of infantry replacements well before D-Day. During July the British Adjutant General had underscored the point by personally traveling to Normandy to notify him that some British battalions had already been divided to fill gaps in the line and that divisions might be next. Whatever the reason, Montgomery's forces, commanded by Lt. Gen. Sir Miles Dempsey, took the town of Bayeux and moved several miles inland but - despite three full-scale attempts between 6 June and I July - failed to take Caen." Normandy U.S. Army Campaigns of WWII; see also CMH online.
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