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France in World War II

Jul 25, 1944 - Sep 25, 1944

The Allied breakthrough at St. Lô turned the slugfest into a foot race.  The Allied armies, especially General George Patton’s Third United States Army, moved at breakneck speed across the German occupied country.  Advancing in parallel wings, the British and American armies created pockets in which retreating German troops were snared by the thousands. Allied planes controlled the skies and Allied tanks blanketed the French countryside.  True, they were not as heavily-plated or as well armed as German tanks, but there were a lot more of them—the Allies enjoyed a 20:1 tank advantage.  

On 15 August, the Allies launched a second front in the south of France.  Some strategists objected to the diversion of men and resources to another front but Eisenhower wanted additional ports to facilitate resupply.  In the end he got a great deal of bang for his buck.  Allied casualties were fairly light (13,000) yet 80,000 German prisoners were taken.  

On 25 August, the Allies entered Paris, liberating the city occupied since the summer of 1940. Four Allied armies were now marching across France in a huge front toward the German border.  Resistance persisted but simply could not hold back the overwhelming Allied force.  In fact, by the last week of August, it had become apparent that the only drag on the campaign was the inability of supply lines to keep pace with the rapidly advancing armies. 

Considerable internal bickering ensued as Allied commanders argued over who should have re-supply priority.  But then Eisenhower approved a daring strategy designed to open a corridor wide enough for one army—General Bernard Montgomery’s Second British Army—to march into the heart of Germany.  Paratroopers would drop behind German lines and secure the critical roads and bridges needed to enable a narrow thrust all the way to the Rhine. 

Had Operation Market Garden worked, the war might have ended six-months earlier.  But it didn’t.  The corridor was too narrow and too easily closed by small German units. In late September, Eisenhower aborted the operation.  Further advance toward Germany would have to wait until the Allies’ supply lines could catch up with their fast travelling armies.  The defeat of Germany would have to wait for 1945.

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