United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations

Breakout and Pursuit

by Martin Blumenson

Center of Military History

United States Army

Washington, D.C.


. . . to Those Who Served

Table of Contents


The Author


Part 1: In the Wake of the Invasion

Chapter 1: The Allies


Chapter 2: The Enemy

The Machinery of War—The Changing Strategy—Tactical Dispositions

Chapter 3: The Situation


Part 2: The Battle of the Hedgerows

Chapter 4: The Offensive Launched

The Preparations—The Defenses—Poterie Ridge—Mont Castre—Montgardon Ridge

Chapter 5: The Offensive Broadened

The Carentan–Périers Isthmus—The Vire and Taute Bridgehead

Chapter 6: The Attempt to Exploit

Chapter 7: The Offensive Continued

The Battle for Caen—Toward Lessay—Toward Périers—Counterattack—Toward the Périers–St. Lo Road

Chapter 8: The Battle for St. Lô

The Objective—Hill 192—Down the Martinville Ridge—Hill 122—“Come Hell or High Water”—A Legend is Born

Chapter 9: The Conclusions

The American Point of View—The German Point of View

Part 3: Breakthrough

Chapter 10: The Breakthrough Idea

In Search of a Panacea—In Search of a Breakthrough: GOODWOOD

Chapter 11: COBRA Preparations

Preliminary Operations—The Troops—The Plot Against Hitler—The Breakthrough Plan

Chapter 12: COBRA

The Opposition—Bombardment—Effect on the Enemy—Ground Attack

Chapter 13: The Breakthrough

German Reaction—Penetration—Commitment of Armor—Limited Exploitation

Chapter 14: The Breakthrough Developed

The Second Thrust Toward Coutances—The Pressure Force—COBRA Completed

Chapter 15: Exploiting the Breach

The COBRA Diversion—The Post-COBRA Plan—East of the Vire River—A Clash of Spearheads

Chapter 16: Breakthrough Becomes Breakout

The Outflanking Force—The Breakout to Avranches

Chapter 17: The “Incalculable” Results

The Riesensaurerei—The Explanation—The Allied Outlook

Part 4: Breakout Into Brittany

Chapter 18: Plans, Personalities, and Problems

German Plans—A New Army—Personalities and Concepts—Problems

Chapter 19: Rennes, Lorient, and Nantes

Chapter 20: “Take Brest”

Chapter 21: St. Malo and the North Shore

The Decision at St. Malo—Sweeping the North Shore—“To the Last Stone”—The Reduction of Dinard—Siege Operations—The Citadel—Cèzembre

Part 5: Breakout to the East

Chapter 22: Week of Decision

The German Decision—Commitment of a Corps—OVERLORD Modified—“Don’t Be Surprised”

Chapter 23: Opportunities and Intentions

The American Task—The German Task—The Drive to Mortain—The Battle for Vire—Montgomery’s Intentions

Chapter 24: The Mortain Counterattack

German Intentions—The Attack—The American Reactions

Part 6: Encirclement and the Drive to the Seine

Chapter 25: Encirclement

Envelopment from the North—The German Dilemma—The Battle at Mortain—Concepts of Encirclement—Envelopment from the South

Chapter 26: The Argentan–Falaise Pocket

Bradley’s Decision—The Canadians at Falaise—The German Decision to Withdraw—The German Decision to Withdraw—The Allied Decision to Close the Pocket

Chapter 27: Closing the Pocket

The Beginning of the End—Enter Model, Exit Kluge—The Pocket Closed—The German Breakout—Escape—The Results

Chapter 28: The Drive to the Seine

South to the Loire—The Drive to the East—To the Seine and Across—The Second Encirclement Attempt—Through the Paris–Orléans Gap

Chapter 29: The Liberation of Paris

Allied Plans—German Hopes—French Aims—The Critical Days—The French Point of View—Eisenhower’s Decision—On to Paris—The Liberation—The Aftermath

Part 7: Pursuit

Chapter 30: The Battle for Brest

The Post-OVERLORD Decision—The Problems at Brest—The Fight for Brest—The Best Laid Plans

Chapter 31: The Drive Beyond the Seine

The Framework of the Pursuit—Patton’s Advance to the Meuse—The Main Effort

Chapter 32: Toward the Heart of Germany

The Mons Pocket—Broad Front versus Narrow—The Nature of the Pursuit—To the West Wall—The End of the Line


Appendix A: Table of Equivalent Ranks

Appendix B: Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross

Bibliographical Note




I. Normandy Front, 2 July 1944

II. First Army Front West of the Vire River, 8–15 July 1944

III. The Battle of St Lo, 11–18 July 1944

IV. German Troop Disposition, Night 24–25 July 1944

V. Breakthrough, 25–27 July 1944

VI. Enlarging the Breach, 28–29 July 1944

VII. Exploitation, 30–31 July 1944

VIII. Breakout into Brittany, 1–12 August 1944

IX. Regrouping of German Forces, 1–6 August 1944

X. German Counterattack at Mortain, 7 August 1944

XI. Closing the Argentan–Falaise Pocket, 17–19 August 1944

XII. Drive to the Seine, 16–25 August 1944

XIII. Liberation of Paris, 23–25 August 1944

XIV. Battle for Brest, 25 August–18 September 1944

XV. Pursuit to the German Border, 26 August–10 September 1944

Inline Maps

1. The Bocage Country

2. Order of Battle OB WEST, 2 July 1944

3. Attack of VIII Corps, 3–7 July 1944

4. Attack of VIII Corps, 4–7 July 1944

5. Attack of XIX Corps West of the Vire River, 7–10 July 1944

6. Battle for Caen, 8–9 July 1944

7. Panzer Lehr Attack, 11 July 1944

8. Attack on Hill 192, 11 July 1944

9. Attack of Second British Army, 18–21 July 1944

10. Operation COBRA, VII Corps Plan, 20 July 1944

11. Reduction of St. Malo, 4–17 August 1944

12. XV Corps, 208 August 1944

13. First U.S. Army, 1–6 August 1944

14. 12th Army Group Plan, 8 August 1944

15. Normandy Front, 7–11 August 1944

16. XV Corps, 9–13 August, 1944

17. Argentan–Falaise Pocket, 12–16 August 1944

18. Into the City, 25 August


Typical Cotentin Terrain—General Dwight D. Eisenhower—General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery—Hedgerow Position in the Cotentin—Adolf Hitler—Generaloberst Alfred Jodl—Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel—Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt—Generaloberst Paul Hausser—Generalfeldmarschall Guenther von Kluge—La Haye-du-Puits—Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett—Stone Bridge at Airel—German Bicycle Brigade—Congestion at Airel Bridge—British Troops in Caen—Shelled Church in Sainteny—German Panther Tanks—St. Lô—Martinville Ridge—Sunken Road Near Carillon—German Hedgerow Position—After Securing Hill 122—Infantrymen in St. Lô—Ruins of St. Lô—Symbol of St. Lô—Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey—Advancing Toward St. Germain—Rhino Tank with Hedgerow Cutter—Advancing Toward Périers–St. Lô Road—155-mm Howitzer—Waiting for the COBRA Bombardment—After the COBRA Bombardment—9th Division Troops After COBRA Bombardment—Troops Rolling Through Canisy—Engineers Clearing Mines in Lessay.—Wrecked German Armor Near Roncey—Tessy-sur-Vire—Knocked-out American Tanks—Abandoned German Equipment—Destroyed Enemy Vehicles in Avranches—General Bradley with Lt. Gens. Courtney H. Hodges and George S. Patton, Jr.—Pontaubault Bridge—Beach at Dinard—Artillerymen Firing 3-inch Gun—Street Fighting in St. Malo—The Citadel, St. Malo—Interior of the Citadel—Bombing of Ile de Cèzembre—St. Malo Prisoners—Maj. Gen. Wade H. Haislip—Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy—Troops Advancing from Juvigny—Clearing Operations in Vire—Artillery Observation Post—North of Mortain—Scurrying Along Hedgerow—Antiaircraft Position Near St. Hilaire—Through the Rubble of Mortain—Wrecked German Armor, Sourdeval Area—Mamers—Signal Corps Troops in Domfront—Le Bourg-St. Léonard—Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model—General der Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl—A Polish Soldier—Truckloads of Prisoners—The Pocket Deserted—11th Infantrymen—Maj. Gens. Walton H. Walker and Lindsay McD. Silvester—Armored Bivouac Area—German Removing Booby trap—Ferrying Jeeps Across the Seine—Advancing Under Fire Toward Fontainebleau—Allied Airlift, Paris—Maj. Gen. Jacques Philippe Leclerc—French Soldiers Attack Toward Châteaufort—In the Rue de Rivoli—General von Choltitz and High-Ranking German Prisoners—General Charles de Gaulle—French Resistance Fighters—Parisian’s Welcome to General de Gaulle—Supplies for Brest—Ancient Wall and Moat, Brest—Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton—2nd Division Troops Near Brest—Gun Crew Firing—Troops Fighting in Brest—Remains of Fort Keranroux—Fort Montbarey—Generalmajor Hans von der Mosel—Generalleutnant Herman B. Ramcke—Drydock Destruction at Brest—Demolished Bridge at Châlons-sur-Marne—Liberated—Dragon’s Teeth, the Siegfried Line—Illustrations are from the Department of Defense files.