View Full Version : History The Falaise Pocket & Corridor of death

03-10-2009, 03:09 PM
6th of August 1944.

General Montgomery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Law_Montgomery,_1st_Viscount_Montgomery_of _Alamein), Commander of the Allied groundforces in Europe, issued a statement in which the next phase of the operations in Europe was laid down. The goal

...to destroy the enemy in the area west of the river Seine and north of the river Loire...

This battle, which would lead to the factual annihiliation of tow German armies, the 5th and the 7th Panzer Army, would be known in history as the Battle of the Falaise Pocket.


The Falaise pocket or Falaise gap was the encirclement and destruction of German forces in the Normandy area of France during August 1944 by the Allied armies, as part of the larger Battle of Normandy, during World War II.

On 7 August, despite protests from Günther von Kluge—the overall commander of German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) on the Western Front, Adolf Hitler ordered Operation Lüttich to commence. This was a counterattack conducted by the remnants of four panzer divisions. Following this failed counterattack, the Allied 21st Army Group launched an offensive to capture Falaise, codenamed Operation Totalize. This operation failed; a second attempt was made, codenamed Operation Tractable. These Allied attacks enveloped the German forces between the towns of Argentan, Trun, Vimoutiers and Chambois, near Falaise.

Plan of attack 12th Army Group (original military map of operations)

The Battle

Canadian forces moving towards Falaise on 14 August 1944.
Beyond a limited operation by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division down the Laize valley on 12 and 13 August, the Allied offensive paused to prepare for another major attack on Falaise, codenamed Operation Tractable. Tractable commenced at 11:42 a.m. on the morning of 14 August covered by a smokescreen laid down by their artillery, substituting the darkness of Operation Totalize. Throughout the day, continual attacks by the 4th Canadian and Polish 1st Armoured Divisions managed to force a crossing of the Laison River. Limited access to the crossing points over the Dives River, however, allowed for counterattacks by the German 102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. Mainly due to navigation difficulties and short bombing by the RAF Bomber Command the first day's progress was slower than expected.

Original staffmap of the Falaise Pocket and troop positions

By 15 August, the renewed advance still made quite poor progress. The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions, with the support of the 2nd Canadian (Armoured) Brigade, continued their drive south towards Falaise. After harsh fighting and several German counter-attacks, the 4th Armoured Division captured Soulangy, but the overall gains made were minimal as strong German resistance prevented an outright breakthrough to Trun. On 16 August, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division broke into Falaise itself, encountering minor opposition from Waffen SS units and scattered pockets of German infantry, and secured the town by 17 August.

Meanwhile, at midday on the 16, von Kluge declined to execute an order from OKW for a counterattack, which he declared was utterly impossible. Although a withdrawal was at last authorized by the Führer later that afternoon, on the evening of the 17 August von Kluge was relieved from its command and killed himself during his way back to Germany. Von Kluge was succeded by Field Marshal Walter Model, who's first act was to order the immediate escape of Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army, while II SS Panzer Corps (composed of remnants of four panzer divisions) held the north against the British and Canadians, and XLVII Panzer Corps (remnants of two panzer divisions) the south against the Americans.

Closing the gap

For the Allies, time was a critical factor in blocking the German army's escape. However, by 17 August, the American were held by German defenders at Argentan, while the Canadians were slowly advancing south towards Trun. Allied fighter-bombers were flying about 3,000 sorties a day throughout this period, inflicting massive losses to the Germans, but often accidentally bombing their own troops due to problems with the ground-identification. Meanwhile, the Polish 1st Armoured Division was divided into four battle groups and ordered to advance past Trun and liberate Chambois. By 18 August, an assault by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division secured Trun, while the second armoured battle group manoeuvred southeast, capturing Champeaux and anchoring future attacks against Chambois across a six-mile front. In the next day, all four Polish battle groups, reinforced by the 4th Canadian Division, were attacking Chambois and managed to secure the town by the evening.

German counterattacks against Canadian-Polish positions on 20 August 1944

Field Marshal Model was aware of the need to keep the pocket open, and on the morning of 20 August ordered elements of the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Division to fight westwards upon Polish positions on Hill 262, in order to allow the retreat of the Seventh Army. At approximately noon, several units of the 10th SS, 12th SS, and 116th Panzer Divisions managed to break through the weakened Polish positions, while the 9th SS Panzer Division was preventing Canadian troops from reinforcing Polish forces. Due to this counterattack, by mid afternoon, about 10,000 German troops managed to escape through the corridor.

The Germans were virtually completely surrounded. Only one exit remained, a small opening between Trun and Chambois: The Corridor of Death.

Polish Infantry moving towards cover on Mont Ormel, 20 August 1944.
Despite being overwhelmed by strong counterattacks, Polish forces continued to hold the high ground on Mont Ormel (referred to as "The Mace" by the Polish), exacting a deadly toll on passing German forces through the use of well-coordinated artillery fire. Irritated by the presence of these units, which were exacting a heavy toll on his men, Colonel General Paul Hausser—commanding the Seventh Army—ordered the positions to be "eliminated". Although substantial forces, including the 352nd Infantry Division and several battle groups from the 2nd SS Panzer Division, inflicted heavy casualties on the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Polish 1st Armoured Division, the counterattack was ultimately fought off.

The battle had cost the Poles almost all of their ammunition, leaving them in a precarious position. Soon the exhausted Polish troops, with ammunition supplies at extremely low levels, were forced to watch as the remnants of the XLVII Panzer Corps escaped the pocket. After the brutality of the combat that had occurred during the day, night was welcomed by both German and Polish forces surrounding Mont Ormel. Fighting was sporadic, as both sides avoided contact with one another. Frequent Polish artillery strikes interrupted German attempts to retreat from the sector.

By the morning of 21 August, German attacks on the position had resumed. Although not as coordinated as on the day before, the attack still managed to reach the last of the Polish defenders on Mont Ormel. As the remaining Polish forces repelled the assault, their tanks were forced to use the last of their ammunition.

At approximately 12:00 noon, the last SS remnants launched a final assault on the positions of the 9th Battalion. Polish forces defeated them at point-blank range. There would be no further attacks; the two battlegroups of the Polish 1st Armoured Division had survived the onslaught, despite being completely surrounded by German forces for three days. Polish casualties for the Battle of Mont Ormel were 325 killed, 1,002 wounded, and 114 missing—approximately 20% of the division's combat strength. Within an hour, The Canadian Grenadier Guards managed to link up with what remained of Stefanowicz's men. By late afternoon, the remainder of the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions had begun their retreat to the Seine.

By evening of 21 August, the Falaise pocket could properly be considered closed, as tanks of the Canadian 4th Armoured Division linked with Polish forces at Coudehard, while the Canadian 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions secured St. Lambert and the northern passage to Chambois.

An end to the Battle of Normandy

By 22 August, the Falaise pocket had been closed, and all German forces west of the Allied lines were dead or in captivity. Although perhaps 100,000 German troops succeeded in escaping the Allies because of the delay in closing the gap (many of them wounded), they left behind 40,000–50,000 prisoners and over 10,000 dead. German material losses included 344 tanks and self-propelled guns, 2,447 soft-skinned vehicles and 252 guns abandoned or destroyed in the northern sector of the pocket alone. In the fighting around Hill 262 alone, German casualties totalled 2,000 killed and 5,000 taken prisoner, in addition to 55 tanks, 44 guns and 152 armoured vehicles. The formidable 12th SS Panzer Division had lost 94% of its armour, nearly all of its artillery, and 70% of its vehicles. Composed of close to 20,000 men and 150 tanks before the campaign, it had been reduced to 300 men and 10 tanks. Several German formations, notably remnants from the 2nd and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, had managed to escape eastward to the Seine, albeit without most of their equipment.

After the closure of the Falaise pocket, the Battle of Normandy was over and the Germans had been decisively defeated. Hitler's personal involvement in the battle had been damaging from the first, considering his responsibility for the impossible offensive at Mortain and refusal to withdraw when his armies were threatened with annihilation.

More numbers

More than 40 German divisions were destroyed during the Battle of Normandy, while 450,000 men had been lost, of whom 240,000 were killed or wounded. The Allies had achieved this at a cost of 209,672 casualties, including 36,976 killed. Operation Overlord reached its final battle by 25 August, with the Liberation of Paris, and its effective end by 30 August when the last German unit retreated across the Seine.

SOURCES (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falaise_pocket) and MORE (http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-closing-the-falaise-pocket.htm)

03-10-2009, 04:58 PM
Mortain and Falaise, like Wadi el Far'a, Guadalajara, and more recently Mitla Pass and the Kuwait City-Basra Road, have come to symbolize a particular form of warfare: the destruction of closely packed columns of troops and vehicles by constant and merciless fighter-bomber strikes in concert with action on the ground. Any chance of withdrawing with troops, equipment, and vehicles in good order was lost to the Wehrmacht due to the violence of the breakout from the beachhead at Normandy, and Hitler's order to von Kluge to stand firm in Normandy. Another battle that always intrigued me, thanks for the post zeroy, good job.

The strategy was for the Hawker Typhoons to roar in, knock out the lead and last vehicles, then together with the fighters keep returning sortie after sortie strafing and bombing until nothing moving remained.

“They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind “(Hosea VIII 7)



RAF Typhoons


The results of the Typhoons work, knocked out German Stug and crewman