History : May-Jun 2019
86 MAY/JUNE 2019 HEDGED IN American troops advance slowly through the lanes of Normandy in summer 1944 (above). The thick, high hedgerows provided cover for German forces, and greatly impeded progress in the days following D-Day. NEIL KAGAN AND STEPHEN G. HYSLOP HAVE PARTNERED ON MANY HISTORY BOOKS, INCLUDING EYEWITNESS TO THE CIVIL WAR, ATLAS OF THE CIVIL WAR, EYEWITNESS TO WORLD WAR II, AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II. as Montgomery tried to punch through their defenses. Al- though held in check, his forc- es kept several German armored divisions tied down while American troops prepared to launch Operation Cobra from Saint-Lô, west of Caen, and break out of the beachhead. Beginning of the End Although the landings on D-Day were less costly than Al- lied leaders feared, American forces destined for Omaha Beach paid a dreadful price be- fore securing that sector. Casualties mounted as invasion forces advanced inland and met with fierce resistance. Not until late July did they break out, aided by devastating air raids that gouged holes in enemy lines through which ar- mor advanced, including tanks of Patton’s U.S. Third Army. On August 15, a second Allied in- vasion designated Operation Dragoon unfold- ed on the French Mediterranean coast. Resis- tance groups took up arms, and some began liberating Paris before Allied troops entered the city in late August. The offensive in France and the Low Countries coincided with a massive onslaught by the Red Ar- my, whose troops advanced into German-occupied Poland before invading Germany proper by en- tering East Prussia. Hitler refused to concede defeat and launched a desperate counterattack at year’s end against the Western Allies, whose advance had stalled as they ran short of supplies and came up against the formidable West Wall (Siegfried Line) along the Ger- man border. The resulting Battle of the Bulge, won in January 1945, delayed their advance across the Rhine until March while vengeful Soviets closed on Berlin. “We may be destroyed,” Hitler had remarked earlier, “but if we are, we shall drag a world with us—a world in flames.” On April 30, with Ber- lin in flames and about to fall to the Russians, he committed suicide. A week later, Germany surrendered unconditionally. PHOTO 12/ALAMY/ACI This article is excerpted from Atlas of World War II, published by National Geographic Books. Copyright 2018 © National Geographic.