ALLIES STRIKE SOUTHEAST OF CAEN TO SMASH 7 PANZER DIVISIONS

Move Near to Orne River and Flat Land Beyond; Americans Advance

From the July 11, 1944 Edition of Stars and Stripes

Allied forces captured five more towns along the Normandy battlefront yesterday, and British and Canadian troops began a new offensive aimed toward smashing the bulk of seven German panzer divisions concentrated south of Caen.

Striking eastward from the Odon River on a front three miles wide, British and Canadian troops captured Eterville, three miles southwest of Caen, and advanced to less than one-half mile from the Orne River, which flows south of Caen. This advance was described at SHAEF as of real and immediate significance, since a bridgehead across the Orne could be the basis for a great tank offensive to smash Rommel’s panzer strength and blast open a road eastward to the French interior.



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Soldiers of the British 43rd Wessex Division take cover from a mortar barrage on July 10, 1944

 

American troops, pushing ahead through rain and fog that reduced visibility to a few hundred yards in their three-pronged drive toward Lessay, Periers and St. Lo, captured Cavigny, 54 miles north of St. Lo. Le Desert, seven miles north of St. Lo and Sainteny, about five miles northeast of Periers.

Carpiquet Airfield Taken

British troops also took Bretteville-sur-Odon, about two miles southwest of Caen, and the Canadians captured Carpiquet airfield, three miles west of Caen.

At Cen, the main weight of Montgomery’s attack was concentrated toward the southeast, where a tank-fighting corridor of flat terrain—between ten to 12 miles wide and 17 miles long-stretches to Falaise. The breakthrough to capture Caen, on the threshold of tank country leading toward Paris, caused a British officer to compare Caen’s fall with the victory of El Alamein, from which Montgomery herder Rommel halfway across North Africa.

The Germans suffered a severe reverse at Caen, SHAEF asserted, although they have not yet met a major defeat in the field. With a major part of two German divisions trapped in northern parts of the city, prisoners in uncounted hundreds steamed into Allied pens yesterday. The 12th SS Panzer Division was reduced to 45 per cent of its strength, a British staff officer estimated.



Hold Suburb Across Orne

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Royal Engineers move through the ruins of Caen looking for mines and booby-traps

German troops which got out of Caen in time still held a big southern suburb, Fauburg de Vaucelles, just across the Orne River. There was no indication yesterday that the British had crossed the river at this point yet, although northeast of the city they have held a narrow bridgehead over the Orne and Caen Canal for weeks.

Caen cannot be used as an Allied port until German lines are cleared well south of the city, SHAEF declared. Docks in Caen were destroyed, but the canal leading from the sea has been in Allied hands since D-Day and is largely intact. Caen could only be used, for the most part, by 3,000-ton coastal ships coming through locks from the sea, a naval officer said.

Caen was described in one dispatch as “practically a dead city” when Allied forces first reached the center of it, but later Canadian soldiers found thousands of civilians, some of whom appeared to be near starvation, hiding in cellars and caves.

A quarter-mile strip of land around the Northern suburbs was nothing but a mass of rubble, another dispatch said, adding that careful aiming by the RAF kept this belt of destruction—summed up by an infantryman as “damn all”—right at the edge of Caen proper. Church spires were still intact in the center of the city.

14 Allied Divisions?

Paris Radio said that 14 British and Canadian divisions had been thrown at the Caen assault, “preceded by an artillery barrage with a violence never seen before in this theater”.

Near the center of the Allied front, northeast of Caumont, the British made small advances in the area of La Croix des Landes on the road between Caumont and Hottot. A German counter-attack in this region was halted by British gunners, who knocked out several tanks and inflicted heavy casualties, a front-line dispatch said.

On the far-western flank, Yanks south of La Haye du Puits threw back strong German counter-attacks as they made a slight advance toward Lessay.

Heavy artillery fire supported the American advance from the Vire River to the sea. A German High Command report describing American attacks as “becoming hourly more violent,” said that in one 10-mile sector American batteries fired 20,000 shells against German positions in 24 hours.



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