VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > K. World War II, 1939–1945 > 11. The Liberation of France and Belgium, 1944
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
11. The Liberation of France and Belgium, 1944
1944, June 6
INVASION OF NORMANDY. For many months careful and elaborate plans had been matured by the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) for invading France. Command of this greatest amphibious operation in history was entrusted to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The British Isles provided the chief base for the concentration of men and war materiel, and the plan of campaign to follow the invasion date (D-Day) was rehearsed in exhaustive detail. Air control was to be maintained by the U.S. Eighth and Ninth Air Forces and the British Royal Air Force, with a combined strength of over 10,000 planes. An American naval task force and a British naval task force were assembled to support the assault, and the invasion was planned to proceed under cover of an intense and accurately directed bombardment by 800 guns on 80 warships. To convey the troops and supplies across the channel, 4,000 other ships were used, and the lack of port facilities for disembarkation was overcome by a dramatic improvisation in engineering. Artificial harbors were to be constructed on an exposed coast by sinking lines of blockships and concrete caissons to form breakwaters, with floating pierheads and pontoon causeways to serve as wharves and docks.  1
June 6
U.S. and British forces succeeded in landing on the Normandy coast between St. Marcouf and the Orne River. Within a week a strip of beach 60 miles long had been occupied and the artificial harbors constructed.  2
June 18
An unusually severe gale with high waves delayed landing operations for three days and wrecked the major causeways of one artificial harbor. It was abandoned and traffic diverted to a British-built harbor that was less exposed and had suffered less severely.  3
June 27
The capture of Cherbourg placed a major port in Allied control. During the first hundred days following D-Day 2.2 million men, 450,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of stores were landed. This extraordinary achievement was rendered possible by perfecting the services of supply, on the basis of experience gained in the First World War and in the amphibious landings in Africa and Italy. The enormous output of Allied factories and shipyards, which made it possible to duplicate all wrecked or damaged equipment, was also an important factor.  4
July 9
British and Canadian troops captured Caen. Allied tanks broke through German defenses near St. Lô and fanned out, disorganizing enemy resistance. Persistent bombing of all bridges and railways severely crippled the German attempts to bring up adequate forces to halt Allied drives.  5
Aug. 15
In another amphibious operation the Allies effected successful landings on the French Mediterranean coast between Marseilles and Nice.  6
Aug. 24
The citizens of Paris rioted against German forces of occupation as Allied armed divisions crossed the Seine and approached the capital. French Forces of the Interior (FFI), which had been organized for underground resistance and supplied with arms, rose against the retreating Germans.  7
Aug. 25
Paris liberated.  8
Sept. 2
Allied forces, which had penetrated into Belgium, liberated Brussels.  9
Sept. 12
The American First Army crossed the German frontier near Eupen, and American armored forces entered Germany north of Trier. The Germans, however, manning their Westwall defenses, offered firm resistance, and the Allied advance was halted. An Allied attempt to outflank the Westwall through the flat Dutch territory to the north (Sept. 17–26) failed, and survivors of an Allied airborne division that was dropped at Arnhem had to be withdrawn.  10
Sept. 15
The American Seventh and the French First Armies, sweeping up the Rhone Valley from beachheads won (Aug. 15) on the Riviera, joined the American Third Army at Dijon. The American, British, and French forces were then reorganized in liberated France for a projected assault on Germany.  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.