Wikijunior:World War II/Liberation of Western Europe

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After the D-Day battles, the western Allies needed to break out of the beaches and fight their way across Europe to Germany.

Battle of Normandy[edit]

After D-Day, the Allies took two months to finally beat the German army surrounding the landing areas and breakout into the rest of France. Eventually, with the British drawing most of the German forces towards Caen, the Americans smashed out and began to drive across France. Hitler ordered his army to stay where they were and not retreat. This let the Allies trap nearly 250,000 Germans near Falaise. When this trap closed, the Germans didn't have enough forces left in northern France to stop the country being liberated.

While the Americans and Free French headed towards Paris and then Luxembourg, the British and Canadian forces headed towards Belgium and the Netherlands to free them. They then moved on towards northern Germany.

Liberation of France and the "Benelux" Countries[edit]

Crowds welcome the Free French after the liberation of Paris

The D-Day landings and the following battles had freed the north of France, but the south still wasn't free. It was ruled by the "Vichy" French. These were French people who had made peace with the Germans in 1940 and worked with the invaders instead of fighting them. On 15 August 1940, the Allies invaded southern France, the invasion was called "Operation Dragoon". In just two weeks the Americans and Free French forces had liberated southern France and were turning towards Germany.

On 19 August the French Resistance in Paris attacked the Germans. Hitler ordered that his soldiers should hold Paris to the last man and destroy the city rather than let it be freed. But German General von Cholitz ignored Hitler and surrendered, saving the city from destruction.

As the Allied armies rolled forward they overran the launch sites for the V-1 and V-2 rockets, which was a great relief to people in England as no more rockets were fired at them.

Arnhem[edit]

Paratroops and gliders land during Operation Market Garden

In an effort to end the war quickly, a huge parachute attack was made in the Netherlands. This was called Operation Market Garden. The plan was that paratroops would capture all the bridges between the front-line and the Rhine, the big river which protects Germany. Then tank forces would drive across the bridges and enter Germany.

Despite the capture of many bridges, the last one was not captured. This last bridge (sometimes termed 'A Bridge Too Far') led to the failure of the plan.

The attempt to end the war in 1944 had failed.


Advance to the Rhine[edit]

The Allied advance slowed down in front of the German Westwall. This was a line of strong defences along the Rhine. Fighting to break through was hard and took a long time. In October the Americans attacked Aachen, the first attack on a major German city by the western Allies.

In November, the major city of Strasbourg in Belgium was liberated and the Allies had now reached the Rhine - ready to invade the main part of Germany.

Battle of the Bulge[edit]

American soldiers dug in during the Battle of the Bulge

In the winter, the Germans launched a counter-attack through the Ardennes. The attack went well to start with and drove the Americans back. However, soon the Germans ran out of fuel for their tanks and the winter weather improved. With better weather, the Allied air forces destroyed the German attackers.

Invasion of Germany[edit]

In February, the Allies crossed the Rhine. The British headed towards Hamburg and then onwards to liberate Denmark.

The Americans began to capture more and more large German cities like Frankfurt and Leipzig. These cities were defended by Germans of all ages, including young boys.

Eventually the Allies reached the river Elbe where they stopped. By agreement, it was here that they would meet the Soviet Union's forces from the East.

Meanwhile, Allied armies had also entered Austria and western Czechoslovakia. Fighting eventually ceased here when the war ended in May 1945.