July : the Allies mark time
Their taking of Cherbourg at the end of June had been a major success on the part of the Americans. Once the town’s port was rehabilitated, it would serve as a logistics base for the reconquest of France. But the month of July, which saw fresh attacks being launched in the south, was a good deal less favourable to the allied cause. In the “bocage” of Cotentin, the GIs strove to gain the upper hand and suffered terribly for it. It was “the hell of the hedgerows”. The fields were fiercely defended by the Germans and had to be taken one by one, at the cost of considerable and repeated losses. The advance was discouragingly slow. “This damn war could well last twenty years!” one American general bemoaned. On their side, the British and Canadians were blocked at the gates of Caen, which they had hoped to take on the evening of the 6 June. It is true that they were confronted with the best the German army had to offer, with its formidable Wehrmacht and Waffen SS armoured divisions.