80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings: what is the “Hedge War”? (heading south, 1/4)

80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings: what is the “Hedge War”? (heading south, 1/4)
80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings: what is the “Hedge War”? (heading south, 1/4)


Frédéric Patard

Published on

May 30, 2024 at 1:25 p.m.

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In June 1944, giving priority to the capture of the port of Cherbourgthe Americans are content to set the Germans on the Carentan/Barneville line.

This gives them time to organize their defensemaking full use of the nature of the terrain.

A wall of greenery

What does this land consist of? Of the Bank in high and wide earth, where trees and plants of all kinds are rooted and entangled for centuries.

A wall of greenery dense, deep, which compartmentalizes the countryside of center-Manche and repeats itself endlessly for miles. This landscape of bocage is crisscrossed with sunken, narrow and dark paths.

A defensive guerrilla

An ideal setting for conducting a defensive guerrillawhere a simple, well-camouflaged section and well trainedarmed with machine guns and mortars, can keep in respect a company, a battalion, an entire regiment.

And when despite losses important, the attacker finally seizes the hedgethe defender has already retreated behind the hedge next, a hundred meters further, where the same defensive system transforms each field into graveyard.

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L’aviation ? Taped to the ground by a weather report rotten. And when time deigns to dawn, the pilots see nothing other than green jungle where it is impossible to spot a enemy positionwell camouflaged, or movement.

THE armored ? They do not pass on the paths, which are too narrow and get bogged down in soggy fields where they are blocked by hedgestoo thick to be pressed.

Lose a man to gain a meter

Under these conditions, the superiority material and digital is ineffective, no strategy works: it is rather tactical sense and experience men who take precedence.

And in these two areas, the Germans outperform the Americans who did not expect this kind of war. To conquer Sainteny or La Haye-du-Puits, the Americans lose a man to gain a meter.

The rain, the mud, the dead constantly present, the feeling of fight for nothingmine the moral of the most hardened veterans.

As to inexperienced bluesit is not uncommon to see them leave after a few hours, at best shockedat worst in a “meat bag”.

At the cost of a thousand sufferings, the Americans still ended up returning to Saint-Lôdisfigured by bombingson July 18, when at the same time, the Anglo-Canadians finally set foot on the right bank from Orne to Caen.

Taped into the countryside

But overall, the bridgehead ally in Normandy remains stuck in the countryside and to Caen. Almost standing still, problematic for Alliesnot only for public opinions who worry about no longer seeing their “boys” progress.

But above all because it is continuously supplied in troops and equipment which keep arriving on the beachesthe bridgehead begins to saturate.

It’s necessary get out, at all costs, to give yourself some air. And take back the wand Germans to impose on them a new tempo, that of war of movement. This is the operation Cobra which will end the hedge war.

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