(a) Dispositions and Strengths

The assault was against the front held by 716 Infantry Division, backed very closely by 352 Infantry Division in the BAYEUX area, and 21 Panzer Division sitting South of CAEN.

716 Division can never have been classed high in fighting value. It suffered from all the ill effects to which static troops are liable. In addition it contained a large element of category men and a fair sprinkling of foreigners.

Yet the coastal divisions were not to form the main weight of opposition. The resources from all over FRANCE had to be considered. The whole defensive layout was governed by the fact that, owing to the great length of coast line, divisional sectors had to be thinly held, with adequate reserves - both armour and infantry - ready inland to rush to any threatened area.

The map at Appendix "A" shows where these resources were. Those of immediate concern to Second Army were 352 and 243 Infantry Divisions, 12 SS and 21 Panzer Divisions, and 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Division. 352 and 243 Infantry Divisions were located fairly certainly round BAYEUX and to the West, and capable of intervening on D-day. 21 Panzer Division had recently moved from the RENNES, area to the FORET DE CINGLAIS 0150, South of CAEN, but there was little evidence on which to locate this formation accurately. Nor was its role obvious, as the formation appeared to be placed to the East of the R ORNE.

12 SS Hitler Jugend Division was in the LISIEUX area, and some of its detailed dispositions were known. What was not known with any certainty was how far to the West of LISIEUX this formation extended. However, it was clear that in a ring CAEN - FLERS 8620 - FALAISE 1435 - LISEUX were two strong panzer divisions, both capable of interfering with our landings. In addition, a panzer formation (later identified as Panzer LEHR) was known to be within striking distance of the invasion area, but little was known as to its strength or composition. It was believed to be in the general area of LE MANS.

Further to the South-West round RENNES we were striving to find the exact whereabouts of 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Division.

From this area there had just moved 179 Panzer Training Division (later 116 Panzer Division) to the MANTES area, and 17 SS was thought to have replaced it. It was not known for certain, however, whether 17 SS had moved up from South of the R LOIRE, and the worst case - that the division was, in fact, North of that river - had to be considered.

The last major enemy forces that had to be taken into account were the parachute divisions. Two parachute divisions, 3 and 5, were known to be in the BRITTANY Peninsula. Shortage of aircraft, petrol and landing grounds led to the appreciation that these troops were to be employed as infantry. They were considered as potential reserves against the United States sector, and it was felt that they would not worry Second Army in the initial phase of the operations.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: Extracts from Second Army History, 1944 Apr

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