The liberation of Europe.

What a huge, open topic! The liberation of Europe had been the fight of the Allied forces and the German empire; It was the struggle to regain the land that was taken by Germany and Hitler. Canada had been a significant part of the numerous fights it took to liberate the European land.

Countless details and events could be noted in this DOL, but a good list in chronological order that shows the liberation of Europe is as follows:

  1. Battle for Brest
  2. Falaise Pocket
  3. Operation Dragoon
  4. The liberation of Paris
  5. Operation Market Garden
  6. Battle of the Bulge
  7. Aftermath

In this DOL, I will be going over

a. what the event was

b. the effect of it on Canada / Canada’s POV (if applicable)

 

Battle for Brest

What was it?

The Battle for Brest was a battle that took place immediately after Normandy was invaded by the Allies (D-Day.). Fought on the Western Front of Europe, this battle aimed for the invasion of mainland Europe (German land) to capture of port facilities, in order to ensure the delivery of the huge amount of war material required to supply the *Allied forces to continue with further invasions.

(*The Allied Forces  indicate mainly England, The Soviet Union, Canada, and France.) 

The Germans in the Brittany Peninsula were isolated by a north-south breakthrough lead by George Patton’s 3rd USA army.

The battle was victorious on the Allies’ side.

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The Brittany Peninsula. The Blue arrows indicate the movement of the allies who took Brest.

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Canada’s piece:

The battle of Brest did not affect Canada directly, as the US and their men were responsible for taking the land of Brittany from the Germans. However, this boosted Allied forces’ morale, let the allies have access to extra military supplies for future attacks, and marked the beginning of liberation. Essentially, a change in the social paradigm.

Canadians would soon participate in battles against the Axis forces, and the victory of this battle gave them more ammunition, more supplies to provide their men with, increasing Canada’s economic prosperity in the long run.

 

Falaise Pocket

What was it?

After the victory in Brittany, the Germans took a massive disaster. British and Canadian troops from the North and American troops in the south trap the German 7th army, German Army Group B, and the Fifth Panzer army in a near-wipeout encircling movement. The battle is also known as the “Falaise Gap”, after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape. 

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Canada’s piece: In this battle, Canada was directly a belligerent in fighting as an Allied force. The Canadian 1st army, lead by Commander Harry Crerar, charged through the north region of the Falaise Pocket. 5679 Canadians were lost in this battle. This showed that the autonomy of Canada, as none of Canada’s men were obligated to fight in this war, yet a whole army of volunteering troops have fought and died in the name of Canada and the allies. This strengthens the patriotic identity of Canada, touching on political and social terms.

 

Operation Dragoon

 

What was it?

In August 1944, Allied troops landed in the south of France to little resistance. The southern part of the Axis forces were so underprepared that on one beach, the allied armies found a single man handing out Champaign!

A veteran alive today who was part of the operation recalls,

“A French waiter in full dress, carrying a tray bearing several glasses and a bottle of champaign. Offering, the Frenchman remarked “Welcome to France, Gentlemen. Only, if I might offer a slight criticism, you are a few years later than we would have preferred.””

Although that particular beach had an odd happening, the Axis forces did fight back. Many lives were lost in this operation’s process.

The allied Belligerents this time included:

USA, France, England, and Canada on the ground,

Australia and South Africa on Air support,

and both Greece and New Zealand providing Naval support.

Operation Dragoon was the allied invasion of Southern France in an attempt to liberate the once autonomously standing country. The main goal, however, of Dragoon was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast to increase pressure on German forces by opening another front. The main invasion force landings proceeded to go on bombing missions, hitting the Germans heavily by interrupting railroads, damaging bridges and cutting off the communication network. 

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Canada’s piece: A significant number of Canadians took part here as the previous battle, both on the boat and on the ground in Southern France. It is especially important to remember the Canadian troops who fought in this battle as they fought under the binational US-Canadian “FIrst special service force”, which is often mistaken as a full American army. This, exemplifies the beginning of the Canada-US relationship, touching on political values of both countries.

 

The liberation of Paris

What was it?

The liberation of Paris is per se, the result of the three battles we went over above. Paris, the heart and capital of France, was liberated and finally free from Germany. The puppet state of Vichy France (The state of France that was permitted to continue its existence under German rule, to make it look like France has turned on the allied forces) was no more. This was also called the Battle for Paris and Belgium.  August 25th, German commander Dietrich von Choltitz surrendered the French capital. The Germans were being attacked out of France, and the allied forces started entering Belgian territory to further invade the axis forces. In this battle, the Belligerents of the allies were France, The US (but Canada included), and England. 

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Canada’s Piece: The “liberation of Paris” is a broad term, When we say that Paris was liberated, it is the collective work of the allied forces that fought numerous battles for liberation. Arguably, I would say that by this point, the allied forces have won half of the world war. Now that the industrial heart and patriotic unity within France were regained, it isn’t looking so good for Hitler. Canada’s 1st army was continuously fighting bravely alongside the other allied armies – this victory was not only England and France’s, but it was also a large victory the uplifted the social dynamic of Canadians, who have both British and French blood in their veins.

Economically, the liberation of Paris gave the allied forces much more power in terms of the arsenal. This meant that militia support didn’t need to be so heavily provided by other allied countries including Canada. Due to this, Canada’s GDP DOUBLED.

 

Operation Market Garden

ah, Operation Market Garden. The unexpected and humiliating failure. This operation had a lot of components to it, but to summarize it in the simplest form possible, it is as follows:

Operation Market Garden was an operation that was the largest airborne attack up to that time, an attempt to liberate the Netherlands. Allied troops landed a bit far away west from the cities of Oosterbeck and Arnhem, where they planned to take over and fight off the Germans. They marched on to the cities but a huge portion of the army (including the Canadian 1st army) had to stay behind because their supply drops would be happening where they initially landed: Far away from where they wanted to attack. Only one army ended up going into Arnhem, got surrounded by German troops and ended up being captured. From southward, there were a few other battles that ended in victory and they were making their way up to assist their troops at Oosterbecka and Arnhem, but the bridges that had been previously connecting the paths had been destroyed. The victories from southward battles had no value if Oosterbeck and Arnhem weren’t taken by the Allies. Trying to help captured army troops in Arnhem, the allies scattered and it greatly disorganized the placement of troops. Worse yet, the British radio system failed halfway through and they could not communicate any longer. The operation ended in failure, they could not liberate the Netherlands.

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Canada’s piece:

As mentioned multiple times, an allied victory or loss directly means a Canadian victory or loss. 81 tanks were destroyed in this failed operation, that most likely lowered soldiers’ morale. This was a setback – many soldiers lost their lives and the battle was lost.

 

The Battle of the Bulge

Although the few setbacks happened, the allied forces were still making progress. Soon, they were threatening the industrial heartland of Germany (the Ruhr Valley). By this point, Hitler’s mental and physical health was rapidly deteriorating. He recalled the past victory in the Battle of Belgium when German troops fought to throw the Ardennes, rough forests, to surround allied forces at the waterfront (This resulted in Dunkirk.) in 1940. He decided to do the exact same thing. Again.

Blitzkrieg.

“Lighting war”.

It was a glorious victory for the Germans in 1940. But by this point in the war?

Hitler recollected his forces and tried to blitzkrieg through the rough terrain or the Ardennes again. He used up most of Germany’s remaining resources and forces.

To the allies’ surprise, Hitler managed to create a pretty nice bulge in the territories (thus, the battle of the bulge). 

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In the process, he took the Belgian city of Bastogne (as seen above). During Hitler’s charge in the Battle of the Bulge, he also did the siege of Bastogne, when he captured an American army in the city of Bastogne.

In the siege, the commanding officer received a letter from the Germans that stated:

 

 

 

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armoured units. More German armoured units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.

The German Commander.

Yada, yada, yada.

The Germans just meant:

Surrender, or we will annihilate you.

 

The official reply from American General Anthony  McAullife was,

 

To the German Commander.

NUTS!

The American Commander.

 

The Americans thought to surrender in the encirclement was nuts, and they fought hard.

Then, General George Patton’s Army managed to break the siege southwest, so the Germans were pushed back. Their “bulge” was now pushed back to square one.

 

Then, came the aftermath.

Soviets Capture Warsaw, and Berlin

Soviets capture Warsaw – Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation. The allied forces of Canada, The USA, England, and France fought the Germans from the west, but the Soviets fought the Germans from the east. The Soviet Union successfully fought off the German axis forces to capture Warsaw, soon Berlin.

Mussolini Execution, Hitler suicide

Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist leader is executed. This causes some commotion in Europe. What follows is the end of the Nazis – Hitler realized that all hope was lost in his bunker. He shot himself in the head, and he was gone, with his dreams of a great German empire.

Victory in Europe Day

After all of the horrendous bloodshed, war was finally over.

May 8th, 1945.

Check out Jayden’s DOL for more information on VE day.

Finally, Europe was liberated.

 

How is Canada affected by the liberation of Europe?

First of all, Canadian volunteer troops fought hard. They supplied men and arsenal, which is an economic toll on Canada. Now that War is over in Europe, Canada is able to go with the other allied troops to assist against the war going on in Japan. By concentrating more allied forces’ resources in one place, Canada saves a lot of money, prospering economically in the long run.

 

Thank you for reading my DOL!

 

Sources:

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/netherlands

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/second-world-war/canada-belgium

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/pdf/cr/pi-sheets/belgium-eng.pdf

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-capture-warsaw

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-the-bulge

Operation Dragoon

https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Breakout/USA-E-Breakout-30.html