Hedgerow Hell: The Fury of Normandy - 1944 (2014) - full transcript

After the success of D-Day 1944, allied forces soon move into the hedgerows and fields of Normandy, France. There they face increasingly stiff resistance from German forces.


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Tom brokaw: Normandy...

For many, this was the end.

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For many more,

it was the beginning.

But for all of us,

everything changed here,

in normandy, on these sands.

The day they all embarked
to come here,

they received a letter
from their supreme commander,

general Dwight d. Eisenhower.

It was June 5, 1944,

general Dwight d. Eisenhower:
Soldiers, sailors and airmen

of the allied
expeditionary force!

You are about to embark
upon the great crusade,

toward which we have striven
these many months.

The eyes of the
world are upon you.

The hopes and prayers

of Liberty-loving people
everywhere march with you.

In company with our brave allies

and brothers-in-arms
on other fronts...

You will bring
about the destruction

of the German war machine,

the elimination of Nazi tyranny

over the oppressed peoples
of Europe,

and security for ourselves
in a free world.

Your task will not be
an easy one.

Your enemy is well trained,

well equipped
and battle-hardened.

He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944!

Much has happened since
the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41.

The united nations
have inflicted upon the Germans

great defeats, in open battle,

man-to-man.

Our air offensive has seriously
reduced their strength

in the air and their capacity
to wage war on the ground.

Our home fronts have given us
an overwhelming superiority

in weapons and munitions of war,

and placed at our disposal

great reserves
of trained fighting men.

The tide has turned!

The free men of the world are
marching together to victory!

I have full confidence
in your courage,

devotion to duty
and skill in battle.

We will accept
nothing less than full victory!

Good luck!

And let us all beseech
the blessing of almighty god

upon this great
and noble undertaking.

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Woman:
"Liberty ship" is the name

that president Roosevelt gave
to the nearly 3,000 cargo ships

built in the United States
from 1941 until 1945.

To ensure the supplying
of the allied forces,

the pace of production Rose
to one per day.

Braving all the dangers
of the north Atlantic,

these ships transported
the means

to bring Europe its Liberty.

Brokaw:
There have always been wars,

in one place or another,
on our planet.

But during the 20th century,

war extended
to the entire world twice

in the space of 20 years.

Having started in Europe,

it is here, too,
that the second world war

began to come to an end...

In France, and to be precise,
in normandy.

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It was here in normandy,

that a new balance for the world
as we know it today was forged.

But during the war,

normandy was not as welcoming
as it is today...

Because from 1940,

France, like most of Europe,

was occupied by German troops

of the third reich,

led by Adolf Hitler,

with Italy as its ally,

forming the axis.

Only the United Kingdom
remained free

after its victory
in the battle of britain.

In June, Hitler broke

his pact with Stalin

and triggered
a massive offensive

against the Soviet union,

opening up
an enormous battlefront

in the east of Europe.

In December, after Japan's
surprise attack on Pearl harbor,

the United States
entered the war

along with the British
and the Russians

against the axis forces.

Despite Japan's infamy,

Franklin Roosevelt agreed
with Winston Churchill

to liberate "Europe first."

Hitler knew this.

To concentrate his best troops
on the eastern front,

he had to protect
his western flank

from a seaborne attack.

In march,

he ordered the building

of a defensive system

along 4,000 kilometers

of coastline: The Atlantic wall.

By that August,

construction had only got

as far as the foundations

when the Canadian troops

attempted a first
landing operation at dieppe.

Robert boulanger:
August 18, 19 and 20, 1942.

Dear mom and dad,

there is enough moonlight
for me to continue my letter

aboard our assault barge.

If I should be
among the casualties,

Jacques will let you know
what happened to me

as we have promised
to do this for one another,

in case one of us
does not return.

I love you

from the bottom of my heart,
Robert.

Brokaw:
The landing was a disaster.

Of the 6,000 soldiers present,

more than half were wounded,
killed or taken prisoner.

This led Hitler to believe

his own propaganda,

describing the Atlantic wall

as an impenetrable barrier.

The artillery batteries were

the strongest elements

of the Atlantic wall.

Hidden back from the shoreline,
each bunker housed a Cannon

that could destroy a ship
20 kilometers away.

The exact position of the ships

was given by the command post
overlooking the sea.

Each battery was
a small fortress

capable of devastating a fleet.

After inspecting
the normandy beaches,

general rommel oversaw
their reinforcement.

He covered them
with millions of mines

and all kinds of obstacles.

Many were immersed at high tide
to destroy landing craft

and stop a naval attack
at the beaches.

Field marshal Von rundstedt

had 58 divisions

under his command

oh the western front.

39 of these,

averaging 14,000 men each,

were placed
under rommel"s orders.

Well protected behind the wall,

an army of engineers
developed new weapons

that could tip the war
in favor of the axis.

V1's, the first cruise missiles,

and V2's,
the first rocket missiles,

could be aimed at england.

And once operational,

the first jet aircraft

would be able to surpass

the fastest allied fighters.

The Russians pushed the Germans

back to their borders.

The allies retook north Africa

and surged into Southern Italy.

The opening of a second front

in western Europe

would allow them

to take the third reich
in a pincer attack.

But first, they needed
to breach the Atlantic wall.

That was the aim

of operation overlord,

commanded by
an American general:

Woman: Two-and-a-half-ton truck.

A real all-rounder,
this six-wheel drive truck

was involved everywhere,

for all uses during
the second world war.

Of the 800,000 trucks made
in four years,

more than 100,000 went
to the Soviet army.

Brokaw: Since entering the war,

the United States had developed
its military effort

with an enormous
industrial capacity.

The allies had won the
battle of the Atlantic and now,

even england's numerous ports

were not enough to accommodate
all the arriving ships.

For the military forces

of 12 different nations,

the whole of england

became a gigantic training camp.

Man: Fire!

While the largest military
gathering in history

prepared to invade Europe,

the allied commanders

kept the date and the place

of the landings a secret

until the Eve of d-day.

The location had to
combine different imperatives:

Be near a large deep-water port

and within the operational
radius of fighter planes

taking off from england.

It had to have flat,

wide and deep beaches
to enable thousands of men

and their equipment to land
and quickly move inland.

The countryside had
to be suitable

for the construction
of makeshift airfields.

In the end, two French locations

fit all the criteria best:

The calais area

and western normandy.

By deciphering
the codes generated

by the reich's coding
machine, enigma,

the allies knew
that Hitler's generals

were expecting a landing
around calais.

This big port was on
the quickest route to Germany.

Thus, it was the most
heavily protected section

of the Atlantic wall.

So the allied planners
chose normandy.

Although further from england,

it was also
more lightly defended.

And if the Bridges
over the loire and the seine

were destroyed,
it would be difficult

for German reinforcements
to access.

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To increase the element
of surprise,

the allies launched
operation fortitude,

an elaborate deception plan
to encourage the Germans

to concentrate their troops
away from normandy.

Double agents
reported information

on the first U.S. army group

amassing just across
from calais,

commanded by the legendary
general patton.

But these armies were fake.

In addition,
clouds of metallic strips

were dropped to deceive radars
spread along the coast

and create the illusion
of a large-scale attack.

At dawn on d-day,

big clouds of this chaff
were dropped around calais.

At the same time, the allies
did everything possible

to get intelligence on normandy.

They collected millions
of postcards

and family photographs
of the coastline

from before the war.

They took aerial photographs
and sent in commandos

to collect sand samples
from the beaches.

But it was the French resistance

that supplied

invaluable detailed information

on the German troop
and defense positions.

Exiled in London,

general de gaulle appealed

to French men and women at home

to rise up

against the German occupation...

And form the resistance,

a real shadow army.

Risking their lives,

they carried out orders
sent from London.

Every evening,

in the greatest of secrecy,

they listened to a special
British radio program.

These ordinary French phrases
were actually coded messages.

And this verse
from a French poem

formed the first part
of the signal

that violette and her companions

had been expecting
for four years.

The landing would take place
in five days' time.

Never had an invasion

been as well prepared
as that of normandy.

General Montgomery,

who had beaten rommel
in north Africa,

designed the final plan.

More than 130,000 men

would land
on five code-named beaches:

"Utah" and "Omaha"
for the Americans,

"gold" and "sword"
for the British,

and "juno" for the Canadians.

These beaches stretched

80 kilometers along the coast.

For the Americans,

objective number one
was cherbourg.

Impossible to capture
from the sea,

they needed to seize

this important port
from the land.

For the British and Canadians,

objective number one was caen,

to ensure an anchor
for the allies on the continent

and open the route to Paris.

The resistance had to carry out
sabotage operations

to isolate normandy
and disturb communications

between the German
command posts.

The date of the assault
would also be determined

by a combination
of favorable conditions.

Right before the landing
on the beaches,

paratroopers would need
the darkness of night

to secure the flanks
of the assault zone.

But the bombers
would need a full moon

to find their targets.

So that night,
the full moon had to rise,

but late.

The morning of the landings,

a high tide would hide
the obstacles,

but a low tide would extend
the distance to cross.

So the tide had
to have started rising.

In June 1944,

the right conditions
for both tide and moon

would only happen in normandy

between the 5th and the 7th.

A never-ending wait
in the rain began.

Alfred birra: June 5, 1944,

my darling Barbara,

there aren't many men able
to sleep tonight.

Most of us are
sitting around talking,

generally doing what men do
when they're anxious,

a little afraid
and not wanting to show it.

Brokaw: "Okay, we'll go."

With these words
at dawn on June 5,

after a final weather report
promising marginal conditions,

eisenhower launched the largest

and most important
military operation ever.

His letter was read
by tens of thousands of men

embarking
on the European assault,

and he went in person
to encourage some of them.

In France that day,

the German weather bureau
had not forecast

a break in the channel storms.

Reassured,
rommel left France for Germany.

The next day, June 6,

was his wife's birthday.

In Southern england,
the greatest armada of all time

finally set sail,
heading for normandy.

More than 6,000 vessels

gathered in the middle
of the channel.

Except for
the easily-recognizable

four-engine bombers,

all allied aircraft were painted

with white and black
invasion stripes

that could be seen
from a great distance,

and thus avoid friendly fire
from the ground.

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The landing would take place
the next day.

June 6 would become...

History.

Woman: C-47 skytrain.

This military version
of the DC-3

was nicknamed "Dakota"
by the British.

It was used for parachuting,
glider-towing, troop transport,

casualty evacuation,
freight and postal delivery.

With over 10,000 made,

it is the most produced
transport plane in history.

Brokaw:
The night before the landings,

the resistance carried out more
than 1,000 sabotage operations

to disrupt German communications
and isolate normandy.

Meanwhile, in england,

allied airborne troops
were embarking.

Just after midnight,

six gliders
carrying 30 men each,

landed between the caen canal
and the orne river Bridges.

They had been mined and it was
crucial to seize them intact.

The forces arriving later
from the beaches

would use them to quickly
reinforce the eastern flank.

Taken by surprise,

both Bridges were captured
and demined

within a few minutes.

An hour later, to the west,

the arrival of two
American airborne divisions

was much tougher.

The 13,000 American paratroopers

were dropped from their c-47s

over a huge area
behind Utah beach,

many far from their targets

around sainte-mere-eglise

and sainte-Marie-du-mont.

The Germans had flooded much
of the area behind the beaches,

and dozens of paratroopers
drowned on landing.

Undetected by the Germans,
the armada,

led by cruisers and battleships,

dropped anchor about

20 kilometers from the coast,

most of them out of range
of German artillery batteries.

Despite their famous “crickets,”

which were intended
to help paratroopers

find each other at night,
nearly half were missing.

But sainte-mere-eglise was taken

and thus, the Americans
controlled the cherbourg road.

The position had to be held

until reinforcements
could arrive from Utah beach.

Soldiers were transferred

from troop ships
to landing craft,

each with 32 men.

The longues-sur-mer
artillery battery

was right in the middle
of the allied landing zone.

At dawn on June 6,

the horizon was hidden by fog.

Oh, my god.

Sie kommen.

Brokaw: While the landing craft
approached the shore,

allied ships blasted
the German coastal defenses.

The firepower became apocalyptic

when hundreds of bombers
took over from the fleet.

Flying along the coastline,

medium-size bombers dropped
their bombs

oh Utah beach fortifications...

Targeted strikes that destroyed

most positions along the shore.

At the same time,
over Omaha beach,

heavy bombers attempted
a frontal attack.

Lack of visibility
and fear of hitting

their own landing craft
delayed their bombing

for a few seconds.

So, despite the bombing,

the defenses of Omaha beach
remained intact.

Strong currents pushed

the first assault waves
nearly two kilometers south,

fortunately for them.

Here, the German defenses
were lighter.

The follow-on convoys were
directed to the same location.

Many of the amphibious tanks
leading the attack

sank with their crew.

Just behind,
the first waves of infantry

were sent
into a ten-kilometer front

without any protection.

The battery at the top

of pointe du hoc

was still a threat

to both Utah and Omaha beaches.

After sustained bombing,
225 U.S. rangers

stormed the eastern flank
of the cliff

to neutralize those guns.

The climb to the cliff top

and the subsequent fighting
were murderous...

But 20 minutes after
the start of the assault,

the bunkers were captured.

The brave rangers discovered

the feared cannons were not
in the bunkers.

Hidden a kilometer away,

they would be found
and destroyed.

In the British sector,

the tide had begun to rise.

At last, the assault began.

Jackie landreaux: June 6, 1944.

Papa went to look on the beach
and shouted,

"english ships!

The allies are coming!"

Shells whistled
and burst over us.

Our final hour had come.

Suddenly,
the shots were further apart.

We went outside, and papa went
to check on Mrs. dumont.

He returned quickly.

"She has a wounded englishman."

We were to nurse him.

He gave me four sweets,

and I heard
my first english words.

"Thank you."

Brokaw:
Close to 25,000 British soldiers

landed on a five-kilometer front

to the east of the planned site.

Their mission
was to capture bayeux,

but first to take the high
ground overlooking arromanches.

With French soldiers
from kieffer's commando leading,

29,000 men landed

at the set time.

After crossing Pegasus bridge,

they were set up
on both banks of the orne river.

Then, joining up with
the Canadians of juno beach,

they had to capture caen
before nightfall.

In juno's western sector,

seven amphibious tanks
out of 29 sank.

But the Canadians,

determined to take
their revenge for dieppe,

overcame fierce
German resistance.

Their mission:

Join up with the British
from sword beach

and capture the caen airfield.

At the German headquarters,
confusion reigned.

They were awaiting
Hitler's orders,

yet the only order he had given

was to not be awaken
before 9:00 A.M.

Still trapped
between German crossfire

and the rising tide,

American troops
were being decimated.

Then, eight destroyers
charged toward the beach

at flank speed from the sea.

They came in close

to fire on the deadly cannons.

The shots were spot on.

Taking advantage

of this unexpected support,

small groups broke through

the German defense lines.

Aiming for
the orne river Bridges,

heavy bombers dropped more

than 150 tons of bombs on caen.

Denise harel: We heard
aircraft hovering above.

Boom! We hid in the bathroom.

I was facing my cousin,

who smiled at me one last time

as a second bomb fell
on the house next-door.

Everything collapsed.

Therese and I were buried
under the rubble.

We fell all the way
through the cellar

and we had two floors
and the attic on top of us.

Therese said nothing.

She was next to me and her
right arm was around my waist.

I was begging
to get me out of there

as quickly as possible...

And they brought me here,

into the shelter.

Brokaw: Now back in France,

rommel learned that Hitler
had finally agreed

to release some of
the reserve armored divisions.

The 21st panzer division

launched a counterattack

and reached the coast,

but outnumbered and surrounded,

it withdrew
to the north of caen.

Sainte-mere-eglise

was how seized,

the road to cherbourg

was in the hands
of the U.S. army,

and around sainte-Marie du mont,

the bridgehead
was firmly secured

behind Utah beach.

Mission accomplished.

Arromanches was liberated,
and the British reached

the outskirts of bayeux,
miraculously spared.

Of all the allied troops

that landed at dawn,

the Canadians pushed deepest
into the countryside,

but they were stopped
north of caen.

The troops landed on the beach,

succeeded in joining
the airborne division.

Near Pegasus bridge,

the cafe gondree

became the first
liberated house in France.

The eastern flank was secured,

but caen remained out of reach.

As soon as the battles
were over on the beaches,

reinforcements arrived
without waiting

for a real port to be seized.

At Omaha, the bridgehead

was very thin.

Soldiers and civilians
suffered heavy losses,

but the landing was a success.

By the evening of June 6,

the allied forces
had opened up a large breach

in the Atlantic wall.

Melvin b. Farrell: June 6, 1944.

It all seemed unreal.

This section was
under intense fire

from the pillboxes
we could see on the hill.

Every fifth machine gun bullet
is a tracer, glowing red.

They're so dense
and crisscrossed.

You can't believe anyone
can get through it alive.

I wonder if I'll ever be able
to forget all this.

Brokaw: The "longest day"
was finally over,

but in normandy,

the "longest summer"
was just beginning.

Woman: Bulldozer.

This humble workhorse,
neglected by history,

played a vital role in
the early hours of the landing,

clearing obstacles
and leveling the beaches.

Later, it cleared roads,
dug passages through hedges,

plowed under the mine fields,

and most importantly,
created makeshift runways.

Brokaw: Now the allied forces

had to fight Hitler's armies
on their own ground.

A major port was essential,

but cherbourg was not yet taken,

and that's why the allies
brought two artificial ports

over from england and
began setting them up on June 7:

Mulberry a and mulberry b,

also known as port Winston.

The breakwaters were made
of 6,000-ton concrete blocks,

built in england.

These floating caissons
were towed across the channel.

Once in normandy,

their bottoms opened up
to allow water in,

and they sank to the seabed.

Having demarcated
the calm water area,

the floating piers
were installed.

The piers were built

on a special sliding system

that allowed them to float

up and down with the tide.

The harbor was large
and deep enough

to accommodate
the biggest ships.

Only ten days after d-day,

each mulberry was able

to disembark thousands
of equipped men,

hundreds of vehicles

and up to 7,000 tons
of supplies a day.

Mulberry a was destroyed
by a violent storm on June 19.

Desperate to reach
their top priority objective,

the Americans,
led by general Collins,

captured fortress cherbourg

just 20 days after d-day.

The cherbourg harbor,
badly damaged by the Germans,

was once again
made functional by August,

and for months, it was
the busiest port in the world.

Fuel came via a pipeline
under the channel.

The Germans tried to use
the railway lines,

but allied aerial supremacy
was total.

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Montgomery's main objective

was finally captured on July 9,

after several attempts,

and with considerable
British and Canadian losses.

Major Edward r. Hargreaves:
Sunday, 23rd of July.

Many French civilians
have returned

it is very touching to see
how they take care

of the graves of our soldiers.

It was often impossible
to bury them in the cemetery

during the heat of the battle...

And the men are often buried
where they fell.

Brokaw: When preparing overlord,

the allied commanders
had not taken into account

the height and the thickness
of the normandy hedgerows.

The Germans
knew this terrain well

and used the hedgerows
to carry out ambushes

and to set up stubborn defenses.

The deadly
battle of the hedgerows

lasted until late July.

On the 19th, Saint-lo,

or what was left of it,

was liberated by the Americans.

95% destroyed,

it had become a martyr city.

After the American
breakthrough on July 25,

Hitler ordered
four armored divisions

into a counterattack
west toward mortain

in an attempt to split
the American advance.

The tiger was
the most powerful German tank

and the most feared.

But the allied forces had become

real "tank killers."

The Germans had to fall back
to the east,

giving the allies an opportunity

to capture several
German divisions in a trap:

The falaise pocket.

Spearheaded by Polish
and Canadian divisions,

the allied pincers eventually

snapped shut on August 19.

40,000 Germans had surrendered
by August 21.

100 days after d-day,

the battle of normandy
was finally over.

The road to Paris was now open.

Woman: The Jeep.

Today, we might argue
about how the Jeep got its name,

but everyone considers
this four-wheel drive vehicle

a symbol of the liberation
of Europe.

According to eisenhower,

the bulldozer,
the two-and-a-half-ton truck,

the c-47 skytrain and the Jeep

are the keys to victory.

Brokaw: The human cost

of the battle of normandy
was enormous'

more than 200,000
allied dead or wounded,

and nearly 400,000 dead,

wounded or captured
on the German side.

The Norman civilian toll
was also very heavy:

Up to 20,000 dead,

mostly victims of the bombing
of their cities.

But the course
of the second world war

had definitively shifted
in favor of the allies.

On August 25,

general leclerc's
2nd armored division

to liberate their city,

and general de gaulle,

leader of a free France,

could march triumphantly

down the champs-elysees.

Throughout winter,

the allied forces fought on

in severe conditions
in Belgium and the Netherlands.

It was not until may 1945
that they finally forced

the third reich
into an unconditional surrender.

And on September 2, 1945,

with Japan's surrender,

six years exactly
after its beginning,

world war ll finally ended.

It resulted in over
60 million victims worldwide,

military and civilian.

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Today, there still are wars,

in one place or another
on our planet...

But most of us live freely,

in a relatively peaceful world.

While the last withesses

of the second world war
are departing forever,

let us not forget what millions
of men and women

had to suffer
in order to leave us

a better world.

Let us be grateful to those

who gave everything,

including their lives,

for our Liberty.

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