|Map of German encirclement|
|Open "Killing Grounds"|
Lieutenant General Leonard Townsend Gerow of Petersburg Virginia, was a tough WWI veteran, a favorite of Eisenhower, and a talented strategist. It was Gerow who tightened the noose around the necks of the retreating Germans. Gerow's V Corps was part of Hodges' 1st army and now here he was taking over elements of Patton's Third Army, unbeknown even to the great general himself, who had already embarked on his lightening dash to the German border.
There were also changes in the German 7th Army command. The despondent Gunther von Kluge was replaced by fervent Nazi Field Marshal Walther Model. Von Kluge, who was loosely suspected of being involved in the July 20th bomb plot against Hitler, was recalled to Germany. He committed suicide en-route.
|Escaping on foot|
Under Gerow's stewardship, the 90th Division re-took Le Bourg-St-Leonard at midnight on August 18th and prepared to advance on Chambois for the final "coup de gras." The Germans put up a strong defense and the American forces were not successful in their initial attempt to overrun the ancient Normand town. Enemy artillery knocked out four shermans, and the Werfer Brigade of the 116th Panzer Division launched barrage after barrage of rockets at the GIs of the 90th Division.
|Chambois, signs to Hill 262|
|Polish and American officers meeting at Chambois|
Other Allies were progressing. The Canadians took Falaise, and the important village of Trun was almost within their grasp. Polish forces had attacked in the direction of Mont Ormel which overlooked the whole axis of the German retreat and dominated the one and only remaining escape route. By noon on August 19th, Hill 262, as it became known, was in the hands of a section of the Polish forces, while other units of Poles moved on Chambois at the foot of the hill. They met up with Americans from the 90th Division on the afternoon of August 19th. The scene that greeted these Allies was one of total carnage. The fetid stench of burning flesh, the roads jammed with the detritus of war, and the crumbling ruins of old buildings were but a prelude to what was to be perhaps the most apocalyptic action of the war.
|View from Mont Ormel "Hill 262"|
St. Lambert sur Dives was the epicenter of this desperate German exodus and one that became famous for it's corridor of death," and a Canadian Major, David Vivian Currie, who was awarded The Victoria Cross for his actions in halting the Germans.
|"Corridor of Death"|
On August 20th, the Polish forces on Hill 262 came under attack from elements the 2nd SS Panzer Division, who had already escaped the pocket and had returned to clear a way for the remainder of their comrades. This action, together with an attack on the Polish perimeter at the hamlet of Coudehard, which lies just beneath the summit of Hill 262, by paratroopers of General Eugene Meindl's 3rd Parachute Division, had the effect of compressing the Polish perimeter and opening a narrow escape route.
|Another view of the carnage|
|View along the "Corridor of Death" towards forest of Gueffern|
|Moissy Ford 1944|
|Sherman, top right, moves in to get a look.|
|Moissy Ford 2011|
|Meindl, with paratroopers in the pocket|
Instead, he remained with his men until the last minute.
|Original footbridge in St. Lambert, crossed by Hauser and thousands of soldiers|
After the convoy has passed, the firing resumed.
Meindl wrote later, "and I can openly acknowledge the feeling of gratitude to the chivalrous enemy. . . ."
|Monument inscription to the Poles|
"Gentlemen. Everything is lost. I do not believe the Canadians will manage to help us. We have only 110 men left, with 50 rounds per gun and 5 rounds per tank ... Fight to the end! To surrender to the SS is senseless, you know it well. Gentlemen! Good luck – tonight, we will die for Poland and civilization. We will fight to the last platoon, to the last tank, then to the last man."
|After the battle, Polish soldiers survey the scene on the road to Mont Ormel|
|View from Coudehard church|
General Eisenhower, visiting the area 48 hours after the closing of the pocket, reported,
"The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest 'killing fields' of any of the war areas. Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh."
Author Martin Blumenson wrote in "Breakout and Pursuit,"
“The carnage wrought (in the Pocket) in the final days was perhaps the greatest of the war. The roads and fields were littered with thousands of enemy dead and wounded, wrecked and burning vehicles, smashed artillery pieces, carts laden with the loot of France overturned and smouldering, dead horses and cattle swelling in the summer’s heat….”
The destruction of the German 7th Army in the Falaise pocket sent a clear message to the German High Command, "The Thousand Year Reich will be destroyed."