This is a study of armored breakthrough operations. This type of battle has been central to the conduct of warfare since the emergence of the tank as the core element of modern ground armies at the beginning of the Second World War. Wherever a defender can cover an extended front with many, reasonably well armed units, attackers must find a way to pierce these positions, widen the gap, and then push sufficient forces deep into the defender's territory to cause a general collapse of the frontal defenses. Since the early years of the First World War it has been clear that breakthroughs of extended defended frontages, and exploitations of these breakthroughs, is no easy task. There are, of course, other kinds of armored battles that merit study--flanking attacks, encounter battles, pursuits, and even ambushes. But where the opponents are strong and competent, their ability to execute or thwart breakthrough operations will likely influence the entire course of a campaign, and even a war. The tank was devised, but not yet perfected, during World War I to deal with the problem of penetration of defended fronts.
Since then, many armored breakthroughs have occurred, but many have been thwarted. The subject of breakthrough operations has thus been of keen interest to attackers and defenders alike. Much craft knowledge has developed about the conduct of such operations, and much of it has been codified in military training manuals. Yet, the study of past armored breakthrough battles has been somewhat unsystematic. Single case studies abound. Systematic comparative case studies are rare. This book adds to the literature on this central question of modern conventional warfare. We conduct focused, comparative case studies of five armored breakthrough battles that occurred on the Western Front in 1944--Goodwood, Cobra, Bluecoat, Mortain, and the Bulge.