The Battle of Normandy was the beginning of the 'Great Crusade' in Northern Europe by the Western Allies. The air and seaborne landings in Northern France were the largest the world has ever seen, with meticulous planning for D-Day, yet marked by a surfeit of clear goals once ashore. Both the bocage terrain and the dogged defense by the Germans resulted in the need for unexpected improvisation. 

Destroyed vehicles on highroad. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-720-0304-03 / Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Both sides had significant constraints; the British were nearing manpower exhaustion and would have to rely excessively on their armor arm, the United States had boundless resources but many of their divisions had never been in combat, while the Germans were short of everything and it was only through their ability to organize disparate troops into flexible kampfgruppen that they held the Allies for as long as they did. 

Destroyed vehicles on highroad. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-720-0304-02 / Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Normandy Campaign is well known for many battles and engagements in which the Wehrmacht was on both ends of the offensive onslaught that would mark the battle for northern France and the eventual breakout in late August. Ultimately, the Battle of Normandy resulted in the utter defeat of the Germans at Falaise with France and Belgium quickly liberated thereafter.

Villers-Bocage, destroyed Panzer VI (Tiger I). (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I- 494-3376-14A / Zwirner / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Many of the panzer divisions that would see action in the two months of the Normandy campaign were Waffen SS and not necessarily under the command of the standard Heer army generals. However, the 2., 9. and 116. Heer Panzer divisions would all see action in northern France alongside the 21. and 130. Panzer Lehr Panzer divisions. 

Destroyed British Panzer Cruiser tank VIII Cromwell. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-738-0276-25A / Grimm, Arthur / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

There are no exact figures regarding German tank losses in Normandy. Approximately 2,300 tanks and assault guns were committed to the battle, of which only 100 to 120 crossed the Seine at the end of the campaign. While German forces reported only 481 tanks destroyed between D-day and 31 July, research conducted by No. 2 Operational Research Section of 21st Army Group indicates that the Allies destroyed around 550 tanks in June and July and another 500 in August, for a total of 1,050 tanks destroyed by enemy action, including 100 destroyed by aircraft.

Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies.

German turret at Omaha Beach, June 1944.  (Archivesnormandie 1939-45)

Abandoned 4,7 cm Pak (t) Panzer- Kampfwagen 35 R (f]. 20 June 1944. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA)

L/Cpl Phillips, Pte Best, Pte Watson and Cpl Walter of 6th Airborne Division investigate the remains of a German self-propelled gun which they knocked-out, 5 August 1944. (SdKfz 135 Marder on Hotchkiss H39) (© IWM (B 8791))

A German soldier killed in front of his Half track when German troops retreated from the village, Northern France. (US National Archives)

German (ex-Soviet) F-22 USV gun and others, captured by Allies in Summer 1944. (Archivesnormandie 1939-45, p004603)

Men of 3rd Armored Division look at the front of a knocked out Sturmgeschütz, the corpse of one of the crew found itself suspended on the end of the barrel of the cannon. (US army, from National Archives, p013077)

This German halftrack was destroyed by an American tank near Saint Aubin, the burning remains are inspected by US soldiers. (US National Archives)

Panzer IV Wreck Normandy. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA)

Burnt-out Sherman. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / Archives Nationales du CANADA, p011072)

Turretless King Tiger Normandy. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA)

StuG IV Wreck. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA)

StuG III Destroyed. Located in Quettreville-Sur-Seine, Normandy. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA)

The aftermath of an attack by Hawker Typhoons of No. 121 Wing on German armoured vehicles which had massed at Roncey, south-east of Coutances, Normandy, to counter-attack American forces on 29 July 1944. The wrecked vehicles include a PzKpfw IV tank and two SdKfz 251 half-track armoured personnel carriers. The graves of some of the occupants can be seen on the left. (© IWM (CL 631)) 

The wreckage of British and German AFVs destroyed in the battles around Caen, 1944. A number of wrecked vehicles at a tank graveyard near Villons-Les-Bruissons. The heavy fighting in Normandy after D-Day so depleted the 3rd and 4th County of London Yeomanry's tank strength that they were merged on 1 August 1944, at Carpiquet. (NAM. 1975-03-63-18-196)

Destroyed German Mk IV Special. The ridge with the wood on the sky-line being the much attacked point 112, south of Caen', 1944. (NAM. 1975-03-63-18-119)

Assault craft and a partially submerged Sherman tank during the initial stages of the invasion of Normandy, June 1944. Although Allied intelligence had identified which areas of beach were suitable for the landing of vehicles, several tanks, jeeps and lorries were lost in water that was deeper than expected or in the shifting sands. The Normandy invasion beaches were also choked with disabled and sunken landing vessels which made unloading vehicles even more hazardous. (NAM. 1975-03-63-18-33)

German Tiger I tank of 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503 (3rd Company 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion) which was overturned at Manneville during the Allied heavy bombing at the start of Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944. (© IWM (B 8032))

Cromwell tanks of the 10th Mounted Rifles Regiment (1st Polish Armoured Division) passing by a German Pak 43 anti-tank gun, knocked out by the Royal Air Force a few days earlier, at the beginning of the Operation 'Totalise', south of Caen, 8 August 1944.  (© IWM (B 8833))

A disabled Sherman Crab flail tank (turret number '94') of 22nd Dragoons, 79th Armoured Division, lies abandoned on Queen White beach, Sword area, 7 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5192))

A Sherman Crab flail tank of the Westminster Dragoons, 79th Armoured Division, disabled on the beach, Gold area, 7 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5141))

British 7th Armoured Division officers and a Canadian captain inspect a German PzKpfw IV Ausf H tank of Panzer Lehr Division, one of two knocked out by a 6-pdr anti-tank gun of the 6th Durham Light Infantry, 50th (Northumbrian) Division, near Douet, on 10 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5375))

A knocked-out German 75mm anti-tank gun and one of its gunners lying dead beside it. A disabled Panther tank is also visible in the background. Fontenay-le-Pesnel, 25 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5939))

A Sherman tank passes a wrecked German Mk IV near Cagny during Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944. (© IWM (B 7760))

The remains of a universal carrier blown up by a mine in Tilly-sur-Seulles, 19 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5777))

A Universal Carrier carrier passes a burnt-out German SdKfz 250/9 reconnaissance half-track near Troarn during Operation 'Goodwood', 19 July 1944. (© IWM (B 7686))

Troops shelter behind a White scout car and Staghound armoured car as an ammunition lorry burns after being hit by shellfire, 26 July 1944. (© IWM (B 8148))

A Churchill tank carrying infantry of the Royal Scots Fusiliers passes a destroyed German Mk IV tank in Le Tourneur, 3 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8553))

Knocked-out German StuG III assault gun and soft-skin vehicles shot up by Allied fighter-bombers, 21 August 1944. (© IWM (B 9581))

Knocked-out Cromwell observation post tank, commanded by Captain Paddy Victory of 5th Royal Horse Artillery, 7th Armoured Division, in Villers-Bocage, 5 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8633))

Troops inspect a knocked out King Tiger tank in Plessi-Grimoult, 10 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8947))

Troops and a civilian examine an abandoned German Mk IV tank with its gun protruding into a wrecked shop front in the village of Putanges, 20 August 1944. (© IWM (B 9475))

A captured German PzKpfw IV Ausf. H tank at 27th Armoured Brigade workshops, 3 July 1944. This vehicle is number '612' of II Abteilung, Panzer Lehr Division. (© IWM (B 6345))

A captured German PzKpfw IV Ausf. H tank at 27th Armoured Brigade workshops, 3 July 1944. This vehicle is number '612' of II Abteilung, Panzer Lehr Division. (© IWM (B 6344))

A soldier of 10th Durham Light Infantry digs in close to a knocked-out German Tiger tank at Rauray, 28 June 1944. (© IWM (B 6155))

Men of the Durham Light Infantry, 49th (West Riding) Division inspect a knocked-out German Tiger tank during Operation 'Epsom', 28 June 1944. (© IWM (B 6140))

A knocked-out Sherman tank in the centre of Lingevres, 20 June 1944. (© IWM (B 5783))

A knocked-out German PzKpfw IV tank near Caen, 9 July 1944. (© IWM (B 6745))

A German SdKfz 250/9 half-track burning after being knocked out by a British tank during the advance towards Vire, 2 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8481))

The remains of Sherman tanks and carriers waiting to be broken up at a vehicle dump in Normandy, 1 August 1944. All salvageable parts have been removed and the remaining components are shipped back to Britain to be smelted down and used in the production of new vehicles. (© IWM (B 8394))

Wrecked Sherman tanks and carriers being broken up at a vehicle salvage dump in Normandy, 1 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8409))

A knocked-out German PzKpfw IV tank with the burnt bodies of two of its crew in the Falaise pocket, 24 August 1944. (© IWM (B 9657))

Wrecked German transport and knocked out tanks on a road in the Falaise-Argentan area, 21 August 1944. (© IWM (B 9583))

Knocked-out German PzKpfw IVD tank, 25 August 1944. (© IWM (B 9707))

Wrecked German Tiger tanks in the rubble of Villers Bocage after the British had captured the town, 5 August 1944. (© IWM (B 8635))

A knocked-out German PzKpfw IV Ausf H tank of 21st Panzer Division in a hull-down position, 13 July 1944. (© IWM (B 7057))

A knocked-out German PzKpfw IV Ausf H tank of 21st Panzer Division in a hull-down position, 13 July 1944. (© IWM (B 7056))

A Sherman ARV towing a German PzKpfw IV tank captured near Cagny, 19 July 1944. (© IWM (B 7762))

The Significance of Normandy

The victory in Normandy did not end the North-West Europe campaign. It continued for more than eight months after the German disaster about Falaise. The German army showed extraordinary power of recovery. It stabilized the situation in the Netherlands and on the western frontiers of Germany, and the allies forces had to fight a succession of hard battles before Hitler's regime collapsed in the following spring. Nevertheless, in Normandy the most significant battle of the campaign had been won.

The successful landings on 6 June, followed by the consolidation of the lodgement area, were in themselves its most vital phase; for in the light of the superiority of Allied resources the successful establishment by the Allies of a fighting front in France was almost certain to prove fatal to the Germans in the end. However, Normandy meant more than this. There Hitler lost the armies that were his best hope of staving off ultimate disaster. The formations destroyed could never be adequately replaced; indeed few men could be spared during the campaign to replace the Germans' vast number of casualties. The new divisions brought into existence by tremendous efforts in the autumn of 1944 were to be no substitute for the men who were now in Allied prison camps or in the cemeteries about Falaise. (From: The Victory Campaign. The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944-1945)

35 Stunning Images of Panther Tanks Knocked, Burnt, Captured and Abandoned in Normandy, you probably haven't seen before

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