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Changing Fortunes and the Tyranny of Logistics: Canadian Naval Support of the Brittany Offensive

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This article examines the strategic links between the land and sea campaigns in Brittany and the Bay of Biscay in August 1944. On land and sea, the U.S. Third Army and Allied destroyers worked to break the German hold over the Biscay ports, forcing a withdrawal of the U-boats from the French Atlantic coast and establishing the logistical footing for an anticipated Allied breakout from Normandy. Prior to D-Day, the capture of these ports and construction of new facilities at Quiberon Bay had figured prominently in Allied logistical planning. By mid-August, however, even as the U.S. Army was approaching its objectives in Brittany, the entire campaign took an unexpected turn when the failure of Hitler's Mortain counteroffensive left two German armies encircled in the Falaise pocket. Amid the changing circumstances of the Normandy campaign, the strategic value of the Biscay harbors was suddenly diminished. While the U.S. Army continued its controversial drive to liberate Brest, it cancelled plans to develop Quiberon Bay. Meanwhile, Operation KINETIC, the Allied naval offensive, broke the German hold over the Bay of Biscay and destroyed twenty-two German ships – a success that was easily overlooked as the focus of the Allied advance shifted farther east.

Keywords: Bay of Biscay; Brest, seige of; Brittany; D-Day; Falaise Pocket; logistics; Normandy, battle of; Operation CHASTITY; Operation KINETIC; Quiberon Bay; World War II

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of History, University of Victoria

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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  • Global War Studies (GWS) is the leading international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of the Second World War, 1919-1945. Published three times annually, GWS features articles and book reviews that explore a broad range of topics, including military, air power, naval, intelligence, and diplomatic history. Additionally, the journal publishes original research on weapons technology, geopolitics, home front studies, the Holocaust, resistance movements, and peacekeeping operations.
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