Germans Launch Counterattack Near American Positions Near Mortain, France
Operation Lüttich was a codename given to a German counterattack during the Battle of Normandy, which took place around the American positions near Mortain from 7 August to 13 August, 1944.
(Lüttich is the German name for the city of Liège in Belgium, where the Germans had won a victory in the early days of August, 1914, during the First World War.) The offensive is also referred to in American and British histories of the Battle of Normandy simply as the Mortain counter-offensive.
The assault was ordered by Adolf Hitler, to eliminate the gains made by the First United States Army during Operation Cobra and the subsequent weeks, and by reaching the coast in the region of Avranches at the base of the Cotentin peninsula, cut off the units of the Third United States Army which had advanced into Brittany.
The main German striking force was the XLVII Panzer Korps, with one and a half SS Panzer Divisions and two Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions. Although they made initial gains against the defending US VII Corps, they were soon halted and Allied aircraft inflicted severe losses on the attacking troops, eventually destroying nearly half of the tanks involved in the attack. Although fighting continued around Mortain for six days, the American forces had regained the initiative within a day of the opening of the German attack.
As the German commanders on the spot had warned Hitler in vain, there was little chance of the attack succeeding, and the concentration of their armoured reserves at the western end of the front in Normandy soon led to disaster, as they were outflanked to their south and the front to their east collapsed, resulting in many of the German troops in Normandy being trapped in the Falaise Pocket.
Operation Lüttich (Liège) was designed to break the Allied offensive in Normandy, and then allow the Germans to destroy the allied forces there. The operation was code named Lüttich (Liège), the place at which Ludendorff, in August, 1914, had,exactly thirty years before to the day, opened the way for the great German march of encirclement across the rear of the French army.