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Operation Blucher: The Last German Offensive Towards the End of the Second World War in the West

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College, and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

operation-blucher-the-last-german-offensive-towards-the-end-of-the-second-world-war

Introduction

While going through my notes during staff College I came across an operation launched by the German army towards the fag end of the Second World War. It was named 'Operation Blucher' after the 19th-century Prussian general who had fought Napoleon at Waterloo- Marshall Gebhard Leberecht Von Blucher. The operation towards the end of the war took place in France and is one of the bright spots of the German resistance against the Allied invasion.

On 6 June 1944, the allies launched the invasion of the European mainland with the landing at Normandy. Field Marshal Rommel the army commander in France along with Hitler had been expecting an attack in the west. The Soviet leader Josef Stalin had been insisting on the American and British leadership to launch an invasion from the west to give relief to the Russian forces in the east.

The Germans were completely taken by surprise with the landing at Normandy as all along they had been expecting an attack in the region around Calais where is the English channel is at its narrowest. Despite the news of the landing having reached the OKW, the German general staff still thought this to be a diversionary attack and the main attack would be in the area around Calais. This was the reason that Hitler did not accept the request of the local commander in Normandy to commit the German Panzers to battle. Precious time was thus lost and the Allied invasion could get a foothold on the beaches of Normandy.

The German defenses in France were not as strong as they would have liked. In addition, the bulk of the German army was committed in the battle on the eastern front with the result the American and British forces had a comparative easier passage across France. Never the less, the German army fought well.

Once the Allied army had broken out from the beaches of Normandy Hitler realized the importance of the French ports on the Atlantic. He ordered the ports to be held as “fortresses” to deny their use to the Allies. The secondary aim was to tie down the enemy troops. The German garrisons as per orders set up a defensive perimeter in the channel ports of Le Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkirk.

Despite resistance, the Canadian first army cleared the Pas-de-Calais region of France and liberated the channel ports. However, the Port of Dunkirk held out until the end of the war. The Canadian Army could not immediately capture Dunkirk and surrounded the city. This is often referred to as the Siege of Dunkirk. It lasted from September 1944 till 9 June 1945. The Germans defended tenaciously and on 5 March 1945 also launched their last offensive in France. The Germans launched 'operation Blucher' on this date and made a fair amount of headway and held on to their gains till the end of the war when Germany surrendered.


midget submarine used for supplies

midget submarine used for supplies

Operation Blucher

By September 1944, the Allied forces had contained the Germans inside the Dunkirk area. Elements of the German 226 infantry division along with the Kriegsmarine, Army coastal artillery and other support units formed the garrison. They dug up defenses all around and converted it into a 'fortress'. The commander of the garrison was Vice-Admiral Frisius. He organized the defence of Dunkirk and despite no aircover held on tenaciously.

The Czechoslovak Independent Armored Brigade Group, commanded by General Alois Liška and subordinated to the 1st Canadian Army, arrived at the Dunkirk perimeter on 8-9 October 44 and surrounded the German forces inside Dunkirk. They remained there till the end of the war. The Germans had stocked plenty of supplies and rations as well as ammunition inside Dunkirk. They brought their supplies through the mid-get submarines wherein the torpedo tubes were stocked with rations.

They were ready for a long siege and held on right up to the last day of the surrender of Germany. On 5 April 1945, Frisius launched Operation “Blücher,” a raid in force against the enemy positions around his perimeter. The operation was well planned and on the night of fifth April under cover of artillery bombardment elements of 226 infantry division attacked the Allied lines.

The attack was a total surprise to the Allied forces and the British headquarters of the Allied army was initially not aware as to what was happening. The Canadians and the Czechs forward positions were quickly overwhelmed. The British military command thought that a major offensive was coming and accordingly gave instructions to blow up all the bridges and connections over the canals around Dunkirk. The idea was to halt the advance of the Germans.

In the initial attack, the Germans advanced almost 15 to 20 miles into the allied held territory. The allies now counter-attacked along with air cover. Despite heavy bombing from the air the Canadian army and its subordinate, the Czech army could not make any headway and the Germans held on to their gains. The siege continued with the Germans having advanced the perimeter line. The attack was a clever move by vice Admiral Frisius to relieve the pressure on the garrison guarding Dunkirk. Despite attacks by the Allied forces, the Germans could not be dislodged and the allied army could not enter Dunkirk.

The Germans held on to their lines till 9 May 1945 when Vice Admiral Lisius surrendered the German troops guarding Fortress Dunkirk to General Liška at Wormhoudt.



operation-blucher-the-last-german-offensive-towards-the-end-of-the-second-world-war

Last word

The German brigade had about 4260 men guarding Dunkirk. They lost 167 died during the battle, 461 were wounded and 40 missing in action. Fredrich Frisius was given command of Fortress Dunkirk on 15 September 1944 and was promoted Vice-Admiral on 30 September 1944.

By launching 'Operation Bluecher', the last desperate break-out attempt against the enemy lines on 5th May 1945, Frisius brought to the fore his fanatic loyalty to Hitler and Nazi Germany, He was arrested and detained at Island Farm, the Special Camp 11 at Bridgend. He was released on 6th October 1947.

This operation remains a footnote in World War II but it is important at it shows the fanatical mind of the German forces and their implicit loyalty to the supreme leader.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

Tom, thanks

tom on October 10, 2020:

marshal blucher was a prussian, 1970 movie waterloo

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 06, 2020:

Flourish, sweet of you to comment.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 06, 2020:

Another superb historical article. I especially enjoy your WW2 articles. Dunkirk has received attention in the movies lately.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 01, 2020:

Pamela, I always look forward to your beautiful comments.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 01, 2020:

This is an interesting article about the mindset of the Germans and the tough battle. I knew of this battle but certainly not all the details. Thanks for another historical article, MG.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 01, 2020:

Liz, sweet of you to have commented.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 01, 2020:

Chitra, thank you for sparing time and commentinbg

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 01, 2020:

It’s always interesting to read about the history of the World Wars. Your articles on this subject are enlightening and informative.

Thank you for sharing.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 01, 2020:

You have highlighted an often overlooked last stand of the Germans in World War 2. History very much focuses on the progresss from the Normandy beaches towards Germany. This is an interesting reminder of the German resistance to the end.