La Forêt Domaniale des Andaines - The Target

 

With the impending invasion on the Northern coast of France during 1943 the German forces looked for positions to base their logistics. Facilities had to be easily hidden from both the eyes of the resistance and those of the allied airforces. In addition they had to have good communication links and be close to the rail network. 85 Kms from the coast the Forét domaniale des Andaines was chosen from mid 1943 to place important logistics depots. For fuel, code named Berta; for Victuals, Victor and for Munitions Martha.

Bagnoles de l'Orne became an important point in the supply network of the German 7th army. Other army controlled munitions depots were positioned within the area. To the north of Falaise, 40 kms from the coast called Margot. To the north east of Alençon, lager Max, 90 kms from the coast; and lager Michel 60 kms from the coast near Vire. From June however this situation changed rapdly with the opening and closing of depots with the advance of the allies.   

The Attacks

Bombing of the Andaine forest by a A20 Havoc aircraft.
Bombing of the Andaine forest by a A20 Havoc aircraft.

The first attack on the forest was on the 13th June 1944 with impressive results. Signalled reprts immediatelly after the raid by the US 397th Bomb Group reported eplosions and smoke rising over 3000 foot in the air. The next day the German High command in its diary noted 300 000 liters of fuel being lost in the depot codenamed Berta. Attacks generally varied between one and four groups consisting of between 36 and 144 aircraft respectively in aircraft such as the B26 Marauder and A20 Havoc aircraft . Over 1150 tons of bombs were dropped on the forest. Bombs ranged in size from 50, 125, 250 and 500kg in size. The forest continued to be attacked on no less than 46 times in recorded attacks notably on the 18th of June when the Carrefour de l'Etoile was attacked with 107 aircraft. Bagnoles de l'Orne was attacked on the 18th , 22 and 24th of June. The largest attack on the forest occuring on the 6th August when 144 B26 and A20 aircraft attacked the main Domfront to Ferté Macé road at the start of the last german counter offensive in the battle for Normandy known as the Mortain counter Offensive. On the 13th of August the day air activity in the area reached a maximum of 22 Armed recconaisance missions , with no less than 247 aircraft concentrating on moving targets in the area. On the 14th of August Bagnoles de l'Orne was liberated by the 1st American Infantry Division, 26th Infantry regiment and the battle moved on to the closing of the Falaise pocket.

The Results

200 Litre drum ruptured from air attack.
200 Litre drum ruptured from air attack.

 

 

 

The effectiveness of the bombing campaign is the subject of an in depth study using archival evidence and survey. Results will be ready for publication in a forthcoming paper in  2016.