As It Happened - D-Day to Berlin

Last Update: 03 July 2004

D-DAY TO BERLIN is a powerful three-part BBC series recounting the Allies’
remarkable progress from the beaches of Normandy to their ultimate victory
in Germany ten months later.
Told through the powerful testimonies of those who took part, this is the
gripping story of the courage, grit and determination behind one of the
greatest military operations of all time.
D-Day is over and with its tenuous foothold on Nazi-occupied land, the
Allies still face the very real danger of annihilation. The future history of
Europe hangs in the balance.

Freeing Western Europe from the yoke of Nazi oppression and intimidation,
the collective operations from D-Day to Berlin mark one of the greatest-ever
military offensives. As this powerful narrative unfolds, the series reveals how
the Allies’ many successes changed the course of European life forever.
Using a testimony-driven format, we hear British, American and German
soldiers recount their incredible experiences of over 50 years ago. While
archive footage and computer generated imagery take us directly onto the
battlefields of France, Holland and Germany, we meet participants from
both sides whose bravery and determination made the final push on Europe
the defining drama of the Second World War.
Ep 1 Breakout (Original broadcast Saturday 3 July, 7.30pm, SBS - Australia)
The story unfolds over the summer of 1944, as the initial sliver of territory
held by the Allies is slowly extended inland. Fighting was fierce, casualties
were high. Unique colour archive footage from the time shows the Allies
forcing their way inland. Progress is slow, and gloom descends upon Allied
HQ as the situation is in stalemate. The two British defeats in the Bocage
are reconstructed, and Allied despair deepens with British and Canadian
troops meeting concerted German resistance at Caen.
The Germans are also dispirited, and dramatic colour archive film shows
the successful American advance on Cherbourg. With the German leadership
in tatters, the Allies were on the verge of breaking out of Normandy. We
recount the progress of Operation Cobra, as U.S. forces rammed through
German lines stripped of armour, threatening to encircle them. Remarkable
aerial footage compliments the accounts of the former Allied pilots who
describe how they strafed the 240 000 German troops racing through the
Falaise Gap between encircling Allied forces. They left behind 50 000 dead
and 200 000 prisoners. The Allies powered on.
By mid-August, the powerful Allied advance had reached the Seine. When
news of an uprising in Paris broke, Allied Command reversed a decision to
bypass the capital: against a backdrop of archive of the jubilant crowds,
former British soldiers recall the exhilarating experience of liberating the
city and Parisians recall their first heady days of freedom.
Ep 2 Reversal (Original broadcast Saturday 10 July, 7.30pm - SBS Australia)
By autumn 1944, the Normandy campaign had been a stunning success.
But as the victorious Allies powered on, supply lines were stretched and
the formidable German defences on the Siegfried Line began to loom large.
In Operation Market-Garden, Allied military planners seemed to have struck
upon the answer. An airborne attack was designed to lay a carpet of troops
along a narrow corridor into Holland: the objective was to cross the Rhine,
outflank the Siegfried Line and continue the race into Germany.
But as the former paratroops reveal, bad planning and luck led to defeat in
an epic battle. With the operation running 36 hours behind schedule, weak
radio links, wild weather and the presence of two SS divisions in Arnhem
proved fatal. Yet worse was to come. With a decisive breakthrough prevented
at Arnhem, former Allied planners reveal how lines were increasingly pressured
as they tried to supply troops spread over the broader front. As the winter
began to set in and the Allies pushed deeper into the Belgian Ardennes,
trouble was brewing: they were about to meet their last major barrier to
success in the Battle of the Bulge. Lasting from 16 December to 28 January,
the Bulge was the United States’ largest land battle of World War II. More
than a million men fought in the snowy Ardennes, including 600 000
Germans and 500 000 Americans. The Allies eventually won, but at great
cost. By the end of the Battle of the Bulge there were 81 000 U.S. wounded
with 10 000 killed; 100 000 Germans had been killed, wounded or captured.
Nevertheless, Hitler would not give up easily and launched ‘The Great Blow’
to eliminate Allied air power. German fighter pilots recall the terrible dangers
that they faced in attacking the Allied airfields: the Luftwaffe lost 300 planes
and 253 trained pilots. The road to Germany was clearing again…
Ep 3 Endgame (Original broadcast Saturday 17 July, 7.30pm - SBS Australia)
As the bitter winter of 1944 melted into the spring of 1945, the Allies were
constantly on the move. Hitler’s last ditch attempt to bring Germany back
into winning the war had failed; the Germans had expended the majority
of their air power and men. With few forces left to defend the Reich, the
Germans could not prolong the inevitable: final defeat loomed.
American officers recall how they quickly recovered from the battering
they had received in the Bulge and remarkable colour footage shows the
Allies pushing on eastwards towards the Rhein. Former American troops
remember the ceaseless momentum of their brutal slog across Europe, but
the worst was now behind them. It was the Germans who were now suffering
acutely, as former Wehrmacht officers vividly recall. By the beginning of March
the Allies had captured Cologne and were finally able to establish a proper
bridge across the Rhein at Remagen. Germany was now at the mercy of the
Allied armies.
Berlin had already been ‘promised’ to the Russians, and with conflict raging
in the upper echelons of the Allied command as to whether to actually allow
this and where to direct their onslaught, remarkable archive footage shows
how U.S. troops accepted the surrender of an enormous German force
encircled in the Ruhr at the beginning of April.
On 7th May, all German forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.
The next day, 8th May, marked V-E Day: Victory in Europe.


Source: Sydney Morning Herald
July 3, 2004

As It Happened: D-Day to Berlin
By Ben Wyld

SBS, 7.30pm
"The memory I have is the smell of dust and death." So goes the
recollection of one of the Allied soldiers involved in the post D-Day
struggle with German forces in Normandy.
This three-part BBC series, beginning tonight, recounts the Allied progress
from the landing on the beaches of Normandy to the victory on German soil
some 10 months later. Narrated by Sean Bean, tonight recounts the bloody
landing and the Allies' desperate push inland against fierce Nazi opposition,
told through the perspective of former Allied and Nazi soldiers and officers,
and dramatic reconstructions of battles in the Bocage and at Caen.
The sombre archive and aerial footage graphically captures the devastating
effects of war.


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