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The Normandy beachhead was broken wide open by the US drive south through Avranches, followed by rapid advances into Brittany and central France. The operation, however, hung on a slender thread: the lone supply line for the breakout ran through Avranches. Hitler and his generals recognized the weakness; the generals thought the German army in Normandy lacked the strength to take Avranches, but Hitler ordered the attack. Four panzer divisions were gathered near the ancient village of Mortain, intending to take the town and the nearby Hill 317 before driving west. In their way stood the US 30th Infantry Division. The Germans needed a rapid breakthrough, while the Americans had to buy time for reinforcements to arrive.
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