Panzer IVs comprised around half of the available German tank strength on the Western Front prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Most of the 11 panzer divisions that saw action in Normandy initially contained an armored regiment of one battalion of Panzer IVs and another of Panthers, for a total of around 160 tanks, although Waffen-SS panzer divisions were generally larger and better-equipped than their Heer counterparts. Regular upgrades to the Panzer IV had helped to maintain its reputation as a formidable opponent. Despite overwhelming Allied air superiority, the Norman bocage countryside in the US sector heavily favored defense, and German tanks and anti-tank guns inflicted horrendous casualties on Allied armor during the Normandy campaign. On the offensive, however, the Panzer IVs, Panthers and other armored vehicles proved equally vulnerable in the bocage, and counter-attacks rapidly stalled in the face of infantry-held anti-tank weapons, tank destroyers and anti-tank guns, as well as the ubiquitous fighter bomber aircraft. That the terrain was highly unsuitable for tanks was illustrated by the constant damage suffered to the side-skirts of the Ausf. H's; essential for defence against shaped charge anti-tank weapons such as the British PIAT, all German armored units were "exasperated" by the way these were torn off during movement through the dense orchards and hedgerows.
The Allies had also been developing lethality improvement programs of their own; the widely-used American-designed M4 Sherman medium tank, while mechanically reliable, suffered from thin armor and an inadequate gun. Against earlier-model Panzer IVs, it could hold its own, but with its 75 mm M3 gun, struggled against the late-model Panzer IV (and was unable to penetrate the frontal armor of Panther and Tiger tanks at virtually any range). The late-model Panzer IV's 80 mm (3.15 in) frontal hull armor could easily withstand hits from the 75 mm (2.95 in) weapon on the Sherman at normal combat ranges, though the turret remained vulnerable. The British up-gunned the Sherman with their highly effective QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun, resulting in the Firefly; although this was the only Allied tank capable of dealing with all current German tanks at normal combat ranges, few (about 300) were available in time for the Normandy invasion. The other British tank with the 17 pdr gun could not participate in the landings and had to wait for port facilities. It was not until July 1944 that American Shermans, fitted with the 76 mm (2.99 in) M1 tank gun, began to achieve a parity in firepower with the Panzer IV.
However, despite the general superiority of its armored vehicles, by August 29, 1944, as the last surviving German troops of Fifth Panzer Army and Seventh Army retreated toward Paris, the twin cataclysms of the Falaise Pocket and the Seine crossing had cost the Wehrmacht dearly. Of the 2,300 tanks and assault guns it had committed to Normandy (including around 750 Panzer IVs), over 2,200 had been lost. Field Marshal Walter Model reported to Hitler that his panzer divisions had remaining, on average, five or six tanks each.