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The Atlantic Wall in Normandy

 

Todt organization

Once France invaded, the German forces launch an attack against the Russians, leaving a dozen of divisions on the Western coasts of Europe. However, the German officers precisely expect a landing in the West of Europe which would force the Axis armies to disengage the Russian front.

To prevent any landing, the Germans call upon the Organization Todt, a military company specialized in military constructions with vocation, like casemates, roads borrowed by armoured, etc. Dice 1941, works start opposite England, once the German attempt to invade England (Operation Sealion) is cancelled by Hitler. Concrete fortifications are built from Norway to the Spanish Country and allong the Mediterranean coast in France, accompanied by minefields, thousands of kilometers of barbed wires, flame throwers, machine guns, anti-tank ditches…

Images : Beach defenses on the Norman coasts (allied reconnaissance aircraft picture) Beach defenses on the Norman coasts (allied reconnaissance aircraft picture).

This fortification, very quickly called the “Atlantic Wall”, is reinforced in priority zones, opposite England for example, in Pas-de-Calais, where an landing is more than probable according to the German generals. Coastal batteries are built at key places of the coasts, to protect a port or an estuary.

Images : German gun pointed towards the sea German gun pointed towards the sea.

In August 1942, the Allies organize a “test” raid at Dieppe which fails because of the lack of reinforcements. The German staff officers become aware of the major risk to dismantle the coasts of the North-West of Europe: thus, 150000 men of the German 15th Army stay in the Pas-de-Calais.

Images : “Rommel Asparaguses ”, wood beams having to destroy the landing crafts “Rommel Asparaguses ”, wood beams having to destroy the landing crafts.

General Rommel

Since January 1944, Rommel (called “the desert fox” since his victories in North Africa) is nervous. Under the orders of von Rundstedt, he is responsible of a difficult sector: the Norman coast, opposite the coasts of England.

Images :  A German guettor looks with his binoculars towards the sea

A German guettor looks with his binoculars towards the sea.

He estimates that the defence system of his sector is not enough: he then decides to flood the meadows to prevent the arrival of parachutists, piles generally mined were planted on the Normandy beaches, intended to prevent the landing of sailplanes (the same device was installed inside the grounds) and the accosting of landing crafts. His experiment of the North Africa battles is beneficial for him and he knows that if the Allies manage to land on the coasts controlled by the Germans, it is not thinkable of being able to make them return to England later.

Images : German tobrouk armed with two machine-guns MG 42 German tobrouk armed with two machine-guns MG 42.

 

 

 

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Images : A mined pile, intended to prevent any air or naval landing A mined pile, intended to prevent any air or naval landing.

Thus works increase mainly from the coasts of Northern France to Holland. But Germany is still in war in Soviet Union and Italy: these two fronts need a very important quantity of various raw materials and military material.

The Todt organization launches several operations of raking in all Europe to recover the maximum of material which can be useful for it during the building of this gigantic “Atlantic Wall”.

Images : Beach defenses called “Czech Hedgehogs”. Their role is to destroy the landing crafts Beach defenses called “Czech Hedgehogs”. Their role is to destroy the landing crafts.

In Normandy, and like elsewhere, the Germans built coastal artillery batteries strongly armed and protected by strongpoints. Between Barfleur and Le Havre, There are not less than six batteries: those of Merville, Long-sur-Mer, the Pointe du Hoc, Maisy, Azeville and Crisbecq. They are able to fire up to 30 kilometers and strongly worry the Allies.

Images : A German blockhouse camouflaged in a Norman house to mislead the Allied aviators A German blockhouse camouflaged in a Norman house to mislead the Allied aviators.

Eyes and ears

The Atlantic Wall is not only composed of blockaus and minefields. Very many radar tracking stations are placed on all the littoral from Norway to Spain, as well as stations of listening. There are, between Cherbourg, Vire and Le Havre: 1 identification radar , 2 “Freya” type radars, 5 long range coastal radars, 7 mid-range radars and 14 “Wurzburg” type giant radars. Often, these radars are coupled with anti-aircraft guns, for example 88 mm guns.

Images :  Network of trenches leading to a bunker above the beach Network of trenches leading to a bunker above the beach.

To counter-attack in case of a landing in Normandy, the German military forces have three armoured divisions and a regiment of parachutist, in addition to the traditional divisions of infantry laid out along the littoral.
These last are in general made up of units withdrawn from the Eastern front and placed to Normandy so that the soldiers who can have a rest.

Images :  A German gun of 50 mm assembled on tobrouk near the Merville battery A German gun of 50 mm assembled on tobrouk near the Merville battery.

These Germans who are in Normandy are regularly bombarded by the Allies. These bombardments often touch coastal objectives and recalls the German soldiers that the war is not over yet.
It seems clear however that the Allies will try to open a front in the West of Europe. But where and when?

Images : A German sentinel scans the horizon, near his bunker of Mers-les-Bains. A German sentinel scans the horizon, near his bunker of Mers-les-Bains.

 

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