Wilhelm Keitel & Alfred Jodl – Battle of Normandy – After Action Reports

Wilhelm Keitel & Alfred Jodl

After Action Reports
Battle of Normandy

 This document is an American questionnaire on the German plans to counter-attack the Allies after the Normandy landing. It was completed on 23 July 1945 by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and his deputy, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff of OKW.

Keitel and Jodl were tried and convicted of war crimes at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. They died by hanging on 16 October 1945.

Answers of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel and Geleraloberst Alfred Jodl to questions from interrogators concerning the Normandy landing of 1944

Situation: CC PWE # [masked]

Mondorf, Luxembourg

Date: July 23, 1945

Question 1: What were the successive plans of the OKW…
a) On 6 June 1944 when the Allies landed?
b) After the establishment of a bridgehead and the junction of British and American troops?
c) After the fall of Cherbourg on 1 July 1944?

Reply to 1 (a): The first plan was to eliminate the two British and American bridgeheads while they were still weakly installed by immediate counter-attacks. At first, the British were to be destroyed or at least repelled on the other side of the Orne for those east of the river.

Reply to 1 (b): When the Americans and the British succeeded in joining, but Cherbourg continued to hold out, we felt that we had to break through the American front with an attack in the Carentan sector in the west, besieged Cherbourg.
This wish, as explained by Commander-in-Chief West, could not be achieved.

The gathering of assault troops in this remote area to the west and their refueling proved to be too difficult to drive and would have taken too long. Our troops in front of the British army – which at this moment seems the most threatening – would have been weakened to excess.

The initial order to pierce the British lines by an attack from the southwest of Caen to the northwest towards the coast north of Bayeux in order to beat the British isolated from the Americans was therefore the only valid one.

Reply to 1 (c): We did not change our intentions after the fall of Cherbourg. However, all armored units had to be relieved of their position on the front by infantry divisions.

Question 2: Were instructions given during the months of June and July aimed at establishing a secondary defense line in France – for example along the Seine or the Somme rivers?

Reply 2: The order to set up the line along the Somme was only given at the beginning of August. Beforehand, the only instructions were to re-arm the posts on the Atlantic wall. There was no intention of installing additional positions.

Question 3: Has the fighting in the west had an impact on troops, equipment and military leaders on the eastern front? How could the invasion of the west hinder the campaign against the Russians in the east?

Reply 3: The consequences of these major fights in the west and east were reciprocal. Each front considered itself neglected in relation to the other. This is particularly true on the east front before the landing. From that moment on, a rather long pause in the maneuvers took place (the Russians wishing to wait to see the effects of the landing), which enabled us to transfer the 2nd Panzer Corps on the western front.

After the launch of the major Russian attacks and the collapse of the Mitte army group (in the center of the eastern front), it was out of the question to transfer other units from east to west and vice versa.

Freshly formed units had to be divided between two fronts. All the rigors of the war on two fronts have been imposed on us. But since the winter of 1942 already, the strengthening of the front had resulted in the unfavorable situation of the distribution of units in the east.

Increasingly, young officers and young recruits stopped fighting and were replaced by older men, particularly in 1943.

The western front required the deployment of 60 foreign regiments (the eastern troops), which allowed 30 German regiments to be deployed to the east.

A large portion of the infantry divisions stationed along the coast had been transformed into static divisions, most of which had separated from their supply and transport units.

Apart from the armored regiments and assault artillery regiments, the western front was reinforced by staff troops (engineering battalions, crossing units, light and heavy artillery headquarters) . Improvements have appeared with the creations of the Volksartillerie Korps and the mortar support brigades (and smoke).

Question 4: What role did the Maquis (the French resistance network), the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) and the French civilians play in the fighting?
a) For the success of the landing of June 6, 1944?
b) During the Battle of Normandy?
c) In Paris and in the rest of France?

Reply to question 4 (a): The cooperation between the Maquis and the FFI at the time of the landing was, to my knowledge, rather limited. The vast majority of radio communications between these units have been intercepted and decoded. By sending many false radio messages we managed to get a lot of weapons dropped by airplane.

Reply to question 4 (b): In Normandy, the French resistance units did not manifest themselves, but they were much more present in Brittany, which almost divided our troops. At this point, they gradually took control of the interior of the region.

Reply to question 4 (c): Paris was calm at that time. In addition, our police forces and armed forces were stationed in the center of France, between Géronne and Isle, as well as in northern Provence.

Question 5: Prior to July 24, 1944, did OKW anticipate the breakthrough of the front on the Norman Peninsula by the Americans?

Reply 5: The point of effort of the American attack so far in preparation was not anticipated by the German Supreme Command. We were expecting an attack between Saint-Lô and the Coutances-Cherbourg railway line, but not of this importance.

Question 6: On July 24, 1944, a day before the breakthrough west of Saint-Lô, several hundred bombers launched a raid in this area before pushing the attack for an additional day because of bad weather . Did OKW realize at that time that the breakthrough could take place west of Saint-Lô?

Reply 6: The OKW did not realize that the bombing of Saint-Lô was being carried out in preparation for the breakthrough there.

Question 7: What were the key factors that led to the success of the US breakthrough west of Saint-Lô?

Reply 7: We were convinced that the front against the British represented a greater danger and the greater part of our forces were concentrated there. In addition, it was difficult to transfer additional reinforcement units to the west. The 243rd, 353rd and 77th infantry divisions were the only remaining. The fighting of the 17th Division S.S. did not achieve success.

I doubt that the whole of the 2nd Panzer Division was located north of Coutances as the plans indicated. I think I remember that only a reconnaissance battalion was in action.

Question 8: What events led to the counter-offensive towards Avranches on 7 August 1944?

Reply 8: It would have been criminal not to have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to take a mortal blow to the very audacious American breakthrough.

The order to stop the breakthrough by an attack from east to west was immediately given by OKW. We felt that it was very badly conducted and our main effort then went to the south where the enemy forces were the weakest. Today we know the outcome of this counter-attack, but at the time we could not know.

Question 9: In mid-August, the Americans reached Argentan and the Canadians made their way to Falaise before the trap closed on August 22, 1944. How many Germans managed to cross the Seine?

Reply 9: I estimate that about two-thirds of the motorized units with perhaps 50 tanks and perhaps a third of the infantry divisions have escaped the trap to the east. I think that at least 75% of these elements reached the east bank of the Seine.

Question 10: Where and by what means have most vehicles and men managed to cross the Seine?

Reply 10: Most of the soldiers passed through Rouen. All the available engineers and all the boats on the Seine that could be used for this operation were brought together in large numbers to support the crossing. We could not build a bridge.

Question 11: On August 20, 1944, the German military command of Paris accepted a truce with elements of the FFI. The truce was to stop on 23 August 1944 at noon. Was this truce approved by the OKW? If so, what was the basis for this decision?

Reply 11: The agreements with the insurgents in Paris were communicated to the OKW which approved them after they entered into force. In this way we avoided the consequences of the fighting in the streets, the city and the population, without modifying the preparations for the setting up of a bridgehead west of Paris.

Question 12: What was the authority given to General Von Choltitz during the surrender of Paris?

Reply 12: General Choltitz did not have the authority to sign the surrender of Paris. He had orders to defend the city.

(signed) Keitel

(signed) Jodl

General Field Marshal


Note. The questioner who prepared the questionnaire adds the following comment on Keitel and Jodl’s responses:

These answers are from both Marshal Keitel and General Jodl, although I have the feeling that most of the ideas come from General Jodl. Obviously the answers to these questions are very brief, asked to give me their first impressions.


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