by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As the Allied Forces were preparing for the invasion of the European continent, the Nazi’s were likewise preparing to defend the continent from such an invasion. Field Marshall Rommel was placed in charge of inspecting the German installations in northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. He determined that they were inadequate and he set about improving the Atlantic Wall.

The major controversy faced by the Nazi high command was were the invasion would take place. The closest point between England and France was at the Pas de Calais, but the beaches of Normandy were also in close proximity to England. This caused the backup forces to be split in their deployment between the two areas.

Additional barriers to landing gliders, landing on the beaches, mounting the cliffs, and other potential points of access to the area behind the Normandy beaches were mined, fitted with obstacles, and otherwise made “unfriendly.” This was a game of cat and mouse that the two sides played. The real test of each side’s strategies and defenses would soon be put to the test.  GLB

[ This is Part 2 of 6 ]

    

“Each new generation is a fresh invasion of savages.”
— Hervey Allen

“Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”
— Thomas Sowell

“For a war correspondent to miss an invasion is like refusing a date with Lana Turner.”
— Robert Capa

“How can we protect homeland security unless the government stops the invasion of illegal aliens?”
— Phyllis Schafly

“Europe is no longer Europe, it is Eurabia, a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.”
— Oriana Fallaci

“First and foremost, The Quiet Invasion is a first contact story. What would we do if we actually found evidence of alien life out there? It’s also about politics.”
— Sarah Zettel

“I thought then, and I think now, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust. And I think the premises on which it was launched were false.”
— Jimmy Carter

“Desire then is the invasion of the whole self by the wish, which, as it invades, sets going more and more of the psychical processes; but at the same time, so long as it remains desire, does not succeed in getting possession of the self.”
— Samuel Alexander

Operation Overlord (D-Day): The Atlantic Wall

Atlantik wall Operation Overlord was the code name for the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy Landings (commonly known as D-Day). A 12,000-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving almost 7,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June; more than 3 million troops were in France by the end of August.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Free French forces and Poland also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also minor contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces. Once the beachheads were secured, a three-week military buildup occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead, began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to expand the foothold on France, and concluded with the closing of the Falaise pocket on 24 August, the liberation of Paris on 25 August, and the German retreat across the Seine which was completed on 30 August 1944.

The Atlantic Wall

The Atlantic Wall (German: Atlantikwall) was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by the German Third Reich in 1942 until 1944 during World War II along the western coast of Europe to defend against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland from Great Britain.

Nordfrankreich,_Atlantikwall,_Bunkerbau A fortification in northern France.

On March 23 1942 Führer Directive Number 40 called for the official creation of the Atlantic Wall. After the St. Nazaire Raid, on April 13, 1942 Adolf Hitler ordered naval and submarine bases to be heavily defended. Fortifications remained concentrated around ports until late in 1943 when defences were increased in other areas.

Organisation Todt, which had designed the Siegfried Line (Westwall) along the Franco-German border, was the chief engineering group responsible for the design and construction of the wall’s major fortifications. Thousands of forced laborers were impressed to construct these permanent fortifications along the Dutch, Belgian and French coasts facing the English Channel.

Søndervig,_Denmark,_Deutsche_Bunker_Atlantikwall_8408 German bunker at Søndervig
in Denmark.

In late 1943, the obvious Allied buildup in Britain prompted the German Commander-in-Chief in the west, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, to request reinforcements. In addition to fresh units, von Rundstedt also received a new subordinate, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel originally intended only to make a tour of inspection of the Atlantic Wall. After reporting to Hitler, Rommel requested command of the defenders of northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. These were organised as Army Group B in February 1944. (The German forces in southern France were designated as Army Group G, under General Johannes Blaskowitz).

Early in 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was assigned to improve the Wall’s defences. Rommel believed the existing coastal fortifications were entirely inadequate and he immediately began strengthening them. Under his direction, a string of reinforced concrete pillboxes were built along the beaches, or sometimes slightly inland, to house machine guns, antitank guns, and light artillery. Mines and antitank obstacles were planted on the beaches themselves, and underwater obstacles and mines were placed in waters just off shore.[3] The intent was to destroy the Allied landing craft before they could unload.

By the time of the invasion, the Germans had laid almost six million mines in northern France. More gun emplacements and minefields extended inland, along roads leading away from the beaches. In likely landing spots for gliders and parachutists, the Germans emplaced slanted poles with sharpened tops, which the troops called Rommelspargel (“Rommel’s asparagus”). Low-lying river and estuarine areas were permanently flooded, as well.

Longues-sur-Mer_Battery German bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer
in France.

Rommel had recognized that for all their propaganda value, the Atlantic Wall fortifications covered only the ports themselves. The beaches between were barely defended, and the Allies could land there and capture the ports from inland. He revitalised the defenders, who laboured to improve the defences of the entire coastline. Steel obstacles were laid at the high-water mark on the beaches, concrete bunkers and pillboxes constructed, and low-lying areas flooded. Given the Allied air supremacy (12,000 Allied aircraft against 300 Luftwaffe fighters), booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel’s asparagus) were set up on likely landing grounds to deter airborne landings.

These works were not fully completed, especially in the vital Normandy sector, partly because Allied bombing of the French railway system interfered with the movement of the necessary materials, and also because the Germans were convinced by the Allied deception measures and their own preconceptions that the landings would take place in the Pas de Calais, and so they concentrated their efforts there.

Normandy_bunker_command_post Command post for the batteries
at Longues-sur-Mer in France.

The Germans had nevertheless extensively fortified the foreshore area as part of their Atlantic Wall defences (including tank top turrets and extensive barbed wire), believing that any forthcoming landings would be timed for high tide (this caused the landings to be timed for low tide). The sector which was attacked was guarded by four divisions, of which the 352nd and 91st were of high quality. The other defending troops included Germans who were not considered fit for active duty on the Eastern Front (usually for medical reasons) and various other nationalities such as conscripted Poles and former Soviet prisoners-of-war who had agreed to fight for the Germans rather than endure the harsh conditions of German POW camps. These “Ost” units were provided with German leadership to manage them.

Rommel proposed that the armoured formations be deployed close to the invasion beaches. Von Geyr argued that the Panzer formations should be concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen, and deployed en masse against the main Allied beachhead when this had been identified. When the matter was brought to Hitler, he gave an unworkable compromise solution, giving three tank divisions to Rommel, and allowing Von Geyr to scatter the other tanks across Northern France and the Netherlands. The other mechanized divisions capable of intervening in Normandy were retained under the direct control of the German Armed Forces HQ (OKW) and were initially denied to Rommel.

Atlantikwall,_Batterie_'Lindemann' One of three 40.6cm guns
at Batterie “Lindemann”, a German
Cross-Channel gun.

Rommel firmly believed that Germany would inevitably be defeated unless the invasion could be stopped at the beach.

Although the defensive wall was never completed the Wall’s existence has served to explain away concerns of the Soviet Union for why the Second Front was not opened until June 6, 1944 (less than a year before the end of the war). The Wall primarily consisted of batteries, bunkers, and minefields, which during 1942–1944, stretched from the French-Spanish border to Norway (Festung Norwegen). Many bunkers still exist, for example near Scheveningen, Den Haag, Katwijk and in Normandy. In Oostende, Belgium the public may visit a well-preserved part of the defences. That section consists of emplacements of the “Saltzwedel neu battery” and the “Stützpunkt Bensberg”, consisting of several men’s quarters and the necessary facilities. These constructions were used by a unit of German military engineers (Pionierstab) who were in charge of bunker construction.

The Channel Islands were heavily fortified, particularly the island of Alderney which is closest to France. Hitler had decreed that 10% of the steel and concrete used in the Atlantic Wall go to the Channel Islands, because of the propaganda value of controlling British territory. Despite the mooting of Operation Constellation et al., the Allies bypassed the islands and did not try to liberate them when they invaded Normandy. The islands’ German garrisons did not surrender until 9 May 1945 – one day after the German armed forces on the mainland. The German garrison on Alderney did not surrender until 16 May.

Walcheren Island was considered to be the “strongest concentration of defences the Nazis had ever constructed.”

Weather forecast

A full moon was required both for light for the aircraft pilots and for the spring tide, effectively limiting the window of opportunity for mounting the invasion to only a few days in each month. Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds prevented aircraft finding their targets.

The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions and believed an invasion would not be possible for several days. Some troops stood down, and many senior officers were absent. Rommel, for example, took leave to attend his wife’s birthday. At a vital meeting on 5 June, Eisenhower’s chief meteorologist James Stagg predicted a slight improvement in the weather for 6 June. This was based on weather reports transmitted from the Captain class frigate HMS Grindall, which, since April, had been on station in mid-Atlantic transmitting weather reports every three hours, day and night. The officer responsible for sending the weather reports was Lieutenant H.R. Curry R.N.V.R.

On 4 June, his weather reports indicated a ridge of high pressure behind a deep depression. He forecast that the ridge would move in an easterly direction to reach the south-west approaches late on 5 June and show an improvement in the weather, which up to that point had shown very strong winds, heavy rain and very rough seas, resulting from the passage of a deep depression. On this basis, General Eisenhower, after much consideration, decided to commence the invasion, despite opposition from some of his staff. The only other option was to go two weeks later but had he chosen this, the ships would have run into the ‘worst channel storm in 40 years’ as Churchill later described it, that lasted four days between the 19th and 22 June.

Note:
The Allied Forces has successfully prevented the operation of a fleet of fishing boats (actually floating weather stations) in the North Atlantic. Therefore, the Nazi’s did not have the advanced warning of incoming weather fronts from the north. This lack of intelligence prevented effective decision-making on the part of Rommel and other leaders in the Normandy/Pas de Calais area.

     

References

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Operation Overlord… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Overlord

Wikipedia: Atlantic Wall… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Wall

Web Sites and Blogs:

Brainy Quote: Invasion Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/invasion.html