Defending Europe From An Invasion From The Sea

This post from War History showed up on my Facebook timeline.  It’s a small album of pictures of the Atlantik Wall built by Nazi Germany to stop an Allied invasion. The defense failed. The Atlantik Wall was a huge effort on the part of the Wehrmacht using some 600,000 workers.  Massive concrete bunkers and gun emplacements were built all up the Atlantic coast.

The Germans naturally concentrated their construction on what they thought were the main avenues of attack, the Pas de Calais peninsula and other major ports believing that the allies would prefer to attack and capture a port as soon as possible.  There was also the problem of Hitler’s pronouncements and requirements that cause an enormous effort in pouring concrete and building bunkers that were useless. Here are some links to more stuff about the Atlantik Wall.

Atlantic Wall I

Atlantic Wall II

This video explains how a typical static division was setup.  Each division had a section of the coast under it’s responsibility.  These troops were not the best troops, being drawn from the bottom of the personnel pools.  The officers tended to be reservists with WW1 experience and the troops were old, recovering wounded or foreign soldiers like Russian POWs. These were the troops that Germany had to use because of all the other losses on the eastern front and other theaters.

The problem for the Third Reich was that the Allies prepared better for the invasion.  Not only did the Allies have more resources available, but the Allies prepared better.

Not just logistically, but with aggressive intelligence gathering, preparations for sabotage and better planning and organization. In the end all those elaborate preparations bought the Third Reich about four hours at best.

As far as I know the Germans never actually considered a landing in Normandy until long after it actually happened.  Yet looking at the maps I wonder why.  Normandy provides a lot of things that make the operation easier.  One, the South coast of Britain has most of the major British ports needed for disembarkation.  Two. There is room to assemble the invasion fleet out of sight of the Germans.  Three, Normandy is flanked by two ports.  Four, many of the Normandy beaches are not backed by high cliffs.  It’s amazing to me that the German planners didn’t take any of this into account.  I suspect that the lack of experience in amphibious operations helped, as well as the deception of Operation Fortitude. In any case the Atlantik Wall proved to be less than the impenetrable barrier that it was supposed to be.


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