The Atlantic Wall (2): Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway (Fortress 89)

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Related events World War II. Seconda Guerra Mondiale. World War I. American Civil War. Vietnam War. Peninsular War. Napoleonic Wars. Winter War. Prima Guerra Mondiale. Zulu War. Victorian Era. Yom Kippur War. Battle of Verdun. War of Operation Overlord. Guerra Civile Americana. Attack on Pearl Harbor. Seconda Guerra Mondiale, Teatro del Pacifico. Liberation of the Philippines. Fall of the Philippines. Furthermore, what offensive actions should be planned during the. Both Rommel and von Rundstedt had reserves at their disposal. In addition, what troops should be withdrawn from the elements along the coast not under attack, and when should they be withdrawn?

How the final decisions were made in detail, I do not know because, due to the nature of my mission, I received no knowledge of them. I know only that Genfldm Rommel was of the fundamental opinion that the reserves must be held in readiness immediately behind the coast-line. This opinion devolved from his estimation, as I have already pointed out in my previous report Ed : See par 8, Heer Annex , that the first days after the landings would be the decisive ones.

He feared that the reserves, if disposed far behind the front, would be too late to achieve such a decision. The enemy air force had destroyed to a great extent all bridges and embankments. Furthermore, all troop movements could take place only during the short hours of darkness.

With the high probability. In his opinion, only a close solidarity among the troops on the coast-line could prevent this occurrence. It had the advantage, besides, of firmer control by the commanders over their divisions, especially if all technical means of signal communication were destroyed by bombing attacks. Also this disposition of the forces conformed with the order of Hitler to all units on the Western Front to hold at all costs, to the last cartridge. Therefore, the distribution in depth, which was quite inadequate anyway, was entirely given up.

The sectors of the divisions were reorganized into fortress-like positions with one front seaward and one front landward. With this organization we expected to gain time by limiting, or excluding altogether, the combined effort of the enemy air force, artillery, and naval guns because of the close fighting and the intermingling of front lines. These obstacles were to be joined with the existing network of wire obstacles and mine areas along the coast.

Also, if labor were available, an antitank ditch was to be dug on the landward side. An abundant supply of food was envisioned for the division fortresses to last for the duration of the intended mission. To effect this regrouping of elements, very often the old, well constructed shelters and command posts had to be abandoned and new ones constructed. In spite of the disadvantage, the Generalfeldmarschall insisted on this course. He was of the opinion that only with this organization could the coast hold out until relief came from our reserves disposed inland.

As far as I know, these division fortresses were not all completed. On the actual invasion front they did not yet exist on 6 Jun However they were being developed by the divisions on the Belgian and Dutch coasts while the defensive action was taking place in Normandy. Owing to the considerable losses of the Allied forces during the heavy fighting for Normandy, the Generalfeldmarschall considered it a strategic error that a second landing—if one had been planned at all—was not attempted to break the circle of defense from the outside.

For example, what the Allies achieved after the breakthrough at Avranches, might have been obtained earlier and with fewer casualties if a landing had been made in Brittany at the end of Jun At that time resistance in Brittany would have been negligible due to the withdrawal of considerable forces. This strategy would have been preferable to the slow, gradual extension of the beachhead. After Rommel was wounded on 17 Jul 44 and Genfldm von Kluge assumed command of A Gp B, the defense of the coast was overshadowed by the action on the Normandy front. All troops which could be spared on the fronts not under attack were withdrawn and committed in Normandy.

The Atlantic Wall (2) - Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway

With the breakthrough at Avranches, which absorbed all our attention, the coastal defense lost its importance completely. Therefore it has never been proved whether or not the division fortresses really met our expectations. I do not know what happened further because I retired shortly after 20 Jul Genlt Dihm has contributed a few items on the views of Genfldm Rommel concerning the defense in the West.

He had spent two and a half years in Brittany and had gained experience in problems relative to coastal defenses. He is now 67 years old. On the whole, he seems to share the opinions of Rommel. Rommel was a Wuerttemberger and, in his thoroughness, a typical one. He was imbued with their sense of duty and responsibility. He was, however, not the only man of this valuable German race who was much inclined to adhere to details. The training of panzer-type divisions was something with which Rommel was unfamiliar. Rommel had never trained a regiment of Panzergrenadiers [Armored Infantry] and had obtained only a few weeks experience, if any, with 7 Pz Div [7th Panzer Division] before the French.

I cannot agree with the opinion that the invasion could occur at any place. There was a lack of decision on the part of the highest authorities. Moreover, it was a fatal mistake not to establish clearly defined centers of gravity in the fortified defenses.

Rommel had a thorough knowledge of what air power may mean from his experiences in Africa. However, he had no practical experience with the employment of airborne divisions. He had not been in command in Sicily. Nevertheless, he was quick to perceive the danger of attack by large airborne units. His conception of the defense against these parachute units cannot be shared.

One of the reasons why Pz Gp West was basically hostile to the idea of moving the panzer divisions up or close to the very coast-line was that depth was needed to insure freedom of movement for action against the landing of airborne divisions. Therefore, the description given by Genlt Dihm will be easily understood. Historical work, however, is a different story and has to be pitiless in the research of truth—but what is truth? Imminence of Invasion. Naval land transport had always been more centralized than Heer transport inasmuch as the garrisons and naval ports pooled their vehicles in Kraftfahrbereitschaften motor transport units.

These units were turned over to the fortress commanders and the combat commanders. From all reports, they did good work for all three services. The mobile units were employed partly for special naval operations, such as transporting torpedos, and partly for Heer use. One of these units was. After some difficulties, a supply line was established by way of the Seine River. Motor barges transported about 15, tons of ammunition, fuel, and food from Paris to Elbeuf in Jul This work was under the direction of naval officers and non-commissioned officers of ships put out of action.

There were no outstanding supply difficulties for naval units up to 24 Jul 44, as far as I can remember. The stores of ammunition and fuel were sufficient; soon so many vessels were put out of action that the expenditure was less than expected. Repeatedly Genfldm Rommel requested the transfer of naval land units alarm and training units to France in order to free Heer units for use near the coast and to constitute a preparatory second line of defense.

We were convinced that the Navy had excellent personnel in training ashore who would be available for sea duty months, if not years, later. It seemed urgent to put every available man into the defense of our western positions, even at the cost of future plans. OKM [Oberkommando der Marine] did not agree with this idea and moved only a few units. Thirteen comparatively well trained and well equipped alarm battalions under OKM North remained in northwestern Germany. A flexible organization was adopted whereby about 30, naval personnel were to be transferred to the West in case of an invasion.

Most of the naval personnel were trained to some extent in land fighting, at least for defensive purposes. Every man ashore belonged to an alarm unit at the disposal of the local senior officer usually the fortress commander or the combat commander. In general these officers did not have the slightest conception of naval warfare, and therefore they did not make the best use of the naval personnel. Moreover, cooperation was not always satisfactory. As far as I could determine, the morale of the naval personnel was good. There were always volunteers for the one-man torpedos, and other similar assignments.

In the minesweeping and escort units that had fought in the Bay of the Seine and the Channel, and had then retreated to the North Sea, morale was good to the. I rate the almost total lack of our own air force first. The preparations and embarkations in southern England were neither disturbed nor fully recognized. During daylight our naval forces could not venture out of the ports.

Any move from the North Sea or from the Atlantic was bound to be discovered and smashed. The use of large units was therefore out of the question. Any concentration of naval forces in one of the ports could be smashed very quickly from the air for example, the losses in Le Havre. The second cause, in my opinion, was the weakness of our naval power, which was absolutely inadequate for safeguarding transport to Norway, Finland, and the Baltic states, defending Italy and Greece, keeping the French harbors open, etc, and at the same time fighting off a large-scale invasion.

More might have been done, however, if OKM had acknowledged the great importance of all measures against the invasion, and had given them first priority and concentrated on them. In view of the impending attack of the Allies, it seemed a mistake to put so much energy into the submarine program, which. The third cause for the naval and general failure was the lack of insight into the characteristics of naval warfare and combined operations.

This lack was shown by OKW and many high Heer officers and was not compensated for by an organization in which officers of all three services worked closely together. I was there by order of the Generalfeldmarschall to view the following day the progress of the construction of local obstacles. Corps informed me that I was to delay my trip to the coast until the confused situation had cleared.

The location of the attack was known to the High Command; I was informed of it. For bringing up supplies and for reinforcements troop movements behind the front, separate lines of communication were established and marked on maps. I am unable to give. Thanks to the measures instituted, bringing up supplies on the whole operated smoothly.

But because of the demolition of all the railroads and artificial constructions, the columns had to make wide detours, which, in general, caused some delay. During the day, the traffic on these roads was completely blocked by fighter-bombers. The main reason for the failure of the defense of the Cotentin Peninsula was not so much the result of tactical surprise, since a landing in Normandy had been expected, as it was the absolute air supremacy of the Allies.

Long before and even during the attack a considerable part of the artillery was nearly eliminated by air attacks—at least to the extent that it was unable to fire on the sea. The infantry near the beach was so greatly battered by air raids shortly before and during the attack that it could no longer operate effectively. If the enemy air force had not succeeded in disorganizing the infantry so completely before the beginning of the first assault wave, this first and decisive attack up the glacis from the exposed foreshore through the obstacles or their debris would surely have been more costly-if it did not fail altogether.

Our few planes, insignificant against a superior air force, could not repel the landing of Allied airborne troops. The flak, distributed over a wide area, was ineffective also. Thus it developed that these airborne troops were attacked only after their landing by some reserve divisions still intact. Part of the airborne troops landed behind coastal sectors which were not under attack from the sea. Another important factor in the failure of the defense was the nature of the terrain in the invasion sector.

German artillery could not be employed efficiently because the flat and impenetrable wooded areas of Normandy precluded observation. The artillery of the Allies was aided by the extensive use of artillery liaison planes. Enemy air supremacy prohibited the use of similar planes by the German artillery. These were the most critical days for the Allies. Later, the constant and increasing reinforcement of the Allies could be less and less equalized by the arrival of German reinforcements, hindered by the destruction of important traffic routes.

The surprisingly rapid build-up of the beachhead after the successful landing was aided by the new technical equipment employed, such as Mulberry harbor, bulldozers, and steel landing mats. Note: German nouns have been capitalized and appropriate diacritics for French names have been added where appropriate.

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Construction of the Coastal Defenses. Allied Use of New Technical Equipment My previous assignments during the war had been as follows: a. A Gp B commenced work in early Dec 43 in. MS A — Denmark, finishing there in approximately ten days. MS A — one day only, going very early and returning late at night. MS A — II. First Impressions 8. In my opinion, this information hindered more than it helped. OKW, therefore, approved the movement of divisions from Pas de Calais to Normandy only after considerable delay long time of preparation, he thought, besides the main invasion, there possibly would be minor operations such as cutting off the northwest part of Brittany by taking.

The reasons may be explained perhaps by the following: a. MS A — a result, planning of the defensive works was intrusted to an engineer general officer who was not quite equal to this task. MS A — naval custom, these guns were for the most part unprotected from shells or bombs. MS A — invasion seemed to lie in offering the strongest possible resistance to the actual landing. Numerous measures were taken to execute this plan—some of them taken immediately, some later as the plan matured according to impressions derived from the inspections The chief measures were the following: a.

Filling the gaps between strong points with land mines and other obstacles. Placing the panzer-type divisions immediately behind this belt so that part of their artil-. MS A — lery could reach the beach with indirect fire. Increasing the fighting strength of the Heer, Navy, and Air Force. Coordinating the efforts of the three services. Making use of propaganda. Rommel had the basic ideas of his system. MS A — of defense already in mind after his inspection of the Danish coast in the second half of Dec MS A — IV.

On the whole, the measures instituted progressed and developed as indicated below. MS A — bunkers and gun positions near the beach had even been demolished, thus giving a landing force free access to a large plain with an ideal beach. Rommel preached this theory again and. Paperback Cookbook. Belgium Paperback Books.

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1940 - The Invasion of Belgium

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