Following the invasion of the U.S.S.R. and the entry into the war of the U.S.A. on the British side, German strategy in the West changed from the offensive to the defensive. Hitler agreed to the construction of a fortified line along the western coastline, capable of repulsing any Allied attempt of invasion. Construction work of the Atlantic Wall began in early 1942.
From June 1940 the Germans, wishing to invade Great Britain, contented themselves with coastal defences between Calais and Boulogne. However, from December 1941 they adopted an exclusively defensive strategy, perceiving the danger emerging from the West.
The construction of the Atlantic Wall began in March 1942 around the major ports and in the French region of Nord-Pas-De-Calais with the building of submarine bases, batteries, garrison bunkers and radar stations. Marshal Von Rundstedt, commanding the western German ground forces, had to defend almost 5,000 km of coast. The target of 15,000 concrete structures, including 10,000 between the rivers Scheldt (Escaut in French) and Loire, was far from being completed and by the end of 1943 only 8,000 structures had seen the light of day.
In January 1944, Rommel was tasked with inspecting the Wall along the French coast and quickly discovered the system’s faults. In just a few months he had more than 4,000 structures and 500,000 assorted obstacles built on the beaches and in the interior zones. The work was carried out under the auspices of the Todt Organisation, but was of unequal quality; the submarine bases were the best fortified. Before June 1944, 2,000 structures, 200,000 obstacles and 2 million mines were installed along the beaches and inland Normandy. On the eve of D-Day 23 German batteries were operational, even if some were not entirely completed. Among these, the batteries of Saint-Marcouf, La Pointe du Hoc, Longues-sur-mer and Merville presented real obstacles to the Allied forces.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was placed at the head of the allied forces responsible for the landings in France in June 1944. And after that, for the release of Western Europe from Nazi Germany. His human qualities made him very
Only rarely do military units assume the name of their commanders. The Commando Kieffer owes its name to a banker born in Haiti who, at the age of 40, decided to join the military. ‘Civilian in Uniform’ Philippe Kieffer was
The Atlantic Wall Museum is located inside the former German headquarters acting as fire control for the batteries covering the entrance of the Orne river and the canal connecting Caen to the sea. The 17-meter-high concrete tower has been fully restored to make it look like it was on 6 June 1944. The six floors have been recreated down to the last detail.
The Saint-Marcouf (or Crisbecq) artillery battery played a major role during the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, as it challenged the Allied fleet in front of Utah Beach and offered resistance to the progress of American forces. The museum enables visitors to discover how the defence of the German army along the ‘Atlantic Wall’ was organised.
The Battery of Azeville can be found 7 km from Sainte-Mère-Eglise in Normandy. Built in 1941, it is one of the first buildings of the Atlantic Wall in France. The underground passageways and bunkers, which maintain some of their original camouflage, can be visited with a guided tour.
Fought between the iconic landings on 6 June 1944 and the liberation of Paris on 25 August, the Battle of Normandy is often overlooked. Yet this campaign decided the course of the war in Northwestern Europe. The losses were huge: more than 100.000 people were killed during the 80 days, 20.000 of them civilians.
United States General George Patton made his reputation in North Africa and Sicily. The Germans feared his skill and bravura. Therefore he was put in charge of the fictional 1st U.S. Army Group, a successful ruse to convince the Germans that the invasion of Europe would take place in Calais, and not in Normandy.