|Part of the Third Reich|
|Western coast of Continental Europe and Scandinavia|
|Condition||Partially demolished; mostly intact|
|Built by||Forced labourers|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Events|| Operation Neptune |
St Nazaire Raid
|Erwin Rommel (1943–44)|
The Atlantic Wall (German: Atlantikwall) was an extensive system of coastal defence and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944, along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom, during World War II. The manning and operation of the Atlantic Wall was administratively overseen by the German Army, with some support from Luftwaffe ground forces. The Kriegsmarine (German Navy) maintained a separate coastal defence network, organised into a number of sea defence zones.
Coastal defenceand coastal fortification are measures taken to provide protection against military attack at or near a coastline, for example, fortifications and coastal artillery. Because an invading enemy normally requires a port or harbour to sustain operations, such defences are usually concentrated around such facilities, or places where such facilities could be constructed. Coastal artillery fortifications generally followed the development of land fortifications, usually incorporating land defences; sometimes separate land defence forts were built to protect coastal forts. Through the middle 19th century, coastal forts could be bastion forts, star forts, polygonal forts, or sea forts, the first three types often with detached gun batteries called "water batteries". Coastal defence weapons throughout history were heavy naval guns or weapons based on them, often supplemented by lighter weapons. In the late 19th century separate batteries of coastal artillery replaced forts in some countries; in some areas these became widely separated geographically through the mid-20th century as weapon ranges increased. The amount of landward defence provided began to vary by country from the late 19th century; by 1900 new US forts almost totally neglected these defences. Booms were also usually part of a protected harbor's defences. In the middle 19th century underwater minefields and later controlled mines were often used, or stored in peacetime to be available in wartime. With the rise of the submarine threat at the beginning of the 20th century, anti-submarine nets were used extensively, usually added to boom defences, with major warships often being equipped with them through early World War I. In World War I railway artillery emerged and soon became part of coastal artillery in some countries; with railway artillery in coast defence some type of revolving mount had to be provided to allow tracking of fast-moving targets.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The majority national languages of these three, belong to the Scandinavian dialect continuum, and are mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.
Hitler ordered the construction of the fortifications in 1942. Almost a million French workers were drafted to build it.[ citation needed ] The wall was frequently mentioned in Nazi propaganda, where its size and strength were usually exaggerated. The fortifications included colossal coastal guns, batteries, mortars, and artillery, and thousands of German troops were stationed in its defences. When the Allies eventually invaded the Normandy beaches in 1944, most of the defences were stormed within hours. Today, ruins of the wall exist in all of the nations where it was built, although many structures have fallen into the ocean or have been demolished over the years.
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland on 1 September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.
French people are a Romance ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.
World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939, with Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland. Two days later, the UK and France declared war on Germany. [ citation needed ] Four weeks into the attack, the Germans had successfully occupied Poland.Poland's geographical location, however, prevented the Allies from intervening directly.
The invasion of Poland by Germany, known in Poland as the September campaign or the 1939 defensive war, and in Germany as the Poland campaign (Polenfeldzug), marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.
The French Third Republic was the system of government adopted in France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed during the Franco-Prussian War, until 10 July 1940 after France's defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II led to the formation of the Vichy government in France.
Less than a month after this victory, Adolf Hitler issued a directive stating that Germany must be ready for an offensive through France and the Low Countries.However, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German high command; OKW) was convinced that preparations would take at least until the following year. After furious arguments, Hitler reluctantly agreed to wait. In May 1940, three massive German army groups overran France and the Low Countries in little more than six weeks.
The Low Countries, the Low Lands, or historically also the Netherlands, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was the High Command of the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. Created in 1938, the OKW had nominal oversight over the Heer (Army), the Kriegsmarine (Navy), and the Luftwaffe.
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. France had previously invaded Germany in 1939. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.
Prior to the Atlantic Wall decision, following a number of commando raids, on 2 June 1941 Adolf Hitler asked for maps of the Channel Islands. These were provided next day and by 13 June Hitler had made a decision. Ordering additional men to the Islands and having decided the defences were inadequate, lacking tanks and coastal artillery, the Organisation Todt (OT) was instructed to undertake the building of 200-250 strong points in each of the larger islands. The plan was finalised by the OT and submitted to Hitler. 197 Referring to the "permanent fortification" of the Islands to make an impregnable fortress to be completed within 14 months. :448Festungspionierkommandeur XIV was created to command the project of fortifying the Channel Islands.The original defence order was reinforced with a second dated 20 October 1941, following a Fuhrer conference on 18 October to discuss the engineers assessment of requirements. :
A commando is a soldier or operative of an elite light infantry or special operations force often specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting or abseiling.
The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jersey, which is the largest of the islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and some smaller islands. They are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and, although they are not part of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands. The Crown dependencies are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations nor of the European Union. They have a total population of about 164,541, and the bailiwicks' capitals, Saint Helier and Saint Peter Port, have populations of 33,500 and 18,207, respectively.
Coastal artillery is the branch of the armed forces concerned with operating anti-ship artillery or fixed gun batteries in coastal fortifications.
It was six months later on 23 March 1942 that Hitler issued Führer Directive No. 40, which called for the creation of an "Atlantic Wall". He 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.This decision required the army engineers and the OT to organise quickly. Massive supplies of cement, steel reinforcing and armour plate would be required and everything would need to be transported.
A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to solidify rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from the Latin fortis ("strong") and facere.
Nazi propaganda claimed that the wall stretched from the cape of Norway down to the Spanish border.
The Regelbau (standard build) system used books of plans for each of over 600 approved types of bunker and casemate, each having a specific purpose, having been updated as enemy constructions were overrun and examined, even testing some to destruction for effectiveness. They incorporated standard features, such as an entrance door at right angles, armoured air intake, 30-millimetre (1.2 in) steel doors, ventilation and telephones, :7 internal walls being lined with wood, emergency exit system. There were over 200 standardised armour parts. :350
The standardisation greatly simplified the manufacture of equipment, the supply of materials and the budgetary and financial control of the construction as well as the speed of planning for construction projects. 50:
To offset shortages, captured equipment from the French and other occupied armies were incorporated in the defences, casemates designed for non-German artillery, anti tank and machine guns and the use of turrets from obsolete tanks in tobrukstand pill boxes (tobruk pits). 51:
Organisation Todt (OT), formed in 1933, had designed the Siegfried Line during the prewar years along the Franco-German border. OT was the chief engineering group responsible for the design and construction of the wall's major gun emplacements and fortifications.
The OT supplied supervisors and labour as well as organising supplies, machinery and transport to supplement the staff and equipment of construction companies. Many of them were German, however construction companies in occupied counties bid for contracts. Companies could apply for OT work or could be conscripted. 53 Companies failing to complete their work on time, which was always possible as the OT controlled the material and manpower of each firm, could find themselves closed down, or more likely fined, or taken over or merged with another firm to make a more efficient larger unit, successful firms however could make attractive profits. :53–4:
The OT obtained quotes for necessary works and signed contracts with each construction company setting out the price and terms of the contract, such as bonus payments for efficiency, including the wage rates and bonus payments for OT workers (which depended on their nationality and skill). There could be several construction companies working on each site.
Labour comprised skilled volunteers, engineers, designers and supervisors, who were paid and treated well. Second came volunteer workers, often skilled technicians, such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and metal workers. Again, these workers were paid, took holidays and were well treated. Next came unskilled forced labour, paid very little and treated quite harshly. Lastly came effective slave labour, paid little, badly fed and treated very harshly. 75 The OT ran training courses to improve labour skills. :18:
Massive numbers of workers were needed. The Vichy regime imposed a compulsory labour system, drafting some 600,000 French workers to construct these permanent fortifications along the Dutch, Belgian, and French coasts facing the English Channel. 50Efficiency of the OT decreased in late 1943 and 1944 as a result of manpower pressures, fuel shortages and the bombing of worksites, such as V-weapons sites, where some volunteer workers refused to work in such dangerous areas. :
OT Cherbourg in January 1944 dealt with 34 companies with 15,000 workers and 79 sub contractors. Daily, weekly and monthly reports showing progress, work variations, material used, stocks of material, labour hours used per skill type, the weather, equipment inventory and quality, level of supervision, employee absences, staffing levels, deaths and problems experienced all had to be filed with the OT. 57:
Throughout most of 1942–43, the Atlantic Wall remained a relaxed front for the Axis troops manning it, with only two large-scale British attacks. Operation Chariot, launched near St Nazaire in March 1942, successfully destroyed German pumping machinery for, and severely damaged, the Normandie dry dock and installations.The second attack was the Dieppe Raid, launched near the French port of Dieppe in August 1942 to test the German defences and provide combat experience for Canadian troops. The Germans were defeated at St. Nazaire, but had little difficulty in repulsing the attack at Dieppe, where they inflicted heavy casualties. Although the Dieppe raid was a disaster for the Allies, it alarmed Hitler, who was sure an Allied invasion in the West would shortly follow. Following Dieppe, Hitler gave Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, the overall German Commander-in-Chief in the West, 15 further divisions to shore up the German positions.
Early in 1944, with an Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe becoming ever more likely, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was assigned to improve the wall's defences.Believing the existing coastal fortifications to be entirely inadequate, he immediately began strengthening them. Rommel's main concern was Allied air power. He had seen it first-hand when fighting the British and Americans in North Africa, and it had left a profound impression on him. He feared that any German counterattack would be broken up by Allied aircraft long before it could make a difference. Under his direction, hundreds of reinforced concrete pillboxes were built on the beaches, or sometimes slightly inland, to house machine guns, antitank guns, and light and heavy artillery. Land mines and antitank obstacles were planted on the beaches, and underwater obstacles and naval mines were placed in waters just offshore. The intent was to destroy the Allied landing craft before they could unload on the beaches.
By the time of the Allied 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 emplanted slanted poles with sharpened tops, which the troops called Rommelspargel ("Rommel's Asparagus"). Low-lying river and estuarine areas were intentionally flooded. Rommel believed that Germany would inevitably be defeated unless the invasion could be stopped on the beach, declaring, "It is absolutely necessary that we push the British and Americans back from the beaches. Afterwards it will be too late; the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive."
The Channel Islands were heavily fortified, particularly the island of Alderney, which is closest to Britain. Hitler had decreed that one-twelfth of the steel and concrete used in the Atlantic Wall should go to the Channel Islands, because of the propaganda value of controlling British territory.The islands were some of the most densely fortified areas in Europe, with a host of Hohlgangsanlage tunnels, casemates, and coastal artillery positions.
However, as the Channel Islands lacked strategic significance, the Allies bypassed them when they invaded Normandy. As a result, the German garrisons stationed on the islands did not surrender until 9 May 1945—one day after Victory in Europe Day. The garrison on Alderney did not surrender until 16 May. Because most of the German garrisons surrendered peacefully, the Channel Islands are host to some of the best-preserved Atlantic Wall sites.
The commander in Guernsey produced books giving detailed pictures, plans and descriptions of the fortifications in their island, Festung Guernsey.
Many major ports and positions were incorporated into the Atlantic Wall, receiving heavy fortifications. Hitler ordered all positions to fight to the end, and some of them remained in German hands until Germany's unconditional surrender. Several of the port fortresses were resupplied by submarines after being surrounded by Allied Forces. The defenders of these positions included foreign volunteers and Waffen-SS troops.
|Alderney||Maximilian List||3,200||Fortifications of Alderney||16 May 1945|
|Antwerp||Gustav-Adolf von Zangen||90,000||Battle of the Scheldt||8 November 1944|
|Boulogne||Ferdinand Heim||10,000||Operation Wellhit||22 September 1944|
|Brest||Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke||38,000||Battle for Brest||19 September 1944|
|Calais/Cap Gris-Nez||Ludwig Schroeder||7,500||Operation Undergo||30 September 1944|
|Cherbourg||Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben||47,000||Battle of Cherbourg||27 June 1944|
|Dunkirk||Friedrich Frisius||12,000||Allied siege of Dunkirk||8 May 1945|
|Guernsey||Rudolf Graf von Schmettow |
then Friedrich Hüffmeier
|11,700||German fortification of Guernsey||9 May 1945|
|Jersey||Rudolf Graf von Schmettow|
then Friedrich Hüffmeier
|11,600|| German occupation of the Channel Islands |
Liberation of the German-occupied Channel Islands
|9 May 1945|
|La Rochelle/La Pallice||Ernst Schirlitz||11,500||Allied siege of La Rochelle||9 May 1945|
|Le Havre||Hermann-Eberhard Wildermuth||14,000||Operation Astonia||12 September 1944|
|Le Verdon-sur-Mer||Otto Prahl||3,500|
|20 April 1945|
|10 May 1945|
|Ostend||Erich Julius Mülbe, Oberst||60,000|
|7 September 1944|
|17 April 1945|
|Saint-Malo/Dinard||Andreas von Aulock||12,000|
|17 August 1944|
|St. Nazaire||Hans Junck||35,000|
|11 May 1945|
|1 November 1944|
Many French construction companies benefited financially from helping construct the Atlantic Wall; these companies were not penalised during the post war period.
Immediately after the war, there was little interest in preserving the wall due to the negative memories associated with the Nazi occupation. Some of the beach fortifications have toppled or are underwater, while those further inland still exist mainly due to their location.
One of the best preserved parts is the Todt Battery. In 2011, renewed efforts to preserve the wall were spearheaded by organisations in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The question has been raised over whether France should declare the wall a National Monument to ensure it is preserved; however no government so far has envisaged this.
Although the defensive wall was never fully completed, many bunkers still exist near Ostend, Channel Islands, Scheveningen, Den Haag, Katwijk, and in Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway specifically).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Atlantic Wall .|
The Maginot Line, named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, is a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany and force them to move around the fortifications. Constructed on the French side of its borders with Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg, the line did not extend to the English Channel due to French strategy that envisioned a move into Belgium to counter a German assault.
Operation Constellation was the name of one of a number of missions proposed by Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1943 to take back the Channel Islands from German occupation during World War II. It was never mounted. The other missions were Operation Condor, Operation Concertina and Operation Coverlet.
The German occupation of the Channel Islands lasted for most of the Second World War, from 30 June 1940 until their liberation on 9 May 1945. The Bailiwick of Jersey and Bailiwick of Guernsey are two British Crown dependencies in the English Channel, near the coast of Normandy. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Wehrmacht during the war.
The Battle for Brest was fought on the Western Front during World War II. Part of the Allied plan for the invasion of mainland Europe called for the capture of port facilities, in order to ensure the timely delivery of the enormous amount of war materiel required to supply the invading Allied forces. It was estimated that the 37 Allied divisions to be on the continent by September 1944 would need 26,000 tons of supplies each day. The main port the Allied forces hoped to seize and put into their service was Brest, in northwestern France.
Festung Norwegens was the German term for the heavy defence and fortification system of Norway during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in World War II. Some, including Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, thought that these fortifications would serve effectively as a last perimeter of defense of the Third Reich in the event of Allied victory on the continent. It turned out that they kept German troops away from mainland Europe and thus helped to end the war more quickly.
Ouvrage Schoenenbourg is a Maginot Line fortification. It is located on the territory of the communes of Hunspach, Schœnenbourg and Ingolsheim, in the French département of Bas-Rhin, forming part of the Fortified Sector of Haguenau, facing Germany. At the east end of the Alsace portion of the Maginot Line, its neighbour is the gros ouvrage Hochwald. It is the largest such fortification open to the public in Alsace. Officially recorded as an historical monument, it retains all its original structural elements. Schoenenbourg was heavily bombarded during the Battle of France in 1940, receiving more enemy ordnance than any other position in France, with no significant damage. In 1945, retreating German troops used explosives to destroy much of the ouvrage. After the war it was fully repaired and placed back into service as part of a programme to use Maginot fortifications to resist a potential Warsaw Pact advance through Europe. By the 1970s the plan had lost favour and funding, and Schoenenboug was abandoned. In 1987 a local organisation undertook Schoenenbourg's preservation, and today it is open to public visitation.
Ouvrage Aumetz is a small work, or petit ouvrage of the Maginot Line. It is part of the Fortified Sector of the Crusnes and is located near the community of Aumetz in the Moselle département of France. The petit ouvrage flanked by the gros ouvrages Bréhain and Rochonvillers, all facing the France-Luxembourg border. Aumetz was initially planned as a gros ouvrage of six combat blocks, but only three infantry blocks were built. Aumetz saw limited action during the Battle of France. In the 1970s it was the first Maginot position to be offered for sale to the public.
The Fort Hommet 10.5 cm coastal defence gun casemate bunker is a fully restored gun casemate that was part of Fortress Guernsey constructed by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1940 and 1945.
The Defensive Organization of Corsica was the French military organization that in 1940 was responsible for the defense of the French island of Corsica against a potential invasion by Fascist Italy. As part of the overall effort to fortify France's borders which included the Maginot Line, the fixed Corsican defenses were constructed in parallel with the Maginot Line, using the same organizational structure and similar designs, albeit scaled back in size, cost and fighting power. The Corsican defenses were designed to deter an Italian landing on the south end of Corsica, and to support artillery batteries capable of controlling the Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and the Italian island of Sardinia, separated by only twelve kilometers. As World War II unfolded, no attempt was made by Italian forces to mount an opposed landing on Corsica. The island was instead occupied in November 1942. In 1943 Corsica saw fighting when German forces moved from Sardinia. Most of the fortified positions remain to the present day.
Franz Xaver Dorsch was a German civil engineer who became the chief engineer of the Organisation Todt (OT), a civil and military engineering group in Nazi Germany that was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects at home and in the territories occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. He played a leading role in many of the Third Reich's biggest engineering projects, including the construction of the Siegfried Line (Westwall), the Atlantic Wall and numerous other fortifications in Germany and occupied Europe. Following the war, he founded the Dorsch Consult consulting engineering company in Wiesbaden.
Fort Hommet is a fortification on Vazon Bay headland in Castel, Guernsey. It is built on the site of fortifications that date back to 1680, and consists of a Martello tower from 1804, later additions during the Victorian Era, and bunkers and casemates that the Germans constructed during World War II.
The Channel Islands Occupation Society (CIOS) is a voluntary organisation that seeks to study all aspects of the German occupation of the Channel Islands and to raise awareness and educate the public about the occupation during the Second World War. There are two branches, one in Jersey and the other in Guernsey, that take turns in publishing the Channel Islands Occupation Review. The CIOS manages many German fortifications and archives on both islands.
The Regelbau were a series of standardised bunker designs built in large numbers by the Germans in the Siegfried Line and the Atlantic Wall as part of their defensive fortifications prior to and during the Second World War.
The German occupation of the Channel Islands lasted from 30 June 1940 to 9 May 1945. During that time, the Channel Islanders had to live under and obey the laws of Nazi Germany and work with their occupiers in order to survive and reduce the impact of occupation. Given no guidance on how to behave by the British government, there were individuals who got close to the enemy and a few who undertook resistance activities. Most had no choice but to accept the changes and depredations to their lives and hope that external forces would someday remove the forces of occupation. It was almost five years before the islanders experienced freedom again.
After the Wehrmacht occupied the Channel Islands on 30 June 1940, they assessed the existing defences to determine if they would be of use. The Germans found the Islands' fortifications antiquated and woefully inadequate for modern warfare.
Apart from a Roman Fort, there were very few fortifications in Alderney until the mid 19th century. These were then modified and updated in the mid 20th Century by Germans during the occupation period. Alderney at 8 km2 is now one of the most fortified places in the world.
The island of Guernsey has been fortified for several thousand years, the number of defence locations and complexity of the defence increasing with time, manpower and the improvements in weapons and tactics.
The Batterie Mirus is located in Saint Peter and Saint Saviour, Guernsey. Originally called Batterie Nina, it comprised four 30.5 cm guns. The battery was constructed from November 1941 and through the first half of 1942, it was the largest battery in the Channel Islands, the guns having a maximum range of 51 km. The guns were removed in the early 1950s, however the reinforced concrete structures and associated positions remain intact.
A polygonal fort is a type of fortification originating in France in the late 18th century and fully developed in Germany in the first half of the 19th century. Unlike earlier forts, polygonal forts had no bastions, which had proved to be vulnerable. As part of ring fortresses, polygonal forts were generally arranged in a ring around the place they were intended to protect, so that each fort could support its neighbours. The concept of the polygonal fort proved to be adaptable to improvements in the artillery which might be used against them, and they continued to be built and rebuilt well into the 20th century.