Atlantic Wall

Atlantic Wall

The Atlantikwall (English: "Atlantic wall") 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 continent from Great Britain. [cite book
last = Hakim
first = Joy
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz
publisher = Oxford University Press
year = 1995
location = New York
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-19-509514-6
] 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 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 [Kaufmann JE, Kaufmann HW: "Fortress third Reich", page 196-197. DA Capo Press, 2003.] .

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.

Early in 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was assigned to improve the defenses of the Wall. 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. Minefields and antitank obstacles were planted on the beaches themselves, and underwater obstacles and mines were planted in the waters just off shore. The intent was to destroy the Allied landing craft before they could even 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 the roads leading out 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"), and low-lying river and estuarine areas were permanently flooded as well.

Rommel firmly believed that the invasion would have to be stopped at the beach itself, or the situation would otherwise inevitably lead to the defeat of Germany.

The defensive wall was never completed; consisting primarily of batteries, bunkers, and minefields, which during 1942-1944 stretched from the French-Spanish border into Norway (Festung Norwegen). A number of the bunkers are still present, for example near Scheveningen, Den Haag, Katwijk and in Normandy. In Oostende, Belgium well-preserved part of the defenses can be visited. It consists of the 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 military engineers ("Pionierstab") who were in charge of the construction of bunkers.

The Channel Islands were heavily fortified, particularly the island of Alderney which is the 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.Fact|date=November 2007 Despite the mooting of Operation Constellation "et al", the Allies bypassed the islands for this reason and did not try to liberate them when they liberated Normandy. The islands' German garrisons did not surrender until 9 May 1945 - one day after the rest of the German armed forces. 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." [cite book | last = Williams | first = Jeffery | title = The Long Left Flank | publisher = Leo Cooper | location = London | year = 1988 | isbn = 0850528801 ]

Atlantic Wall Fortresses

Many major ports and positions were made part of the Atlantic wall and received heavy fortifications, Hitler ordered them all to fight to the end [Whitaker, W. Denis; Whitaker, Shelagh (with General Guy Simonds) TUG OF WAR - The Canadian Victory that Opened Antwerp Toronto Stoddart Publishing 1984 ISBN-10|07736-2024-0} First Edition Hard Cover] and some of them remained in German hands till the unconditional surrender of Axis Forces on May 8, 1945. Several of the port fortresses were resupplied by submarine after being surrounded by Allied forces. The defenders of these positions included Slavic soldiers and SS troops. [Kaufmann JE, Kaufmann HW: "Fortress Third Reich", page 352. DA Capo Press, 2003.] .


See also

* Hankley Common

German Publication (PhD) in military history

Dr. Thorsten Heber: Der Atlantikwall 1940 - 1945. Band I Die Befestigung der Küsten West- und Nordeuropas im Spannungsfeld nationalsozialistischer Kriegführung und Ideologie. 564 Seiten, 157 Bildtafeln mit 535 Abb. BoD 2008, ISBN 9783837029796.

Dr. Thorsten Heber: Der Atlantikwall 1940 - 1945. Band II Die Invasion - Die Atlantikfestungen 1944/45 - Der Atlantikwall in Deutschland, Dänemark, Norwegen - Kompendium Regelbauten. 504 Seiten, 196 Bildtafeln mit 670 Abb. BoD 2008, ISBN 9783837029802.

External links

* [ The defences of the Atlantikwall at Omaha Beach]
* []
* []
* [ The Atlantikwall in Denmark]
* [ Bunkertypes, maps, museums and others]
* [ The Atlantic Wall Linear Museum ]
* [ Britannica Online]
* [ Museumscenter Hanstholm]
* [ Fortress Alderney]
* [ Bunker Pictures: Pictures, locations, information about bunkers from WW2 and The Atlantikwall]
* [ Information site about the Atlantikwall in the Netherlands, Haagse Bunker Ploeg]
* [ Atlantikwall Museum Noordwijk, Site about the Atlantikwall Museum Noordwijk in the Netherlands]
* [ Information about the open air museum in Ostend, Belgium.]
* [ Bunkertju's Atlantikwall Site : Bunkers in the Atlantikwall]
* [ Places of interest for the war tourist along Hitlers Atlantic Wall in Denmark and Norway (English)]
* [ Fortifications in Denmark and Europe through a thousand years (Danish)]
* [ The Atlantic Wall in North Brittany (Bretagne Nord), France. Shore & Beach, 2004, 72:4 10-12]
* [ Atlantik Wall places to visit in the north of France]

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