World War II Invasion of Normandy 1944
Interrogation of Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, German Army
Interrogation of Generaloberst (General) Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces) concerning German plans for counter attacks against the Allies during the Normandy Invasion. Jodl was the deputy of Generalfeldmarschall (Army Field Marshal) Wilhelm Keitel, the Chief of the OKW.
Invasion and Normandy Campaign
1. Question: What was Hitler’s personal influence on the construction and installation of the coastal defenses in the West? How far did he determine the method of defense and the strong point locations?
Answer: The Fuehrer exercised the strongest influence on the draft and on the method of construction of the concrete installations. The Inspectorate of the Engineers (Oberst Klaus) prepared the first plans and calculations, had models produced, which were then examined by the Fuehrer who formed an opinion whether the expenditure of time and materiel was justified by the tactical value and by which he decided which of the various constructions proposed should be undertaken. He only indicated the chief positions in a general way, i.e. first the ports, the heavy coastal batteries, (and these first in the 15th Army sector, then in that of the 7th and only at the very last in that of the 1st). All important ports came highest in priority. The tactical selection of terrain was left by the Fuehrer to the local staffs in the West, but he himself decided on the allocation of the available cement among the individual branches of service and construction
projects. He had a map drawn up by the Inspectorate of Engineers and Fortresses in which all fortifications were reproduced distinctly for Army, Navy and Air Force, distinguishing between permanent, reinforced field, and field installations, and separated into completed, under construction and projected, and the plan was brought up to date every four weeks.
2. Question: In previous statements mention was made of the intention to relieve the armored divisions in Normandy by infantry, in order to launch a counterattack. Why was the execution of this plan not more quickly attained?
Answer: The relief of the armored divisions from the front line, in order to ready them for a counterattack to Bayeux, was delayed because
a. the infantry divisions which came from the 19th, 1st and 15th Armies and from Brittany had to detrain at scattered points in some cases more than 120 kilometers from their ready areas, and not in a connected convoy order. Time calculations were impossible. Every day more stretches of railroad and bridges were destroyed and more detours had to be made.
b. the continued strong partial attacks of the British forced us to throw the armored divisions or elements of them into combat as the infantry divisions were not capable of holding up too many of these attacks.
3. Question: It appears from other statements that a plan existed to withdraw all available paratroopers for a counterattack. Why was this plan never carried out?
Answer: The idea of committing strong paratroop forces, especially in the planned counterattack against Bayeux, originated with the Marshal (Goering). I spoke against it and the Fuehrer agreed with me.
a. We did not have trained paratroopers. We should have had to pull out several regiments of the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Paratroop Divisions and train them in jumping at short notice. And these divisions were being used in ground combat and could not be spared at a moment when every last man was needed to impede the bursting of the beachhead.
b. I doubted that the necessary transport planes could be brought up, and, even if they were, they would certainly fail in their mission of flying over the enemy front where even our fighter planes dared not venture. A night descent would require a week’s training, and we didn’t have the time.
4. Question: What plans were discussed in the months of June and July for counterattacks. What was the main direction of the attack formerly mentioned?
Answer: Three plans for a counterattack were discussed in the months of June and July, the two of which I described in the submission of 23 July, and which are reproduced in sketches 1 and 2 enclosed [not located]. The third plan originated with Geyer, General of the Army Corps, and was taken up by Field Marshal Rommel and proposed to the Fuehrer, but rejected on my objections.
The basic idea of this proposal was the following:
The enemy intended to smash the dangerous German armored divisions first, so as to have freedom of movement for far-reaching operations.
For this reason we had to do everything we could to prevent him carrying out this intention. We could not allow the armored divisions to be beaten in defense, especially on terrain unfavorable for their employment. We should therefore voluntarily pull back our front south of Caen, and open in the middle, with our east wing drawn back behind the Dives brook around the Falaise-Mezidon-Dives estuary area, and the west wing around the La Lane brook, so as then to strike the enemy spreading out in pursuit, with the assembled armored divisions, in the flank, in an open field battle (our armor coming in from the south between the two brooks).
My opinion was this:
The enemy will explode his beachhead so as to get out into operations in the open. That is the very thing we have to prevent since in the open country the enemy could exploit his aerial superiority and his superior mobility, using motorized forces against our infantry divisions. Once we lost a connected front we could not hold France any longer. It would be a fatal step to surrender this connection voluntarily in favor of a problematical operation of movement, for which we lacked the most important pre-requisites.
Thereupon the Fuehrer rejected Rommel’s proposal.
5. Question: The Americans carried out minor attacks throughout July all along the front, e.g. on both sides of Carentan. What importance did you attach to these attacks?
Answer: The partial attacks of the Americans in July we considered as an attempt to pin down our forces for good and hence prevent regrouping, to gain favorable terrain for a later major attack, and to prove the front for soft places.
6. Question: Did you believe that you could under some conditions actually contain the bridgehead?
Answer: After the failure of the attempt to reduce the enemy beachhead we concentrated on the next most important job, at least to contain the beachhead. At first we hoped to
succeed, but as the enemy reinforcements flowed in much more quickly than our own, I had less hope from week to week that we would eventually succeed.
7. Question: What was the reason for your assumption that the British would begin the main attack around Caen? Was it the suitability of the terrain for armored operations?
Answer: At the beginning we considered the British as stronger more battle-wise and hence more dangerous than the Americans. Also Caen was the nearest way to Paris, and the terrain was better south of Caen than further west.
8. Question: How far did the preparations and the first minor British attacks affect your defense against the American forces?
Answer: The British partial attacks were a continual hindrance to a quick relief of the armored divisions by infantry divisions, and continually crossed our plan to supply more forces for the west wing. These attacks did then contribute substantially to making the American breakthrough easier.
9. Question: What did you personally think were the grounds for the poor execution of the Avranches counterattack?
Answer: The forces provided for the attack arrived very slowly. The local commanders were faced with the decision either attacking prematurely with weak forces, or waiting until both their own and the enemy forces had
become stronger. The first alternative was taken, and the attack was stopped short. On the day after next we repeated the attack, with stronger forces, but in my opinion the main effort was too far north, whereas on the previous day a reconnaissance battalion of the 2nd Panzer or 2nd SS Panzer further south had gained ground towards the West without meeting resistance worthy of the name. But it is difficult to judge tactical operations from a distance, and must beware of criticizing without knowing the details.
10. Question: Did you order that additional infantry be thrown in to keep open the Falaise-Argentan gap? German resistance against the closing of the pincers was very strong.
Answer: Such an order was not given by the Armed Forces staff; such a measure is an obvious maneuver of Army or Army Group and needed no orders from us.
11. Question: How many divisions were pulled out of Brittany in June-July?
Answer: The following were committed on the beachhead after being pulled out of Brittany in June and July: The 77th, 353rd Infantry Divisions, and the 3rd and 5th Paratroop Divisions. Also one regiment each, so far as I can remember, of the 265th and 275th Infantry Division. In all, that is, 4 2/3 divisions.
12. Question: How many divisions coming from Brittany did you throw against the Avranches breakthrough?
13. Question: There were big reservoirs near Ducey on the Sélune river. Why were these not blown up? Were the subordinate commanders so far surprised by the breakthrough? Apparently the German Air Force later had orders to destroy these dams. Who would be able to tell more on this subject?
Answer: I did not know about the reservoirs at Ducey and hence I do not know the reasons why these were not blown up.
14. Question: Why were no paratroops from the divisions in Italy brought up for the prospective air landing?
Answer: The paratroop divisions in Italy had no training in jumping either. It would have taken 14 days to 3 weeks to bring them up. We didn’t have enough time.
15. Question: When did you believe that you would no longer be able to contain the bridgehead? (Date, or number of divisions disembarked)
Answer: Since 25 July when the heavy attacks were begun by the Americans on the west wing also, I harbored serious doubts whether we could contain the bridgehead at all.
16. Question: Did you observe the concentration of American forces in the area west of St.-Lô before the Avranches breakthrough?
Answer: I cannot remember an exact report of the readying of especially strong American forces west of St.-Lô being received.
17. Question: Did you believe that the Americans, after the breakthrough at Avranches, would turn into Brittany? What operation did you expect?
Answer: We believed that after the breakthrough at Avranches Brittany would be sealed off by a small force while the bulk of the Third American Army would surround the defense line around the bridgehead and roll it up.
|Bad Mondorf. 2/8/45||
Note: Jodl was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for war crimes at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany (16 October 1945 - 10 November 1946).
Source: The original document is located at the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A photocopy is located in the Navy Department Library.