World War II Invasion of Normandy 1944
Interrogation of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, German Army
Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, German Army
Questionnaire presented by US interrogators to Generalfeldmarschall (General Field Marshal) Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces) and his deputy, Generaloberst (Army General) Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of OKW, concerning German plans for counter attacking against the Allies after the Invasion of Normandy.
|Place: CC PWE # [illegible]||
|Date: 23 July 19[illegible]|
|Reply to Questionnaire “Normandy”.||
Field Marshal Keitel
Question: 1. What were the successive plans considered by the OKW:
a) 6 Jun 44 when the Allies landed?
b) After they established a beachhead and the British and Americans had joined?
c) After the fall of Cherbourg (1 Jul 44)?
Answer: 1. to (a) above: The first plan was to eliminate the British as well as the American bridgehead, while both were still weak, through immediate counter-attacks. As the first step the British forces east of Orne [river] should be destroyed or thrown back across the Orne.
To 1 (b): After neither had succeeded and the American and British forces had united, but Cherbourg was still holding out, it was considered to break through the American front by an attack from Carentan to the west and to strike those forces attacking Cherbourg in the rear.
This intention, according to the Commander in Chief West could not be carried out.
The assembly and supplying of an assault unit so far to the west was too difficult and would have taken too long. Our own forces facing the British army - at that moment seemingly the more dangerous - would, of necessity, have had to be weakened too much.
The order previously given therefore remained in force namely, to break through to the British lines by an attack from the area southwest of Caen toward the northwest, gain the coast northwest of Bayeux and to defeat the British isolated from the Americans.
To 1 (c): This intention was maintained after the fall of Cherbourg. In addition all armored units had necessarily to be relieved at the front by infantry divisions.
Question 2: Was any consideration given during June and July to the establishing of a secondary line in the interior of France - for example, along the Seine or Somme rivers?
Answer 2: The order to complete the Somme line was not given until early August. Previously it had only been ordered to re-arm the West Wall. There was no intention of building further positions.
Questions 3: Did the war in the West suffer very much in troops, materiel, and commanders, as a result of the situation in the East? How much did you estimate the invasion of the West handicapped the eastern campaign against the Russians?
Answer 3: The effect of the major conflicts in the west and the east was reciprocal. Each of the fronts felt itself neglected compared to the other. This is especially true of the Eastern front before the invasion started. Since at this very time a rather long pause in
major battles reigned (the Russians obviously wanted to wait for the invasion and its results) it became possible for us to shift the II SS Panzer Corps to the Western Front.
After the launching of the major Russian attacks and the collapse of the Army Group “Mitte” (Central Front) it was out of the question to give up forces from the East for the West or vice versa.
The newly organized army troops had to be divided between the two fronts. The two-front war came into sight in all its rigor. But even earlier the unfavorable shape of the military position in the East since the Winter of 1942 had resulted in a draining of the Western Front.
The young officers and the youngest classes were continually given up and replaced by older men, especially in 1943.
The Western Front took over some 60 battalions of foreigners (so-called Eastern troops) and in return released 30 German battalions for the East.
A large proportion of the infantry divisions along the coast were transformed into static divisions, and, to a great extent, gave up their supply units and transportation.
Except for armored and assault gun battalions the Western Front received very few Headquarters troops (i.e. attached at Army level) (engineer battalions, bridge-building units, light and heavy GHQ artillery). Improvement was only felt when the newly formed Volksartillerie Corps and Mortar (or Smoke &c) Brigades were brought up.
Question 4: How significant was the opposition of the Maquis [a French underground group], FFI [acronym for “French Forces of the Interior,” another French underground group] and other French civilians:
a. in aiding the invasion of 6 Jun 44
b. in the battle of Normandy?
c. in Paris and the interior of France?
Answer: To 4 (a): The co-operation of the Maquis and the FFI at the time of the invasion was, so far as I know, slight. Radio messages to these units were for the most part intercepted and decoded. By sending numerous false radio messages we succeeded in getting possession of many weapons dropped from planes.
To 4 (b): In Normandy, these irregular French units hardly appeared at all, but they appeared much more strongly in Brittany, which gradually was almost stripped of troops. Here they gradually took possession of the interior of the province.
To 4 (c): Paris was quiet at this time. On the other hand rather strong police and army forces were pinned down in the Central Plateau, between Geronne and Isle, as well as in the northern part of Provence.
Question 5: Prior to 24 Jul 44 where did the OKW anticipate that the Americans would break out of the Normandy peninsula?
Answer 5: A particular focal point of the attack of the impending American assault was not recognized by the German Supreme Command. The assault was expected between St.-Lô and the Coustances-Cherbourg railroad, but not in such strength.
Question 6: On 24 July 44, one day before the breakthrough west of St.-Lô
several hundred bombers started to bomb the area before the operation was postponed one more day because of bad weather. Did the OKW realize then that the breakthrough point might be west of St.-Lô?
Answer 6: The OKW did not realize that the bombing attack on St.-Lô had been in preparation for the impending breakthrough there.
Question 7: What were the chief factors responsible for the American breakthrough west of St.-Lô?
Answer 7: We believed the sector opposite the British to be in greater danger and the bulk of our forces were concentrated there. In addition there was the difficulty of supplying troops further to the west.
The 243rd, 353rd and 77th Infantry Divisions had only remnants left. The 17th SS Division had not fought very successfully.
I doubt that the entire 2nd Panzer Division was north of Coustances as the sketch [not located] indicates. I think I recall that only the reconnaissance battalion of the 2nd SS Panzer Division was thrown into action there.
Question 8: What were the events which led up to the counterattack which you launched on 7 Aug 44 toward Avranches?
Answer 8: It would have been criminal not to have taken advantage of this unique opportunity of dealing a death-blow to the very daring American breakthrough operation.
The order to seal the breakthrough by an attack from the east toward the west was therefore immediately given by the OKW. We had the impression that this was very poorly executed and the main effort should from the very beginning have been made further south where the enemy forces were weak. A fair verdict can only be given by careful historical study and for this there was no time.
Question 9: In the middle of August the Americans reached Argentan and the Canadians pushed south to Falaise before the trap was closed on 22 Aug 44. How many of these got across the Seine River?
Answer 9: I estimate that two-thirds of the mobile units with perhaps 50 tanks and perhaps one-third of the infantry divisions escaped through the gap to the east. Of these I believe at least 75% crossed the Seine to the eastern bank.
Question 10: Where and by what means did most of the vehicles and men get across the Seine.
Answer 10: Most of the men crossed on both sides of Rouen. All available engineer equipment and all Seine boats suitable for such an operation, and previously collected in large numbers, were used. A bridge could not be constructed.
Question 11: On 20 Aug 44 the commanders of the German garrison in Paris entered into a truce with elements of the FFI. The truce was to expire on 23 Aug 44 at 1200. Was this truce approved by the OKW? If it was approved, what consideration dictated the decision?
Answer 11: The agreements with the insurgents in Paris were reported to the OKW and approved, after they had been made. In this way a street battle, with all its consequences for the city and the population was to be avoided and the preparations for the formation of a bridgehead position west of Paris could be carried on undisturbed.
Question 12: What authority was given General Von Choltitz regarding the surrender of Paris?
Answer 12: General Choltitz had no authority to surrender Paris. He had the order to defend the city.
23 July 1945
General Field Marshal
Note: The interrogator who prepared the questionnaire made the following comments about Keitel's and Jodl's answers: "This was a joint product of Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl, although I suspect that most of the ideas were supplied by General Jodl. It is evident that the questions were answered very telegraphically, because I had asked them merely to give their first impressions." Both Keitel and Jodl were 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.