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.
The Navy Department Library
Rommel and the Atlantic Wall
December 1943 - July 1944
Oral History - World War II - Invasion of Normandy (1944)
Interrogation of Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge and Generalleutnant Dihm concerning Generalfeldmarschall Rommel and the preparation of German defenses prior to the Normandy Invasion.
|Table of Contents|
|Manuscript # A-982: VIZEADMIRAL RUGE|
|Manuscript # B-259: GENERALLEUTNANT DIHM|
|Manuscript # B-282: VIZEADMIRAL RUGE|
|Manuscript # B-352: GENERALLEUTNANT DIHM|
|Manuscript # B-353: GENERALLEUTNANT DIHM|
ROMMEL AND THE ATLANTIC WALL
(Dec 43 – Jul 44)
In the latter part of 1943, A Gp B [Army Group B] was re-established in France as Genfldm [Generalfeldmarschall] Rommel’s headquarters and charged with the control of the anti-invasion forces along the Channel Coast.
After an inspection of the coast-line in Dec 43, Rommel determined that the three most probable invasion sites were the Schelde, the Somme, and the western part of the Bay of the Seine. Rommel was impressed by the insufficient number of troops, the weakness of the defenses and the lack of a uniform plan the erection of these defenses. This situation resulted from von Rundstedt’s conception of a defensive-offensive type of defense wherein success was to be achieved by rapid operations with concentrated reserves after the invasion forces had landed. Rommel, believing strongly in a cordon defense, felt that every effort should be made to oppose the actual landing.
Rommel’s plan for the defense was to declare the beach the MLR [Main Line of Resistance] and to place all the infantry and artillery in a strong belt along the coast. In addition, all positions were to be extensively mined, and all approaches were to be blocked by obstacles of many different types. Rommel also desired to increase the strength and coordinate the efforts of the Heer [Army], Navy, and Air Force.
Because of limitations imposed by OKW [Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, High Command of the Armed Forces], the conflict between Rommel’s theory of defense and that of von Rundstedt, and the lack of manpower and materials, only a half-way measure was achieved.
When the invasion took place, the defense was hampered by the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Force. As a result of air attacks, the German Kuestenartillerie (coast artillery) was almost eliminated, the infantry was disorganized, Allied paratroops were able to land with little opposition, and German reinforcements were delayed during the critical first days of the invasion.
Rommel expected diversionary landings to relieve the pressure on the beachhead. Therefore, defensive preparations were continued in other sectors of the coast during the action in Normandy. Rommel later considered it a strategic error that a secondary landing had not been made.
With the Allied breakthrough at Avranches, the coastal defense lost its importance.
ROBERT C. DART
1st Lt FA
MAR 28 1947
Title : Rommel’s Measures to Counter the Invasion
Author : VzAdm [Vice Admiral] Ruge, Friedrich
Position : Naval Liaison Officer, A [Army] Gp [Group] B
Date of MS : 31 Apr 46 [sic]
Place : Camp 2226, Bruges, Belgium
Prepared for : Capt F.P. Halas
Translator : None (Written in English)
Title : Rommel’s Views on Tactical, Technical and Strategic Problems of the Defense
Author : Genlt [Generalleutnant] Dihm, Friedrich
Position : Special Assistant to the Commander, A Gp B [Army Group B]
Date of MS : Nov 46
Place : HDIE, Allendorf
Prepared for : Capt. D.D. Bazata
Translator : Mrs Inger Clausen
MS # B-282
Title : Naval Operations-Special Report
Author : VzAdm [Vice Admiral] Ruge, Friedrich
Position : Naval Liaison Officer, A Gp B [Army Group B]
Date of MS : 21 May 46
Place : Camp 2226, Bruges, Belgium
Prepared for : Capt. D.D. Barzata
Translator : None (Written in English)
MS # B-352
Title : A [Army] Gp [Group] B – Special Report
Author : Genlt Dihm, Friedrich
Position : Special Assistant to the Commander, A Gp B
Date of MS : Apr 46
Place : DEFE 20, Allendorf
Prepared for : Capt F. P. Halas
Translator : Mr Franz Lederer
MS # B-353
Title : A [Army] Gp [Group] B – Special Report
Author : Genlt Friedrich Dihm
Position : Special Assistant to the Commander, A Gp B
Date of MS : 3 Jun 46
Place : DEFE 20, Allendorf
Prepared for : Capt D.D. Bazata
Translator : Mr Franz Lederer
ROMMEL AND THE ATLANTIC WALL
(Dec 43 – Jul 44)
On 27 Mar 46, Maj [Major] H.P. Hudson of the Historical Division, USFET, made a trip to the British controlled Camp 2226 at Bruges, Belgium, in search of prospective writers for the Division. The Lager Commandant of Camp 2226 at that time was VzAdm Friedrich Ruge, formerly Naval Liaison Officer on the staff of A Gp B under Genfldm Rommel. Ruge expressed his interest in writing for the Division, and by the end of Apr 46 had prepared MS # A-982, which is the basic account for the following group of manuscripts. Working conditions were somewhat difficult inasmuch as the camp was built on a swamp; living quarters consisted of huts previously used for storing ammunition; food was poor; and recreational facilities were limited, fostering inactivity and boredom.
MS # B-282 was written by VzAdm Ruge in answer to questions included in the Normandy Naval Brief. Ruge pointed out that many of the questions had already been discussed in his first manuscript, but nevertheless completed the brief. Because of obviously repetitious material, the historical editor has taken the liberty of deleting parts of MS # B-282. Of the remaining material, some was used for the Naval Annex, the rest was incorporated in the basic account, where appropriate, in the form of footnotes. This further dividing of the material was necessitated by the desire to maintain, as far as possible, a certain degree of parallelism between the Naval Annex and the Heer [Army] Annex. Great care has been taken to insure that nothing has been omitted that has not already been said.
MS # B-259 was written by Genlt Friedrich Dihm, special assistant to the commander, A Gp B, at the request of the Normandy Campaign Chief, Historical Division. Dihm wrote this report in Allendorf, Germany, and although some of the material has been covered by Ruge, it has been included in its entirety to demonstrate the complete concurrence of the two authors, writing in different camps, one without knowledge of the other. Perhaps it may serve to bolster the authenticity of both
reports. Both Ruge and Dihm wrote from memory without the aid of documents or discussions with fellow officers.
MS # B-352 and MS # B-353 were written by Dihm in reply to questions included in the Normandy Brief for Heeres [army] personnel. These two short manuscripts have been combined to form the Heeres Annex, again with the purpose of avoiding repetitious material.
The commentary of Dihm’s report is by Gen Pz [Armored General] Geyr von Schweppenburg, formerly commander of Pz Gp [Armored Group] West.
ROMMEL AND THE ATLANTIC WALL
(Dec 43 – Jul 44)
|Par||17.||Reluctance of Unit Commanders to Accept Rommel's Theory of the Defense||13|
|18.||Use of Land Mines to Protect Positions and Approaches||14|
|19.||Disposition of the Panzer-Type Divisions||16|
|20.||Protective Measures Against Paratroops and Gliders||17|
|21.||Use or Armor and Concrete for Permanent Batteries; Deception for Mobile Batteries||17|
|22.||Construction of Obstacles on the Beach||18|
|23.||Difficulty with the Manufacture and Laying of Naval Mines||19|
|24.||Failure to Obtain Support from the Luftwaffe and V-1's||21|
|25.||Attempts to Increase the Fighting Strength of the Heer, Navy, and Air Force||22|
|26.||Lack of Coordination of the Heer [Army], Navy, and Air Force||24|
|27.||Use of Rommel's Name and Fame as Propaganda||25|
|28.||Influence of Rommel on Morale||25|
|29.||Convictions and Theories of Rommel Proved||26|
|30.||Rommel Realizes that Continuation of the War is Hopeless||26|
|ROMMEL'S VIEWS ON TACTICAL, TECHNICAL, AND STRATEGIC PROBLEMS|
|OF THE DEFENSE|
|II.||Construction of the Coastal Defenses.|
|31.||Defensive Situation When Rommel Assumed Command||28|
|32.||A Gp G Established Apr 44||28|
|33.||Arrangements to Accelerate Construction||29|
|34.||Construction of Fortifications||29|
|Par||35.||Problems Arising from Three Dimensional Warfare||30|
|36.||Construction of Obstacles on the Beach||32|
|37.||Use of Minefields||33|
|38.||Defense Against Airborne Operations||33|
|39.||Attempts at Deception by the Use of Dummy Installations||34|
|40.||Difficulty in Maintaining Secrecy||34|
|III.||Strategic and Tactical Views on the Defense|
|41.||Factors Influencing Disposition of the Reserves||35|
|42.||Rommel Handicapped in Making Decisions||36|
|43.||Controversy over Important Decisions||36|
|44.||Rommel's Theory on the Employment of Reserves||37|
|45.||Concentration of Troops on the Coast-line||37|
|46.||Organization of "Division Fortresses"||38|
|47.||Rommel's Views on the Strategic Error of the Allied Invasion||39|
|48.||The Coastal Defenses Lose Their Importance||40|
|Supplement- COMMENTARY ON GENLT DIHM'S REPORT|
|Par||1.||Position of Genlt Dihm||41|
|2.||Training Neglected in the Interests of Constructing Fortifications||41|
|3.||Mistakes in Strategic Conceptions||42|
|4.||Defense Against Airborne Operations||42|
|5.||Popularity of Rommel||43|
|I.||Imminence of Invasion|
|1.||Employment of Naval Motor Transport||44|
|2.||Supply Line Via the Seine||45|
|Par||3.||Adequacy of Ammunition and Fuel for Naval Units||45|
|III. Naval Reinforcements|
|4.||Transfer of Naval Personnel to France||45|
|5.||Use of Naval Personnel||46|
|V. General Causes of the Naval Failure|
|6.||Effect of the Enemy Air Force on Naval Operations||47|
|7.||Weakness of the Naval Power||47|
|8.||Lack of Coordination for Combined Operations||48|
|HEER [ARMY] ANNEX|
|I.||Imminence of Invasion|
|1.||Communication of Supply Established by A Gp Rundstedt||49|
|2.||Routes of Supply||50|
|III.||Causes for the Failure of the Defense|
|3.||Failure Resulted from Allied Air Supremacy, Not Tactical Surprise||50|
|4.||Disorganization of Infantry by Air Attack||50|
|5.||Ineffectriveness of Defense Against Airborne Operations||51|
|6.||Terrain Unsuitable for Artillery Observations||51|
|7.||Germans Could Not Equal Allied Reinforcement||51|
|8.||Allied Use of New Technical Equipment||51|
ROMMEL AND THE ATLANTIC WALL
(Dec 43 – Jul 44)
|MS # A – 982||-1-|
ROMMEL’S MEASURES TO COUNTER THE INVASION
I. The Background
1. In Nov 43, I was attached to the staff of A Gp B under Genfldm Rommel. My previous assignments during the war had been as follows:
a. Fuehrer der Minensuchverbande (Commander of Minesweeping Forces), with the rank of Kapitaen [Captain], later Konteradmiral, [Rear Admiral] until Feb 41.
b. Befehlshaber der Sicherung West (Marine)—Commander of Security, West, (Navy) with the rank of Konteradmiral, later Admiral commanding minesweepers, patrols, etc on the coasts of Belgium and France, until Feb 43.
c. Head of a special staff within the Italian Supreme Naval Headquarters, later Admiral commanding the German Naval Forces in Italy, Mar – Aug 43.
2. Having fallen ill, I returned home in the middle of Aug 43. In Italy I had made the acquaintance of Genlt Gause, Genfldm Rommel’s Chief of Staff during a great part of his North African campaign. We at once understood each other well and held the same views on the military situation. It was due to him that A Gp B
|MS # A – 982||-2-|
applied for me when Rommel assumed command in Northern Italy in Sep 43.
3. When I reported for duty about 10 Nov 43 at his headquarters near Lake Garda, the Generalfeldmarschall informed me that the Fuehrer had just assigned him the mission of inspecting the coastal defenses from the Skaw to the Spanish frontier (omitting the German bay of the North Sea). I was to be his Marineverbindungsoffizier (naval liaison officer) and advisor on naval matters. This title was soon changed to Admiral bei der Heeresgruppe B (Admiral attached to A Gp B).
4. Orders for this inspection had come, it seemed, somewhat unexpectedly to Rommel, who had hoped for a more active command. He had not been in the West since 1940 and possessed, therefore, only a very general idea of the task before him. He expressed to me his views and intentions in broad outline and sent me ahead to Berlin to collect all the charts, maps, books, and documents which I might find necessary. After I had them all assembled, everything was destroyed by a fire which resulted from the heavy air strike of about 23 and 24 Nov 43. It made no great difference, however, as I knew practically all the coasts and ports of our area from personal experience.
|MS # A – 982||-3-|
Denmark, finishing there in approximately ten days. The Army Group rendered its report and moved to France, where work was resumed on 20 or 21 Dec 43. Initially, the Headquarters was in Fontainebleau. The Generalfeldmarschall, accompanied by a few officers of his staff, made motor trips lasting two to four days. His small staff usually consisted of one or two general staff officers, an engineer officer, an artillery officer, a naval officer, and a personal aide-de-camp; sometimes a communications officer, a personnel officer, a supply officer, and reporters. In a short time he visited the important sections of the coast and the headquarters of the armies, of the corps, and of many divisions. He made full use of the short winter days to see troops and localities. In the evenings, he held conferences and made the acquaintance of commanding officers and staffs. He arose early, travelled fast, saw things very quickly, and seemed to have an instinct for places where something was amiss.
6. In the first part of Mar 44 we moved to La Roche-Guyon on the Seine, about 50 km west-northwest of Paris. We continued our trips to the different sections of the coast (including two journeys to the southern coast of France) until the invasion began. Then, the Generalfeldmarschall generally visited the front for
|MS # A – 982||-4-|
one day only, going very early and returning late at night. He was accompanied for the most part by a general staff officer, one aide-de-camp, and one other officer, so that I could not go with him as often as before. When he stayed home, he took me for a walk for one or two hours almost every night.
7. In the afternoon of 12 Jul 44 (Ed: probably 17 Jul 44) on the return from one of these short trips to the front, his car was surprised by fighters on an open stretch of road near Livarot. His driver was mortally wounded in the left shoulder by a 20mm high explosive shell. The Generalfeldmarschall was hurled against the windshield and incurred several fractures of the skull, including one at the base. He was brought to the hospital in Bernay and, after a few days, to Paris. I visited him daily, and talked and read to him, until I was recalled to Germany. I left on 5 Aug 44, three days before he returned to his home in Herrlingen, near Ulm. In Oct 44, I stayed for a night as his guest. He had not yet fully recovered, but was quite well. Three days later he was dead.
|MS # A – 982||-5-|
8. Rommel expected the invasion to occur within reach of the Allied fighters based in southern England, that is to say, an assault on the coast somewhere between the southern part of Holland and the easternmost part of Brittany. The three chief possibilities seemed to be the Schelde, * the Somme, and the
|* MS # B-282, Ruge: Allied air activity in May 44 showed in a very marked manner that the Schelde was not the aim and that the main thrust was to be expected in Normandy.|
western part of the Bay of the Seine (where the invasion actually took place). At first Rommel thought the coast on both sides of the mouth of the Somme the most probable location because there our defenses were especially weak. Later the Calvados and Cotentin seemed to him most likely. Because of the strength of the Allies* and the
|*MS # B-282, Ruge: Allied dispositions in southern England were quite well known. In my opinion, this information hindered more than it helped. It did not help to disclose any details about the time and place of the invasion, whereas, after “D day”, it strengthened the opinion of OKW (Jodl) that the landing in Normandy had been a partial action only. OKW, therefore, approved the movement of divisions from Pas de Calais to Normandy only after considerable delay|
long time of preparation, he thought, besides the main invasion, there possibly would be minor operations such as cutting off the northwest part of Brittany by taking
|MS # A – 982||-6-|
Brest, or cutting off the Cotentin or Le Havre.
9. After a few weeks, the Generalfeldmarschall had seen all the sections where the main invasion might be expected. The chief impressions were the insufficient number of troops, the weakness if the defenses, and the lack of a uniform plan for the erection of these defenses. The first point was easily explained by the heavy demands on German fighting strength in Russia and Italy. The other two were somewhat surprising in view of the long occupation of France. The reasons may be explained perhaps by the following:
a. Genfldm von Rundstedt, C-in-C [Commander-in Chief] in the West, and Gen Pz Geyr von Schweppenburg, who was in command of the panzer-type divisions, did not see any possibility of preventing the Allies from landing considerable forces. As a large-scale landing seemed inevitable to them, they prepared to counterattack somewhere inland.
By rapid operations with their concentrated reserves they hoped to push the Allied forces back or even to encircle them.
b. As far as I can judge, Genfldm von Rundstedt was no great friend of the technical side of modern warfare. He left these affairs mostly to his staff. His Chiefs of Staff (Zeitzler, later Blumentritt) seemed to have little inclination in this direction. As
|MS # A – 982||-7-|
a result, planning of the defensive works was intrusted to an engineer general officer who was not quite equal to this task. He lost himself in details without producing a great line. He was not the man to reconcile the different views of the Heer and Navy on the erection of coastal batteries.
c. Great quantities of concrete and steel were used for submarine sheds and rocket installations, leaving insufficient amount for the defenses.
10. Consequently, the fortifications were built in a rather casual way without a full realization of Allied air and naval strength and without a system based on such a conception. After the summer campaign of 1940, the first step was the construction of a group of heavy offensive batteries between Boulogne and Dunkirk. Then the Navy installed batteries to protect the ports against attack from the sea. Defense against attack from other directions was little considered. Changes were effected after the first British pinpricks (raids on radar stations, lighthouses, etc, and St Nazaire and Dieppe). By the winter of 1943-44, all troops near the shore were installed in Widerstandnestern (strongpoints), which could be defended against attack from any direction. Between the ports, the batteries and Heereskuestenartillerie [Coastal Artillery] had been augmented, but, contrary to
|MS # A – 982||-8-|
naval custom, these guns were for the most part unprotected from shells or bombs. Ordinary armored turrets had not been ordered in time and were unavailable after 1942 because of the ever-increasing scarcity of high-grade steel. The experts were loath to sacrifice maximum traverse for better protection, since immobile concrete blockhouses possessed an aperture allowing for only a 30 to 60 degree traverse. A very simple reinforced concrete turret, which could be rotated by hand, had been devised for medium caliber guns. Unfortunately, this turret was rejected for over a year for no apparent reason.
III. Rommel’s Plans for the Defense
11. Rommel’s ideas were fundamentally influenced by the vast superiority of the Allied air arm. He was deeply impressed by the fact that in North Africa a numerically inferior air force had kept him, with 80,000 men, “nailed to the ground,” as he expressed it, for two or three days. In view of this and other experiences, he was of the decided opinion that the operations planned by Rundstedt and von Schweppenburg would either be nipped in the bud or at least so much delayed that they were bound to fail. To Rommel, the only hope of repelling the
|MS # A – 982||-9-|
invasion seemed to lie in offering the strongest possible resistance to the actual landing. The first 24 hours would be decisive. Once the Allies established a large beachhead it would be impossible to drive them back into the sea because of their superiority of material. He expressed this opinion to the Fuehrer both verbally and in writing. He repeatedly told us that the Fuehrer had agreed with him.
12. Rommel’s plan was to make himself as strong as possible on and near the shore. Numerous measures were taken to execute this plan—some of them taken immediately, some later as the plan matured according to impressions derived from the inspections The chief measures were the following:
a. Declaring the beach (high tide line) the HKL, Haupt-Kampf-Linie [Main Line of Resistance] (MLR).
b. Placing all the infantry and artillery (including staffs up to division level, auxiliary services, reserves, etc) in strong points to form a belt along the coast. This belt was to extend inland a distance of five to six km from the beach.
c. Filling the gaps between strong points with land mines and other obstacles.
d. Placing the panzer-type divisions immediately behind this belt so that part of their artil-
|MS # A – 982||-10-|
lery could reach the beach with indirect fire.
e. Making the infantry belt and the area of the panzer-type divisions unsuitable for the landing of paratroops and gliders.
f. Protecting the Kuestengeschuetze (coast artillery guns) from bomb attacks by the construction of armored or concrete emplacements and increasing the security of other batteries by repeated changes of position and by the construction of dummy positions.
g. Making the landing itself as difficult as possible by placing obstacles on the beach just short of the high tide line and extending beyond the low tide line.
h. Making the approach difficult by laying mines in shallow water, on the probable routes of approach, and in probable artillery positions.
i. Attacking the ports of embarkation and assembly areas with aircraft and rockets before the beginning of the invasion.
j. Increasing the fighting strength of the Heer, Navy, and Air Force.
k. Coordinating the efforts of the three services.
l. Making use of propaganda.
|MS # A – 982||-11-|
of defense already in mind after his inspection of the Danish coast in the second half of Dec 43. So this time was not altogether lost, although a start of some weeks earlier in France might have had an appreciable influence on the course of events. Rommel’s plans were, in theory, authorized by the Fuehrer, but, in actual fact, part of them were not put into execution because the opinions of others prevailed. It goes without saying that the success of such an elaborate scheme was very much jeopardized when essential features were altered or omitted.
14. Rommel himself had no reason to change any of his fundamental ideas, but he did not adhere rigidly to details or minor points. These were in a state of flux all the time. The Generalfeldmarschall was very open to new ideas and very much interested in technical progress. He grasped the significance of an improvement or an invention very quickly and often added to it. When a new device had been suggested to him during the evening, it was not unusual for Rommel to phone the proposer early the following morning with a proposal of his own which was a definite improvement.
|MS # A – 982||-12-|
IV. The Execution of Rommel’s Plans
15. At first Rommel was not in a position to issue orders to the troops. He could make only suggestions and submit reports to OKW or to the C-in-C (Rundstedt). He took every opportunity to express his views to unit commanders down to platoon level. These took up eagerly what he told them. There was, however, considerable incredulity and more or less open resistance higher up, so that working in an advisory capacity was slow and far from satisfactory. Therefore, he soon requested that he be placed under Genfldm von Rundstedt as commander of the armies from the Netherlands to the Loire River. This seemed to him the only way of putting his ideas into rapid execution. This request was granted about the end of Jan or beginning of Feb 44 (?). Much valuable time had been lost.
On the whole, the measures instituted progressed and developed as indicated below.
16. “Die HKL is der Strand” (“The MLR is the beach”) had probably been ordered before. It became evident that the order was neglected in the meantime. South of the mouth of the Somme River, for instance, the first line of defense was far inland (up to five km) because here was a low ridge which seemed to afford a better position than the flat terrain in front of it. Concrete
|MS # A – 982||-13-|
bunkers and gun positions near the beach had even been demolished, thus giving a landing force free access to a large plain with an ideal beach.
17. Even where the infantry positions were on the immediate shore, closer inspection revealed that every unit had so many reserves that, on long stretches of the coast, strong points firing out to sea were few and far between. Part of these reserves and the auxiliary services, such as Baeckerei (bakery) companies, Nachschub (supply) units, etc, were often stationed far inland. It proved unexpectedly difficult to put across the idea of a strong, but comparatively narrow, belt of resistance. Some of the higher staffs, especially, had difficulty adapting themselves to the conception of having no reserves of their own behind their positions. They refused to accept Rommel’s theory that every man of the frontline divisions should be in a position to fight at once if his part of the coast were attacked. Rommel reasoned that otherwise it would be impossible to move troops quickly enough to oppose the actual landing and the initial operations of the enemy beachhead forces. The stronger the “belt,” the longer it would take to effect a breakthrough, and therefore, the more time there would be for countermeasures.
Rommel preached this theory again and
|MS # A – 982||-14-|
again with remarkable clarity and patience. Later, events proved that the corps in western Normandy (Ed: LXXXIV Infantry Corps) had not acted accordingly, in spite of strict orders and the fact that the Generalfeldmarschall had talked with the corps commander and staff repeatedly and at great length because he had sensed their reluctance. On the day of the invasion, several units of the eastern divisions of this corps, including three battalions in reserve, were up to 20 km inland and arrived on the battlefield many hours late. The same seems to have been the case with 21 Pz Div (Feuchtinger) near, and south of, Caen.
18. The use of technical means to make the belt along the shore stronger was an essential part of Rommel’s scheme. All the strongpoints themselves should have had a core of bombproof bunkers. This was not the case everywhere—least perhaps on the coast between the Orne River and the Vire River. Most of the few bunkers that were in existence were imperfectly constructed, some with 60 cm of concrete (instead of two meters), others with no concrete at all. Because it proved impossible to make up for all these omissions in so short a time, the Generalfeldmarschall concentrated his effort on means which could be procured comparatively quickly—first of all, mines. He had made extensive use of mines in Africa
|MS # A – 982||-15-|
and had studied British mining tactics very closely. In France, his objective was first to surround all strong points with deep minefields, and then to lay mines between strong points, wherever the terrain was suitable for armored vehicles. This plan required an immense amount of material, of course. When Rommel came to France, 1,700,000 mines had been laid in three years: The monthly rate of supply was 40,000. He increased and accelerated production by making use of all sorts of material—even old artillery shells, hundreds of thousands of which were to be found in depots and arsenals. In the few months of his activity, 4,000,000 mines were laid. Considering that it took some time before his measures produced results and that in the last weeks before the invasion transport was exceedingly hampered by Allied air attacks, it may be said that he increased the efficiency of this particular component of the defenses 20 to 30 fold. His final aim was to lay 50 to 100 million mines.
Tactically his idea was to employ the mines in as many different ways as possible. He was a declared enemy of rigidity and routine, and he fought many a battle with engineers who adhered to their hard and fast patterns for minefields. It soon became apparent that there were many resemblances between mining
|MS # A – 982||-16-|
tactics and techniques ashore and at sea, but the time was too short to make full use of this knowledge. Insufficient consideration was given to the possibilities of minesweeping by tanks; so there were no special mines as a countermeasure, although there were several obvious solutions to this problem.
Wherever possible, areas were inundated in order to conserve mines. To avoid lasting damage, the Generalfeldmarschall repeatedly gave orders to dam fresh water only. The lockgates to the sea were to be opened only in cases of utmost emergency.
19. With respect to the employment of the panzer-type divisions, Rommel did not succeed in carrying his point. He wanted them placed immediately behind his infantry belt. He reasoned that with such a disposition at least one or two panzer-type divisions would be exactly in the right place in case of a large-scale landing. Furthermore, moving other divisions laterally from quiet sectors of the coast to the fighting area would take the same amount of time as moving them from inland. In principle this idea was approved by the Fuehrer and by OKW, but of the seven panzer-type divisions in Rommel’s area, only three were put under his command, one stationed near the Schelde River, one on the Somme River and 21 Pz Div near Caen. The others were in OKW or OB
|MS # A – 982||-17-|
West Reserve and were billeted farther inland.
In the last weeks before the invasion, Rommel repeatedly, but vainly, requested permission to bring 12 SS Pz Div (Hitler-Jugend) [Hitler Youth] into western Normandy near the mouth of the Vire. It would have played a very important part in the fighting in the vicinity of Carentan and Ste Mère Église. As it happened, it took three days to move the Division from its quarters to the battlefield.
20. Paratroop and glider obstacles were a later improvement to the defenses. At first, simple tenfoot poles were erected in open areas to prevent the successful landing of gliders. The actual efficiency of these obstacles was a much debated point. Stretching wires between the poles was little improvement. It was then decided to put a mine on top of each pole and connect this mine to one of the wires. This idea came too late to be of practical value.
21. Because of his own experiences with the striking power of the Allied Air Force, Rommel was very much in favor or protecting all the batteries with armor or concrete. He was instrumental in obtaining an order by the Fuehrer to construct blockhouses for all guns of the Heereskuestenartillerie. It was difficult to execute this order, however, because a great amount of steel and
|MS # A – 982||-18-|
concrete was being used to build submarine sheds and V- bases. Quite a number of batteries had no protection when the invasion started.
As for the batteries near the beaches, the Generalfeldmarschall ordered frequent changes of position, careful camouflage, and the construction of dummy batteries. In the last weeks before the invasion, several of these dummy batteries were bombed heavily, whereas the actual batteries in the vicinity were unharmed.
22. The idea of constructing obstacles on the beach itself originated in Denmark. In front of the infantry positions near the beach there were a great number of Tschechenigel (obsolete tank obstacles consisting of three iron bars at right angles to each other). As they were of no use against armored vehicles, they were carried to the beach and emplaced so that they would be awash one or two hours before high tide. It was fully understood that they could form a serious obstacle to landing craft. It seemed better, therefore, to use them where they might cause serious damage and difficulties to light boats rather than ashore where they were of no use at all. The next idea was to ram poles and beams into the ground. Later, mines were placed on top of these balks. To save time, the divisions were given a free hand. They tried
|MS # A – 982||-19-|
out all sorts of obstacles—single wooden or iron beams, tripods of iron, tripods of wood with one longer leg in the direction of the sea, and Belgian tank obstacles (so-called “Scheunentore”—“barn doors”). In some cases, instead of mines, a steel cutting device was fixed to the beams to act as a “can opener” on a ship’s bottom.
Because of the great tidal range, it was impossible to make the approach to the shore dangerous by emplacing only two or three rows of obstacles. There was neither enough material nor enough labor available to cover the whole foreshore in a short time. The first step, therefore, was to erect obstacles to hinder a landing at high tide. This part of the work was almost finished in time, although the number of mines was insufficient. In some sectors, intermediate and low tide obstacles were not mined at all. Very little was done to place obstacles so as to be awash at low tide.
Iron beams would have been more effective than wooden ones, but their manufacture was not attempted because of the time factor and the great amount of material involved. Special mines would have been better than the types actually used, but land mines had first priority, and it was necessary to concentrate on the manufacture of the few types already existing.
|MS # A – 982||-20-|
special demand for shallow water mines. There were some primitive experimental mines (Kuestenmine A, KMA) [Coast Mines] in the process of development. This mine consisted of an explosive charge enclosed in a cement block, to which was attached a light iron frame about six feet high. On top of the frame was a normal mine detonator. The mine was quite efficient in areas where the water level did not change greatly. For tidal waters it was improved in the beginning of 1944 by the addition of a floating line 40 to 60 feet long. The Kuestenmine A was a good solution to the shallow water mine problem except that it took some time to get the manufacture of the mines and of the floating lines under way. They came so late that it proved impossible to assemble a minesweeping flotilla to lay them from Brest to the Bay of the Seine. Enemy pressure had grown so strong that of six boats intended for the purpose, only one reached Le Havre. The others were either sunk or put out of action. As nearly as I can remember, none of the KMA fields planned for the western part of the Bay of the Seine were laid.
Neither were the minefields farther out to sea sufficient. The naval authorities objected to having mines laid too close to the navigation channels along the coast. Besides they did not expect mush effect from mines (anchored or ground mines) because of the
|MS # A – 982||-21-|
great tidal range. Therefore, comparatively few minefields were laid beforehand. When the invasion was felt to be imminent, it was no longer possible to do much in this respect.
The Generalfeldmarschall himself had quickly grasped the value of naval mines in his system of defense. He continually requested an increased use of this weapon. He also requested an offensive use of a new type of mine actuated by a pressure box. As a number of these mines were available, he intended to have them dropped into the navigation channels on either side of the Isle of Wight before the invasion began. Together with other measures, it could be assumed that this new type of mine—difficult, if not impossible, to sweep—would be a great hindrance to the Allies and perhaps lead to a gain in time. To gain time was one of Rommel’s objectives, as he told us repeatedly. The Fuehrer did not grant permission to use this mine, however, because no method of sweeping it was known at the time. It was feared that the Allies might then lay similar mines and thus block our harbors completely.
24. The Generalfeldmarschall had no illusions about the Luftwaffe; he knew perfectly well how weak it was. He therefore desired a maximum concentration of its efforts on the Allied ports of embarkation and assembly
|MS # A – 982||-22-|
areas. However, he could express his wishes only, not give orders. I remember that he opposed making an air attack on Bristol because that city was situated outside the immediate concentration area of the invasion forces.
Several times he requested the use of V-1’s against targets in embarkation and assembly areas. This request was refused each time, even though several of the V-1 installations were prepared for action. The reason given was that there were not yet enough V-1’s stored to sustain the initial volume of fire for a long period.
25. I do not know enough of Rommel’s efforts to increase the fighting strength of the armies under his command to give a detailed description. The lack of manpower to cover the long coasts caused him great apprehension from the very beginning. One weak division per 40 or 50 km of coast-line, as was the case between the Orne River and the Vire River, meant not only too few men and infantry weapons for the defense, but also lack of men for constructing strongpoints, laying mines, erecting obstacles, and so forth. The lack of uniformity among the divisions in strength, equipment, and training was another source of anxiety. Another was the variation in the types of weapons, which came from almost every European country, rendering supply very difficult.
|MS # A – 982||-23-|
It was natural then, that Rommel attempted to remedy these deficiencies, and that he endeavored, above all, to increase the over-all strength of the forces and to move additional units to those sectors of the coast which seemed particularly vulnerable. He was not permitted a free hand in the disposition of his troops. Permission had to be obtained from OB West and OKW, and the latter especially did not always agree with him. His Chiefs of Staff (Generalleutnant Gause, later Generalleutnant Dr Speidel) will be much more conversant with these particulars and with the efforts to improve and equalize the equipment of the divisions.
The Navy assisted Rommel by transporting and erecting coastal batteries from surplus guns of ships not in commission. Four 150 mm guns were installed at Longues, near Bayeux, and four 210 mm guns at Marcouf, southeast of Cherbourg—of the latter, three were ready for action.*
|*MS # B-282, Ruge: Generally the Navy was responsible for fighting the enemy as long as their forces were on the water. The Seekommandanten (Naval coastal commanders) controlled the batteries and designated their targets until the invasion forces set foot on land. Then command was switched over to Heer. It was always doubtful whether or not this system would work in reality. In the West, the defense of the naval ports was not in the hands of the Navy, although naval units manned a great majority of the Kuesten and flak batteries. I proposed repeatedly that each Seekommandant be put in charge of the defense of the chief naval port of his area, but I had no success. There were several instructions issued by the Fuehrer, but these were misinterpreted by those who received them. Consequently, in many cases the responsibility was not clearly defined.|
|MS # A – 982||-24-|
Very little could be done to increase the seagoing forces, which consisted of a few torpedo-boats and some E-boat flotillas. The one-man torpedos and Kleinkampfmittel (one and two-man submarines) were kept so secret that I was informed of them only shortly before the invasion. They were not quite ready at that time. Earlier contact by A Gp B with the Admiral der Kleinkampfmittel might possibly have produced results.
Rommel had no influence over the Luftwaffe. He knew that it was hopelessly outnumbered, and did not expect all the promises of support during the initial stages of the invasion to materialize. I had the impression that the reinforcements which actually arrived did not even meet these limited expectations. In the last weeks before the invasion he attempted to move a flak corps (Ed: probably III Flak Corps) from the interior to Normandy, west of the Orne River, but permission for the move was not granted. After the invasion this move took several days.
26. As already mentioned, the Generalfeldmarschall was restricted in the disposition of his own
|MS # A – 982||-25-|
troops; he had little influence with the Navy* and still
|*MS # B-282, Ruge: Each army had a naval liaison officer of Navy Group West attached to its staff. For the most part these officers were Korvettenkapitaens [Lieutenant Commander] of the Reserve. To my mind, the liaison officer with Fifteenth Army had little influence, and the officer with Seventh Army no standing at all.|
less, it seemed, with the Luftwaffe. Several times he requested a closer coordination of the three services, but without practical result.
27. On many of his trips, Rommel was accompanied by reporters and cameramen. He did not intend to put himself in the foreground. He had remained unassuming and modest, but he used his name and his fame as one more weapon. He once said to his chief cameraman, “You may do with me what you like if it only leads to postponing the invasion for a week.”
28. Under Rommel, a new impulse entered preparations to counter the invasion. He changed the underlying idea fundamentally, thus changing an atmosphere of despondency and vague hopes into one of diligent work and clear plans. He was untiring in his efforts to instill personally his ideas in the minds of his troops.
|MS # A – 982||-26-|
His men took them up eagerly because they sensed his personality, his experience, and his common sense.
29. Events proved that he foresaw the method of attack correctly down to details. If, in spite of all his efforts, he did not succeed, the causes must chiefly be sought elsewhere. He did everything in his power to strengthen the defense, which he accomplished to an unexpected extent. He did his utmost because he was convinced that the first stage of the invasion would be the decisive event of the war. He said so from the beginning and reported this view to OKW and the Fuehrer.
30. When the Allies succeeded in establishing their beachhead, Rommel was of the opinion that the war must be ended promptly at any cost. He said to me once, “Much better end this at once and live as a British Dominion than be ruined by continuing this hopeless war.” He was opposed to a Eurasian block and favored cooperation with the Atlantic powers. He felt himself to be an heir to the traditions of the West, and I think he died for this conviction.
|MS # B–259||-27-|
|ROMMEL’S VIEWS ON TACTICAL, TECHNICAL|
|AND STRATEGIC PROBLEMS OF THE DEFENSE|
I. Author’s Forward
The following statements are not of an official character. They are based on occasional conversations with the Generalfeldmarschall and with officers of his immediate staff; they are further based on information and instructions on the situation which were related to my own tasks and missions.*
|*MS # B-352, Dihm: My special missions consisted mainly of controlling the work on coastal defenses, especially obstacles in the coastal zone and paratroop obstacles.|
A Gp B made many decisions of which I had no knowledge, as the orders of the commanders were kept strictly secret even within the staff of the Generalfeldmarschall. No one knew more of the contents of orders than was absolutely essential to his mission. I do not possess written records or documents which might substantiate the following statements—they are written from memory.
|MS # B–259||-28-|
II. Construction of the Coastal Defenses
31. The situation which confronted Genfldm Rommel when he assumed command of A Gp B at the end of 1943 was, in broad outline, as follows:
The entire Atlantic Coast was occupied from Den Helder to the Spanish border. The divisions on the Channel Coast occupied a comparatively narrow defensive front, the frontage being gradually extended in division sectors toward the southwest. The entire coast was fortified (the Channel Coast most heavily). Strategic points, such as Lorient, Brest, St Malo, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Boulogne, etc, were declared fortresses and were to be particularly strengthened. The construction of the fortified defense system had begun in the autumn of 1942, but was progressing slower than desirable because of poor organization and lack of material. Each division was varied in depth according to the width and importance of its sector. The defensive system was improved to correspond to this distribution of our troops. Positions were improved first of all near the coast and were almost completed when the Generalfeldmarschall assumed command.
32. About the end of Apr 44, the new A Gp G [Army Group G] was established in Bordeaux. This placed the coast south of the mouth of the Loire River within a command separate
|MS # B–259||-29-|
from A Gp B under Rommel. I know no more about the further developments of this new Army Group.
33. On his first tour of inspection at the end of 1943 and beginning of 1944, the Generalfeldmarschall was very dissatisfied with the progress thus far in the construction of the Atlantic Wall. He determined the causes of the delay and attempted to remedy them by coordination with the Navy, OT [Todt Organization], and other organizations in Germany associated with the construction, and by arrangements of a more technical nature. His personal experiences in the African and Italian theaters were of great value to the technical improvements.
34. The results soon became apparent. The development of the defensive installations increased unbelievably, and during the first three months of 1944, most of the fortifications which had made slow progress for more than a year were finished. New installations were planned and constructed within an amazingly short time. The construction forces were constantly assigned new tasks to improve and to increase the number of installations. The new policy was to build numerous simple types of installations instead of a relatively few extensive structures with large chambers like those previously employed. The simple type of installation was tactically easier to incorporate into the system of fortifications
|MS # B–259||-30-|
which already existed. It did not adhere to a predetermined tactical formation and was a smaller target for enemy air attacks. Reinforcement of the structures to resist bombing was not neglected. Bombing attacks on the batteries in the period preceding “D day” demonstrated that the shelters had withstood the bombs and that casualties had been slight, in spite of the surprisingly well placed bombing panel. Nevertheless, the Generalfeldmarschall was perfectly well aware that the Atlantic Wall was not an absolute obstacle to an invasion as the German propaganda purported—for other reasons. He probably expressed this opinion to OKW. In addition, with the exception of a few places like the Channel Coast, the defense was lacking in depth. It was not possible for the Generalfeldmarschall to alter this situation because of the enormous frontage without additional manpower available to cover it adequately. A Gp B had to consider that the enemy might attack any place on the front—as Churchill once pointed out, in places where, for tactical reasons and for reasons of technical difficulties, you would least expect them. Thus, the fortification of no section of the coast could be neglected.
35. The principal reason the Atlantic Wall could not be recognized as an absolute obstacle was that modern warfare was fought no longer in two dimensions,
|MS # B–259||-31-|
but in three dimensions. At any time, enemy paratroops, whose achievements the Generalfeldmarschall knew very well from experience, could be dropped behind the fortifications. Even if A Gp B had had considerably larger air forces at its disposal, it would have been impossible to protect the entire length of coast-line against an airborne operation. Furthermore, bombing attacks by the enemy air force could be expected on the installations and fortifications of the coast before the landing. The scope, intensity, and tactical importance of these attacks were well known from the campaigns in Africa and Italy. The Generalfeldmarschall knew that, at the time of invasion, he could count only on a fraction of the defensive power of his installations, as most of the defenses would have been destroyed in advance by the enemy air force.
Therefore, his thoughts incessantly dwelt on the possibilities of planning, strengthening, and completing the defenses in such a way that our own defensive fires could be employed under the most favorable conditions, the effectiveness of the enemy bombers would be limited as much as possible, and attacks by parachute and glider troops would be prevented, or at least very much weakened.
In all these considerations the General-
|MS # B–259||-32-|
feldmarschall was influenced by the opinion, the reasons for which I have already explained in my previous report. (Ed: See par 8, Heer [army] Annex.) that the greatest and almost only chance of a successful defense against the invasion existed during the first days. In this connection as many obstacles as possible were to be placed in the way of the enemy.
36. Therefore a complete series of instructions were issued. These instructions were partly devised by the Generalfeldmarschall himself and were accompanied by sketches drawn by him. They dealt mainly with the erection of obstacles on the beaches. It was intended to join these barriers to form a continuous line, except in sectors where the steepness of the coast was a natural barrier. Covered by fire from the defensive installations, these obstacles were to capsize the landing barges or to cause the crews to “bail out” before they reached the shore. Even if the obstacles were bombed before the landing, the resulting debris would act as a barrier.
The obstacles were of many different types and became more and more developed as time passed. In the beginning they were only simple pointed balks planted in shallow water and slanted seaward. Later, reinforcing side props, mines, and connecting wires were
|MS # B–259||-33-|
added. Reinforced concrete supports interspersed with mines and concrete blocks were emplaced in sections where the wooden balks were unable to withstand the surf. The Generalfeldmarschall, who possessed an extensive technical knowledge, personally took part in the construction of the defense works. The steep coasts were also secured by mines, which were to be detonated the moment troops began to climb the slopes.
37. Behind the beach obstacles, a continuous line of minefields was established. These fields varied in depth according tot he terrain and were plotted and marked along the entire coast. Special assembly areas were set up near the coast for the procurement of the necessary mines, and all usable material, including surplus artillery shells, was brought to the assembly areas. Actually, because of the huge demand for mines until the day of the attack, only part of the minefields could be laid.
38. In rear areas, all localities which were considered suitable for the landing of airborne troops were provided with so-called air landing obstacles. These obstacles consisted of long beams driven vertically into the ground about 15 to 20 meters apart. They were connected with wire, and in some cases mines were affixed to the top of the beams. They were intended to cause
|MS # B–259||-34-|
troop-carrying gliders to nose over before they touched the ground or to be destroyed by mines. Because of the tremendous amount of work involved, these obstacles were completed only in a few places at the time of the invasion. However, the nature of the farm lands in many localities, Normandy especially, was relied upon to cause considerable difficulty to an airborne landing. All fields were fenced off by stone walls (about two meters high) covered with scrub.
39. To thwart bombing attacks, the Generalfeldmarschall ordered the construction along the entire coast of a great number of dummy positions. Dummy installations of widely different types appeared, varying from heavy batteries to single machine guns. Special orders were given for the realistic and clever construction of these installations and for the improvement of those already existing.
The attempt at deception, which was also intended to simulate the presence of a greater number of units on the coast, was a real success. Thus, numerous attacks by enemy bomber formations were diverted from the actual fortifications.
40. The Generalfeldmarschall cherished no illusion that our defensive measures could for long remain unknown to the enemy. The continuous reconnaissance
|MS # B–259||-35-|
flights of the enemy air force, which could not be prevented, the great number of foreign workers in OT and the impossibility of preventing the civilian population from gaining knowledge of the works, all furnished a source of information to the enemy. The generalized air reconnaissance was completed down to details by information received from espionage. Later on, enemy maps, which were captured during the invasion, proved the correctness of this observation.
III. Strategic and Tactical Views on the Defense
41. I have already expressed in my previous report the reflections of Genfldm Rommel concerning the time and place of the invasion.* However much
|*MS # B-353, Dihm: The invasion was expected in the first half of Jun 44, but because of unfavorable weather, somewhat later than it actually took place. The Normandy front was considered the most probable location because this coast was by nature favorable for landings, and because it was possible to reach the beach after a relatively short run from the fleet. Moreover it was necessary for the Allies to obtain after landing a suitable harbor like Cherbourg for their supply. In addition, construction of the coastal fortifications in Normandy was not as advanced as on other fronts—a fact not unknown to the enemy, who was always informed of the progress of construction. The invasion was expected likely to occur also on both sides of the Seine delta, since the capture of the harbor at Le Havre would facilitate landing operations. Also this sector would offer a more direct route to Paris; the rapid conquest of Paris, because of its prestige, could be important to the Allies.|
|MS # B–259||-36-|
probability there was in this estimate of coming operations, it was necessary to consider the element of surprise, both in a strategic and a tactical sense. For example, an attack on the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy could take place in many different ways. This fact was of great importance in determining the disposition of our strategic and tactical reserves. But before I continue I want to give a more detailed explanation.
42. The Generalfeldmarschall had been given by Hitler personally the mission of preventing any invasion of the Atlantic Coast (I do not know the precise wording of this order). Yet he was not at all free to make decisions. Before the invasion, and particularly during the invasion, all fundamental questions and decisions were settled not by Genfldm Rommel alone, but by coordination with von Rundstedt’s headquarters and OKW. Often the final decision was not made until the Generalfeldmarschall negotiated directly with OKW.
43. There was a controversy over important decisions. For example, should reserves—and in that case, what reserves—be disposed immediately behind the front-line positions in probable landing sectors, or should they be echeloned in depth for later displacement to the sector where the main attack developed? Furthermore, what offensive actions should be planned during the
|MS # B–259||-37-|
engagement, and with what reserves should they be carried out? Both Rommel and von Rundstedt had reserves at their disposal. In addition, what troops should be withdrawn from the elements along the coast not under attack, and when should they be withdrawn?
44. How the final decisions were made in detail, I do not know because, due to the nature of my mission, I received no knowledge of them. I know only that Genfldm Rommel was of the fundamental opinion that the reserves must be held in readiness immediately behind the coast-line. This opinion devolved from his estimation, as I have already pointed out in my previous report (Ed: See par 8, Heer Annex), that the first days after the landings would be the decisive ones. He feared that the reserves, if disposed far behind the front, would be too late to achieve such a decision. The enemy air force had destroyed to a great extent all bridges and embankments. Furthermore, all troop movements could take place only during the short hours of darkness.
45. When it became apparent that higher headquarters did not conform to his theories, the Generalfeldmarschall tried to effect, at least in a tactical sense, his principle idea, “All forces as close to the front as possible.” He considered distribution in depth of no value in such broad sectors. With the high probability
|MS # B–259||-38-|
of airborne operations behind the front, it only added to the danger, as isolated rear elements could be suddenly assaulted and destroyed. In his opinion, only a close solidarity among the troops on the coast-line could prevent this occurrence. It had the advantage, besides, of firmer control by the commanders over their divisions, especially if all technical means of signal communication were destroyed by bombing attacks. Also this disposition of the forces conformed with the order of Hitler to all units on the Western Front to hold at all costs, to the last cartridge.
46. Therefore, the distribution in depth, which was quite inadequate anyway, was entirely given up. The sectors of the divisions were reorganized into fortress-like positions with one front seaward and one front landward. All troops of the division down to the last driver were to be included in these “division fortresses.” The artillery and other supporting units were incorporated into strongpoints within the division fortress so that the fortifications could be defended piece by piece, even after penetration by the enemy forces.
With this organization we expected to gain time by limiting, or excluding altogether, the combined effort of the enemy air force, artillery, and naval guns because of the close fighting and the intermingling of front lines. The
|MS # B–259||-39-|
division fortresses were to be enclosed by barbed-wire entanglements and mine belts. These obstacles were to be joined with the existing network of wire obstacles and mine areas along the coast. Also, if labor were available, an antitank ditch was to be dug on the landward side. All defensive guns, mortars, Panzerfausts (individual rocket projectors), machine guns, etc were employed in such a way that a closed “hedgehog” defense was established. An abundant supply of food was envisioned for the division fortresses to last for the duration of the intended mission.
To effect this regrouping of elements, very often the old, well constructed shelters and command posts had to be abandoned and new ones constructed. In spite of the disadvantage, the Generalfeldmarschall insisted on this course. He was of the opinion that only with this organization could the coast hold out until relief came from our reserves disposed inland.
As far as I know, these division fortresses were not all completed. On the actual invasion front they did not yet exist on 6 Jun 44. However they were being developed by the divisions on the Belgian and Dutch coasts while the defensive action was taking place in Normandy.
|MS # B–259||-40-|
still expected diversionary landings—primarily on the Channel Coast. Owing to the considerable losses of the Allied forces during the heavy fighting for Normandy, the Generalfeldmarschall considered it a strategic error that a second landing—if one had been planned at all—was not attempted to break the circle of defense from the outside. For example, what the Allies achieved after the breakthrough at Avranches, might have been obtained earlier and with fewer casualties if a landing had been made in Brittany at the end of Jun 44. At that time resistance in Brittany would have been negligible due to the withdrawal of considerable forces. This strategy would have been preferable to the slow, gradual extension of the beachhead.
48. After Rommel was wounded on 17 Jul 44 and Genfldm von Kluge assumed command of A Gp B, the defense of the coast was overshadowed by the action on the Normandy front. All troops which could be spared on the fronts not under attack were withdrawn and committed in Normandy. With the breakthrough at Avranches, which absorbed all our attention, the coastal defense lost its importance completely. Therefore it has never been proved whether or not the division fortresses really met our expectations. I do not know what happened further because I retired shortly after 20 Jul 44.
|MS # B–259||-41-|
COMMENTARY ON GENLT DIHM’S REPORT
1. Genlt Dihm has contributed a few items on the views of Genfldm Rommel concerning the defense in the West. He had been attached to Rommel’s staff as an expert on coast artillery matters and on construction of obstacles in the water along the coast-line. He had spent two and a half years in Brittany and had gained experience in problems relative to coastal defenses. He is now 67 years old. On the whole, he seems to share the opinions of Rommel.
2. Rommel was a Wuerttemberger and, in his thoroughness, a typical one. He was imbued with their sense of duty and responsibility. He was, however, not the only man of this valuable German race who was much inclined to adhere to details. This adherence to details, which he overdid in a rather one-sided manner, was exemplified by his “fortification complex.” Thus, the time and numerical strength of the troops was wasted on the construction of fortifications at the expense of training. The training of panzer-type divisions was something with which Rommel was unfamiliar. Rommel had never trained a regiment of Panzergrenadiers [Armored Infantry] and had obtained only a few weeks experience, if any, with 7 Pz Div [7th Panzer Division] before the French
|MS # B–259||-42-|
campaign, having taken over that command on 15 Feb 40. This writer, however, is of the opinion that training is of greater importance than fortifications, especially if the majority of divisions contain large numbers of raw recruits and “combed out” men (Ed: probably replacements from supply services, etc to bring combat divisions up to strength), as was the case in the West in 1944.
3. I cannot agree with the opinion that the invasion could occur at any place. There was a lack of decision on the part of the highest authorities. Moreover, it was a fatal mistake not to establish clearly defined centers of gravity in the fortified defenses. “To cover everything means to cover nothing.”
4. Rommel had a thorough knowledge of what air power may mean from his experiences in Africa. However, he had no practical experience with the employment of airborne divisions. He had not been in command in Sicily. Nevertheless, he was quick to perceive the danger of attack by large airborne units. His conception of the defense against these parachute units cannot be shared. From Sep 43, a couple of months before Rommel’s arrival, Pz Gp West had started to teach in theory and in practice the tactics of combating an airborne operation, when “all was quiet on the Western Front.” This writer, the commander of Pz Gp West, wrote in 1945 the pertinent
|MS # B–259||-43-|
official instruction, approved by the General Staff, and issued. One of the reasons why Pz Gp West was basically hostile to the idea of moving the panzer divisions up or close to the very coast-line was that depth was needed to insure freedom of movement for action against the landing of airborne divisions.
5. Every honest soldier, the enemy included, and most of all members of Rommel’s staff, will respect highly the personal valor and the indomitable energy of the man Rommel. Therefore, the description given by Genlt Dihm will be easily understood. Historical work, however, is a different story and has to be pitiless in the research of truth—but what is truth?
|MS # B–282||-44-|
I. Imminence of Invasion
As nearly as I can remember, the forecast for “D day” was, “Invasion possible, but not probable because of the weather.” There was no alert in our headquarters until the arrival about 0100 of the first reports of the actual landing of paratroops and gliders. As the Generalfeldmarschall was on his way to the Fuehrer’s headquarters in Berchtesgaden and we had guests, we were not yet in bed, contrary to our usual early hours.
1. Naval land transport had always been more centralized than Heer transport inasmuch as the garrisons and naval ports pooled their vehicles in Kraftfahrbereitschaften (motor transport units). These units were turned over to the fortress commanders and the combat commanders. From all reports, they did good work for all three services. The mobile units were employed partly for special naval operations, such as transporting torpedos, and partly for Heer use. One of these units was
|MS # B–282||-45-|
the last to get into Cherbourg and back again.
2. After some difficulties, a supply line was established by way of the Seine River. Motor barges transported about 15,000 tons of ammunition, fuel, and food from Paris to Elbeuf in Jul 44. This work was under the direction of naval officers and non-commissioned officers of ships put out of action.
3. There were no outstanding supply difficulties for naval units up to 24 Jul 44, as far as I can remember. The stores of ammunition and fuel were sufficient; soon so many vessels were put out of action that the expenditure was less than expected.
4. Repeatedly Genfldm Rommel requested the transfer of naval land units (alarm and training units) to France in order to free Heer units for use near the coast and to constitute a preparatory second line of defense. We were convinced that the Navy had excellent personnel in training ashore who would be available for sea duty months, if not years, later. It seemed urgent to put every available man into the defense of our western positions, even at the cost of future plans. OKM [Oberkommando der Marine] did not agree with this idea and moved only a few units
|MS # B–282||-46-|
(about eight naval replacement units) into the area Belfort—Strassbourg—Nancy. Thirteen comparatively well trained and well equipped alarm battalions under OKM North remained in northwestern Germany. A flexible organization was adopted whereby about 30,000 naval personnel were to be transferred to the West in case of an invasion.
5. Most of the naval personnel were trained to some extent in land fighting, at least for defensive purposes. Every man ashore belonged to an alarm unit at the disposal of the local senior officer (usually the fortress commander or the combat commander). In general these officers did not have the slightest conception of naval warfare, and therefore they did not make the best use of the naval personnel. Moreover, cooperation was not always satisfactory.
As far as I could determine, the morale of the naval personnel was good. There were always volunteers for the one-man torpedos, and other similar assignments. In the minesweeping and escort units that had fought in the Bay of the Seine and the Channel, and had then retreated to the North Sea, morale was good to the
|MS # B–282||-47-|
last day of the war.
V. General Causes of the Naval Failure
6. I rate the almost total lack of our own air force first. The preparations and embarkations in southern England were neither disturbed nor fully recognized. During daylight our naval forces could not venture out of the ports. Any move from the North Sea or from the Atlantic was bound to be discovered and smashed. The use of large units was therefore out of the question. Any concentration of naval forces in one of the ports could be smashed very quickly from the air (for example, the losses in Le Havre).
7. The second cause, in my opinion, was the weakness of our naval power, which was absolutely inadequate for safeguarding transport to Norway, Finland, and the Baltic states, defending Italy and Greece, keeping the French harbors open, etc, and at the same time fighting off a large-scale invasion. More might have been done, however, if OKM had acknowledged the great importance of all measures against the invasion, and had given them first priority and concentrated on them. In view of the impending attack of the Allies, it seemed a mistake to put so much energy into the submarine program, which
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could not produce results before the winter of 1944-45.
8. The third cause for the naval (and general) failure was the lack of insight into the characteristics of naval warfare and combined operations. This lack was shown by OKW and many high Heer officers and was not compensated for by an organization in which officers of all three services worked closely together.
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I was informed of the beginning of the invasion in Aire sur la Lys, headquarters of LXXXII Inf Corps (Sinnhuber) at 0500 on the morning of 6 Jun 44. I was there by order of the Generalfeldmarschall to view the following day the progress of the construction of local obstacles. Corps informed me that I was to delay my trip to the coast until the confused situation had cleared. The location of the attack was known to the High Command; I was informed of it.
1. Supply for A Gp B was not under its control, but was managed by authorities directly subordinate to A Gp Rundstedt (Ed: OB WEST). However, I was detailed once to check the movements of the supply trains, which, because of the enemy’s air superiority, took place only at night. For bringing up supplies and for reinforcements (troop movements) behind the front, separate lines of communication were established and marked on maps. I am unable to give
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any details because the arrangement was made by the authorities under A Gp Rundstedt (Ed: OB WEST).
2. Thanks to the measures instituted, bringing up supplies on the whole operated smoothly. But because of the demolition of all the railroads and artificial constructions, the columns had to make wide detours, which, in general, caused some delay. The main routes of supply were far to the south of the battlefront—along the roads Alençon—Domfront and Argentan—Vire. During the day, the traffic on these roads was completely blocked by fighter-bombers.
III. Causes for the Failure of the Defense
3. The main reason for the failure of the defense of the Cotentin Peninsula was not so much the result of tactical surprise, since a landing in Normandy had been expected, as it was the absolute air supremacy of the Allies. Long before and even during the attack a considerable part of the artillery was nearly eliminated by air attacks—at least to the extent that it was unable to fire on the sea.
4. The infantry near the beach was so greatly battered by air raids shortly before and during the attack that it could no longer operate effectively. As a
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result, the Allies were able to land even at ebb tide and therefore were not hindered at all by the obstacles placed along the foreshore. If the enemy air force had not succeeded in disorganizing the infantry so completely before the beginning of the first assault wave, this first and decisive attack up the glacis from the exposed foreshore through the obstacles or their debris would surely have been more costly-if it did not fail altogether.
5. Our few planes, insignificant against a superior air force, could not repel the landing of Allied airborne troops. The flak, distributed over a wide area, was ineffective also. Thus it developed that these airborne troops were attacked only after their landing by some reserve divisions still intact. Part of the airborne troops landed behind coastal sectors which were not under attack from the sea.
6. Another important factor in the failure of the defense was the nature of the terrain in the invasion sector. German artillery could not be employed efficiently because the flat and impenetrable wooded areas of Normandy precluded observation. The artillery of the Allies was aided by the extensive use of artillery liaison planes. Enemy air supremacy prohibited the use of similar planes by the German artillery.
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have been possible, in my opinion, to prevent a successful invasion during the first days after the initial assault. These were the most critical days for the Allies. Later, the constant and increasing reinforcement of the Allies could be less and less equalized by the arrival of German reinforcements, hindered by the destruction of important traffic routes.
8. The surprisingly rapid build-up of the beachhead after the successful landing was aided by the new technical equipment employed, such as Mulberry harbor, bulldozers, and steel landing mats.
Note: German nouns have been capitalized and appropriate diacritics for French names have been added where appropriate.