CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ATLANTIKWALL

IN THE ARMEEOBERKOMMANDO 15 AREA

 

 

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I. THE PRE-ATLANTIKWALL PERIOD (May 1940 - March 1942)

 

1) Coastal protection (May 1940 - October 1941)

 

After having concluded the successful invasion of Western Europe, the German army prepared to attack Great Britain. In order to do so, a fleet of landing ships had to be assembled in French and Belgian channel ports. The Kriegsmarine was assigned the task to protect those ports and ships and followed the doctrine of coastal protection to do so. This was reflected in the building of military infrastructure and defensive strongpoints in and around the ports.

As the Kriegsmarine alone did not have sufficient manpower to do this, the help of the army was sought. Thus a number of Bautruppen and units of the Reichsarbeitsdienst work for the Kriegsmarine to re-open the ports for military purposes and to build defensive strongpoints. These initial strongpoints mainly consisted out of field defences (feldmässig) and light concrete constructions with walls between 30cm and 1m thick (verstarkt feldmässig).

In this period the remainder of the coastline was hardly fortified. This was not necessary due to the presence of German elite divisions poised to invade Great Britain. Sufficient troops were available to be able to conduct an aggressive defence. However, these units were ordered to build their own small field defences (feldmässig) at regular intervals, merely consisting of trenches, sometimes reinforced with sandbags or wood. Where possible these strongpoints were built where in World War I strongpoints had already been built and existing German bunkers were used. Minefields or extensive barbed wire defences were still absent, as these would be an obstacle for the own counterattack

In order to achieve better control and coordination a new kind of troops was established in the late summer of 1940, the fortress engineers or Festungspioniere. Even though these specialised troops were part of the Heer, they mostly worked for the Kriegsmarine. They were responsible for coordinating the building and monitored the work of the Bautruppen under their command.

 

Despite the overwhelming German victory in the West, the Oberbefehlshaber West, Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt, started worrying about possible commando attacks as early as 10 November 1940. On this day he sent a document entitled Einheitliche Befehlsführung im Westen to the Oberkommando des Heeres. In it the OBWest expressed his concern about the absence of a unified command in the West. He pointed out that the Heer, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe units located at or near the coast all received their orders through their own chain of command. In case of an allied commando raid, he argued, defensive action could be seriously hampered by the total lack of co-ordination between the services and, above all, the absence of a unified command. Rundstedt's initiative eventually led to an OKW directive on 1 March 1941, entitled Einheitliche Befehlsführung bei Abwehrkampfhandlungen im Küstengebiet im Westen.

 

Even though OBWest was given the unified command that he had asked for, the result was a far cry from what he had expected and requested. Most importantlly, the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe units in his area were not subodinated to him. Ironically, the correctness of OBWest's ideas on the possibility of small-scale landing attempts became clear only three days later, when the British carried out their commandeo raid against the Lofoten. Not only did 5 British destroyers sink 10 German vessels and the landing troops destroyed several fish processing plants, they also captured a whopping 255 German soldiers. The successful operation forced the OKW to rethink its coastal defence strategy in the middle of its preparations for the Balkan campaign.

 

The success of the Lofoten raid was the direct cause for issuing the Kampfanweisung für die Verteidigung Norwegens on 26 March 1941, which formulated measures to bolster German defences in Norway. Hitler ordered 160 artillery batteries and air defence weapons to be sent to Norway. Furthermore, schools and training units were also to be based in Norway to bolster resources. Hitler also made it clear that he would have to be asked for prior approval in case troop levels in Norway were to be reduced. The focus of these defensive measures was to be northern Norway.
Considering the relatively weak presence of German forces in Norway (only 7 divisions in April 1941) the army units were to be trained in coastal defence and in operating the coastal batteries. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe flak units were also te be positioned at the coast in defence in defence of the heavy coastal batteries, as well as Luftwaffe installations. Importantly, the army batteries were subordinated to the Kriegsmarine. Overal command would be in the hands of the Wehrmachtsbefehlshaber
.

 

On 17 April 1941 the OKW sent a Befehl zur Verstärkung des Küstenverteidigung in den Niederlanden to the headquarters of the three services as well as to the Wehrmachtbefehlshaber in den Niederlanden. The origins of this document can be found in the planned withdrawal of army divisions from the Netherlands in anticpation of the Russian campaign. The planned withdrawal was to leave just one army division, the 82 Infanteriedivision, which was not at full strength. This situation was felt to expose the Dutch coast too much to the dangers of a possible British landing. The OKW ordered the strengthening of the 82 Infanteriedivision to a full division, as well as the provision of means for and a preparation of an increased mobility of the division.
In addition, a second infantry division was to be transferred to the Netherlands from the area of OBWest. Thirdly, reserve units were to be permanently stationed in the country for security duties and for strengthening the internal defences of the country. Finally, the West-Frisian islands were to be protected by infantry in coordination with the navy and the Wehrmachtsbefehlshaber. The Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe also received specific instructions.

 

The issue of a unified command having been resolved, though unsatisfactorily, the next problem was the definition of the tasks and, more importantly, the command authorities of the three individual Wehrmacht services. In an attempt to resolve this issue, the OKW released its Zusammenfassende Richtlinien für die Kampfführung an den Küsten on 3 May 1941. While the OKW on the one hand recognized that a unified and strict command as well as a close cooperation between the services was essential, this order actually hindered such goals by the separation of responsibilities between the three services. Especially the separation between the roles of the Heer and the Kriegsmarine at the coast was problematic, especially considering the fact that OBWest in the same order was given responsibility for the preparation and the execution of the defence against a British landing in Belgium and France. The command arrangement at the coast thus remained a point of friction between the three services. As long as an invasion was not to be feared, such friction was only 'academic'.. It would take several more months, more precisely in the winter 1941-42 that the importance of the West would again have to be faced by the OKW.

 

Now that a setlement of command compentencies had not been achieved concentration in the West between roughly May and September 1941 was again on the strengthening of artillery defences at the coast, like Hitler had required them for Norway and the Netherlands. Since there were too few naval batteries to cover the extremely long coastline and since the Kriegsmarine only wanted to focus on the harbours and ports, large stretches of the coastline in between the latter were not covered by artillery. Unlike allied armies, the German Heer did not have a tradition of artillery batteries assigned at corps level or higher. For this reason, the Heer established its own coast batteries, called Heeresküstenbatterien. However, since the units were equipped with captured guns, there ware also called Beutebatterien. An overview of 5 May 1941 (partly modified on 27 May) shows 14 such Beutebatterien (11x 7,5cm, 2x 15,5cm and 1x 10.5cm) with a total of 55 guns on the Channel coast.  Even though Halder, Chef des Generalstabes OKH, judged the artillery situation in the West as satisfactory in a diary entry of 13 May, it was apparently far from satisfactory. On 21 May 1941 OKH informed Heeresgruppe D that 6 heavy railroad batteries and 2 batallion headquarters would be transferred to Russia. First to act was the Armeeoverkommando 16 which, even just before it beingsmoved to the East, requested 15 extra Beutebatterien with 4 guns each and with full personnel OR 42 guns without personnel. On 15 July 1941 the Armeeoberkommando 15 formulated its requirement: 60 guns (15 batteries) of 7.5-10cm calibres, 20 heavy guns (5 batteries) and (for the Channel Islands) 4 batteries of 15cm or more and 3 3,7cm Flak batteries.

The result of these developments was that on 30 August 1941 92 batteries were stationed in the West (Westküste einschliesslich Kanalinseln): 18 railway batteries, 3x 22cm, 6x 21cm, 27x 15cm, 27x 10cm and 11x 7,5cm. 4x 15cm batteries were still requested. On 3 October 1941 an order was issued for the allocation of the following extra artillery: 60 Belgian Kanone 235 and 10 Gerätebatterien. In addition four existing Beutebatterien were to be equipped with heavier guns. The 24 15cm K416 French guns thus freed would be used to rearm the 10cm batteries. On 9 October 1941 an inventory showed that Heeresgruppe D possessed 1215 Geschütze overall (560 divisional artillery, 235 naval artillery, 305 Heeresküstenartillerie and 76 on the Channel Islands.Though a considerable number, it was still far from sufficient to defend the French and Belgian coasts. In addition, a large number of these were massed at the Pas-de-Calais. In addition the guns of the Heeresküstenartillery were markedly inferior in quality.

 

It is already clear from the above that in mid-1941 onwards the main focus of construction were the Channel Islands, as Hitler had ordered these to be turned into a fortress. The remainder of the Western European coastal areas still had to make do with field defences, which however were being gradually reinforced with light concrete constructions of the type verstarkt feldmässig. Firstly, only strategic locations such as ports and important approach roads to the coast were selected. Secondly, the coastal batteries being built then. In view of the air superiority of the Luftwaffe at that time, the guns of those batteries stood in open emplacements and only the personnel and ammunition bunkers were of the type verstarkt feldmässig. Even then most bunkers only had walls of 30cm (splittersicher), protecting them only against shell-splinters, with only some bunkers built in Schusssicherer Ausbau, with protection against small-calibre shells.

 

When in September 1941 the German offensive in Russia was in urgent need of new troops and the latter had to be withdrawn from the quiet Western front, the latter was considerably weakened. When the Eastern front eventually stabilized in February 1942 14 of the best infantry divisions had been moved from Western Europe to Russia, which meant that the number of divisions (notwithstanding the additions) in the West had declined from 38 in September 1941 to 24 in April 1942, while the threat of an allied landing increased.

The German High Command tried to compensate this weakening by building newer and stronger defences. Gradually, a system of Stützpunkte was established, consisting of a number of concrete bunkers in verstarkt feldmässiger Ausbau, which in the event of an allied landing had to be able to resist independently and for a short time, until the own counterattack would repel the enemy.

 

2) Coastal defence (October 1941 - December 1941)

 

 When in the fall of 1941 the German offensive in Russia required ever more troops, which had to be withdrawn from the Western front, the Germans attempted to compensate this weakening by building new and stronger defences. The first person to act was Oberbefehlshaber West.

The Befehl für den Ausbau der Küstenverteidigung of Generalfeldmarschall von Witzleben of 4 October 1941 reflected an important change in German thinking. For the first time the concept of coastal defence (rather than protection) was introduced, as it became clear that the lack of forces to conduct an aggressive defence had to be compensated by building new defences. The Festungspioniere, who until that time had been working solely for the Kriegsmarine, were also tasked to build concrete constructions for the Heer. In order to do do, they were subordinated to the local army corps, which in their turn allocated the units to their subordinated coastal defence divisions.

On 10 October 1941 the issue of a Küstenbefestigung between the North Cape and the Bay of Biscaye was discussed between the OKH and the General der Pioniere Jacob.

On 13 October 1941, the Armeeoberkommando 15 gave further instructions in connection with the Befehl of 4 October. For the first time a document referred to a bunker construction programme and gave detailed instructions for the expansion of coastal defences. Even though an important change had been made from the idea of protection (Küstenschutz) to that of defence (Küstenverteidigung), the German high command in the West continued to adhere to the doctrine of a mobile and offensive defence. This entailed that the existing strongpoints had to be reinforced with a number of concrete constructions of the type verstarkt feldmässig, without however increasing the number of bunkers, since extra bunkers meant extra troops, which could only be achieved at the expense of the troops destined to counterattack.

Hitler's focus was also still on the Channel Islands, to which he gave an almost mythical significance. These British territories were on no account to be lost and their defences should prevent the British from ever retaking these islands again. Thus on 18 October 1941 a conference was held in Berlin concerning the permanent fortification of the Channel Islands. This resulted in Hitler's Befehl zum Ausbau und Verteidigung der Kanalinseln of 20 October 1941. Final responsibility for the ciostruction work was laid in the hands of the OKH, which was to integrate the constructions of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. OBWest was given the task of guarding tactical interests, while the planning of construction activies was entrusted to the General der Pioniere und Festungen beim Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres. Two Pionierstäbe (14 and 19) were allocated to OBWest. Importantly, the existing field fortification (feldmässige Ausbau was to be contunued alongside the planned permanent fortification. The OT was entrusted with the actual consruction work.

An OKH document of 23 October 1941 stated that the "Führer considered a further strengthening of coasal defences from North-Finland to the South of France with the aim of increasing the defensive readiness while at the same time reducing the number of forces to be used".

Thus, October 1941 saw the start of the first bunker construction programme, in which standardized bunker types of the type verstarkt feldmässig were built for the first time, in order to be able to build the bunkers quickly and to limit the use of precious building materials. However, from February 1942 onwards the divisions were ordered to designate the more important strongpoints in their respective sectors that would qualify for a Festungsmässige Ausbau (fortification). Initially, the bunkers in these strongpoints were mainly built in the stronger Schusssichere Ausbau, while the others had to make so with Splittersichere bunkers. At this time, most of the bunkers were still built by the divisional engineer units.

On 5 November 1941 the Oberbefehlshaber West issued his Beurteilung der Lage im Bereich des Oberbefehlshaber West. In this 11-page document the OBWest Generalgeldmarschall von Witzleben gave a little rosy but realistic picture of the situation in the West. Indeed, the German army in the West was confronted with many problems: oversized divisional sectors (from 34 tot 360km), insufficient divisional artillery (as it was deployed at the coast), insufficient labour for coastal fortifications, insufficient transport capacity and petrol, insufficient construction materials and insufficient horses. The above problems also applied in the event of a large-scale British assount on the coasts. Even though sectors prone to such an attack had been identified and forces organized correspondingly, the transport capapcity remained insufficient. The resulting situation was nevertheless felt to be acceptable during the coming bad-weather period of the winter 1941/42, in that no large-scale British operations were expected until the spring of 1942. However, local British actions with local results were deemed possible everywhere along the coastline.

 

3) The Neue Westwall (December 1941 - March 1942)

 

    By December 1941, however, the German army was beaten back in view of the gates of Moscow and fresh troops had to be sent to the Eastern Front, On 14 December 1941 Hitler issued his Erweiterter Befehl für den Ausbau der Kanalküste zum neuen Westwall. In this document the construction of a continuous line of defence from Norway to the Spanish border, the neue Westwall, was ordered. Norway, with its long coastline and strategic position was seen as a first priority, followed by the Belgian and Northern French coastlines and the Channel Islands. With the construction of such coastal defences, troop numbers at the coast could be reduced to feed the Eastern Front. However, construction was considered too extensive to be carried out by the army and would be carried out by the Organisation Todt. The Erweiterter Befehl für den Ausbau der Kanalküste zum neuen Westwall was one of the most important orders of the entire Second World War in the West since it turned the offensive posture of German forces definitively into a defensive one.

Due to the increase in the number of strongpoints a need was felt to classify these according to the importance of the strongpoint. Previously, a simple numerical system had been in use. Under the new system the strongpoints were given a name and classified in terms of their importance. By January 1942, the following types were recognized:

 

1. Hauptstützpunkte Defended by 1 platoon (Zug) to 1 company, depending on their size. In addition, all heavy weapons were to be positioned in these strongpoints
2. Zwischenstützpunkte  
3. Kleine Hauptstützpunkte  
4. Postenstände Strongpoints which functioned more like fall-back positions in case of an enemy attack. They did not need to be occupied in force.

Still characteristic for this classification was the defensive concept that the strongpoints were to be occupied by only a small number of troops and that the majority of troops had to be garrisoned in the interior, from where they could counterattack. However, this concept would be radically changed towards the end of 1942, when the main defence line (Hauptkampflinie) was moved to the strongpoints at the coast.

II. THE ATLANTIKWALL PERIOD (March 1942 - June 1944)

 

1) Atlantikwall history

 

    This period started on 23 March 1942, on which day two directives concerned coastal defence in the West were issued. A first directive was the Führerweisung Nr. 40 - Befehlsbefügnisse an den Küsten, in which Hitler once more expressed his express wish to secure the Northern and Western European coastlines against an allied landing. For the first time, this document also provided a clear picture of how the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht saw the organisation of this defence. Responsibility for the defence of the Western European coastline, from The Netherlands to the Italian border was assigned to Oberbefehlshaber West Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. On the same day the latter isssued his Erweiterter Befehl für den Ausbau an der Kanalküste zum neuen Westwall. This directive, complementing the earlier directive of December 1941, emphasized that the coastal defences were to be a joint effort by all three armed services and defined the ultimate goal as the defence of the Channel Coast with bunkers of the ständig type. In addition, this document also referred for the first time to a coastal defence centralised around a limited number of standardised ständige bunker types. However, as no standards had yet been set for Atlantikwall bunker types, the programme started with the construction of bunkers designed for the Westwall.

In the first few months attention was focused on the construction of command bunkers and quarters, which were dotted along the entire coastline in strategic places. Weapons bunkers were only constructed around important ports. Besides these ständige bunkers, Hitler initially explicitly ordered the continuation of the construction of verstärkt Feldmässige bunkers. However, as early as 13 August 1942, in a meeting with important Organisation Todt officials, Hitler publicly doubted the use of such bunkers.

Following this meeting, which laid down the definitive plans for the construction of the Atlantikwall, von Rundstedt issued his Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers West Nr. 14 (Ausbau der Kanal- und Atlantikküste) on 25 August 1942. It ordered the construction of 15,000 ständige bunkers to house the 300,000 troops necessary for coastal defence between the Netherlands-German border and the Franco-Spanish border. The Atlantikwall had received its definitive theoretical form. The programme was to have been completed by 1 May 1943.

Initially, it was planned to construct circular defences around all U-Boot bases as well as ports that could be of use to an attacking enemy. The coastal areas in between, from now called Freie Küste, would, according to their vulnerability, be turned into an impenetrable line of defence. The actual construction of the ständige bunkers was the responsibility of the Festungspioniere (planning) and the Organisation Todt (construction). However, the construction of verstärkt Feldmässige bunkers was still the responsibility of local divisions.

 

2) The sector of the Armeeoberkommando 15

 

    This sector (from the Schelde to the Somme estuary) was judged to be the most vulnerable sector of this region, due to its proximity to Great Britain as well as its flat sandy beaches. Consequently, the main bunker construction effort was to be found here. Oberbefehlshaber West thus planned a density of 11 bunkers per kilometer in the area of AOK 15, compared to only 8 bunkers in the area of the Wehrmachtsbefehlshaber in den Niederlanden, and 4.3 and 3 bunkers per kilometer in the areas of the AOK 7 and AOK 1, respectively.  More specifically, 1000 1000 ständige bunkers were planned in th area of the LXXXIX Armeekorps, 2200 - 2400 for the LXXXII Armeekorps, and 1800 - 2000 for the LXXXI Armeekorps. However, even these numbers were deemed insufficient to house all troops, so that bunkers of the type verstärkt feldmäßig were still necessary in many places.

Work started almost immediately and on 28 August 1942 Armeeoberkommando 15 each division responsible for a Küstenverteidigungsabschnitt was ordered to establish a number of  Ausbaustäbe (one per division and one per regiment) to oversee construction within their respective sectors. The Ausbaustäbei were made up of specialist members of all service branches, with roles assigned as follows: the Festungspioniere were responsible for drawing construction plans and establishing bunker types; the Organisation Todt was tasked to build the bunkers; finally, the exact location of each bunker was decided by the local division, which for that specific purpose had established Erkündigungs- und Einweisungsstäbe for each regimental and divisional sector.

At the end of October 1942 the Einsatzgruppe West of the Organisation Todt informed Oberbefehlshaber West that the existing 130,000 workers were insufficient to build the 2,200-kilometer long Atlantikwall and that only 40% of the planned 15,000 bunkers could be built before 1 May 1943. Clearly additional bunker programmes were required (see below).

 

3) Strongpoints - second classification

 

    Also during this period (July 1942) new orders were issued concerning the status of strongpoints. From now on each strongpoint was definitively given a level of importance, with clear requirements which both the strongpoins and the defenders were to meet. Four levels of importance were distinguished:

 

1. Widerstandsnest a small strongpoint with an all-round defence, occupied by 1 or more Gruppen (10 troops), with our without heavy weapons
2. Stützpunkt is made up of several Widerstandsnester and is minimally occupied by a company, equipped with heavy weapons. Coastal batteries were also considered strongpoints
3. Stützpunktgruppe is made up of several Widerstandsnester and Stützpunkte which can give fire support to each other and are situated around a military important location, occupied by a company or battalion and equipped with sufficient heavy weapons to defend against tanks and aircraft
4. Verteidigungsbereich a major city, port, or other important military location surrounded by fortress defenses

 

By September 1942 the first standardised bunker types for the Atlantikwall were ready and the first construction programme, the Winterausbauprogramm was started. However, more programmes were to follow, even with sub-programmes and additions (Ergänzungen).

 

4) Strongpoints - names

 

    In the summer of 1942 the number of strongpoints had strongly increased and a new reorganisation was deemed necessary. This rearrangement was twofold. On the one hand, the combat value of a number of strongpoints was increased by combining them. On the other hand, attempts were made in increase morale by giving resounding names to strongpoints.

Until then strongpoints had always been numbered in ascending order starting from the right boundary of the Küstenverteidigungsabschitt to which they belonged. Understandably, the numbering changed as new strongpoints were added. At the same time, many strongpoints had already been given names on an informal basis, usually by the local commander or even by the troops occupying the positions. In the end, the two systems were used, resulting in confusion.

In order to resolve thie confusion, the Armeeoverkommando 15 in July 1942 issued an order to ensure that the naming of a strongpoint met certain requirements, so that the name immediately revealed important imformation about the strongpoint. Thus, depending on whether they were occupied by the Heer, Kriegsmarine, or Luftwaffe, the strongpoints were to be named after famous German army generals, admirals or naval heroes, or air force heroes, respectively. A less attractive perspective, however, was that strongpoints bearing such famous names were prohibited from deserting the strongpoint or surrendering.

Strongpoints of lesser importance were given names referring to their location or names of animals (land predators for the Heer, fish of prey or aquatic animals for the Kriegsmarine, and birds of prey for the Luftwaffe).

 

5) Panzerstützpunkte and Stützpunktgruppen

 

    Also in the summer of 1942 the divisions guarding the coast were ordered by Armeeoberkommando 15 to designate a number of strongpoints which, due to their strategic position, were important enough to be developed onto Panzerstützpunkte. This meant these strongpoints had to be equipped with special bunkers with steel parts, such as armoured plates and cupolas, to enable them in the event of an enemy attack to resist independently for a certain time until other troops could come to the rescue.

At the same time, orders were given to turn a number of towns and cities into Stützpunktgruppen. These consisted of a number of strongpoints equipped to support each other

 

6) Second line of defence

 

In the fall of 1943 the possibility of large-scale Anglo-American attacks on the Western European coastline necessitated the construction of a second line of defence or 2. Stellung to stop the enemy in case of a breakthrough of the Hauptkampflinie at the coast. Thus on 21 October 1943 Oberbefelshaber West issued his Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshaber West Nr. 31 (Ausbau der Küstverteidigung in der Tiefe). It ordered the construction of a second line of defence consisting of a series of strongpoints in strategic location, to be built in feldmäßige Art with the help of all troops, also those held in reserve. The order was followed on 25 October 1943 by the Zusätze zu grundlegendem Befehl Ob. West Nr. 31 (Ausbau der Küstverteidigung in der Tiefe) Ausbau einer zweite Stellung issued by the Armeeoberkommando 15.

 

7) Bunker construction programmes

 

a) Winterausbauprogramm (September 1942 - 30 April 1943)

 

In this programme, the first in the construction of the Atlantikwall bunkers were built of the new 600-series (specifically designed for the Atlantikwall), but also of Westwall series, notably the 100 and 500 series. These bunkers consumed a relatively large amount of concrete. However, the programme was delayed as early as November 1942, due a shortage of building materials. To counter the problem von Rundstedt ordered priority to be given to the large ports and only then to the remaining coatsline (freie Küste). Still, of the planned 15,000 bunkers only less than 50% of the programme had been completed by May 1943, namely 6,000.

 

b) Neubauprogramm für die ständigen Ausbaue (May 1943 - October 1943)

 

This programme had two objectives. Firstly, it was intended to resolve the backlog which the previous programme had created. It failed to do so, due to a continuing shortage of building materials. Secondly, however, the programme was also intended to give existing strongpoints better protection. New bunker types were developed, specifically to house artillery. Also, in an effort to construct the bunkers faster, smaller bunnkers (the so-called Kleinststände) were developed with walls of 1.5m thick rather the the standard 2m and with simplified lay-outs. Especially personnel rooms in bunkers were deleted.

 

c) Schartenbauprogramm (November 1943 - March 1944)

 

In the summer of 1943 the Germans went through an important conceptual change. From then on bunker construction was to be executed primarily from a tactical rather than technical perspective. In the face of increasing allied air attacks, it was decided that only the most important functions were to be protected by concrete, first and foremost artillery. This conceptual change resulted in the Schartenbauprogramm. However, persistent material shortages meant that constructions which had been started were to be completed, rather than new constructions being started. Also, for the artillery, only the smaller bunker designs were used.

In addition, three stages of priority were implemented. Firstly, artillery, Flak, radar positions and beach obstacles were to be completed. Secondly, communication bunkers and, finally, the construction of a second line of defence or Zweite Linie., ordered by von Rundstedt in October 1943.

 

d) Gesamte oder Zusatzsprogramm (November 1943 - March 1944)

 

On, 5 November 1943 Erwin Rommel was appointed inspector of coastal defences in the West. Under his influence the Atlantikwall went through another conceptual change. Rommel believed that the Allies would not land near heavily defended ports but rather on the so-called freie Küste. Also, he believed that once the allies had formed a bridgehead, they could not simply be thrown back into the sea. Consequently, the invading troops had to be repulsed on the beach, which became the Hauptkampflinie.Thus, along the entire Atlantikwall, thousands of obstacles were erected on the beaches. For the sector Netherlands-Belgium-France some 900,000 obstacles had been erected. Emphasis was also placed on minefields.

Simultaneously with the appointment of Rommel, a new bunker construction programma was instigated, even though the previous programme had not yet been finished. In essence, this programme did not differ much from the Schartenbauprogramm, which simply continued. The primary aim was still the concrete protection of artillery, which was to be finished on 1 May 1944. Again, this proved to be impossible.

 

e) Winterbauprogramm (December 1943 - March 1944)

 

One month later, yet another programme was started, which was supposed to span the two previous programmes. Now, emphasis was placed on the construction of gun bunkers, anti-tank bunkers and defences facing inland. In March 1944 Rommel turned the coastline and the second line to Festungsbereiche, in which the zweite Linie also became the Landfront, which was to be protected with airlanding obstacles, barbed wire, minefields and inundations.

 

f) Gesamtes Sommerausbauprogramm (1 April 1944 - 30 September 1944)

 

As had been the case before, emphasis was placed on finishing constructions which had been started, with a special focus on gun bunkers. Half of the bunkers built in this period were Kleinststände.