FESTUNGen

 

VB Vlissingen    Festung Dünkirchen    VB Calais    Festung Boulogne    Festung Le Havre

 

Following Hitler's Führerweisung Nr. 40 - Befehlsbefügnisse an den Küsten and von Rundstedt's Erweiterter Befehl für den Ausbau an der Kanalküste zum neuen Westwall of 23 March 1942 the German army initially focused on defending ports, which were seen as prime targets for any allied landing. These ports were given the name Festungsbereiche. In the spring of 1942 consultations were initialled between Heeresgruppe D, Armeeoberkommando 15, and the corps and divisions within the area of command of the latter.
A document of 25 April 1942 shows the Festungsbereiche proposed by Heeresgruppe D. For the Armeeoberkommando 15 at that time the following ports were suggested: Ostend, Dunkirk, Boulogne, Le Havre, and Cherbourg (the latter would later become a part of Armeeoberkommando 7). The subordinated corps and divisions agreed to this suggestion, with the exception of Ostend, which would only be granted the status of Stützpunktgruppe, on account of the fact that the port was of secondary importance to the Germans an offered few possibilities for the Allies in the event of a landing closeby.
Having decided on the Festungsbereiche, attention focused on the forces defending them and each division/corps was tasked to detail the kind and number of troops involved in their defence.Initially, the defence of the Festungsbereiche fell upon the Kriegsmarine, which usually also offered the Festungskommandant, and to a lesser extent the Luftwaffe Flak units defending port facilities. The Heer was not prepared to provide large numbers of troops, as this would considerably weaken defences in other areas of the (Unter)Abschnitte that regiments were responsible for.
Another issue was the command of the Festungsbereiche. Since the Kriegsmarine officers in charge were often senior officers, the Heer felt it was inappropriate to appoint army officers who would in many cases be lower in rank. On the other hand, appointing senior army officers for the purpose of commanding a very limited Verteidigungsbereich was seen as equally inappropriate.
By way of solution each Festungsbereich was subordinated to the commander of the regiment defending that particular part of the coastline.
An important change to this arrangement occurred in the spring of 1944, when officers with the rank of general or admiral were appointed as Festungskommandant and were given total control over all units and also all civilians within the Festung, in a attempt to simplify command in the event of an allied attack. This new arrangement also explains while some Festungen held out long after the allied armies had bypassed them, some even until the end of hostilities in 1945.

 

The interested reader is invited to explore the fortresses within the area of command of Armeeoberkommando 15 by clicking on the links at the top or bottom of this page.

        

VB Vlissingen    Festung Dünkirchen    VB Calais    Festung Boulogne    Festung Le Havre