D-Day: Atlantic Wall

The Coastal Defences

D-Day Atlantic Wall view from a bunker, Longues-sur-Mer [1180]

The view from a bunker, Atlantic Wall fortifications, Longues-sur-Mer

The Atlantic Wall (German: Atlantikwall) was an extensive system of coastal defence and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944, along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom, during World War II. Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of the fortifications in 1942, with the installation of massive coastal batteries, mortars, and additional artillery, and thousands of German troops were stationed in its defences. The manning and operation of the Atlantic Wall was administratively overseen by the Wehrmacht, with some support from Luftwaffe ground forces. The Kriegsmarine (German Navy) maintained a separate coastal defence network, organised into a number of sea defence zones.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel believed that in the event of an attempt invasion, Nazi Germany would be defeated unless the invasion could be stopped on the beaches. “It is absolutely necessary,” he said, “that we push the British and Americans back from the beaches. Afterwards it will be too late; the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive.”

The Atlantic Wall remained unfinished and, in some parts, manned by poorly motivated conscript troops when the Allies eventually invaded the Normandy beaches in 1944 and most of the defences were taken within hours. Today, ruins of the wall exist in all of the nations where it was built, although many structures have fallen into the ocean or have been demolished over the years.

This photograph shows the view from a bunker of the Longues-sur-Mer battery (Marineküstenbatterie (MKB) Longues-sur-Mer), an artillery battery constructed near the French village of Longues-sur-Mer in Normandy.  Comprising four casemates with naval guns and a fire control bunker, the battery was built from September 1943 to April 1944 by Organisation Todt. The battery is sited on a 60 m (200 ft) cliff overlooking the sea and formed a part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. It was located between the Allied landing beaches of Gold and Omaha and shelled both beaches on D-Day (6 June 1944). The battery was captured on June 7 and played no further part in the Normandy campaign. Today, the battery is the only one in Normandy to retain all of its original guns in situ and was listed as an historical monument in October 2001. It remains in a good state of conservation.

Photographer

Tristan Surtel.