The 352nd Infantry Division at Omaha Beach

Copyright (C) 2002, by Stewart Bryant , All Rights Reserved 

Forward

Much has been written about Omaha Beach and the days leading up to June 6th 1944
(D-Day), but largely from the Allied perspective. 

Very little had been known of the German side of history, particularly the German
352nd Infantry Division (352ID), responsible for the defense of the Omaha Beach
sector. 

Shortly after the end of WWII, while a prisoner of war in the United States, Lt Col.
Fritz Ziegalmann (Chief of Staff of the 352ID) wrote a history of the 352nd Infantry
Division in Normandy, for the United States War Department's Foreign Military
Studies. 

Most scholars draw upon the US Army's 1948 translation of Ziegalmann's work. But
this document lacked suitable translation of proper German military terminology and
expressions. 

After a personal five year search, I found Ziegalmans original works, written in
German. I did my own translation to English, to gain a more accurate understanding
of the content, in order to draw a clearer understanding of the German preparations
and defense of the Omaha Beach Sector.

The best person two tell this story is Ziegalmann himself. Building on Ziegalmann's
own narratives, I assembled, edited and expanded his narrative will additional
materials and comments, which I hope will provide the reader with new insights and a
more complete understanding of the history of Omaha Beach. 

Below are excepts from this work. -Stewart Bryant, 2005



Origin of the 352nd Infantry Division , Lt Col. Fritz Ziegalmann 

"With the loses suffered up through to October 1943 on the southern sector of the
Russian front, the 'Army High Command' (OKH), among other things, called for the
formation of new Infantry Divisions in France and Belgium starting the 1st of
December." 

Orders issued by OKH (German High Command) on the 2nd of September 1943: 

"21st Call-up: Ten infantry Divisions to be formed and be combat ready by the 15th
of May 1944, 

They are to be organized in the form of the new Infantry Division Structure 'Type
44,' utilizing cadres from divisions disbanded on the eastern front and filled out
with recruits conscripted in November 1943 (recruits born in 1926)." 

"352ID is to be activated by the 7th Army Command in Normandy, to be formed around
cadres of the 321ID in Army group Middle (Russia) which by October 1943 had been
decimated as a result of the Soviet counter offenses following Operation Zitadelle.

It is to be draw replacements from 'Wehrkreiss XI (11th Defense District)." 


"Having had served as a senior General Staff Officer, on the 5th of December 1943, I
now reported to the staff, in
St. Lo, of the just-forming 352nd Infantry Division
(Infantriedivison 352 , abv. 352.ID). By then, the Division's headquarters had
already been activated, (5th November), and by the 14th of November, the 914th and
916th Infantry Regiments (Grenadierregiment) were set up. "


"By the 29th of January 1944, the 352nd Infantry Division (352ID) only had four
infantry battalions and four artillery batteries combat-ready." 

To fill out the Division's ranks, new recruits were drafted from Wehrkreiss X(?-XI),
which was the ' 10th (?11?) Defense Home-District' within
Salzwedel-Dessau-Goettingen Hameln-Celle. In geographical Terms it included
Lueneburger Heide, Magdeburger Boerde and the Harz Mountains. -SB 

"As for the eventual date of deployment after completing the formation of the 352ID
(to the Eastern Front, Italian Front, the Balkans or remain in the West?), there
were no clear orders. It was generally assumed that we could count on being sent to
the Eastern Front after the 1st of March1944. So training for the 352ID focused on
Eastern Front combat operations. 

The building process itself went very slowly, especially procurement. Since I had
been, from October 1942 to March 1943, Chief Quartermaster for the Army High Command
and at this time intimate with procurement issues; it fell to me to providing
equipment to outfit the now forming 352ID. 

For example, live-fire training school was not possible until the end of February,
because the delivery of gun sights and sight mounting-plates was not possible before
mid-February. By March, each soldier had thrown just two hand-grenades and had only
three live-fire training exercises. The training of auxiliary drivers (French
civilian truck drivers) was not possible until the 1st of May, because of fuel
shortages. 

During training, we also had our manpower problems. Our 14 infantry companies were
not set up until February, and then they were trained for the Russian Front as
anti-tank companies. The replacements, mostly teenagers, were physically unfit for
all but limited military duty, because of food shortages in Germany. 

As of May 1st, 50% of the officer corps was inexperienced and 30% of the
noncommissioned officer positions went unfilled, because of the lack of competent
sergeants. 

The total manpower of our 'Type 44' infantry division amounted to around 12,000 men
of which 6,800 were combat troops, including around 1,500 'Hiwis' (Russian
Volunteers). 

By the fall of 1944, after five years of war, Germany had exhausted its manpower
base while still being pressed to provide fresh Divisions to the war-fronts. 

Their solution was to reduce the manpower size of their Division structure while
beefing up their firepower to maintain comparable combat strength levels. This new
Division structure model is known as the 'Type 44 Division.' 

The 'Old' German Division model included three infantry regiments (3,250 men each)
having three battalions in each regiment; with a Division manpower total of 17,200
men. 

The new 'Type 44 Division model consist of three regiments (2,008 men each)
organized in two battalions. This, along with other cut-backs, cap at a Division
strength of 12,352 men. The 352ID was constituted using the 'Type 44' model. -SB 

During this initial organizing period, the Division was ordered to have ready, by
January 1st., a special combat team, on 'stand-by' for possible emergency deployment
in Holland, Belgium and France. This team consisted of a infantry regiment, an
artillery and an engineer battalion with elements of signal, supply and divisional
staffs. The mobilization and deployment of this force was possible, by foot and
rail, with 12 hours notice. From the 1st of May 1944, the same readiness measures
were applied to the entire Division. 

By the 1st of March 1944, the 352ID reached adequate strength and was fully
equipped. But, because of diversions of men and material to the Russian Front, the
slow arrival of new men, ammunition and weapons during the previous three months,
delayed proper training until now. Company and battery level training was probably
satisfactory, if not judged too harshly, however battalion and regiment level
training did not take place. 

Manpower Goals of the 352ID, 'Type 44 Division': 

333 Officers 50% were without combat experience
70 army officials administrators
2,164 NCOs a 30% shortfall reduced this to about 1,465
9,650 men mostly 17 year-old recruits
1,455 'Hilfswillige'  Russian 'Volunteers' in non-combat support roles



Our monthly reports on these training deficiencies were ignored by the OKW. My
impression was that they were only interested in delivering 'patched-up divisions'
as soon as possible, leaving training problems entirely to a division's command to
solve. This mistake often led to the destruction of divisions during their first
days of combat. 

Of the goal of a total of having 12,772 personnel by May 1st, there was in reality
about 12,021 personnel. Of this, 6,800 were actually combat troops, to be
responsible for defending a 53km long Divisional Front." 

Rooster of Officers of the 352ID 

Senior Officers 
352ID C.O Lt. Gen. Dietrich Krais 
Chief of Staff (Sonst Ia) Lt. Col. Fritz Ziegalmann 
Operations Officer (1a u) Maj. Paul Weller
352ID Ajudant Maj. Paul Block 

Regimental Commanders

Gren Reg 914 Lt. Col (Oberstleutnant) Ernst Heyna 
Gren Reg 915 Lt. Col (Oberstleutnant) Ernst Meyer
Gren Reg 916 Col (Oberst) Ernst Goth
AR.1352 CO Col (Oberst) Karl-Williams Ocker
AR. 1352 Adj. Capt. (Hauptmann) Kersken


Special Battalions and Detachments Commanders 

FusBtl.352 (352nd Mounted Rifle Battalion), CO .......Rittm. Eitel Gert 

PzJgAbt 352 (352nd Anti-Tank Detachment) ........Capt. Werner Jahn 

PzJgAbt 352, Adj................................. Gunther Klein 

PiBtl.352 (352nd Combat Engineers), CO.............Capt. Fritz Paul 

PiBtl.352, Adj...................................Eberhard Lippke 

NachrAbt (Signals), CO............... Capt. Karle Ehrhardt 

NachrAbt., Adj. ...........................Lt. Gunther Ropers 



Deployment to the Coast 

"The lengthy La Harve-to-Vire River Coastal Defensive Zone, which included Omaha,
Gold. Juno and Sword Beaches, was guarded only by the 716th Infantry Division
(716ID). This Division was classified as a ' Static Division,' which means it was
not equipped, trained nor manned for maneuver and offensive capabilities required of
a normal infantry division. 

Consequently, resources were not provided to equipped or train for modern
maneuver-warfare. They were armed with captured weapons from Poland, France and
Czechoslovakia which compounded the munitions supply logistics. 

Additionally, the 716th's ranks were largely filled out with conscripted Polish
nationals (of ethnic German decent), Germans not physically fit for regular service,
and Russian volunteers (former POWs)."

716ID's mission was solely to man a thin screen of forward beach-front post along a
100km long Normandy coastal. Before Rommel, preparations of coastal defenses were
under no particular panning authority and were constructed in an ad-hoc manner,
largely by Divisions being rotated through France, for rest-and-recuperation, before
reasignments to other combat fronts in Russia, Balkans and Italy. -SB 

Under the High Command of the west (OKW), relying on divisions on rest and refitting
leave in France did not provide the fixed long term uninterrupted oversight needed
to construct a comprehensive coastal defense. 

"To address his dissatisfied with the efforts of OKW in preparing the 'Atlantic
Wall,' in November 1943 Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erin Rommel as
Inspector-General of the preparations of the coastal defenses in the west, reporting
directly to Hitler himself and by-passing OKW. 



The new 'Army Group B' (Armeegruppe B) was activated under the OKW in January 1944
with Fieldmarshal Rommel's inspection tour. "

Later in January 1944, Rommel's command was given overall control of the 'tactical'
preparations of all costal defenses in the west as 'Army group B. Though
administratively under Rundsted (OKW Chief) Rommel's Army Group B was still under
Hitler's direct command as he was in his earlier Inspector-General role. -SB

"In early March the 352.ID was ordered to deploy our 1352nd Artillery Regiment
(Artillerieregiment 1352 ) to bolster the existing defenses in front of Bayeux and
to the west. Though the 1352nd Artillery Regiment (abv. AR.1352) now served
tactically under the command of the 716ID (716th Infantry Division), its training
was still managed by the 352ID. 

Org Chart of Command commanded by 'General-of-Artillery' Eric Marcks)

Org Chart of Command commanded by 'General-of-Artillery' Eric Marcks, 

Rommel found the 716ID's manpower and facilities in bad shape and decided to
strengthen this 100km long coastal front by dividing it into two halves. The 716ID
retained a shortened 47km long 'Caen Zone' backed up with 21st Armored Division
(Panzerdivision 21, 21PzD) as reserves under Army Group B." 

21PzD was under Hitler's direct command, through Army Group B, not under 716ID
command which was responsible for the defense of their sector. -SB 


General Rommel (center) on his inspection tour of the beach defenses in the 84th
Army Corps Zone. General Marcks is seen standing to the left. 

"On the left, the 352ID took over the 53km long 'Bayeux Zone,' taking over and
keeping in place the 716ID's 726th Infantry Regiment (Grenadierregiment 726, abv.
GR726) there." 

The Bayeux Zone was broken into three command sectors, with the GR.726 command
keeping contol of the east sector. As a trade-off for GR.losing some battalions to
other sector commands, the 352ID would have to give up to the GR.726 command, the
1st Battalion of its' 916th Infantry Regiment (I/GR.916) which was then placed just
east of Arromanches on the border of the 716ID's Zone. 

The German terms 'Abteilung' and 'Battalion' tend to be used interchangeably by
modern scholars But 'Abteilung' differ from Battalions. Battalion (abv. Btl) is an
'Section' organic to a regimental command. Abteilung (abv. Abt) is a battalion size
'detachment' capable of operating independently, or conventionally deployed under a
regimental command. They can be deployed and operated effectively under various
assigned commands without Division level supervision. 

Though they may look the same on an organization chart, employing a battalion in the
manner of a Ablietung weakens the Battalion's combat value when placed under an
unfamiliar command. -SB 



"Up to now we still believed we would be sent to the Eastern Front. But finally on
the 15th of March 1944, the 352ID was ordered by the Headquarters of the 84th Army
Corps (LXXXIV.Armeekorp, LXXXIV.AK), to take over the 'Bayeux Coastal Defense Zone'
(Calvados Coast) from the 716ID The previous orders to keep an emergency combat team
on standby and to continue unit training, remained in effect." 

Two weeks before D-Day, Allied Intelligence officially confirmed that the 352.ID had
moved up to reinforce the Omaha Beach areas. According to __??__, this move was
formally published on June 3rd in the 21st Army group weekly Neptune Intelligence
Review and circulated to all senior American Cammanders. -SB 

"The 352ID" now had three duties: 

1. First, to defend the Bayeux Coastal Zone. 

2. Second, make improvements in the combat area. 

3. And third, train combat units for battle. 

These duties were quite agreeable to an untested Division that thought it would end
up on the Eastern Front were it is not so easy. 

As to our preparations for the Defense of the Bayeux Coastal Zone, we assumed
control of 716ID's existing 'Reinforced' GR726 forces in the Bayreux sector,
excluding its' 2nd Battalion (II/GR.726). 

The term 'Reinforced' means that additional heavy weapons have been added to the
standard regiment formation. -SB 

The 716ID's three formerly designated 'Battalion Command-Sectors' now became our
three 'Regimental Command-Sectors.' 

The staffs of the 352ID's 914th and 915th Regiments (GR.914, and GR.915) took
command of the 'left' and the 'center' Battalion (now Regimental) Sectors
respectively. The right Sector remained under control of the GR726 HQ staff which
now reported to the 352ID's command, not it's parent Division 716ID. GR.726 's beach
front battalions (III/GR.726 and I/GR.726) in the new Left (GR.914) and Center
(GR.916) Regimental Command Sectors, were kept in their existing positions but now
came under the appropriate 352ID Regimental command. 

Evidently II/GR.726 (now under GR.916 CP control) phone lines at the Omaha Beach
positions remained connected to GR.726's CP (now the 'right' Regimental Command
Sector) near Bayreux, and then had to be routed back to the GR.916 CP Post (Center
Regimental Command sector) behind Omaha beach alongside the rad from Forigny to
Tevieres. -SB 


Col. Ernst Goth

Oberst Ernst Goth

Originally, the GR916 (Col. Ernst Goth) itself, along with the 352nd Rifle
Battalion, (Fuesilierabteilung 352, abv. FusAbt.352) was assigned under the direct
command of Gen. Marcks, Commanding General of the 84th Army Corps. But on May 20th ,
the 915th Regiment (GR.915) exchanged roles with GR916 and, along with the 352nd
Rifle Battalion. GR915 was now the new 84th Army Corps' Reserves. 


The GR.915, reinforced with the FusAbt.352 becomes refered to as 'Reinforced
GR.915.' It will eventually be employed on an independent mission on June 6th 1944
and be referred to as 'Task-Force Meyer,' named after its commander Lt. Col Ernst
Meyer. -SB 

The GR916 command now had the Center Regimental Sector but had relinquished its' 1st
Battalion (abv. I/GR916) to the right GR726's Sector, to serve as reserves under
GR726's command."


Deployment Plans 

"The plan for our preparations resulted from this exacting terrain study, influenced
by the previous Allied landings in Sicily and Italy as well as General Marcks'
detailed map wargame exercises and conferences. 

On the basis of these detailed, persuasive discussions and table-top war game
exercises conducted by Gen. Marcks, I too agreed with his opinion that the Invasion,
at least a part of the invasion, would be targeted against the Cotentin peninsula;
from which a breakout to the east and south would follow with the ultimate goal then
to thrust at the chief communications hub of Paris. 

Major General Marcks, Commander of the 84th Army Corps, including the 352ID, lost a
leg in the invasion of Russian earlier and was killed June 12th in the St Lo area as
his artificial leg slowed his escape from a staff car being attacked by fighter
aircraft. 

After a study of the analyses of the landings on Sicily and in Italy proper, it was
clear to me, that as soon as possible upon landing, the enemy would attempt to
capture ideal harbors such as the large harbor of Cherbourg and the harbors near
Caen and St. Malo. 



Article in the German Navy magazine "Die Kriegsmarine" about the landing in Sicily
with an very accurate descripption of all Landing craft of the Allied forces

Afterwards they would develop larger bridgeheads with the necessary elements
(build-up of reserves and breakout) that assured continued success of the Invasion.
Consequently the large harbor of Cherbourg, because of its favorable short distances
to the south coast of England, had the greatest importance. 

At these conferences General Marcks developed a scenario were the Allies would aim
at taking Cherburg harbor by first cutting off the Carentan Peninsula through a
massive airborne landings at the base of the peninsula along the Lessay to Carentan
line. 





Cherbourg harbour June 7th 2004 

So, the deployment of our forces was guided by the high probability that the enemy
will seek the spacious Cherbourg harbor, by first cutting off the Cotentan
peninsula. After strengthening his bridgehead with additional forces, he would then
break-out to the south and south-east (through the 352ID's left wing) and push on to
Paris. 

Therefore the focus in the 352ID's sector was to both reinforce the left wing from
the mouth of the river Vire to the south-east of the Cotentin peninsula with GR.914
and to use the 2nd Battalion from GR.916 (II/GR.916) as a Division reserve to
strengthen the areas around St. Laurent (Omaha Beach) and send its' 1st Battalion
(I/GR.916) to Arromanches (what would become the Gold Beach area). These areas had
beaches most likely threatened by enemy landings by sea. 

The 84th Army Corps Reserve (Reinforced GR.915) was kept in readiness on the
Division's right-wing, south of Bayeux, to deal with a possible withdrawal of the
21st Panzer Division, situated as counter-attack reserves just to the east. There
was some concern by Gen. Marcks that the 21st Panzer Division would be pulled out by
the High Command leaving the right wing leaving him without reserve forces to back
up the 716ID Zone." 

The 84th Army Corps (AKLXXXIV) had no forces of its own which was the normal custom,
to be available as reserves. The lack of Corps reserve manpower-strapped 84th Army
Corps and forced Gen. Marks to appropriate 352ID battalions. This not only reduced
352ID ability to perform its own mission (defense of the 352ID Zone) but assignment
of battalions out side their home regiment, affected their ability to coordinate
operations with their new regimental commands. 

The deployment of I/GR916 under GR.726 and the deployment of I/GR915 under GR.916
are examples of Corps level intervention and micro-management of Divison level
combat strength.-SB 

"Eventually It became clear to us that the invasion was liable to happen by summer
and directly involve our zone. This was supported by press reports about Russia's
call for decisive intervention by the Western Powers, by a new stricter censorship
in England and the curbing of diplomatic privileges, by the presence (according to
the Army newspaper Wehrmacht) of enemy landing crafts gathering on the south coast
of England and by the cancellation, from March-on, of all furloughs for every
commanding and general staff officers. The way the High Command (OKW) carefully
monitored the tides also suggested that they expected an invasion soon. 

Then, there started a very lively enemy carrier pigeon traffic in all sectors of the
352ID from 20th of March to the 20th of May 1944. 27 carrier pigeons were shot!" 

A French resistance cell in Cricqueville behind Point du Hoc, operated the carrier
pigeon operation. -SB

"However, it then seemed that my Division Commander was lead to expect the invasion
in early August from a conversation with Rommel whom he personally knew. Rommel was
on leave by June 6th, having left for his home in Germany early Sunday on June 4th."


Originally Rommel confided that the invasion could occur as early as late-May and he
remarked to the assembled garrison at strong point Wn.62 that "this section of the
coast resembles the Bay of Salerno in italy and there fore we should be on special
guard against hostile landings!." Allied troops landed in the Bay of Salerno in
September 1943. -SB 

"The employment of reserves was Fieldmarshal Rommel's specialty. He believed with
all heavy weapons (the Division's field strength) incorporated into existing beach
strong-points or added to new fortifications, the enemy could be destroyed in the
water in front of our 'Main Line of Resistance' (MLR). 

On Rommel's visit in May, I was reproached for not bringing reserves (rifle
companies without heavy weapons) up close to the coast. In response, I questioned
Rommel on how enemy infiltration in the rear of our zone could be countered with-out
reserves well behind the lines. This question remained unanswered. I clearly felt
that with an attack on our beach positions the whole area would be under heavy naval
fire and air attacks, making any counter-attack by assault-reserves impossible
during the daylight. He did not respond but he did feel that every soldier had to be
able to concentrate his fire on the water's edge.







Lt. Gen Dietrich Kraiss, Commander of the 352nd Infantry Division. He was killed
during the final bombings of St. Lo which also shattered the 352nd.
PHOTO-Bundesarciv

Einen Kilometer nördlich des Ortskerns befindet sich die deutsche Kriegsgräberstätte Mont d'Huisnes. In einen Hügel wurde eine runde Arena von 47m Durchmesser mit senkrechten Seitenwänden eingelassen. In diesen Seitenwänden befinden sich auf zwei Etagen insgesamt 68 Krypten mit je 180 Einzelgrabstätten.    Kraiss
Gen, Kraiss, my Division's chief, agreed with me but he also felt we must find a
compromise solution. Therefore, some reserves (rifle companies) were ordered nearer
to the 'MLR' (Main-Line-of- Resistance, the line of beach-front 'Resistance Nest'),
so that they could fire directly onto the shore. Yet a counterattack would still be
possible by having the remaining reserve held back in depth. Though tactical
reserves were moved up strategic reserves, including relocation of supply depots
closer to front, where held back. Anyway, it was necessary to conduct an exact
terrain reconnaissance and do more emplacement work. 

To deal with the threat of a cross channel operation, Germany lacked a
maritime-operations doctrine. So they drew upon two land-operations doctrine to
define their strategy. 

The First held that widely separated forward strong-points (a false MLR) would
screen a main mobile force hidden in reserve (real MLR) ready to counter-attack the
enemy's newly exposed flacks as the enemy turn to envelope these forward post. A
successful tactic on the eastern front.

The Second, was the River-Crossing doctrine,' where all forces are massed on the'
river bank' to annihilate a crossing before a bridgehead is established. 

Rommel felt the second doctrine best fit the channel crossing scenario. This is
because, once established, a bridgehead can not be out-flanked and could hold off
attacks up to five times their strength during its 'build-up' phase. This would
allow a build up of Allied forces and eventual breakout with overwhelming force.

From his experience in Africa, Rommel was also one of the few German Generals to
fully grasp the threat of massive Allied ground-attack aircraft to interdict any
German counter attacks, movement of reserve forces, and re-supply units and thus
deny the ability of German forces to develop decisive local superiority and employ
the First doctrine. -SB 

The types of combat positions organized within the Division's sector were
Widerstandsnester (Resistance Nest) manned by one or two squads of roughly 20 men,
Stutzpunkt (Strong-points), a grouping of several mutually supporting Resistance
Nest manned by a platoon to company, and Verteidigungsbereich (Defense Complex)
manned by one to two companies. 


   8,8
Wn 61 east of Wn 62 - It housed one of the 8,8 on Omaha Beach 



Hitler gave orders to "hold each position to the last man and last bullet."
Abandoning a defense position during battle was now impossible. For instance, could
a strong-point crew leave their fortification to help a neighbor?"


By this order. Hitler denied German forces their one strength, that of their
superior mobile warfare tactics. -SB 

"Would an artillery battery under bombardment be allowed to take up a new firing
position? 

The High Command (OKW) could not resolve this issue. But a novel solution was
provided by Rommel declaring the whole military region, including the Division's
zone, as a single Festung Kreis (a military base) with a sea-front facing the beach
and a parallel l0-15 km deep land-front facing south to the rear. The entire
Division along with supply troops could to be stationed in this 100km long
'Position.' Besides dealing with logistics, the supply troops would defend the
land-front against enemy airborne troops. 

As it turned out though, this did not work because the army supply depots were too
far to the south, out side the designated 'Fortress Area.' Considering that the
352ID (except for the fixed facilities) had only one-issue of ammunition, because of
their 'special' (construction and training) duties, both rear defense and logistic
support by supply troops could only be described as insufficient throughout the
ensuing campaign. 

To capture bailed-out enemy air crews and deal with any local unrest, 'search
patrols' on bicycles or motorcycles were organized within each regimental sector.
Through their efforts, a small number of air crews would be delivered to the Air
Force interrogation services in Caen. 



Preparing the Bayreux Coastal Defense Zone 

Before March 20th 1944, improvements in the Bayeux Coastal Defense Zone was
considered 'below average.' But with the arrival of Fieldmarshal Rommel, activity
picked up in our zone, providing work to many 'local administration offices.'
Despite hasty orders and a lack of experience and material during this period,
improvements were actually made which later made the invasion more difficult. 

The installation of obstacles along the shore area (coastline cliff and beach areas)
depended first on barricading those beaches which were most in danger of enemy
sea-borne landings. 





Tetraheader

Assuming these landings would only take place at high tide, obstacles of all kind
were erected on the tidal plate of the beach so that their upper parts projected
just above the water surface at high tide. Pile driven stakes of metal and concrete
as well as wooden trestles, and steel anti-tank obstacles called 'Tschechen'
("Czechs") were installed; some armed with under-water or surface mines and high
explosives. 

They were iron anti-tank obstacles set up on the Czechoslovakian-German
border before the war. 

After awhile the work had to be done over. These obstacles silted up and had to be
dug out of the sand. And during the storms in April, most of these obstacles were
torn out and the mines detonated. Even though cutting new logs in the Cerisy Forest
was allowed only after permission had been secured, they had to be transported at
least 30km by horse-drawn vehicles because of fuel shortages. And since they had to
be logged by hard-to-get circular saws and rammed in position by hand, it took a
considerable time, particularly on the rocky shore at Grandcamp. Yet our results
were surprisingly good. 

In the second half of May, the possibility of a landings at low tide was discussed.
So work on additional obstacles out beyond the tidal flats was begun but it was
impossible to plant these obstacles at a proper depth. 



Belgian Gate - now at Omaha Beach Museum St. Laurent


We also assumed properly equipped enemy commandos could scale the steep cliffs
around St. Pierre du Mont (area of Pointe du Hoc) and at Longues. 



Here, the Engineer Battalion (Pionierabtielung) prepared old 24cm shells, with an
effective shrapnel range of 600m, to roll down on the beach and explode when
triggered by a trip wire. By June 1st, we had placed one of these shells every 100m
on the cliffs. In his refernce to 'Combat Engineers' above, it is safe to assume
that Ziegalmann referred to the 352nd Combat Engineers (Pionerabtielung 352, abv.
PiAbt.352). 

A final innovation was the employment of 'Goliat' (Goliath), a small remote
controlled tank packed with explosives, but these weapons arrived on June 5th and
were not used. 

It became evident that Rommel's authority was not enough to complete the
construction of concrete fortifications. The availability of cement and dealing with
four independent construction authorities were decisive issues. Air force workers,
Navy, Organization Todt (the prime construction contractor), personnel and our own
'Fortress Engineers' worked side by side, often duplicating the work. Once again
over-organization proved to be a menace. 





At E1 Exit 

Almost half of the battle installations were out-moded and, at most, poorly
reinforcement. In the Division's sector alone, analysis showed that only 15% of the
cement fortifications were bomb-resistant, 45% were shrapnel-proof. Uneven
distribution of building material was the order of the day. 

In our sector the Air Force built concrete positions while our infantry with their
heavy weapons were in poor earth emplacements prone to flooding. On June 6th , the
Air Force's concrete shelters were never used, while with earth emplacements it was
impossible for our soldiers to defend them for long. 

The existing mines, laid two years previously, were no longer reliable. To realize
the Fieldmarshal's plans, an installation of a mine belt 5km deep consisting of
10,000,000 (150 mines every 100m) would had been needed for the Division's 53km wide
zone. The new allotment of mines (effective against tanks) simply did not arrive. By
June 1st we laid about 10,000 anti-personnel 'S' mines. In general, we did not
achieve Rommel's plans for even one divisional zone of the 'Atlantic Wall.' "

In May 1944, under the pressure of OKW, Army High Command (OKH) in Berlin convinced
Hitler to restrict Rommel's power, restoring tactical control back to Rundsted's
OKW. -SB

 

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