From spring 1942 to 1944, Nazi Germany built fortifications along 3,000 miles of French and Belgian coastline. Called the Atlantikwall (Atlantic Wall), the defense system was designed by engineer Fritz Todt. Under the direction of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the wall was intended to protect Europe against seaborne Allied invasions. Defenses included 14,000 concrete bunkers armed with mortars, machine guns, and larger gun emplacements, such as this Fernkampfbatterie (distant battle battery). The beach and waters below were protected by antitank obstacles, steel "Belgian Gates" intended to damage landing craft, and six million mines.
THE ATLANTIC WALL (militaryhistoryonline)
The "Atlantic Wall" really began in Spring of 1942 and involved the construction of minefields, concrete walls, concrete bunkers, barbed wire fences, and fortified artillery emplacements. In command of the more than 3,000 miles of coastline was Field Marshal Karl Gerd von Rundstedt - who, now at the age of 69, held mostly a figurehead position. At this earlier point in the war, the "Atlantic Wall" was woefully inadequate.
In 1943, Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to command Army Group B and with it, the responsibility for the defense of Normandy. Rommel inspected the beach defenses and found them altogether inadequate. He immediately set to building improvements, laying minefields on the beaches and beach approaches and in the English Channel. Fortifications were strengthened, fields of fire were improved, and obstacles of all sorts were placed in the water at approaches to possible landing sites. In addition, flood plains were flooded and fields were positioned with poles to prevent their possible use as landing areas.
Rommel realized that the defenses he was in charge of constructing were not going to stop an invasion. The best he could hope for was that the defenses could delay the invasion and cause significant confusion among the invaders. He understood that the invasion force mustn't be allowed to establish a foothold, because if it did, it could bring in near limitless resources. Rommel believed that it was absolutely critical that any invasion must be met quickly by his troops and especially Armored units. His belief was that they must defeat the Allies on the beaches, before a foothold could be established.
German Armies in occupied France during WWII. In 1944, the German war machine was still very powerful despite But, Field Marshal Rundstedt remained above Rommel as Supreme Commander West in command of all of occupied France. This would later become a problem because even though Rommel commanded Army Group B, he needed permission to move units between his different Armies within the Army Group. This actually meant that Rundstedt would then need to send the request to Hitler.
In addition, Rundstedt's philosophy on the countering an invasion was to hold back the six panzer divisions in reserve in Northern France and deploy them in a crushing blow after the it was determined where the real invasion was taking place.
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