The attack on the Soviet Union on June 22nd 1941 and the unexpectedly strong resistance put up by the Red Army forced the German High Command to transfer increasing numbers of troops away from the Western front, considerably weakening it in the process. When the United States entered the war in December 1941, fears of an Anglo-American landing intensified, and in the same month, Hitler reinforced his system of defence by ordering the construction of the Atlantic Wall. This gigantic project, entrusted to the Todt Organization, was begun in 1942 but had still not been completed by 1944, despite the efforts of Field-Marshal Rommel, who had been made responsible for the entire sector between the Netherlands and the Loire at the end of 1943.
The project involved building 15,000 structures along the entire coast of the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic. This required the labour of 450,000 workers (both voluntary and impressed) and the use of 11 million tonnes of concrete and 1 million tonnes of steel for the reinforcing rods.
Despite the image that German propaganda sought to project, the “Wall” was not a continuous obstacle. It could basically be said to be composed of four types of structure: the fortresses, the coastal batteries, the close beach defences and the obstacles erected either on the beaches themselves or inland.
Many remains of the Atlantic Wall – more or less well-preserved – can still be seen today along the coast of Normandy.
De très nombreux vestiges du Mur de l’Atlantique – plus ou moins bien conservés – sont encore visibles aujourd’hui le long des côtes normandes.
More than 700,000 men were massed behind the “Wall”. In Lower Normandy, the German Army had the equivalent of between seven and eight divisions.