In November 1943, as the prospect of an Allied landing became increasingly likely, Hitler decided to strengthen the German forces stationed in the West. Accordingly, the number of divisions in France, Belgium and the Netherlands was increased from around thirty in 1942 to nearly sixty by the spring of 1944.

Most of them were massed behind the coastline extending from Brittany to the Pas-de-Calais and were placed under the orders of Field-Marshal Rommel, who commanded Army Group B.

Unlike most of the general officers, Rommel certainly did not exclude the possibility of an assault on the coast of Lower Normandy, where he stationed the 91st, 243rd, 352nd, 709th, 711th and 716th infantry divisions, together with the 6th Parachute Regiment, the 30th Mobile Brigade and the Buniatchenko Russian Brigade.

More or less confident about the worth of these troops, and realizing that he was almost totally lacking in aviation, Rommel wanted to be sure that he could rapidly call on armoured divisions to repulse the invasion, as he was convinced that the ultimate outcome of the battle would be decided in the first few hours.

He ran into strong opposition over this issue, however. In the event, only the 21st Panzer Division, stationed around Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, was anywhere near the coast and it was in order to seek Hitler’s permission to station two new armoured units (the 12th SS Hitlerjugend and the Panzer Lehr) on either side of Veys Bay that he left his headquarters at La Roche-Guyon to travel to Germany on June 5th 1944.