Hitler's D-Day Defences...
...Building for Battle, from Pen and Sword
Title: Hitler's D-Day Defences
Author: Philip Kaplan
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
In terms of 'Building for Battle', Hitler's Atlantic Wall has to go down as one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken. Having conquered so much of Europe the German military had the huge coastline stretching around 2,500 miles, from Norway down to the Bay of Biscay, to defend against a potential Allied invasion. It opens with the background, including the failed attack at Dieppe in 1942. Though at great cost, it did allow us to learn some important lessons.
It goes on to explore the preparations by both sides in readiness for the invasion they knew had to come. These include things such as the building of the many concrete fortifications by the Todt organisation to the allied deception efforts of Operation Fortitude. Then when Rommel came onto the scene, his experience of Allied air power in North Africa gave him some idea of what they could expect and his energy in strengthening the defences on the coast itself, the laying of millions of mines and 'planting' of tree trunk obstructions ('Rommel's Asparagus') to block potential glider landing grounds. Then for the Allies there came to need to establish air superiority and the importance of that to support the ground and naval forces who would put the feet on the ground of the invasion itself.
The final sections cover what happened in practice, and in particular looks at Merville and Sword, the Pointe du Hoc and where the landings suffered the worst, Bloody Omaha.
The book is well illustrated throughout, with a mix of archive photos, maps, some battlefield relics and especially modern day photos of many of the remaining bunkers and defences which remain to be seen today, over 70 years later. Despite the obstacles they faced, and the best efforts of the German defenders, the invasion was ultimately successful and the author has presented a nicely balanced account of the defences put in place and the allies solutions to enable them to be overcome.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.