19 April 2023

What is the Atlantic Wall? – Function, strategic points and construction

By Donald

Definition and meaning of Atlantic Wall

The Atlantic wall or Atlantic wall represents one of the great engineering works left behind by Nazi Germany. So, in this article we explain what said wall represented and why it was built. In the same way, the characteristics of this wall and a bit of the history that led to the Normandy landings, where the 352 division took action, are mentioned. In addition, the key points that the wall had and when they surrendered are specified.

Definition and meaning of Atlantic Wall

In World War II there was a period of time in which Nazi Germany was very close to victory. Well, the forces of Adolf Hitler and other axis powers took over France, including the capital, Paris. So, what was left of the allied army withdrew towards the island of Great Britain. The expulsion of the allies from the European continent was a great blow that had to be defended in the best way.

The Atlantic Wall was a huge construction that was carried out during the events of the Second World War. It was a series of rises, walls and other constructions that created a great barrier. This infrastructure was located on the coasts of several countries, since it was erected from Spain to Norway.

However, the Atlantic wall was not just a very long wall. Well, the Third Reich ordered to reinforce the entire area in various ways. In that sense, this wall included bunkers, trenches, mines and the dragon’s teeth. In the same way, areas covered with artillery such as flamethrowers and machine guns plus a garrison of men were annexed.

What was the function of the Atlantic wall?

As the Allies left the European continent for Britain, Nazi Germany rushed to defend the territory. Well, Adolf Hitler did not want his enemies returned to Europe, in fact, he intended to invade England. However, seeing the difficulty of this undertaking, he preferred to fortify all the coasts of the northern zone.

The main function of the Atlantic Wall was to prevent an Allied invasion from Great Britain. so he had to cover the coasts of several countries in order to prevent any landing. So the heads of the axis powers decided to start a big construction and send their troops to the east, to continue the war against the Soviets.

The Atlantic Wall sought to stop any Allied advance while Nazi Germany dealt with the Soviets. His role was not only stop ground attacks, since anti-aircraft batteries were also placed, which detected planes or missiles. There were also miles of barbed wire, but they did not have enough men for a defense.

The allies studied every map at their disposal, as well as photos of the locations. In 1942 the Allies tested the defenses of the wall, with an attack known as Dieppe operation. At that time, reinforcements from the United States were already beginning to arrive, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although the wall held, Aldof Hiltler and the other leaders realized that they did not have enough men in the area. So they decided to send more than 150 thousand soldiersincluding those that would be part of division 352. The General Rommel he was also included among the people sent and was assigned custody of a French region.

In his inspection he realized that the Normandy landing was possible, since they did not have sufficient defenses. With a map of this place and photos, the allies sent some aerial bombardments which slightly damaged the structure. The general foresaw a maritime attack and ordered the beach to be flooded, which covered the defenses.

However, the plan made with the map and the photos allowed the allies to know the place. It happened like that the Normandy landing, the first point of the Atlantic wall that did not resist. There a great battle unfolded, where the 352 division almost succeeded in repelling the invasion. However, the Nazis lost and their enemies retook every region of France, from Saint-Nazaire all the way to Paris.

What are the characteristics of the Atlantic wall?

The Atlantic Wall was one of the most impressive constructions of the Second World War. Its quality was good, because it resisted some attacks from the allies. Even today there are certain sectors that remain raised, as is the case with Hitler’s famous teeth in Norway.

  • In the total sum of the Atlantic wall there were approximately 15,000 rises and buildings.
  • The wall was created with 11 thousand tons of concrete.
  • 1 million tons of steel were also required.
  • It is estimated that it measured about 1,287 kilometers along the French coast.
  • The complete wall spanned from Spain to Norway.
  • The wall did not only consist of the walls, it also consisted of bunkers, trenches, secret channels and mines.

Who built the Atlantic wall?

The Todt organization was the company that was entrusted with the task of building the Atlantic wall. This was an organization belonging to Nazi Germany and had a military dependency on it. Its main function was to be in charge of building any type of building or infrastructure that the Hitler ordered. So, from this element of engineering, civil and military works were developed.

Thus, in the midst of the Second World War, the Todt organization began to build walls, trenches, tunnels and other defenses on the coast of France. At first they focused on walling off the places closest to the island of Great Britain. So, walls were put up in the channel of La Manche, Saint-Nazaire and Normandy. Later they spread to other countries, as the wall ran from Spain to Norway.

Main strengths of the Atlantic Walls

On the entire French coast, the Germans placed the most important points of the so-called German Atlantic defense plan. Most of these places were strategic sites that were used as bases for submarines and headquarters of the army of the SS and the Slavs. It should be noted that, despite the Normandy landings, some of the fortresses did not fall until Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. The fortresses were:

  • Cherbourg: Defended by 47,000 soldiers fell in June 1944.
  • Saint-Malo: Equipped with 12,000 men, captured in August 1944.
  • Brest: 38,000 soldiers defended the place until its fall in September 1944.
  • Le Havre: Sheltered with 14,000 people, the attack it only lasted three days.
  • Boulogne: Defended by 10,000 men, fell in September 1944.
  • Calais: Air strikes severely damaged the town, it surrendered in September.
  • Scheldt Fortress and Zeebrugge were invaded by the Allies in November 1944.

Alderney, Lorient, Quiberon Bay, the region of Saint-Nazaire and La Rochelle they did not fall until the German surrender. In addition to these sites, Dunkerke must also be counted, which suffered isolation, but did not capitulate. As well as Ostend, a place that they handed over without giving any resistance.