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"Some Basic Principles of Coastal Defense" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on German principles of coastal defense, from the Intelligence Bulletin, September 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]



Some basic German principles of coastal defense are summarized in the following notes, which were compiled by a German Army officer.


Defense will be organized in the form of strong points. In the selection and organization of these strong points, the following questions must be taken into consideration:

a. In which localities are landing facilities available to the opposing forces?

b. Which landing beaches have good exits into the interior?

c. Where are important installations situated, the possession or destruction of which would be of interest to the enemy?

d. Which parts of the coast do not lend themselves to landing operations?

When strong points are to be organized in regions which lend themselves to landing operations, special attention must be paid to the following:

a. Weapons must command the greatest possible stretch of terrain. However, there are two reasons why it is not advisable to site weapons on high points which overlook the general terrain; first the beaten zone is restricted, and, second, since the weapons cannot engage objectives within close range, the hostile forces can penetrate under the angle of fire.

b. When there is a shortage of military personnel, the number of strong points which can be maintained will probably be so reduced that thorough observation of an extended coastline will be impossible. In the daytime, therefore, it will be necessary to place detachments with at least some degree of striking power between strong points. Whenever possible, the detachment should be a section, whose weapons include a light machine gun. Each man must be instructed in the methods by which an alarm is to be given if hostile forces approach. At night, patrols will use bicycles insofar as the terrain permits.


Whenever possible, each company will keep a platoon in reserve. The machine-gun companies will be separated into platoons, and placed under command of the rifle companies. If circumstances permit, a machine-gun platoon will be kept in the rear with the battalion reserve. All heavy machine-gun personnel in the regiment should be reconstituted into heavy machine-gun detachments. [There are normally 36 heavy machine guns in a German infantry regiment.] Speedy communication between all strong points must be provided; telephone messages, direct or relayed, will be used wherever possible. If a defense area is so large that no company can be spared to serve as battalion reserve, all available personnel not ordinarily used for combat will be employed for counterattack. Each defense-area commander will have authority over all arms of the services within his defense area, and will incorporate in his defense plan a provision for utilizing all German Army personnel within the area.


Coastal batteries will be sited principally at those points where it is expected that the strongest resistance will be necessary. Batteries will not be placed in exposed positions close to the shore; they will be sited somewhat inland and under cover, but in such a way that they can engage the coastal belt during a landing. This will give better results than the engagement of targets at sea.

Plans must be made for coordination of artillery. All existing means of communication will be put to use, and radio sets will be kept as mobile as possible. The use of coastal batteries for firing in an inland direction will be successful only if observation posts have been installed. Map firing amounts to a waste of ammunition, and endangers our own soldiers.


Strong points will be defended, no matter what the situation may be, and even if hostile forces achieve a break-through. Local reserves will be used in the counterattack. If the counterattack fails, the opposing force's advance must be blocked from positions in the interior. These positions must be held until a planned counterattack by a larger reserve is successful.

Note.—The foregoing is of course general. Certain specific aspects of German coastal defense are discussed in the next two sections. The reader is also referred to the following M.I.S. publications: "German Coastal Defenses" (Special Series No. 15) and the forthcoming "German Doctrine of the Stabilized Front" (Special Series No. 17).

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