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"Some Basic Principles of Coastal Defense" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A translation of German notes on Channel Coast defense in WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 37, November 4, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Allied Forces have successfully completed one of the greatest landing operations of all time in the invasion of Sicily and the Italian mainland. The world expectantly awaits Allied landings on the Axis occupied coast anywhere from Norway to Spain. The following translation of notes made by a German officer formerly attached to a corps responsible for Channel Coast defense indicates the manner in which the Germans have organized the Channel Coast defense.

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a. Selection of Defense Areas

Owing to the shortage of troops, the defense will be organized into defense areas. A complete disposition in depth of the defense areas cannot be maintained at normal strength. As to the selection of the defense areas, the following essentials will have to be taken into consideration:

(1) Where does the enemy have facilities to land?

(2) Which landing beaches has access into the interior?

(3) Where are there important installations, the possession or destruction of which is of interest to the enemy?

(4) Finally, consider which parts of the coast do not lend themselves to landing operations (waters where navigation is difficult; islands constituting bastions off the coast; cliffs, wooded terrain, marshes, zones offering few lines of communication), and the sectors where landings are possible or likely will stand out.

b. Initial Organization of Defense Areas

For the moment, defense areas will be constituted and occupied only in those regions which lend themselves to landing operations. These areas will be selected subject to the following conditions:

(1) Weapons must command the greatest possible stretch of terrain. Consequently, it is not advisable to site guns on high points which overlook the general terrain, because then the beaten zone is restricted, and furthermore the weapon can not engage objectives within short range. In this manner, the risk of letting the enemy penetrate under the angle of fire is eliminated and it is not necessary to cope with defiladed areas.

(2) The defense areas will command as large a sector as possible. Owing to the shortage of troops, the number of supporting areas will be so reduced that the observation of the whole of the coastal sector will be impossible. By day, therefore, it will be necessary to place parties with sufficient striking power between the defense areas; whenever possible, one rifle squad equipped with a light machine gun. The method of alarm to be adopted in case of an enemy approach will have to be clearly explained and made known to every man in form of a special order. By night, patrols will be carried out by bicycle whenever possible.

c. Organization of the Sectors

Each company will retain, whenever possible, one platoon in reserve. The machine-gun companies will be split up in platoons and placed under command of the rifle companies -- one platoon will be back, whenever possible, together with the battalion reserve. Heavy machine guns and light trench mortars should in principle be retained with the mobile reserves. The motorcyclists of the regiments are to be so grouped as to constitute heavy machine-gun groups.

With regard to the use of the machine guns, it is advisable, despite the present weakness in strength of the units, to keep the company organized in twelve rifle squads. It is necessary to remember then that the squads are weaker. The fastest possible means of liaison with all the defense areas will have to be ensured. All the defense areas will be connected with the C.P. by telephone if possible, or in any event by messenger. Where there is a shortage of telephone lines, steps will be taken to set up a relay system of communications. If, owing to the extent of the sector, no one company can be spared as battalion reserve, every available man will be used for counter attack, including transport and headquarters personnel, etc. The necessary training will be given at the earliest possible moment.

Sector commanders will not only make arrangements with the commanders of other arms of the Wehrmacht as to their role in the event of landings, but from now on they will also incorporate in their defense plan all the weapons in their sector. In this way some of the weapons will be available for use at other points where they are absolutely necessary.


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