10 Weapons the Germans Used to Fight Against the Allied Advance on D-Day

Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

The turning point for the war in Europe, D-Day saw the Allies execute a daring invasion of German-held France via Normandy. Both sides were equipped with a variety of guns and artillery, meaning the landings were a deadly endeavor. The Germans, in particular, had with them an array of weapons that allowed them to put up a tough fight against the Allies, even if D-Day and the Battle of Normandy ultimately wound up being a defeat for them.

MG 42

German machine gunner standing beside his MG 42
German machine gunner with an MG 42, 1943. (Photo Credit: ullstein bild / Getty Images)

The MG 42 and its predecessor, the MG 34, were among the best light machine guns operated on the frontlines of World War II. Known as the “Buzz Saw” for the speed at which it could fire its lethal ammunition (1,550 rounds per minute), the weapon was among those operated by the German forces on D-Day.

By 1944, the MG 42 had earned itself a scary reputation on the battlefield, with it reaching a point where Allied soldiers had developed a fear of coming face-to-face with one. While the Department of War tried to convince new recruits that the gun’s reputation was worse than “its bite,” the words did little to convince those slated to land on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

8.8 cm Flak anti-aircraft gun

German soldiers setting up an 8.8 cm Flak 36 in the field
8.8 cm Flak 36, 1943. (Photo Credit: Briecke / Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-724-0135-16 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Among the most-used artillery pieces by the Germans during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, the 8.8 cm Flak anti-aircraft gun was arguably one of the most effective weapons of the Second World War. They were stationed along the Atlantic Wall, and their ability to fire ammunition between three and four times farther than the anti-aircraft weaponry equipped by the Allies made them primary targets on June 6, 1944 and beyond.

Outside of its role as an anti-aircraft weapon, the 8.8 cm Flak was also effective against tanks, especially toward the end of the war. After the conflict, one American serviceman even commented that “an 88 sure makes quick work of them. They go through them just like they were a piece of paper.”


Two German soldiers preparing a Panzerschreck
German soldiers with a Panzerschreck, 1944. (Photo Credit: ullstein bild / Getty Images)

A portable 88 mm anti-tank rocket launcher, the Panzerschreck was essentially an enlarged (and much more powerful) bazooka. Used by German infantry, they were so effective against armored vehicles that the Allies had to develop new methods to protect their tanks from enemy blasts.

Despite only being introduced into service in 1943, anti-tank teams operated the Panzerschreck during the Battle of Normandy, where they inflicted devastating results.

Walther P38

Walther P38 against a white backdrop
Walther P38. (Photo Credit: Bruce C. Cooper / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

The German Army’s service pistol throughout WWII, the 9 mm Walther P38 was developed to replace the much more expensive and complicated Luger P08. It was a semi-automatic weapon that was relatively user-friendly, with the majority of troops based on the Eastern Front praising its reliability.

Given it was the Wehrmacht‘s standard service pistol, it’s no surprise German soldiers equipped the weapon on D-Day. While records vary as to how many were produced over the course of the war, it’s believed around 1.2 million left the production line.

Naval guns

152 mm German naval gun in a casemate along the Atlantic Wall
152 mm German naval gun along the Atlantic Wall. (Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

All along the Atlantic Wall were concrete casemates containing naval guns of various sizes and calibers. The ones stationed along the coast of Normandy were intended to prevent the Allies from launching an effective seaborne attack on France. To ensure they couldn’t be attacked from the water, they were set farther back from the shore.

While these guns were effective weapons and capable of inflicting heavy casualties and destroying Allied watercraft, they were ultimately unable to prevent those involved in the D-Day landings from advancing into France, where they were met by German ground troops.

Nebelwerfer 42

German soldier setting up a 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 in the field
21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 in North Africa, 1943. (Photo Credit: Hurtmanns / Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-787-0505-09A / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Initially starting life as a series of mortars, the German Nebelwefer developed into a weapon capable of launching rockets. The one to see use on D-Day was the 42, which came in two sizes: 21 cm and 30 cm. The former had a range of 7,850 meters and was primarily used by ground troops. That being said, it was also adopted by the Luftwaffe (under the name Werfer-Granate 21) for use against Allied bomber formations.

The 30-cm Nebelwefer 42, while effective, saw far less use than the smaller variant.

Flammenwerfer 41

German soldier firing a flamethrower at a building
German soldier operating a flamethrower during the Warsaw Uprising, 1944. (Photo Credit: Schremme / Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1996-057-10A / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

The standard German flamethrower during the Second World War, the Flammenwerfer 41 was generally tasked with clearing out Allied trenches and strongholds. Using a mixture of gasoline and tar known as “Flammöl 19,” it proved to be much more effective in Western Europe than in the East, as the cold weather negatively impacted the weapon’s lighting mechanism.

Given its extensive use in Western Europe, it’s no surprise Germans troops used the Flammenwerfer 41 throughout the Battle of Normandy. With an effective range of 32 meters, it allowed soldiers to attack enemy combatants without getting too close.

StG 44

German infantryman holding an StG 44 while wearing a ghillie cap
German infantryman armed with an StG 44, 1944. (Photo Credit: Vieth / Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-676-7996-13 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

The Sturmgewehr 44 – typically shortened to StG 44 – was a WWII-era German assault rifle. The first successful weapon of its kind, the rifle was known for its increased rate of fire, which made it a particularly lethal opponent. What made it a favorite among ground troops was that it served two purposes; it could be used as a single-shot rifle or as a submachine gun, making it effective in several environments.

Along with making a memorable appearance during the Battle of Normandy, the StG 44 was also used to great effect during the Battle of the Bulge. What’s more, the weapon actually served as the inspiration for the Soviet-produced AK-47.

Goliath tracked mines

Four British soldiers standing around three Goliath tracked mines
British soldiers inspecting Goliath tracked mines, 1944. (Photo Credit: Fox Photos / Getty Images)

An unusual sight on the battlefield, the Goliath was a tracked ground mine used by the Germans to inflict explosive damage on Allied positions and structures. Typically equipped with between 60 kg and 100 kg of explosives, the unmanned vehicles, known as “Beetle Tanks” by the Allies, were developed to be single-use.

Goliath tracked mines were found by the Allies on the D-Day landing beaches. While the Germans had intended to use them against the invading forces, Allied fire had severed their command cables, essentially rendering the vehicles useless.


German soldier aiming a Panzerfaust
German soldier aiming a Panzerfaust with an integrated leaf sight, 1944. (Photo Credit: Gronefeld, Gerhard / Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-710-0371-20 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

The first single-use light anti-tank weapon, the German Panzerfaust was part of the defensive measures used on D-Day. Known as the “armored fist of Germany,” it was a powerful device that packed a lethal punch against targets, making it a feared weapon on the battlefield – more so against people than tanks.

More from us: Leichtgeschütz 40: Germany’s Powerful World War II-Era Recoilless Gun

Out of all the tanks that were destroyed by the Germans during the Battle of Normandy, only around six percent were attributed to the Panzerfaust. That being said, this percentage increased as the war progressed, particularly in urban settings.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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