These 44 Pictures From The Atlantic Wall Show What The Allies Were Up Against On D-Day

 
 
SHARE:

The tide of the Second World War turned on the 6th of June, 1944, changing the course of history forever. On the shores of Normandy, the Allied forces landed in the largest amphibious landing to have ever been attempted.

One of the largest amphibious landings in history, it took place on the 6th of June, 1944. Since war broke out in 1939, German forces had dominated most of Western and Central Europe, in a seemingly unstoppable course of an aggressive expansion.

The initial landings were far from easy as the Allies stormed ashore on five invasion beaches. The Allies gave them the codenames: Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha, and Utah.

Taking Omaha Beach was an essential part of the Allies’ strategy, as it would link the troops at Gold with those that landed at Utah, thus securing a continuous beachhead. The geography at Omaha Beach favored the defenders. A bluff rose sharply and overlooked the beach with few exits. American troops were tasked with taking this beach, backed up by Allied naval and air bombardments.

However, they were faced with difficulties before they even reached the shore.

High winds and navigational errors resulted in many of the landing crafts arriving in the wrong places along the beach. These scattered landings added to the chaos as the soldiers landing in the first wave were met with unexpectedly strong German defenses. Beach obstacles included barbed wire, mined stakes, and metal tripods slowed progress across the sand.

When trying to make it across the beach at low tide, the soldiers were under constant machine gun from heavily fortified positions. The beach was also under constant mortar and artillery fire.

Eventually, small groups of US soldiers managed to get up the bluff overlooking the beach and were able to silence the German gunners. This allowed more waves of troops to land and secure and expand the beachhead.

Tragically, roughly 2000 Americans died taking Omaha beach. Many of those are now buried at the American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer.

Once Omaha and the other beaches had been taken, the battle for the mainland began.

At the time of the landings, mainland Europe was largely under the control of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, following five years of continuous warfare. When the Allies stormed the beaches, in an event now commonly referred to as D-Day, a new and final chapter began in the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of troops fought on both sides, but the invading forces were successful, and France was liberated shortly afterward.

The battle for Normandy marked the start of the Allies’ steady push eastwards towards Berlin. Within a year, Hitler would be dead and the Axis powers in ruin.

To drive the Nazis out of France, a massive number of Allied troops and armor landed in Normandy. Operation Overlord would be remembered as the start of France’s liberation. With the advancing Soviets coming from the east it was the beginning of the end for Nazi regime.

During the battle for the French coastline alone, more than 400,000 troops were killed, wounded or reported missing. Although an Allied victory in the end, the price of their success proved to be a heavy one; to beat back the Germans who defended the beaches, they lost more than 200,000 men.

Even then, though the shore had been secured, the death toll continued to rise after the events of D-Day. Germany’s military wasn’t giving up without a fight, and the struggled raged on inland. The Allies were soon engaging in house-to-house combat to capture numerous fortified towns, paying in blood for every mile they gained.

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at the German side of D-Day. Not many pictures were taken by the Germans on June 6th, so we had to use images from the period before and after the landings. It will give a good idea of the strength of the enemy that the Allies faced in their struggle to retake Normandy and then the rest of Western Europe from Nazi German occupation.

The Atlantic Wall

Aerial view of German beach defenses. Normandy, summer, 1944 (Image).
Aerial view of German beach defenses. Normandy, summer, 1944.
Beach fortifications with barber wire and tank traps. Northern France, 1944 (Image).
Beach fortifications with barbed wire and tank traps. Northern France, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Rommel observes the fall of shot at Riva-Bella, just north of Caen in the area that would become Sword Beach in Normandy (Image).
Rommel observes the fall of shot at Riva-Bella, just north of Caen in the area that would become Sword Beach in Normandy. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Czech hedgehog on the beach near Calais, Northern France and Field Marchall Rommel during inspection of defenses.
Czech hedgehogs on the beach near Calais, Northern France. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Such anti-tank obstacles were all over shores in France/Belgium (Image)
Such anti-tank obstacles were all over shores in France and Belgium. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German Soldier on a watch. Common view on beaches of the Atlantic Wall, 1944 (Image).
A German Soldier on a watch. A common sight on beaches of the Atlantic Wall, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
One of the many propaganda photographs of Rommel on inspection tours of the Atlantic wall (Image).
One of the many propaganda photographs of Rommel on inspection tours of the Atlantic wall. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German soldiers in northern France, 1944 (Image)
German soldiers in northern France, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0

Bunkers and Radars

German MG42 machine gun bunker at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France - 1944 (Image).
German MG42 machine gun bunker at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France – 1944.
The British Army in North-west Europe 1944-45 A soldier poses next to one of the German coastal guns captured by the Canadians at Cap Gris Nez, 1 October 1944.
The British Army in North-west Europe 1944-45 A soldier poses next to one of the German coastal guns captured by the Canadians at Cap Gris Nez, 1 October 1944.
Part of the Atlantic Wall. Battery gun during setup, June 1943, Northern France (Image).
Part of the Atlantic Wall. Battery gun during setup, June 1943, Northern France. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
A part of the Atlantic Wall in Northern France, 1944 (Image).
A part of the Atlantic Wall in Northern France, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
A German MG34 medium machine gun emplacement. Photo Credit.
A German MG34 medium machine gun emplacement.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Allied Soldiers Do Laundry in Captured German Pillbox (Image).
Allied Soldiers Doing the Laundry in a Captured German Pillbox.
Destroyed German radar Würzburg-Riese on beach in Normandy (Image).
Damaged German radar near the beach in Normandy.

Infantry Inland

Fearsome Fallschirmjager, and elite soldiers of Wehrmacht (By Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-586-2225-16 / Slickers / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5413042)
Fearsome Fallschirmjager, considered elite soldiers.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Heavy gunner with MG42, Caen, France, 1944 (Image).
Heavy gunner with MG42, Caen, France, 1944.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German soldiers are looking out, Normandy, 1944 (Image).
German soldiers on the lookout in Normandy, 1944.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
21 June 1944. Photo Credit.
21 June 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
During their first week of action in Normandy, these three soldiers of the Hitlerjugend Division earned the Iron Cross (Image).
During their first week of action in Normandy, these three soldiers of the Hitlerjugend Division earned the Iron Cross. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Soldier of Wehmracht with Karabiner 98k. 21 June 1944. Photo Credit.
Soldier of Wehrmacht with Karabiner 98k. 21 June 1944.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German infantrymen scan the skies for Allied aircraft in Normandy, 1944 (Image)
German infantrymen scan the skies for Allied aircraft in Normandy, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
An abandoned Waco CG-4 glider is examined by German troops. Photo Credit.
An abandoned Waco CG-4 glider is examined by German troops.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Rommel inspecting 21st Panzer Division in May, 1944. Photo Credit.
Rommel inspecting 21st Panzer Division in May, 1944.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German Fallschirmjager Trüppen in Normandy, the German Parachute forces fighting in an infantry role were very effective in the Normandy campaign. These machine guns would cause most of the casualties on D-Day and were one of the most feared weapons on the battlefields of World War Two. June 1944 (Image).
German Fallschirmjager Trüppen in Normandy, the German Parachute forces fighting in an infantry role were very effective in the Normandy campaign. These machine guns would cause most of the casualties on D-Day and were one of the most feared weapons on the battlefields of World War Two. June 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0

Sounds of the destroyers of men -the murderous German MG34 and MG42 machine guns.

Heavily armed Fallschirmjager alongside a knocked-out Sherman. Note men with tank-killing Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust weapons (Image).
Heavily armed Fallschirmjager alongside a knocked-out Sherman. Note men with tank-killing Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust weapons.
Panzerknacker team hunts Allied armor with a Panzerschreck (Image).
Panzerknacker team hunts Allied armor with a Panzerschreck.
Instructors at a 59th Division school for potential NCOs at Vienne-en-Bessin demonstrate various German anti-tank weapons, including a Panzerschreck, two types of Panzerfaust and anti-tank mines, 1 August 1944 (© IWM (B 8540))
Instructors at a 59th Division school for potential NCOs at Vienne-en-Bessin demonstrate various German anti-tank weapons, including a Panzerschreck, two types of Panzerfaust and anti-tank mines, 1 August 1944 (© IWM (B 8540))
Hauptmann Peter Kiesgen, winner of the Knight’s Cross and former Hitlerjugend leader, helps train new recruits in the use of the Panzerfaust 60 in 1944. The Hauptmann wears five tank destruction badges on his right sleeve, each one awarded for the single-handed destruction of an enemy tank (Image).
Hauptmann Peter Kiesgen, winner of the Knight’s Cross and former Hitlerjugend leader, helps train new recruits in the use of the Panzerfaust 60 in 1944. The Hauptmann wears five tank destruction badges on his right sleeve, each one awarded for the single-handed destruction of an enemy tank.
A Sherman burns in Germany. Common fate for many Allied armour.
A Sherman burns in Germany. A common fate of many Allied tanks.

Armour and Artillery

German tank commander Michael Wittman, photographed one month prior to Operation Overlord. This panzer ace, Waffen SS captain, single handedly destroyed a British Battalion at Villers Bocage in his Tiger Tank (Image).
German tank commander Michael Wittman, photographed one month prior to Operation Overlord. This panzer ace, Waffen SS captain, single-handedly destroyed a British Battalion at Villers Bocage in his Tiger Tank.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Wittmann's company, 7 June 1944, on Route nationale 316, en route to Morgny. Wittmann is standing in the turret of Tiger 205 (Image).
Wittmann’s company, 7 June 1944, on Route nationale 316, en route to Morgny. Wittmann is standing in the turret of Tiger 205.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Most likely taken on 14 June this photo shows a camouflaged Tiger tank on the Ancienne Route de Caen (the old Caen Road), where Wittmann's company spent the night of 12/13 June (Image).
Most likely taken on 14 June this photo shows a camouflaged Tiger tank on the Ancienne Route de Caen (the old Caen Road), where Wittmann’s company spent the night of 12/13 June. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
The PzKpfw IV, backbone of the German armored defense in Normandy (Image).
The PzKpfw IV, backbone of the German armored defense in Normandy. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Panzer IV of the 2nd Panzer Division during the Battle of Normandy, Northern France, 1944 (Image)
Panzer IV of the 2nd Panzer Division during the Battle of Normandy, Northern France, 1944.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German Panthers in France, June 1944 (Image).
German Panther tanks in France, June 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Panther is considered as the best medium tank in World War II and a source of unending terror for Allied tank crews (Image).
The Panther is considered the best medium tank in World War II and a source of unending terror for Allied tank crews. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Jagdpanther in Northern France. Photo Credit.
Jagdpanther in Northern France. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
Tiger IIs on the move in France, June 1944. King Tigers of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 503fought in Normandy and on the Eastern Front. It achieved a kill ratio of 15:1 against Allied tanks (Image).
Tiger IIs on the move in France, June 1944. King Tigers of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 fought in Normandy and on the Eastern Front. It achieved a kill ratio of 15:1 against Allied tanks.Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
German armor and infantry of the 116th Panzer Division push past a disabled M10 tank destroyer of the 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion (Image).
German armor and infantry of the 116th Panzer Division push past a disabled M10 tank destroyer of the 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.
A British soldier examines an abandoned German 'Nebelwerfer' near Troarn, Normandy, 20 July 1944. They were feared by all Allied troops in Normandy and caused a high proportion of casualties (© IWM (B 7785))
A British soldier examines an abandoned German ‘Nebelwerfer’ near Troarn, Normandy, 20 July 1944. They were feared by all Allied troops in Normandy and caused a high proportion of casualties (© IWM (B 7785))
German 88 mm anti-tank/anti-aircraft gun and its crew in France, 21 June, 1944 (Image).
German 88 mm anti-tank/anti-aircraft gun and its crew in France, 21 June, 1944. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0
The 88mm Flak was an anti-aircraft weapon that also functiones as a superbly effective anti-tank weapon. British and American armour had no protection against it (Image).
The 88mm Flak was an anti-aircraft weapon that also functioned as a superbly effective anti-tank weapon. British and American armor was vulnerable to it. Bundesarchiv – CC-BY SA 3.0

Into the Jaws of Death – Landing

And all scenes from above were waiting for this men... That's how this story began. Into the jaws of death...
And all scenes from above were waiting for these men… That’s how this story began. Into the jaws of death…