Longues-sur-Mer – Disabling the Batteries of the Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall
Liberation Tour 2015 resumed after our visit to Ranville War Cemetery and as we headed for the Normandy Coast tour historian Phil Craig gave us the lowdown on the Atlantic Wall, a 1,670 mile system of coastal defences that stretched from Denmark to Spain, including Longues-sur-Mer where we are headed now. It was built on orders directly from Hitler in 1944 in anticipation of an allied landing somewhere along the Atlantic coast. Since he had no idea where the landing would take place, it was necessary to defend every potential landing site with the result that the Nazis had to use a virtual army of conscripted civilians, POWs and others who were not particularly enthusiastic about helping the Germans retain their iron fist rule over them. Needless to say, there were ‘problems’ with the quality of the construction work. Still, the Atlantic Wall was a formidable obstacle that needed to be dealt with before troops could come ashore.
Since the Allied high command knew that the landings were planned for the beaches of Normandy they also knew that the portions of the Atlantic Wall in the area had to be neutralized, but couldn’t tip their hand by concentrating their bombardments only there. The primary obstacles were the massive batteries at Longues-sur-Mer which were located on a point halfway between two of the primary landing spots – Omaha and Gold beaches.
Phil explained all this on the bus and when we got to Longues-sur-Mer we tried out the portable audio system provided by Liberations Tours for the first time and it worked fine. That way we we didn’t need to congregate around Phil as he pointed out the features of this portion of the Atlantic Wall.
Why Longues-sur-Mer in particular, you might ask? Well for one thing it has an unimpeded view of the Normandy coastline from its observation post.
Also it is the only battery of its type where some of the guns are still in place. The guns were stolen from the Czechs and were capable firing huge shells up to 12 miles, which would destroy anything they hit. You will agree that this was a pretty impressive weapon.
Unlike Pointe du Hoc, which we will visit in a few days, the Allies decided not to try to take out Longues-sur-Mer with a commando or parachute attack, but to engage it directly from the sea with huge naval guns even larger than those here. The battle lasted all of D-Day, but eventually the five guns were disabled and on June 7th British troops captured the gun crews.
Here is what Herr Hitler’s guns looked like after the barrage – he couldn’t get it up anymore.
Returning to the bus I could not help but notice the beautiful mustard fields and think what wonderful things the French make from them. I thought ” Make mustard not war”. See you next at Juno Beach.