The Atlantic Wall represents one of Europe’s largest fortification efforts in recent history.
Hitler ordered the construction of these immense fortifications in December 1941 to deter the Allies from invading Nazi-occupied Europe, but with over 3000 miles of coast to defend, the Atlantic Wall was a highly ambitious, and ultimately doomed, project.
The wall used 17 million cubic metres of concrete and 1.2 million tonnes of steel.
Over two years, 3.7 billion DM was spent on the construction project in The Netherlands, Belgium and France.
By mid-1944, there were over 700 standard designs of bunkers . Along the French coast, there were more than 11,500 Atlantic Wall structures built. And it is estimated that there were approximately the same number under construction as had been completed, in total making 23,000 in the region.
The Atlantic Wall was built with over 17,000,000m3 of concrete, 1,200,000 tonnes of steel and cost some 3.7 billion Deutschmarks
The Atlantic Wall fortifications stretched over 5,000km (3,100+ miles), from the North Cape in Norway to the Spanish/French border.
After more than two years of construction, costing billions of Reichsmarks, and using up valuable German resources, the Atlantic Wall was breached in under a day on the beaches of Normandy by over 150,000 Allied troops from Britain, Canada and the United States.
At its peak in spring 1943, 250,000 workers poured up to 800,000 tons of concrete monthly into sophisticated fortifications up and down the Atlantic coast.
The Atlantic Wall was constructed by the Organization Todt, who had pioneered Germany’s famous Autobahns, constructing thousands of miles of roads that still exist today.
Workers from all over Europe and other Nazi-occupied countries were brought in to work on the wall. Thousands of these were prisoners of war, forced to build the Atlantic Wall by the Germans.
At one of the Atlantic Wall’s fortifications in Norway, a 900 ton naval gun still survives today. It was transferred from the battle ship the Gneisenau and embedded into the mountain to protect the Norwegian coast against the Allies.
Around 300,000 German troops were stationed along the Atlantic Wall, but these were largely young inexperienced recruits, or older soldiers no longer deemed suitable for the tough battles that were taking place in the East.
Field-Marshall Erwin Rommel, after his success in North Africa, was sent by Hitler to inspect the Atlantic Wall defenses at the end of 1943 and took on the task of improving them before any Allied invasion.
As well as the thousands of fortifications built, millions of beach obstacles and mines were laid all along the Atlantic coast to help stop the Allies getting onto Nazi-occupied beaches.