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Who were the fighting men at Longues-sur-Mer?

Discussion in 'Longues-sur-Mer' started by Jim, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The fighting quality of the men at Longues-sur-Mer was variable. It would seem that the crews of the coastal batteries to some extent suffered the same fate as the Atlantic Wall infantry forces, the best troops were sent to the Eastern front and replaced by ageing, often convalescing or even foreign soldiers. This did not apply to the commanders, who were active naval or reserve officers, or to the skilled personnel. At Longues, however, on the morning of June 6th 1944, the 184 battery gunners were mostly aged over forty. Even von Rundstedt was obliged to admit to the presence of "second-rate personnel". It is interesting to compare this with the average age of American Gi’s, only twenty-five. Some coastal batteries were manned by between 10 and 20% of foreign soldiers mostly "Vlasov's Russians" and Georgians. This high percentage of foreigners was not really surprising, as the build-up of the Atlantic Wall defences had led to increased manpower requirements at a time when huge numbers of soldiers were needed on the Eastern front.

    General Karl von Schlieben, commander of the German 709th Infantry Division. He surrendered to the Americans on June 27th 1944 against Hitler's orders. The Allies then dropped pamphlets proving his capitulation on the German troops fighting in Normandy. ​


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    Moreover, the Channel coast was not considered by the German High Command as being at most risk from an Allied attack. This lack of trained personnel was less of a problem for the coastal batteries than for the army who had a large number of ageing soldiers and so-called volunteer’s prisoners from eastern armies whom the local population referred to as the Mongols and some of whom fled at the sight of the first Allied landing vessels on the Normandy beaches. There is the story of a battery at St Malo whose Italian gunners deserted their defensive position as soon as they heard news of the Allied landings. General von Schlieben, commander of 709th Infantry Division stationed around Cherbourg, was understandably mystified at how the Germans succeeded in getting Russians to fight in France for Germany against the Americans.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Limited training for the gun crews at Longues-sur-Mer

    The arrival of these new recruits posed a further problem, namely training the gun crews. To ensure minimum efficiency, the battery commanders, artillery commanders, gunners and range-finders had to receive instruction upon arriving in Normandy as the German Navy's training camp was unable to handle new recruits in such numbers. Their training thus became the responsibility of naval commander Rear Admiral Walther Hennecke, who organized naval firing practice at Cherbourg. These exercises were no easy matter with Allied aircraft flying over France in increasing numbers, thereby hampering the movements of German ships setting off-shore targets. During the summer of 1943, a tug boat and its target were sunk by some twenty U.S. Marauders before the trainees' very eyes. To avoid this kind of surprise, recruits were trained at night, with the inevitable problems involved in using searchlights and flares. Another training exercise involved dropping one metre by one metre targets into the water for trainees to practise firing close range at off-shore targets.

    The Marauder B-26 was one of many Allied planes constantly attacking the coast around Normandy.

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    But before long, by early 1944 the battery crews were spending more time working for the Todt Organization, covering their casemates with concrete and helping to build the "Rommel Line" around their installations, than on target practice in preparation for the arrival of the enemy armada. No doubt this explains why, on the morning of June 6th 1944, the Longues-sur-Mer battery failed to sink or even damage a single vessel of the amphibious striking force coming in before it.

    Defensive Belgian Gates on the coast of Normandy

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