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German Coastal Defenses
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 15, June 15, 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



a. T-Shaped Emplacements

One type of works of which a number have been built from a single pattern on the French coast, northwest of Brest, and about which some details of construction are available, are T-shaped concrete emplacements reinforced with steel (fig. 30.) They combine in one structure a gun platform, an ammunition magazine, and a shelter for the gun crew. These emplacements are reported to be sited on cliffs and headlands, 2 or 3 miles apart, where their guns can sweep most of the bays and creeks. Seaweed, turf, and garnished nets are used to camouflage them. They are usually constructed deep in the ground so that the roof is flush with the surface.

Figure 30.—T-shaped emplacement.

The leg of the T—in other words, the narrowest part, which is approximately 16 feet square—invariably faces toward the sea. It is this part of the emplacement, which has no openings except armored air vents on one or both sides, that is used as a magazine. Where the roofs of the shelters are above the ground, an iron ladder leads up to them. An armored door connects the forward section with the long, narrow chamber that serves as cover for the gun crew in the rear. This chamber is approximately 32 feet long, and has a door at each end. Some of these works have storage tanks, with a capacity of more than 1,300 gallons, sunk into the ground nearby. Some are also equipped with two small bunkers which serve as transit magazines between the main munitions dump and the guns. These are situated outside, at the entrances of the rear section.

The roof of the magazine probably serves as the gun platform, and is strong enough to sustain an antiaircraft or coast defense gun of considerable size, but the gun may also be sited elsewhere, nearby. Around each emplacement are pits for machine guns and automatic rifles for local defense, and nearly all of the emplacements have a zigzag communication trench leading to the rocks on the edge of the coast.

b. Fort-Type Emplacements

Some details are available on two large concrete German structures, each mounting a single 240-mm gun, located east of Calais (fig. 31). They may be described as small forts. They are situated about 800 feet apart on the first line of dunes, approximately 35 feet back of the high-water mark. To blend them with the tone of the dunes, the Germans have camouflaged them yellow, with irregular green stripes.

Figure 31.—Sketch of fort-type emplacement.

The concrete of these forts is reported to be reinforced with iron bars eight-tenths of an inch thick. The front walls are more than 9 feet thick and the side walls 7 feet. The rear walls are a little more than 6 feet, and the roof is 12 feet thick in the center and 9 feet around the sides.

The length of the structures is approximately 50 meters (162 feet), and the width 65 to 80 feet. The front is V-shaped, but one leg of the V is 49 feet and the other 16 feet. The interior is divided into three chambers 15 to 18 feet high, the center one housing the gun. The central chamber has an opening at the front that is about 26 by 16 feet, and is protected by a steel shield only about four-tenths of an inch thick. The part of the roof over the gun is movable, is made in three units, and overhangs nearly 9 feet at the front of the fort.

The chambers at each end of the fort are used as munitions magazines, and they have 43-foot cellars. The forts are entered through two doors, one in each of the side chambers, at the rear. In the back wall of the central chamber are three openings 3 feet high and 18 inches wide to allow for the displacement of air when the gun is fired. Steel doors open from the magazine to the gun chamber; they are 4 feet wide and 6 feet high.

These forts are reported to be vulnerable at the movable section of the roof, and at the armor-shielded opening of the central or gun chamber.

Only meager information is available on a reinforced-concrete gun emplacement built by the Organisation Todt, shown in figure 32. The facts available indicate a resemblance to the fort described in the preceding paragraph. It is possible that this emplacement is a variation of that described above. Examples of this type are also reported to be on the English Channel coast. One particular point of similarity is the opening at the front, over the gun, protected by a steel shield. A notable feature of this emplacement is what appears to be an elaborate duct for ventilation over the gun. An outpost position for local protection of the emplacement is shown in figure 33.

Figure 32.—Fort-type emplacement.

Figure 33.—Outpost of fort-type emplacement.

c. Open Artillery Emplacements

Open emplacements for coast defense guns have been constructed in great numbers by the Germans. They usually have reinforced concrete walls constructed on a circular concrete slab. Earth or sand is banked up to the top of the outside face of the walls, and supplementing this are blast and splinter-proof walls of sandbags.

Approximate dimensions of these emplacements, based on interpretations of aerial photographs, are as follows:
Guns    Diameter of emplacements
(1) 7.5 cm (2.9 inches) 20 feet
(2) 10.5 cm (4.1 inches) 25 to 35 feet
(3) 15 cm (5.9 inches) 35 to 45 feet (older positions are smaller, about 30 to 35 feet)
(4) Heavier guns 50 feet and over
(5) Railway guns 75 and 95 feet

d. Tank and Tank-Turret Emplacements

Many sectors of the French and Belgian coasts include in their defense lines old tanks and tank turrets embedded in the ground or mounted in concrete emplacements.

After the Dieppe raid, the Germans began to construct emplacements for medium tanks in that city at points overlooking the beach. The concrete walls of these works are 2 feet thick. At the same time they also began to construct emplacements with tank turrets along the Belgian coast, between Ostend and Mariakerke.

Some forms of these defenses are as follows:

(1) Tanks, fully armed with antitank and machine guns, are sheltered behind specially built concrete emplacements in such a way that only the turrets show above the ground. Thus the tanks, particularly obsolescent types, get extra protection without entirely losing mobility. In the emplacements is a ramp that allows the tank to back out, so that if a position is lost, the tank may withdraw to a similar emplacement in the rear.

One of these emplacements on the Belgian coast was sheltering a French Renault tank. A Renault half-track (chenillette) was seen in an emplacement at Lisseweghe. The position was on the main road and was camouflaged with branches of trees.

(2) Tanks are buried in sand, and camouflaged.

(3) Tank guns are mounted in concrete pillboxes. (See fig. 34.)

(4) Tank turrets or cupolas are mounted on roofs of pillboxes.

(5) Tank turrets are embedded in concrete foundations on harbor moles. (See fig. 35.)

Figure 34.—Emplacement with tank turret.

Figure 35.—Tank turret on harbor mole.

e. Cliff and Cave Positions

The Germans have installed gun emplacements in caves and hollows in the cliffs along the French coast. It is assumed that these positions have been considerably improved with concrete. Such positions, for machine guns as well as for artillery, may be found, to cite one example, in the 2-mile stretch of steep cliffs between Lion-sur-Mer and Asnelle-sur-Mer, northwest of the city of Caen, France.

Cave positions proved highly effective in the German defense of Dieppe during the Allied raid. After a smoke screen drifted away and uncovered the attackers, machine guns and artillery opened up on them from positions concealed in caves in the cliff face. Some evidence was found to indicate that 88-mm or French 75-mm guns were in these positions. The guns were impossible to detect even at close range until they fired. Some of these positions are in figures 36 and 37.

Figure 36.—Pillboxes in cliff position.

Figure 37.—Emplacements in cliff position.

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