|Views of Germany's West Wall (The Siegfried Line)|
|UR HERE: Siegfried Line- Page 1>|
|Germany's West Wall (The Siegfried Line)|
|Excerpt from the 63rd Infantry Division Chronicles:
The Siegfried Line in the sector before the 63rd Division consisted of two belts about a mile apart, each composed of a line of dragon's teeth (tank obstacles) which were three staggered rows of concrete pyramids about three feet high. Before the line of dragon's teeth were one or two antitank ditches, each eight feet deep and twelve feet wide. On every knoll and through all paths in the woods were concrete pillboxes situated so that each one was supported by fire from one or more of the others. For every three to six pillboxes there was a key or central pillbox which contained a control point for the others. The line itself was about 500 yards in depth, though well-camouflaged pillboxes dotted knolls and rises for miles. Most of the fortifications were covered with earth and overgrown with vegetation..
The 63rd Infantry Division began the main thrust of the 7th Army to break through this line on 15 March 1945. This formidable line was breached by the division on 20 March 1945 and it was the first unit of the 7th Army to break a path through the Siegfried Line, thus opening up Germany to American Armored units.
With this in mind the following photos and information will give you an additional insight into a fortification that took the Germans years to construct and only a few days for the 63rd Infantry Division to make it ineffective.
NOTE: The following script and drawings of the bunkers and their interiors was taken from a publication by Jorg Fuhrmeister entitled " The Westwall in the area of Bad Bergzabern"
|History of the West Wall (Siegfried Line)
The consideration of a permanent fortification goes back to World War One. The immense material battles near Verdun, at tehe Somme and in Flanders were traumatic for the armed forces.
In France the Maginot-Line was already conceived in the middle of the 1920's. The construction of it started in the year 1929. the French war minister Andre Maginot, who was characterized by his war experience in Verdun, developed the new fortification in the East of France and it was finally named after him.
During the Thirties all European countries undertook building measures in order to preserve a frontier covered by fortifications. In the German Reich the first modest bunkers were erected at the eastern border in the year 1929. Limited by the contract of Versaille, only minor building measures were carried out.
The 1st of August 1934 was the birthday of the new German fortification. It was planned by the fortification engineers and carried out from civil building contractors.
In the east of the Heilsberger Dreieck, the Orderlinie and the Nischlitz-Obra-Linie were built and in the west, easterly of the Rhine, the Neckar-Enz and the Wetterau-Main-Tauber emplacements were built.
After the occupation of the demilitarized zone westerly of the Rhine, the construction of the small frontier guard bunkers was started at the west frontier.
In the year 1937 a continuous bunker line from the Swiss border up to the North of Trier was erected. It was initially an engineer program. Only in the spring of 1938 the political leadereship intervened in the current building project due to the precarious political situation (The Sudaten Crisis)
|The constuction organization of the Reich, Todt, which had already constucted the motorways in the Reich was advised to erect 10,000 plain bunkers within a short time. In August 1938 more than 500,000 people participated in the construction of the West Wall and during this time the term Westwall was born.
This construction work was intensified in quality and quantity by the publication of the new building plans of the Regular Types of bunkers.
At the outbreak of war, economical versions of the Regular Types were developed, which were constructed as standard type 500 until the summer of 1940. After the armistice with France on 22 June 1940, 80% of the Westwall was completed..
The bunkers were disarmed and the material was brought to engineer stores of the fortifications.
With this material the Atlantikwall (also known as the new WestWall) was equipped from 1942. The Atlantik wall extended from the Spanish border up to the North Cape in Norway.
After the invasion of the Allies on 6 June 1944, the German Armed Forces were pushed back more and more to the border of the Reich. In September 1944, the order was given to re-arm and Westwall.
The buildings were obsolete, new and stronger guns did not fit into it and little new buildings could be erected. Frequently only a few buildings could be manned and the quality of the garrison was also very different.
The West wall had nearly lost its purpose. Merely the progaganda slowed down the Allies in their advance. Fighting was bitter in some sections of the Westwall. (The 63d Infantry Division can vouch for that)
On 22 December 1945, Directive #22 directed that all military buildings in the Reich be destroyed. This work started in the summer of 1946 and was carried out in RheinlandPfalz until the spring of 1950. 98% of all Westwall buildings were destoyed.
Note: Some of the bunkers have been preserved by local historical groups and in one case a bunker is being used as an emergency shelter for school children located nearby.
With this background lets take a closer look at these concrete monsters.