Leaving aside Utah with the various German units capable of moving up to block the causeways unless stopped by airborne units and Sword with the intervention of the 21st Panzer, my impression is that the defenses at Omaha, Gold and Juno were very shallow. Once the assault forces moved off the beaches there were neither fixed defenses nor adequate German reinforcements to put the cork back in the bottle
Okay, please be aware this is from a work in progress:
GOLD Beach encompassed a front from slightly west of La Hamel to Grey-sur-Mere, a distance of about 6.5 kilometers. Along that frontage were ten Wiederstandsneste (resistance nests) numbered from east-to-west WN 32, 33, 34, 35, 35a, 35b, 36, 37, 38, and 39. Of those, a total of four could observe and bring direct fire on GOLD JIG and GOLD KING, WN 33, 35, 36, and 37 (WN 38 with another two 7.5cm FK had a limited field of fire partly covering the western edge of WN 37, but it and WN 39 were primarily designed to defend the seaward and eastern landward approaches to Arromanches). Between them they were armed with one 8.8cm Pak, two 7.5cm FK (f), five 5cm Pak, one 3.7cm Pak, two mortars (apparently all 5cm), and 18 machineguns. The six positions backing them up included three artillery batteries: 3/HKA 1260 at WN 35a (the Mont Fleury Battery) with four 12.2cm K390 ®, 5/AR 1716 at WN 35b (the Crepon Battery) with four 10cm leFH 14/19 (t), and 6/AR 1716 at WN 32 (the Mare Fontaine Battery) also with four 10cm leFH 14/19 (t) and a minor backup position WN 34 with a single 5cm gun. WN 38 and 39 were stronger, mounting two 7.5cm FK (f), two 5cm Pak and one 5cm mortar, with perhaps as many as eight machineguns. Most of the non-artillery positions included one or two casemates and three or more ‘Tobruck’ mounts for machineguns.
Note also that none of the positions could be characterized as either extensive of deep, nor were there extensive built-up areas for the Germans to take advantage of. WN 37 at La Hamel on the far western edge is the only area that could be so characterized and that just from a single large building, the Sanatorium. The three villages backing GOLD, Asnelles-sur-Mer, Ver-sur-Mer and Meauvaines were not incorporated in the strongpoint system, while only parts of Mont Fleury and la Riviere were.
A great weakness to the position was the lack of reliable infantry to defend it. Located with the artillery at WN 35b was a headquarters unit, Stab/Ost Btl 441. This battalion also had four infantry companies. 1/Ost Btl 441, based at Vaux north of Bayeux, was well out of the GOLD sector and played no part in the days events. 2/Ost Btl 441, based at Reviers, was also not involved against GOLD and spent the day fighting the Canadians at JUNO. 3/Ost Btl 441 based at Meuvaines, made up the garrison of WN 33, 34 and 35, “stiffened” by 7/Gren Rgt 726 (see below). Elements drawn from a platoon of 7/Gren Rgt 736 occupied field fortifications in Graye-sur-Mer (the bulk of the company was at WN 31 at La Riviere, also facing the Canadian landings on JUNO). 4/Ost Btl 441 occupied field fortifications along the low ridge in front of Ver-sur-Mer.
The second infantry element defending in the GOLD sector was II/Gren Rgt 726. The battalion Stab and 7 Kompanie was at Sainte-Croix-sur-Mer, with 7 Kompanie providing “stiffening” at WN 33, 34 and 35. 6/Gren Rgt 726, based at Bazenville, occupied WN 36 and 38. 5 and 8 Kompanie formed a reserve at Creully about five kilometers inland. Finally, Grenadier Regiment 916 of 352 Infanterie Division was present in the form of a single company occupying WN 37 (La Hamel), 38 and 39. The rest of this battalion was deployed to the west between Arromanches and La Hamel (the regimental and divisional boundary ran through La Hamel (inclusive to Gren Rgt 916 and 352 ID) and Bazenville (inclusive to Gren Rgt 726 and 716 ID)
Thus the actual defenders of the positions “on the beach” (WN 33, 35, 36, and 37) consisted of 6 and 7/Gren Rgt 726, 3/Ost Btl 441, a platoon of 7 Gren Rgt 736, and a platoon of II/Gren Rgt 916, a total of three and two-third companies of infantry. They were supported by another three and two-third infantry companies, three artillery batteries, and two battalion headquarters companies. All told these may have amounted to about 1,600 men.
In comparison, OMAHA Beach encompassed a front from slightly west of Ste Honorine des Pertes to slightly east of Pointe et Raz de la Percee, a distance of about seven kilometers. Along the frontage were 14 Wiederstandsneste, WN 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, and 73. Of those all except three, WN 63, 67 and 69, could engage targets on the beach with direct fire. And those positions included a massive array of firepower, including two 8.8cm Pak, one 7.62 FK ®, six 7.5cm FK (f), two 7.5cm turreted guns (taken from the VK3001 tank prototype), 10 5cm Pak, one 4.7cm Pak, six 3.7cm guns (mostly turreted), 17 mortars (at least two 8cm), and 85 machineguns. Four artillery batteries from I and IV/AR 352 (five if Pointe du Hoc were included) backed the position up with a total of 12 10.5cm leFH and four 15cm sFH.
Infantry defense initially comprised 3/Gren Rgt 726 based at Colleville-sur-Mer occupying WN 60, 61, and 62, 10/Gren Rgt726 occupying WN 64, 65, 66, and 68, and 11/Gren Rgt 726 based at Vierville occupying WN 70, 71, 72, and 73. Stab I/Gren Rgt 726 was at Maisons, Stab III was at Chateau du Jucoville and Stab II/Gren Rgt 916 was at Formigny. 5/Gren Rgt based at St Laurent-sur-Mer and 8/Gren Rgt 916 based at Colleville-sur-Mer “stiffened” 3, 10 and 11/Gren Rgt 726.
In addition immediate reserves included 1/Gren Rgt 726 at Port en Bessin, 2/Gren Rgt 726 at St Honorine, 9/Gren Rgt 726 at Château Englesqueville, 6/Gren Rgt 916 at Formigny, and 7/Gren Rgt 916 at Surrain. Thus a total of five infantry companies occupied positions “on the beach” supported by another five infantry companies and four artillery batteries.
In terms of beach obstacle weight and density there was little to chose between GOLD and OMAHA. At GOLD it was calculated that the density of obstacles was about 0.43 per yard of frontage, at OMAHA it was slightly higher at 0.49. At GOLD the average weight of obstacles per yard was calculated as 394 pounds, while at OMAHA it was 401 pounds. But overall the natural advantage at OMAHA versus GOLD (and SWORD, JUNO and UTAH) was so superior that it was remarked that:
“The British beaches and UTAH were all backed by more or less flat terrain. The main passive obstacles to movement from the beaches were minefields, and, in some places, a sea-wall 6’-10’ high. Provided this sea-wall was breached and exits could be cleared through the beach minefields it was in most cases possible for MT and personnel to move off the beach at any point.
The terrain in the OMAHA Area was of great natural strength. The beaches were backed in some places by sheer cliffs and in other places by steep ascents reaching to a height of upwards of 100 feet within a few hundred yards of the beach. There were few easy exits and all natural exits were blocked by ditches or walls. Tank traps and antitank ditches intervened between beaches and road exits.” (Army AORG Group Report No. 292 “Comparison of British and American Areas in Normandy in Terms of Fire Support and its Effects” 14 August 1945).
Overall we can see that GOLD was approximately 93 percent the width of OMAHA, so they were fairly similar in terms of frontage.
But GOLD was defended by just four Widerstandsneste that could fully cover the landing area, rather than the 11 at OMAHA, 2.75 times as many.
At GOLD there were at most 11 direct fire heavy weapons bearing on the beach, at OMAHA there were 28, 2.54 times as many.
At GOLD there were at most three mortars bearing on the beach, at OMAHA there were 17, nearly six times as many.
At GOLD there were 18 machineguns bearing on the beach, at OMAHA there were 85, more than four times as many.
At GOLD there were 12 artillery pieces dedicated to defending the sector. at OMAHA there were 16, all of them heavier and longer-ranged pieces.
At GOLD the immediate defenders and their reserves totaled seven and one-third infantry companies, only one of which could be considered “first class” while two of the remaining companies were Ost Truppen, noteworthy for collapsing almost immediately. At OMAHA there were ten companies immediately available to defend the beaches, four of them “first class” and none of them Ost Truppen.
As far as the 352 Division reserve goes, I/IR 914 was utilized to counterattack the Rangers at Pointe du Hoe, while KG Meyer was split (after considerable indecision) and II/IR 915 and 2/Panzerjaeger Abtl 352 (Marders) were sent to reinforce IR 916 at OMAHA. The rest (IR 915 Stab, I/IR 915, Fus Btl 352, 1/Panzerjaeger Abtl 352 (StuG)) were sent to GOLD. I'm still trying to track it down, but I believe Pi.Btl. 352 was also sent to OMAHA. Finally, Landesbau-Pi. Btl. 17 (HQ in Littry forest about 15 km south of Colleville, its 4 companies were engaged in construction activities along the coast) was employed to reinforce IR 914 and 916 on D-Day between Pointe du Hoc and St. Laurent and lost nearly 400 men in the process.
In other words, the forces used to counterattack OMAHA were about the same as those at GOLD, and of course both met with the same lack of success.
Edited by Rich, 25 January 2005 - 1643 PM.