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What Hitler Got Wrong About D-Day

March 18, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Hitler made several miscalculations ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy—but there were still deadly German defenses in place.

As early as 1942, Adolf Hitler knew that a large-scale Allied invasion of France could turn the tide of the war in Europe. But thanks in large part to a brilliant Allied deception campaign and Hitler’s fanatical grip on Nazi military decisions, the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 became precisely the turning point that the Germans most feared.

But that’s not to say the Germans hadn’t prepared.

Allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill began planning the D-Day invasion soon after the United States entered World War II. The Allies knew that opening a Western European front was critical to spreading the German forces thin. The only remaining questions were where the invasion would happen and when.

READ MORE: Eisenhower and Churchill Spent Years Planning D-Day

A Nazi propaganda image shows German Wehrmacht soldiers laying down plate mines on the roads around the Atlantic Wall in March 1944.

Germany Builds the ‘Atlantic Wall’

To ready for an invasion, in 1942, Germany began construction on the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile network of bunkers, pillboxes, mines and landing obstacles up and down the French coastline. But without the money and manpower to install a continuous line of defense, the Nazis focused on established ports. From the start, the top candidate for an Allied invasion was believed to be the French port city of Calais, only 20.7 miles across the English Channel from Dover.

As part of Joseph Goebbels’ Nazi propaganda machine, the Germans installed three massive gun batteries along the Calais coast with their 406-mm cannons pointed at Dover. The Nazi’s message was clear—attempt to storm Calais and we will drive you into the sea. Meanwhile, the rest of the French coastline, including the northern beaches of Normandy, was less fiercely defended.

D-Day Deception (TV-PG; 3:24)

Hitler Falls for Allies’ ‘Dummy Army’

The reason Germany chose to double-down Nazi defenses along the Calais coast was not only because of its proximity to England, but because Hitler fell hook, line and sinker for one of the most successful military deception schemes since the Trojan horse. Codenamed Operation Fortitude, the Allies used every trick in the book—and invented a few new ones—to convince German intelligence that the D-Day invasion would absolutely occur in Calais.

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