U.S. Military History
The Allied Sweep and the Defeat of Germany:
The Failure of German Defense, The Triumph of Allied Strategy
The intent of this paper will be to provide a purposeful explanation of the events leading up to the Allied invasion of “Fortress Europe.” It will also provide an analysis of Allied, as well as Axis strategy throughout the Allied invasion and sweep across northwest Europe that resulted in the eventual defeat of the Third Reich in Germany - at the hands of the Soviets.
American entry into the Second World War, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, marked an unofficial turning point for Allied forces in Europe. Although Allied forces would not begin to land in Nazi occupied North Africa until late 1942, the decision that American forces would first focus the majority of their attention on the war in Europe, rather than the Pacific, was a critical one. This decision, hinging on a somewhat shaky alliance between the Soviet Union, Great Britain and America, came about at roughly the same time as German armies, stalled out in their ill-fated attempt to invade the Soviet Union, were beginning their long retreat.
By the time Allied forces began their invasion of Italy in 1943, plans were already under development for an unprecedented, combined air and amphibious assault on Hitler’s heavily fortified "Atlantic Wall." The Allies pinned the majority of their hopes for defeating Nazi Germany on this one, large-scale, military offensive. The incursion, better known today as the D-day invasion of Normandy, France, would effectually form the prelude to an Allied sweep straight through the heart of Nazi occupied Europe.
Following the Allied sweep across France and northwestern Europe, the Allies unexpectedly encountered fierce opposition. Hitler devised an enormous, last-ditch counteroffensive that if successful, would have effectively, “…cut the Allied lines in half.” However, the subsequent failure of this counteroffensive served only to hasten Germany’s collapse as the remaining German soldiers retreated into the Reich.
Prior to the war, as a part of the German military’s pre-war buildup, Germany began bolstering its defenses along its Western border. This program of German fortification began in the mid 1930s. During this time, much of the development along the West Wall was experimental and was meant to appear more impressive than it actually was. Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Information and Propaganda used the new mediums of radio and film to make powerful impressions “on a public that had not yet learned to be critical.”
As a new medium, the radio had found its way into “almost every German home by the end of the 1930s.” Goebbels carefully orchestrated controlled radio programs and “spread propaganda messages to friend and foe alike.” He also went to great lengths to ensure that allied radio signals were drowned out; least they provide “alternative sources of information.”
After the successful invasions of Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, Germany began a process of fortifying it’s costal defense network. According to J. E. Kaufmann, author of Fortress Third Reich, “the initial work on the Atlantic Wall began in late summer of 1941 when the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe set up defenses at ports and airfields.” Initial fortification along the Atlantic Wall was concentrated on the creation of u-boat bunkers. The building of gun emplacements for the mounting of batteries at strategic points along the northern European coastline was also paramount at this time.
For the most part, many of the heavy, fixed gun batteries along the coast were actually naval guns that had been removed from decommissioned gunships. This proved to be somewhat of a problem because the navy did not have enough personnel, or coastal artillery units, to operate the batteries. Eventually the army took over the...