Utah Beach - Batterie Marcouf

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One of the most important strongpoints in the German defence line, along the eastern coastline of the Cherbourg peninsula, was the heavy naval fortification at St. Marcouf. Four 210 mm artillery pieces, six 75 mm pieces flanking and one 150 mm piece. Despite this impressive fortification behind the Madeleine beach still being under construction, the gun battery and it's 400 costal gunners, constituted a seroius defensive threat to any military landing operation from the sea side. On April 19, the very first of the battery guns was fully mounted and ranged at target. The very next day the war started for the battery and it's crew: Every evening, coming out of the sunset, the bombers from England came and belched out their mortal load on the fortification, dropping their eggs in the nests, created by the craters from the previous nights bombing raid. Despite consecutive air raids, the 400 'Marcoufians' continued to improve and enlarge the fortification...
('They're coming..!' by Paul Carel)

Utah Beach  -  Eyes behind the Wall..!
Click here for a live panorama view of
the terrain and coast line, as the crew
of the battery did experience it

Rommel's Wall: The solid concrete walls of the 210 mm gun battery at Saint-Marcouf were 13 feet thick.

Arial view of the Crisbecq fortification: Fontenay - Dagueville - Crisbecq. In foreground is village of St. Marcouf. (Insert: One of the forts). Despite massive and relentless heavy naval artillery fire, the Allied never succeded to neutralize the German fortifications at Crisbecq.

A famous photo taken near the wall of the church in St. Marcouf. The men pictured here are from the 4th Infantry Division, accordingly to the US Goverment's official history. But blackened faces, bloused trousers, gauze armflags and trench knives on ankles all point to them being paratroopers. Men of the 508th PIR (Paratroop Infantry Regiment) were in the area and wore gauze flags as did troopers of the 506th. Note the stairway is blown down to rubble, here by one of the 8 inch guns of the cruiser USS Quincy (US Army).

The naval fortification at St. Marcouf and the 210 mm artillery pieces, created an increasing problem for the allied invasion forces on Utah beach. Ground forces of the 4. US Division, enforced by naval artillery support from Allied battleships, engaged into heavy fighting to break through the German defense and neutralize the strongpoint. Ohmsen requested 'fire on own positions' from the nabouring battery Azeville, forcing the Allied to pull out with heavy casualties. Early June 12, Allied patrols of the US 29th IR reached the fortification and occupied the abandoned strongpoint at 08:20 a.m.

Admiral Hennecke, supreme commander of Marine Kommandantur Cherbourg, telephoned on June 11 Oberlieutnant Walther Ohmsen. The Admiral ordered him to gather his men and make preparations to leave the fortification. In the night of June 12, Ohmsen and 78 costal gunners, including the wounded, left Batterie Marcouf. Ohmsen had two major concerns: Not to be intercepted by one of the Allied patrols in the area, and to reach German lines before dawn. At nightfall, a group of brave men silently abandoned their position and set out into the dark carrying their wounded on quickly improvised stretchers, made of sticks, towels and other means at hand. Moving north, Ohmsen was determined to reach Quinéville. More precisely a hill near La Pernelle, where the headquaters of the 1261. Küstenartillerie Regiment was located. Early at dawn the group arrived safely at the destination.

Post war photo showing the battery of Crisbecq

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