Origin of the 352nd Infantry Division , Lt Col. Fritz Ziegalmann
“With the loses suffered up through to October 1943 on the southern sector of the Russian front, the 'Army High Command' (OKH), among other things, called for the formation of new Infantry Divisions in France and Belgium starting the 1st of December.”
Orders issued by OKH (German High Command) on the 2nd of September 1943:
“21st Call-up: Ten infantry Divisions to be formed and be combat ready by the 15th of May 1944,
They are to be organized in the form of the new Infantry Division Structure ‘Type 44,’ utilizing cadres from divisions disbanded on the eastern front and filled out with recruits conscripted in November 1943 (recruits born in 1926).”
“352ID is to be activated by the 7th Army Command in Normandy, to be formed around cadres of the 321ID in Army group Middle (Russia) which by October 1943 had been decimated as a result of the Soviet counter offenses following Operation Zitadelle.
It is to be draw replacements from 'Wehrkreiss XI (11th Defense District)."
“Having had served as a senior General Staff Officer, on the 5th of December 1943, I now reported to the staff, in St. Lo, of the just-forming 352nd Infantry Division (Infantriedivison 352 , abv. 352.ID). By then, the Division's headquarters had already been activated, (5th November), and by the 14th of November, the 914th and 916th Infantry Regiments (Grenadierregiment) were set up.”
“By the 29th of January 1944, the 352nd Infantry Division (352ID) only had four infantry battalions and four artillery batteries combat-ready.”
To fill out the Division's ranks, new recruits were drafted from Wehrkreiss X(?-XI), which was the ‘10th (11?) Defense Home-District’ within Salzwedel-Dessau-Goettingen Hameln-Celle. In geographical Terms it included Lueneburger Heide, Magdeburger Boerde and the Harz Mountains. -SB
“As for the eventual date of deployment after completing the formation of the 352ID (to the Eastern Front, Italian Front, the Balkans or remain in the West?), there were no clear orders. It was generally assumed that we could count on being sent to the Eastern Front after the 1st of March1944. So training for the 352ID focused on Eastern Front combat operations.
The building process itself went very slowly, especially procurement. Since I had been, from October 1942 to March 1943, Chief Quartermaster for the Army High Command and at this time intimate with procurement issues; it fell to me to providing equipment to outfit the now forming 352ID.
For example, live-fire training school was not possible until the end of February, because the delivery of gun sights and sight mounting-plates was not possible before mid-February. By March, each soldier had thrown just two hand-grenades and had only three live-fire training exercises. The training of auxiliary drivers (French civilian truck drivers) was not possible until the 1st of May, because of fuel shortages.
During training, we also had our manpower problems. Our 14 infantry companies were not set up until February, and then they were trained for the Russian Front as anti-tank companies. The replacements, mostly teenagers, were physically unfit for all but limited military duty, because of food shortages in Germany.
As of May 1st, 50% of the officer corps was inexperienced and 30% of the noncommissioned officer positions went unfilled, because of the lack of competent sergeants.
The total manpower of our ‘Type 44' infantry division amounted to around 12,000 men of which 6,800 were combat troops, including around 1,500 ‘Hiwis’ (Russian Volunteers).
By the fall of 1944, after five years of war, Germany had exhausted its manpower base while still being pressed to provide fresh Divisions to the war-fronts.
Their solution was to reduce the manpower size of their Division structure while beefing up their firepower to maintain comparable combat strength levels. This new Division structure model is known as the ‘Type 44 Division.’
The ‘Old’ German Division model included three infantry regiments (3,250 men each) having three battalions in each regiment; with a Division manpower total of 17,200 men.
The new ‘Type 44’ Division model consist of three regiments (2,008 men each) organized in two battalions. This, along with other cut-backs, cap at a Division strength of 12,352 men. The 352ID was constituted using the ‘Type 44’ model. -SB
During this initial organizing period, the Division was ordered to have ready, by January 1st., a special combat team, on 'stand-by' for possible emergency deployment in Holland, Belgium and France. This team consisted of a infantry regiment, an artillery and an engineer battalion with elements of signal, supply and divisional staffs. The mobilization and deployment of this force was possible, by foot and rail, with 12 hours notice. From the 1st of May 1944, the same readiness measures were applied to the entire Division.
By the 1st of March 1944, the 352ID reached adequate strength and was fully equipped. But, because of diversions of men and material to the Russian Front, the slow arrival of new men, ammunition and weapons during the previous three months, delayed proper training until now. Company and battery level training was probably satisfactory, if not judged too harshly, however battalion and regiment level training did not take place.
Manpower Goals of the 352ID, “Type 44 Division”
|50% were without combat experience
|70 army officials
|a 30% shortfall reduced this to about 1,465
|mostly 17 year-old recruits
|Russian 'Volunteers' in non-combat support roles
Our monthly reports on these training deficiencies were ignored by the OKW. My impression was that they were only interested in delivering 'patched-up divisions' as soon as possible, leaving training problems entirely to a division's command to solve. This mistake often led to the destruction of divisions during their first days of combat.
Of the goal of a total of having 12,772 personnel by May 1st, there was in reality about 12,021 personnel. Of this, 6,800 were actually combat troops, to be responsible for defending a 53km long Divisional Front.”
Roster of Officers of the 352ID
|Lt. Gen. Dietrich Krais
|Chief of Staff (Sonst Ia)
|Lt. Col. Fritz Ziegalmann
|Operations Officer (1a u)
|Maj. Paul Weller
|Maj. Paul Block
|Gren Reg 914
|Lt. Col (Oberstleutnant) Ernst Heyna
|Gren Reg 915
|Lt. Col (Oberstleutnant) Ernst Meyer
|Gren Reg 916
|Col (Oberst) Ernst Goth
|Col (Oberst) Karl-Williams Ocker
|Adj. Capt. (Hauptmann) Kersken
Special Battalions and Detachments Commanders
FusBtl.352 (352nd Mounted Rifle Battalion), CO .......Rittm. Eitel Gert
PzJgAbt 352 (352nd Anti-Tank Detachment) ........Capt. Werner Jahn
PzJgAbt 352, Adj................................. Gunther Klein
PiBtl.352 (352nd Combat Engineers), CO.............Capt. Fritz Paul
PiBtl.352, Adj...................................Eberhard Lippke
NachrAbt (Signals), CO............... Capt. Karle Ehrhardt
NachrAbt., Adj. ...........................Lt. Gunther Ropers
Deployment to the Coast
“The lengthy La Harve-to-Vire River Coastal Defensive Zone, which included Omaha, Gold. Juno and Sword Beaches, was guarded only by the 716th Infantry Division (716ID). This Division was classified as a ' Static Division,' which means it was not equipped, trained nor manned for maneuver and offensive capabilities required of a normal infantry division.
Consequently, resources were not provided to equipped or train for modern maneuver-warfare. They were armed with captured weapons from Poland, France and Czechoslovakia which compounded the munitions supply logistics.
Additionally, the 716th's ranks were largely filled out with conscripted Polish nationals (of ethnic German decent), Germans not physically fit for regular service, and Russian volunteers (former POWs).”
716ID’s mission was solely to man a thin screen of forward beach-front post along a 100km long Normandy coastal. Before Rommel, preparations of coastal defenses were under no particular panning authority and were constructed in an ad-hoc manner, largely by Divisions being rotated through France, for rest-and-recuperation, before reasignments to other combat fronts in Russia, Balkans and Italy. -SB
Under the High Command of the west (OKW), relying on divisions on rest and refitting leave in France did not provide the fixed long term uninterrupted oversight needed to construct a comprehensive coastal defense.
“To address his dissatisfied with the efforts of OKW in preparing the 'Atlantic Wall,' in November 1943 Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erin Rommel as Inspector-General of the preparations of the coastal defenses in the west, reporting directly to Hitler himself and by-passing OKW.
The new ‘Army Group B’ (Armeegruppe B) was activated under the OKW in January 1944 with Fieldmarshal Rommel's inspection tour. “
Later in January 1944, Rommel’s command was given overall control of the 'tactical' preparations of all costal defenses in the west as ‘Army group B.’ Though administratively under Rundsted (OKW Chief) Rommel’s Army Group B was still under Hitler’s direct command as he was in his earlier Inspector-General role. -SB
“In early March the 352.ID was ordered to deploy our 1352nd Artillery Regiment (Artillerieregiment 1352 ) to bolster the existing defenses in front of Bayeux and to the west. Though the 1352nd Artillery Regiment (abv. AR.1352) now served tactically under the command of the 716ID (716th Infantry Division), its training was still managed by the 352ID.
General Rommel (center) on his inspection tour of the beach defenses in the 84th Army Corps Zone. General Marcks is seen standing to the left.
Rommel found the 716ID's manpower and facilities in bad shape and decided to strengthen this 100km long coastal front by dividing it into two halves. The 716ID retained a shortened 47km long ‘Caen Zone’ backed up with 21st Armored Division (Panzerdivision 21, 21PzD) as reserves under Army Group B.”
21PzD was under Hitler’s direct command, through Army Group B, not under 716ID command which was responsible for the defense of their sector. -SB
"On the left, the 352ID took over the 53km long 'Bayeux Zone,' taking over and keeping in place the 716ID's 726th Infantry Regiment (Grenadierregiment 726, abv. GR726) there."
The Bayeux Zone was broken into three command sectors, with the GR.726 command keeping contol of the east sector. As a trade-off for GR.losing some battalions to other sector commands, the 352ID would have to give up to the GR.726 command, the 1st Battalion of its' 916th Infantry Regiment (I/GR.916) which was then placed just east of Arromanches on the border of the 716ID's Zone.
The German terms 'Abteilung' and 'Battalion' tend to be used interchangeably by modern scholars But 'Abteilung' differ from Battalions. Battalion (abv. Btl) is an 'Section' organic to a regimental command. Abteilung (abv. Abt) is a battalion size 'detachment' capable of operating independently, or conventionally deployed under a regimental command. They can be deployed and operated effectively under various assigned commands without Division level supervision.
Though they may look the same on an organization chart, employing a battalion in the manner of a Ablietung weakens the Battalion's combat value when placed under an unfamiliar command. -SB
“Up to now we still believed we would be sent to the Eastern Front. But finally on the 15th of March 1944, the 352ID was ordered by the Headquarters of the 84th Army Corps (LXXXIV.Armeekorp, LXXXIV.AK), to take over the 'Bayeux Coastal Defense Zone' (Calvados Coast) from the 716ID The previous orders to keep an emergency combat team on standby and to continue unit training, remained in effect.”
Two weeks before D-Day, Allied Intelligence officially confirmed that the 352.ID had moved up to reinforce the Omaha Beach areas. According to __??__, this move was formally published on June 3rd in the 21st Army group weekly Neptune Intelligence Review and circulated to all senior American Cammanders. -SB
“The 352ID” now had three duties:
1. First, to defend the Bayeux Coastal Zone.
2. Second, make improvements in the combat area.
3. And third, train combat units for battle.
These duties were quite agreeable to an untested Division that thought it would end up on the Eastern Front were it is not so easy.
As to our preparations for the Defense of the Bayeux Coastal Zone, we assumed control of 716ID’s existing ‘Reinforced’ GR726 forces in the Bayreux sector, excluding its 2nd Battalion (II/GR.726).
The term ‘Reinforced’ means that additional heavy weapons have been added to the standard regiment formation. -SB
The 716ID’s three formerly designated 'Battalion Command-Sectors' now became our three ‘Regimental Command-Sectors.’
The staffs of the 352ID's 914th and 915th Regiments (GR.914, and GR.915) took command of the 'left' and the 'center' Battalion (now Regimental) Sectors respectively. The right Sector remained under control of the GR726 HQ staff which now reported to the 352ID's command, not it's parent Division 716ID. GR.726 's beach front battalions (III/GR.726 and I/GR.726) in the new Left (GR.914) and Center (GR.916) Regimental Command Sectors, were kept in their existing positions but now came under the appropriate 352ID Regimental command.
Evidently II/GR.726 (now under GR.916 CP control) phone lines at the Omaha Beach positions remained connected to GR.726's CP (now the 'right' Regimental Command Sector) near Bayreux, and then had to be routed back to the GR.916 CP Post (Center Regimental Command sector) behind Omaha beach alongside the rad from Forigny to Tevieres. -SB
Col. Ernst Goth
Originally, the GR916 (Col. Ernst Goth) itself, along with the 352nd Rifle Battalion, (Fuesilierabteilung 352, abv. FusAbt.352) was assigned under the direct command of Gen. Marcks, Commanding General of the 84th Army Corps. But on May 20th , the 915th Regiment (GR.915) exchanged roles with GR916 and, along with the 352nd Rifle Battalion. GR915 was now the new 84th Army Corps’ Reserves.
The GR.915, reinforced with the FusAbt.352 becomes refered to as 'Reinforced GR.915.' It will eventually be employed on an independent mission on June 6th 1944 and be referred to as ‘Task-Force Meyer,’ named after its commander Lt. Col Ernst Meyer. -SB
The GR916 command now had the Center Regimental Sector but had relinquished its' 1st Battalion (abv. I/GR916) to the right GR726's Sector, to serve as reserves under GR726's command.”
“The plan for our preparations resulted from this exacting terrain study, influenced by the previous Allied landings in Sicily and Italy as well as General Marcks’ detailed map war game exercises and conferences.
On the basis of these detailed, persuasive discussions and table-top war game exercises conducted by Gen. Marcks, I too agreed with his opinion that the Invasion, at least a part of the invasion, would be targeted against the Cotentin peninsula; from which a breakout to the east and south would follow with the ultimate goal then to thrust at the chief communications hub of Paris.
Major General Marcks, Commander of the 84th Army Corps, including the 352ID, lost a leg in the invasion of Russian earlier and was killed June 12th in the St Lo area as his artificial leg slowed his escape from a staff car being attacked by fighter aircraft.
After a study of the analyses of the landings on Sicily and in Italy proper, it was clear to me, that as soon as possible upon landing, the enemy would attempt to capture ideal harbors such as the large harbor of Cherbourg and the harbors near Caen and St. Malo.
Afterwards they would develop larger bridgeheads with the necessary elements (build-up of reserves and breakout) that assured continued success of the Invasion. Consequently the large harbor of Cherbourg, because of its favorable short distances to the south coast of England, had the greatest importance.
At these conferences General Marcks developed a scenario were the Allies would aim at taking Cherburg harbor by first cutting off the Carentan Peninsula through a massive airborne landings at the base of the peninsula along the Lessay to Carentan line.
So, the deployment of our forces was guided by the high probability that the enemy will seek the spacious Cherbourg harbor, by first cutting off the Cotentan peninsula. After strengthening his bridgehead with additional forces, he would then break-out to the south and south-east (through the 352ID's left wing) and push on to Paris.
Therefore the focus in the 352ID’s sector was to both reinforce the left wing from the mouth of the river Vire to the south-east of the Cotentin peninsula with GR.914 and to use the 2nd Battalion from GR.916 (II/GR.916) as a Division reserve to strengthen the areas around St. Laurent (Omaha Beach) and send its 1st Battalion (I/GR.916) to Arromanches (what would become the Gold Beach area). These areas had beaches most likely threatened by enemy landings by sea.
The 84th Army Corps Reserve (Reinforced GR.915) was kept in readiness on the Division's right-wing, south of Bayeux, to deal with a possible withdrawal of the 21st Panzer Division, situated as counter-attack reserves just to the east. There was some concern by Gen. Marcks that the 21st Panzer Division would be pulled out by the High Command leaving the right wing leaving him without reserve forces to back up the 716ID Zone.
The 84th Army Corps (AKLXXXIV) had no forces of its own which was the normal custom, to be available as reserves. The lack of Corps reserve manpower-strapped 84th Army Corps and forced Gen. Marks to appropriate 352ID battalions. This not only reduced 352ID ability to perform its own mission (defense of the 352ID Zone) but assignment of battalions out side their home regiment, affected their ability to coordinate operations with their new regimental commands.
The deployment of I/GR916 under GR.726 and the deployment of I/GR915 under GR.916 are examples of Corps level intervention and micro-management of Divison level combat strength.-SB
“Eventually It became clear to us that the invasion was liable to happen by summer and directly involve our zone. This was supported by press reports about Russia's call for decisive intervention by the Western Powers, by a new stricter censorship in England and the curbing of diplomatic privileges, by the presence (according to the Army newspaper Wehrmacht) of enemy landing crafts gathering on the south coast of England and by the cancellation, from March-on, of all furloughs for every commanding and general staff officers. The way the High Command (OKW) carefully monitored the tides also suggested that they expected an invasion soon.
Then, there started a very lively enemy carrier pigeon traffic in all sectors of the 352ID from 20th of March to the 20th of May 1944. 27 carrier pigeons were shot!”
A French resistance cell in Cricqueville behind Point du Hoc, operated the carrier pigeon operation. -SB
“However, it then seemed that my Division Commander was lead to expect the invasion in early August from a conversation with Rommel whom he personally knew. Rommel was on leave by June 6th, having left for his home in Germany early Sunday on June 4th.”
Originally Rommel confided that the invasion could occur as early as late-May and he remarked to the assembled garrison at strong point Wn.62 that “this section of the coast resembles the Bay of Salerno in Italy and there fore we should be on special guard against hostile landings!” Allied troops landed in the Bay of Salerno in September 1943. -SB
"The employment of reserves was Fieldmarshal Rommel's specialty. He believed with all heavy weapons (the Division's field strength) incorporated into existing beach strong-points or added to new fortifications, the enemy could be destroyed in the water in front of our 'Main Line of Resistance' (MLR).
On Rommel's visit in May, I was reproached for not bringing reserves (rifle companies without heavy weapons) up close to the coast. In response, I questioned Rommel on how enemy infiltration in the rear of our zone could be countered with-out reserves well behind the lines. This question remained unanswered. I clearly felt that with an attack on our beach positions the whole area would be under heavy naval fire and air attacks, making any counter-attack by assault-reserves impossible during the daylight. He did not respond but he did feel that every soldier had to be able to concentrate his fire on the water's edge.
Gen, Kraiss, my Division’s chief, agreed with me but he also felt we must find a compromise solution. Therefore, some reserves (rifle companies) were ordered nearer to the ‘MLR’ (Main-Line-of- Resistance, the line of beach-front ‘Resistance Nest’), so that they could fire directly onto the shore. Yet a counterattack would still be possible by having the remaining reserve held back in depth. Though tactical reserves were moved up strategic reserves, including relocation of supply depots closer to front, where held back. Anyway, it was necessary to conduct an exact terrain reconnaissance and do more emplacement work.
To deal with the threat of a cross channel operation, Germany lacked a maritime-operations doctrine. So they drew upon two land-operations doctrine to define their strategy.
The First held that widely separated forward strong-points (a false MLR) would screen a main mobile force hidden in reserve (real MLR) ready to counter-attack the enemy's newly exposed flacks as the enemy turn to envelope these forward post. A successful tactic on the eastern front.
The Second, was the River-Crossing doctrine, where all forces are massed on the river bank to annihilate a crossing before a bridgehead is established.
Rommel felt the second doctrine best fit the channel crossing scenario. This is because, once established, a bridgehead can not be out-flanked and could hold off attacks up to five times their strength during its 'build-up' phase. This would allow a build up of Allied forces and eventual breakout with overwhelming force.
From his experience in Africa, Rommel was also one of the few German Generals to fully grasp the threat of massive Allied ground-attack aircraft to interdict any German counter attacks, movement of reserve forces, and re-supply units and thus deny the ability of German forces to develop decisive local superiority and employ the First doctrine. -SB
The types of combat positions organized within the Division's sector were Widerstandsnester (Resistance Nest) manned by one or two squads of roughly 20 men, Stutzpunkt (Strong-points), a grouping of several mutually supporting Resistance Nest manned by a platoon to company, and Verteidigungsbereich (Defense Complex) manned by one to two companies.
Hitler gave orders to “hold each position to the last man and last bullet.” Abandoning a defense position during battle was now impossible. For instance, could a strong-point crew leave their fortification to help a neighbor?
By this order. Hitler denied German forces their one strength, that of their superior mobile warfare tactics. -SB
“Would an artillery battery under bombardment be allowed to take up a new firing position?
The High Command (OKW) could not resolve this issue. But a novel solution was provided by Rommel declaring the whole military region, including the Division's zone, as a single Festung Kreis (a military base) with a sea-front facing the beach and a parallel l0-15 km deep land-front facing south to the rear. The entire Division along with supply troops could to be stationed in this 100km long ‘Position.’ Besides dealing with logistics, the supply troops would defend the land-front against enemy airborne troops.
As it turned out though, this did not work because the army supply depots were too far to the south, out side the designated 'Fortress Area.' Considering that the 352ID (except for the fixed facilities) had only one-issue of ammunition, because of their 'special' (construction and training) duties, both rear defense and logistic support by supply troops could only be described as insufficient throughout the ensuing campaign.
To capture bailed-out enemy air crews and deal with any local unrest, ‘search patrols’ on bicycles or motorcycles were organized within each regimental sector. Through their efforts, a small number of air crews would be delivered to the Air Force interrogation services in Caen.
Preparing the Bayreux Coastal Defense Zone
Before March 20th 1944, improvements in the Bayeux Coastal Defense Zone was considered 'below average.' But with the arrival of Fieldmarshal Rommel, activity picked up in our zone, providing work to many 'local administration offices.' Despite hasty orders and a lack of experience and material during this period, improvements were actually made which later made the invasion more difficult.
The installation of obstacles along the shore area (coastline cliff and beach areas) depended first on barricading those beaches which were most in danger of enemy sea-borne landings
Assuming these landings would only take place at high tide, obstacles of all kind were erected on the tidal plate of the beach so that their upper parts projected just above the water surface at high tide. Pile driven stakes of metal and concrete as well as wooden trestles, and steel anti-tank obstacles called “Tschechen” (“Czechs”) were installed; some armed with under-water or surface mines and high explosives.
They were iron anti-tank obstacles set up on the Czechoslovakian-German border before the war.
After awhile the work had to be done over. These obstacles silted up and had to be dug out of the sand. And during the storms in April, most of these obstacles were torn out and the mines detonated. Even though cutting new logs in the Cerisy Forest was allowed only after permission had been secured, they had to be transported at least 30km by horse-drawn vehicles because of fuel shortages. And since they had to be logged by hard-to-get circular saws and rammed in position by hand, it took a considerable time, particularly on the rocky shore at Grandcamp. Yet our results were surprisingly good.
In the second half of May, the possibility of a landings at low tide was discussed. So work on additional obstacles out beyond the tidal flats was begun but it was impossible to plant these obstacles at a proper depth.
We also assumed properly equipped enemy commandos could scale the steep cliffs around St. Pierre du Mont (area of Pointe du Hoc) and at Longues.
Here, the Engineer Battalion (Pionierabtielung) prepared old 24cm shells, with an effective shrapnel range of 600m, to roll down on the beach and explode when triggered by a trip wire. By June 1st, we had placed one of these shells every 100m on the cliffs. In his refernce to 'Combat Engineers' above, it is safe to assume that Ziegalmann referred to the 352nd Combat Engineers (Pionerabtielung 352, abv. PiAbt.352).
A final innovation was the employment of 'Goliat' (Goliath), a small remote controlled tank packed with explosives, but these weapons arrived on June 5th and were not used.
It became evident that Rommel's authority was not enough to complete the construction of concrete fortifications. The availability of cement and dealing with four independent construction authorities were decisive issues. Air force workers, Navy, Organization Todt (the prime construction contractor), personnel and our own 'Fortress Engineers' worked side by side, often duplicating the work. Once again over-organization proved to be a menace.
Almost half of the battle installations were out-moded and, at most, poorly reinforcement. In the Division's sector alone, analysis showed that only 15% of the cement fortifications were bomb-resistant, 45% were shrapnel-proof. Uneven distribution of building material was the order of the day.
In our sector the Air Force built concrete positions while our infantry with their heavy weapons were in poor earth emplacements prone to flooding. On June 6th , the Air Force's concrete shelters were never used, while with earth emplacements it was impossible for our soldiers to defend them for long.
The existing mines, laid two years previously, were no longer reliable. To realize the Fieldmarshal's plans, an installation of a mine belt 5km deep consisting of 10,000,000 (150 mines every 100m) would had been needed for the Division's 53km wide zone. The new allotment of mines (effective against tanks) simply did not arrive. By June 1st we laid about 10,000 anti-personnel ‘S’ mines. In general, we did not achieve Rommel’s plans for even one divisional zone of the ‘Atlantic Wall.’”
In May 1944, under the pressure of OKW, Army High Command (OKH) in Berlin convinced Hitler to restrict Rommel’s power, restoring tactical control back to Rundsted’s OKW. -SB