THE WORMS TURN
Man with a Yellow Leather Briefcase
During the night the news of the parachute and glider landings in Normandy hardened, and ships engines were heard offshore. But the F¸hrer was not awakened ; his adjutants consulted with Jodl, who pointed out that the situation would not clear up until daybreak anyway. It followed from this that until the full situation was put to him at the midday war conference, Hitler took no decision on theincreasingly franticappeals by Rundstedt to release the OKW panzer reserves to counterattack. By that time wave after wave of landing craft had disgorged tanks and men onto the landing beaches after annihilating naval and air bombardments, and the Seventh Army admitted that the Allies had already established west of the Orne River a beachhead some fifteen miles wide and two miles deep inland.
Thus by the time Hitlers war conference began, the Battle of France was already lostif Rommels dictum about the necessity for defeating the enemy on the very beaches had meant anything. The events of the next days disclosed that the movements of any German reserves by day were impossible, so overwhelming was the enemys air superiority. That the enemy had not been defeated on the beaches was due in part to the weakness of the Atlantic Wall in Normandydespite all Hitlers warnings since February 1944, the Wall was only 18 percent complete in the Seventh Armys sector, compared with 68 percent in the Channel sector commanded by Salmuths Fifteenth Armyand in part to the sluggishness of German Intelligence, which had accurate evidence that the invasion would occur on June 6 or 7 but failed to alert all the echelons concernedin particular General Friedrich Dollmanns Seventh Army.
Hitler subsequently ordered an investigation of this renewed Intelligence failure, which had resulted in Rommel leaving his French headquarters for Germany on the fourth, Dollmann being absent on a map exercise at Rennes, and Sepp Dietrich being in Brussels. Working in conjunction with the SS, the Abwehr in France had since early 1944 penetrated numerous Resistance cells in France ; thus they had learned that two lines of a Paul Verlaine poem broadcast by the BBCs French service would be the invasion-alert. On June 1 the first line was heard for the first time : les sanglots longs des violons de Pautomne. This, Intelligence knew, indicated that the invasion was due in the first half of the month. At 9:15 P.M. on the fifth the BBC broadcast the second line : blessent mon coeur dune langueur monotone. This was the prearranged signal for the Resistance to start sabotage operations for an invasion beginning within forty-eight hours of midnight. Salmuths radio operators picked this up and alerted every lower echelon as well as the HQ of Army Group Bwhere Speidel was acting in Rommels absence. Rundstedts headquarters also subsequently claimed to have intercepted the signal and warned all echelons concerned. But for some reason neither the OKW, nor the Berghof, nor the Seventh Army was warnedand it was Dollmanns army, in Normandy, that took the blow. This is all the more inexplicable as German Intelligence in Paris had analyzed the BBC secret messages125 invasion-alerts were transmitted on the afternoon of June 1 aloneand found that nearly all 28 that were transmitted to cells penetrated by the Germans were in the Normandy-Brittany area. The results of Hitlers investigation are not known ; the noisy tread of history approaching soon took his thoughts elsewhere, and if the culprits were either Colonel Georg Hansen, Canariss successor as chief of military Intelligence, or Colonel Alexis von Roenne, chief of Foreign Armies West, both were shortly executed in another context.
Far more serious was the incorrect estimate of initial Allied strength in England. Hitlers last information was that 90 divisions and 22 brigades were under arms in the British Isles ; the real number of divisions available for invasion operations was only 37. There is strong evidence that since early 1944 Zeitzlers faltering Intelligence branches had begun deliberately inventing ghost enemy divisions to frighten some common sense into Hitler ; more recently a well-laid British deception campaign had fed substance into these phantomswith success beyond the wildest dreams of the British, because throughout June Hitler dared not throw everything he had in France into the Normandy battle in case the enemys other invasion army then appeared elsewhere. Thus while on D-Day morning Rundstedt cautiously adjudged the Normandy operation to be quite serious after all, as the enemys employment of three airborne divisions and paratroops at the root of the Cherbourg peninsula showed, his morning telegrams to Hitler stressed that he could not yet say with certainty whether this was the real invasion or only a decoy. Hitler released the meager OKW panzer reservestwo divisionsat about 2:30 P.M.; Rundstedt was instructed to destroy the beachhead by nightfall, as more Allied airborne and amphibious troops were probably on their way.
It is easy to smirk now, but this was the prevailing mood. Hitler and his generals were overconfident. In his unpublished memoirs, the Fifteenth Armys commander, General Hans von Salmuth, wrote of that invasion morning : At 6 A.M., since it had been daylight for an hour and a half, I had my Chief of Staff telephone Seventh Army again to ask if the enemy had landed anywhere yet. The reply was, Fleets of troop transports and warships big and small are lying at various points offshore, with masses of landing craft. But so far no landing has yet taken place. Thereupon I went back to sleep with a calm mind, after telling my Chief of Staff So their invasion has miscarried already ! According to a manservant, Hitlers mood was equally cocky. The news couldnt be better, was how he welcomed Keitel that morning. As long as they were in Britain we couldnt get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them. And to G–ring : They are landing hereand here : just where we expected them !
The Luftwaffe High Command remained optimistic throughout the day. Although they too had been caught napping in Francein spite of the fact that a master plan drawn up in February and constantly updated since, had provided for nineteen squadrons of fighters to be rushed to the west the moment the invasion startedG–ring and Korten, his Chief of Staff, retained their composure. On that sixth of June the Luftwaffe could raise only 319 sorties over France, compared with the enemys 10,585, and only 12 fighter-bomber sorties were flown into the beachhead area itself (in which 10 of the pilots released their bombs prematurely); but the Luftwaffe assured Hitler that within three days they would reach maximum strength. On June 7, Richthofen wrote : The Channel fighting is still assessed very optimistically by the Luftwaffe High Command.
Not until June 8 was G–rings optimism damped. By that evening he had only five ground-attack aircraft and ninety-five fighters operational against the invasion. He had eight hundred crews available for fighter squadrons, but not enough aircraft. The Allies total air supremacy over the Normandy beachhead was a fact. Since even far inside the German-controlled area all daytime movement of men and materials was impossible, the immediate counterattack by the OKW reserves and the 21st Panzer Division failed. The artillery bombardment by offshore enemy warships guided by spotter planes was so deadly that when G–ring announced the formation of a squadron of suicide-pilots willing to fly Focke-Wulf 190s laden with two-ton bombs (since no fuel load would be needed for a return flight) for several days Hitler considered dispatching them against these ships. Donitzs U-boats could not get near them. General Guderian summed up the situation to Hitler a few days later : Even the greatest bravery of the tank soldiers cant make up for the defection of two other Services. Gathering his forces, Rundstedt planned to mount an armored counterattack from under an impenetrable wall of fire put up by the Third Antiaircraft Corps west of Caen early on the eleventh ; but on the evening of the tenth, he had to cancel the attack when an enemy tank assault disrupted the assembling forces, driving them to the defensive.
Thus by June 10 German optimism had evaporated. D–nitz conceded : The invasion has succeeded. The Second Front has come. Loud recriminations began at the Berghof. When G–ring blamed the navy for having assured everybody that the enemy would not risk his capital ships in a Channel invasion and for objecting to the earlier laying of the secret pressure mines off the French coast. D–nitz bridled : Discussion of such matters does not seem opportune at this moment. It was obvious that the enemy planned to capture the deep port of Cherbourg next. If this could not be prevented, warned Rundstedt on June 11, the F¸hrer might be confronted with a situation requiring fundamental decisions. Rommel echoed this in a letter to Keitel the next day. Hitler now realized that his optimism had been misplaced, and belatedly ordered two high-grade SS panzer divisions (the 9th and 10th)which had been standing by to attack a minor Russian salient near Kolomeato entrain immediately for the Normandy front instead. If I had had the 9th and 10th SS panzer divisions in the west, he grumbled at the end of August, all this would probably never have happened. With these reinforcements Rundstedt was ordered to destroy the Normandy bridgehead piecemeal.
On the afternoon of June 6, 1944, the OKW had ordered the flying-bomb attack against London to begin. But first six days had to be spent in bringing up the heavy steel catapult rigs from their camouflaged dumps and transporting them to the sixty-four prepared launching sites along the Channel coast. The launching crews exchanged their Todt Organization camouflage for blue-gray Luftwaffe uniforms, and the regiments command staff moved into its new bunker at Saleux ; but on the eleventh it was clear that all was not well, as disastrous Allied bombing of the French road and rail networks had resulted in trains being split, catapult sections being delivered to the wrong sites, and vital components vanishing completely. Despite thiswith none of the sites operationalthe OKW insisted that day that the attack begin the next night.
How Hitler thirsted for the moment ! Here at the Berghof he had joined the rest of Germany in the front line of the bombing war. By day he watched the American bomber squadrons glittering high overhead on their way from Italy to targets in southern Germany. By night the British flew the other way into Austria and Hungary, the Obersalzberg sirens driving the entire Berghof staff out the back door to the large steel portals masking the entrance to the tunnels now honeycombing the mountain. Hitler himself was loath to go down the sixty-five steps until the antiaircraft batteries began firing ; he stood close to the tunnel exit, taking care that nobody tried to leave before the all clear sounded. Often the red glow of fires burning in Munich could be seen reflected in the skies. His housekeeper had begged him to move his town apartments contents to somewhere safer, but he had refused. Frau Winter, we must set an example.
His impatience with G–rings fighter defenses rose with each successful raid. In the raid on Munich on June 9, Eva Brauns close friend, Heini Handschuhmacher, the well-known actor, was killed with his wife. Eva and her women friends returned in tears from the funeral and pathetically described the misery caused by the raids. Hitler listened with a mournful face, wrote a secretary later, swore vengeance, and promised that he would repay everything onehundredfold with the Luftwaffes new inventions.
The flying bombshortly christened V-1 by Goebbelswas one of the wars most terrifying weapons : a cheaply built pilotless plane with a one-ton warhead of high explosive, it was propelled so fast by its simple jet device that few modern fighter aircraft could engage it ; its engine resonated with a deep organlike growl, awakening the whole countryside over which it passedits sudden silence being the signal that it was about to impact. G–ring proudly took the credit.
On the night of June 12 the flying-bomb attack on London began. The launching sites were still not ready, and the result was a fiasco : of ten V-1s catapulted, four crashed at once, two vanished without trace, one demolished a railway bridge in London, and the other three impacted elsewhere. Now G–ring anxiously informed Hitler that Milchthe same field marshal who had deceived them over the Me-262 jet aircraftwas the author of the V-1. Two more days passed while the catapult rigs were properly adjusted. Late on June 15 the offensive was resumed ; no fewer than 244 V-1s were launched against London by noon the next day ; spotter aircraft reported fires sweeping the British capital.
The new campaign took the British completely by surprise. Though Hitler did not know it, Churchill had to order a complete redistribution of the British antiaircraft and fighter defenses : bombing of the V-1 sites now assumed a priority above the destruction of German cities, aircraft factories, and oil refineries. G–ring retracted his earlier statement about the authorship of the weapon ; but at 5:35 P.M. on the seventeenth Hitler telephoned Milch to congratulate him in person, and a few days later he jubilantly ordered Speer to throttle back A-4 rocket production to release manpower and materials to increase V-1 and jetbomber production.
Surely the enemy would now have to launch their second invasion force against the Pas de Calais to neutralize this V-1 threat ? Both Hitler and Jodl had recognized as early as the twelfth that defeating such a second invasion was now probably the only hope. Besides, the Russians were clearly winding up for a main offensive on the eastern front ; war on two fronts, the nightmare Hitler had avoided in 1939, was about to become a reality.
Late on June 16 four Focke-Wulf Condors flew Hitler and his staff to Metz, while the entire fighter force along the route was grounded, and antiaircraft batteries forbidden to fire in order to avoid accidents. After dawn the next morning, while Luftwaffe fighters patroled the highway from Rheims onward, he drove to W2, the F¸hrers Headquarters built near Soissons, to confer with Rundstedt and Rommel and to congratulate the flying-bomb commander, General Erich Heinemann. The immediate purpose of Hitlers flight was to restore the two field marshals confidence, shaken by the enemys success in consolidating his bridgehead at Normandy. By the skillful use of airborne troops, the Americans had torn open the front and were bound to isolate the whole Cherbourg peninsula sooner or later. Hitler appears to have reproached Rommel, and Rommel evidently blamed the poor quality and equipment of the Normandy divisionswith some justice, for throughout the spring, Zeitzler had steadily drained away the best divisions to the eastern front. Hitler was also told of the crushing enemy air superiority.
Two aspects of the coming battle were discussed that day : the coming battle for Cherbourg and a future counterattack by four SS panzer divisions from west of Caen and Falaisewhich was Hitlers own proposal. By 10 A.M., Hitlers first order for the defense of Cherbourg had been telephoned by Rommels Chief of Staff Hans Speidel to the army group HQ. The fortress Cherbourg is to be held at all costs.... A retreat in one stage only will not take place. The German troops were to make a fighting retreat into the fortress, delaying the enemys advance by obstacles, minefields, and deception, while the time was used to stock up Cherbourg for a long siege and demolish the port facilitiesstarting immediatelyso that the enemy could not use it. Before the SS counterattack, Hitler called for a clear Schwerpunkt in Normandy east of the Orne ; this Schwerpunkt was to be established at the expense of the First and Nineteenth armies but not of Salmuths Fifteenth Army in the Pas de Calais, where Rommel and Rundstedt both expected the second invasion to come. The navy and Luftwaffe would be ordered to concentrate on the enemys warships and shipping tonnage ; the new pressure mines would be used for the first time. Both field marshals were visibly impressed by Heinemanns report on the V-1 attack : all morning hundreds of enemy bombers had been bombarding the launching sites, though with scant effect. Hitler left Soissonsnear the battlefield where as a corporal he had won his Iron Cross a quarter of a century beforelate that afternoon.
Back at the Berghof the next evening, the news was that the Americans had, as feared, reached the west coast of the Cherbourg peninsula. At 11 P.M. he said accusingly to Jodl, They are stating quite bluntly that theyve got through. Now, have they or havent they ! Jawohl, conceded the general ; they got through.
The convincing details of the coming secret weapons probably account for Rommels renewed exuberance. His next report exuded optimism again : the enemy had landed twenty-five divisions, but with heavy casualties ; the local French population were still overwhelmingly on the German side. Admiral Friedrich Ruge, his naval aide, marveled at Rommels new faith and surmised in his diary that Hitler must possess sheer magnetism. Hitler seriously counted on the new secret mines to foil the second invasion ; on June 18 he insisted that a barrage also be laid outside Le Havreso they cant stage a repeat performance there.
He had also spoken of the Messerschmitt jet bomber. G–rings propellor-driven fighter-bombers were being massacred in France, just as Hitler had feared. During June he closely followed the jet bombers production progress and studied the photographs of the underground factories being built. General Korten appealed for the immediate appearance of twelve to fifteen Me-262 bombers at the battle frontwhether piloted by civilians or officers was immaterialand for three more to be used, despite G–rings misgivings, as high-speed photographic reconnaissance planes. Production of the Heinkel 177 heavy bomber was to be stepped up as well, with a corresponding cutback in medium-bomber (Junkers 188) production. On June 20, Hitler accepted Speers proposal that all aircraft production be transferred to his armaments ministry. At last Hitler was taking a more personal interest in the Luftwaffes equipment.
Since the Russians had overrun Sevastopol, little had occurred in the east. On June 10 they had attacked the Finns, and for several days Hitler had drawn political comfort from the significant failure of the Russians to assist the Normandy invasion by attacking German-held sectors of the eastern front instead. But Stalin would not postpone his summer offensive forever, and the question was, Where would the blow fall ?
In May, Hitler had detected an enemy Schwerpunkt only at Kovel, which Models Army Group North-Ukraine had relieved in April. Model had wanted throughout May to promote an attack here, and the Fifty-sixth Panzer Corpswith virtually all Army Group Centers tankshad been transferred to him temporarily for this purpose. On June 11, however, Hitler canceled the Kovel attack when divisions had to be switched to the Normandy front. The upshot was that of his forty-five original divisions, Field Marshal Busch (Army Group Center) had only thirty-seven left in June to defend an eight hundred-mile perimeter should the Russians now attack it.
Almost complete radio silence had descended on the Russian front. Intuitively, Hitler suspected that Stalin would now go all-out for Army Group Center ; the gathering storm-signs that reached him confirmed his view. But throughout May, General Zeitzlers eastern Intelligence expert, Colonel Gehlen, had scented the main Soviet Schwerpunkt opposite Models Army Group North-Ukraine, consistent with what he called the Balkans solution; and even when Russian reinforcements were reported moving northward from there to the centerto Gomel and SmolenskGehlen would go no further on June 13 than to suggest that the Red Army might launch an initial attack on Army Group Center as a holding operation, albeit one with far-ranging objectives (even Minsk). The next day, both Zeitzler and his chief of operations, General Heusinger, reemphasized this view : the Soviet Schwerpunkt would for the first time come up against a German SchwerpunktModels army group.
Zeitzler rejected all the conflicting evidence. On June 17, the OKL telephoned him directly to warn of evidence of an imminent Red Army offensive near Smolensk. A captured Russian cipher officer revealed that three corps of fighter planes, including one from the Crimea, had just arrived at Smolensk ; over four thousand five hundred aircraft were suddenly confronting Army Group Center. Soviet reinforcements had been moved from Kovel, after the German attack had failed to materialize there, to Gomel and Smolensk, and they were confronting the Ninth and Fourth armies, respectively. On June 18 and t9, Hitler called for the Fourth Air Corps, the last great air reserve in the east, to bomb the Gomel armies, and he refused to transfer the corps to Normandy for minelaying operations for just this reason. As late as June 20, General Zeitzler was still obstinately maintaining that the real Soviet offensive would shortly come against Models front. Hitler ignored his advice. From the Berghof, the Luftwaffe was informed the next day : The general appreciation is that the expected attack on Army Group Center begins tomorrow. Once more, toward 2 A.M. on June 22, Hitler personally ordered the Sixth Air Force to stand by on full alert for that attack within the next few hours.
Before we record the catastrophe that now indeed befell Army Group Center, we must look briefly at two of Hitlers concurrent preoccupationsthe bombing war and Finland.
On June 21, 2,500 American aircraft had attacked Berlin in broad daylight, releasing over 2,000 tons of bombs on the capital. Forty-four bombers were shot down, and in one of them was found a map revealing that 114 had flown on to Russian airfields in the Ukraine. Hitler ordered General Meisters Fourth Air Corps to raid them there that very night. Two-thirds of the bombers were destroyed and the rest crippled beyond repair. It was a satisfying and sudden end to the American shuttle-bombing raids.
Hitlers guest at the Berghof war conferences on June 21 and 22 was his favorite Bavarian general, Dietl, commander of the German Twentieth Army in Lapland. Since February Hitler had been aware of secret Soviet-Finnish armistice talks, but these had collapsed in March as the Russian terms were too harsh. Suspicious that this all-too democratic government might abandon the war at any moment, Hitler stopped arms deliveries to Finland in April, and when Marshal Mannerheim promised him in May that the weapons would never end up in Russian hands Hitler privately dismissed this platonic assurance as quite valueless. Mannerheims determined resistance to the Russian offensive of June 10 impressed him, however, and two days later Hitler decided : As long as the Finns keep warring well support them ; the moment they start jawing, the deliveries will be stopped. He ordered G–ring to rush a fighter squadron to Helsinki and Guderian to supply a battalion of assault guns. At the evening conference on June 21 he nonetheless expressed disappointment that Mannerheim had withdrawn his troops so far. Dietl went red in the face, slammed his fist on the red marble map table, and dismissed Hitlers criticisms as typical of a chairbound general unencumbered by any expert knowledge of the terrain ; he would fly back to Finland and support Mannerheim to the hilt. After the general left the Great Hall, Hitler turned to his gaping staff and exclaimed, Gentlementhats the kind of general I like !
Dietl and his corps commanders had spent two days listening to speeches by Keitel, Rosenberg, and Himmler at the SS training college at Sonthofen.(1) Himmlers speechwhich again may have later been shown to the F¸hrercovered the familiar ground, though he no longer claimed to be murdering the Jews on Hitlers orders. He conceded that (at most) fifty thousand Germans were now in concentration camps, including some fifteen thousand political prisoners. He asked for the generals sympathy in having had to eliminate the Jews : Germany could not have withstood the bombing terror if the Jewish germ had remained, he argued, nor could the front line have been held east of Lemberg (Lvov) if the big Jewish settlements had still existed in that cityor in Cracow, Lublin, and Warsaw. And using the familiar arguments he answered their unspoken question as to why the Jewish children had to be murdered too.
Next afternoon, on June 22, the same generals listened to a secret speech by Hitler on the Obersalzberg, on the nature of war and revolution. The shorthand record has survived in Bormanns files. To frequent storms of applause, the F¸hrer expounded his philosophy that in war as in nature the weakest must go to the wall, and that a nation which failed to recognize this would as surely vanish from the face of the earth as had countless prehistoric species. Nor can there occur a revolution in the Germany of today. The Jews have gone ; and the born leaders I have already singled out long ago, regardless of their origins, for positions of authority. If any man now turned to the outside world against Germany, then a death sentence would be meted out to him. The generals fiercely applauded Hitlers image of the little worm of an infantryman in a slit trench, confronting ten or more Russian tanks with only a grenade in his hands, while democrats at home plotted his countrys surrender. How can one expect the brave little rifleman to die for his country on the battlefield, while at the same moment others at home are doing no less than plotting the betrayal of these mens sacrifices ! When people asked him, How easy is your conscience now ? he could only respond that he could often not sleep, but that he never for one instant doubted that Germany would survive every danger. I still have not made my ultimate appeal to the German nation, he reminded the generals, and they responded with frenetic applause and shouts of Heil !
The plane carrying Dietl and his generals back to Lapland crashed into the Semmering Mountain a few hours later, killing everybody aboard. Agonized by the fear that this loss might finally prompt Finlands defection, Hitler ordered absolute secrecy about the tragedy until Ribbentrops mission in Helsinkisecuring the Finnish governments unconditional agreement to reject any further Soviet peace proposalswas accomplished. Dietls generals were quietly buried by the Party in Carinthia ; Hitler himself attended the state funeral for Dietl at Salzburg on July 1.
The simultaneous loss of Cherbourg was not only bitter but also a mystery to Hitler. Jodl had spoken well of General Karl Wilhelm von Schlieben, the ports commandant, and Hitler had radioed him on June 21 : I expect you to fight this battle as Gneisenau once fought in the defense of Colberg. But that night the general called for urgent supplies to be airlifted to him, and Hitler caustically commented at the next days noon conference : Two years theyve had to stock up Cherbourg, yet within two days of being cut off they are already clamoring for air supplies. Only now did he learn that far fewer German troops were in the port than he had supposedand indeed ordered. Of the 77th Infantry Division only sixty men had arrived ; the rest had either been wiped out oragainst his ordersbroken through the American line to the south. The low combat strength of the other divisions derived in part from Hitlers earlier order for every yard of the peninsula to be defended in a fighting retreat. He nonetheless asked some very angry questions of the Seventh Army that afternoon, and the answers supplied to him at the evening conference did not satisfy him. Although Cherbourg had in theory enough food and ammunition for an eight-week siege, its stock of antitank weapons was nonexistent. Rundstedt and Rommel claimed to have warned of this deficiency throughout their area for months.
Hitler considered desperate measuresa counterthrust into the rear of the American corps attacking the port, which Rundstedt rejected out of hand, or an airlift of three thousand paratroops. General Student was willing, but the OKL was not, unless a full moon could be provided. Hitler fumed : It must be possible to put down three thousand troops in our own territory ! But given the Allied air supremacy, it was not ; on June 25, 118 German fighter aircraft set off to support Schlieben, but all were beaten back. That afternoon an Anglo-American battle fleet appeared offshore and began blasting the port. At 7:32 P.M. Schliebens radio operators faintly broadcast : The final battle for Cherbourg has begun. General is fighting with his troops. Long live F¸hrer and Germany. Then the sign-off prefix, and Heil the F¸hrer, Heil Germany !
Far into the night Hitler debated with General Guderian and General Walter Buhle ways of providing Rundstedt with long-range artillery capable of engaging such enemy battle fleets from the shore. The next afternoon, June 26, Keitel ordered court-martial investigation of the negligence and omissions that had so weakened the Cherbourg garrison ; everybody involved from Seventh Army downward was to be examined. Early on June 28, the Seventh Armys commander, Friedrich Dollmann, took poison. Hitler was told the general had died of a heart attack, believed it, and authorized a generous obituary.
If people now say, Look, the British are in Cherbourg, I reply, To you that is the beginning of their reconquest of France, but I look at it differently. Thus Hitler pacified his generals. After all, we already hounded them out of France once ; so Cherbourg is just the last ground they still hold. When war broke out, it was not we who were in France, but they ... and the enemy was barely a hundred miles from Berlin, standing on our eastern frontiers. And in a way it was fortunate that the Germans were now hypnotized by the western front, for the events in the east were far grimmer.
The Russian offensive on June 22 had begun with deceptive mildness : company-strength infantry attacks on Army Group Center left two minor breaches torn temporarily on either side of Vitebsk. Zeitzler had continued to direct Hitlers attention to the apparent threat to Army Groups South- and North-Ukraine. But then great Russian tank formations had appeared, and poured through the breaches, while overwhelming operations by ground-attack squadrons had neutralized the German artillery, the backbone of the defensive system ; the Sixth Air Force had only forty fighter aircraft operational that day. A month before, at the Berghof, Hitler had personally briefed Field Marshal Busch, summoned from Army Group Center headquarters at Minsk. He was to hold the present line and in particular defend the fortified places of Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, and Bobruisk to the last man. By June 25, however, the Red Army was about to engulf the entire Fourth Army and most of the Ninth ; moreover, the sheer scale of the Russian offensive only dawned slowly on the Germans. Believing that disaster could still be staved off, Hitler bluntly refused frantic appeals by Busch and Zeitzler to abandon the fortified places while there was still time ; thus Busch lost six divisions tied down in their defense. When he came to the Berghof he appealed for Army Group North to be pulled back too, so that strength could be released to his own front. But now that Mannerheim had just pledged Finlands loyalty, Hitler refused to let him down like that. Himmler blamed this incomprehensible collapse on Busch. In my view the army groups command was too soft and war-weary, he wrote on June 26. Hitler evidently agreed, for two days later, as a penalty for failure, he sacked the field marshal.
This was the only remedy he knew in such a desperate situation, and he applied it liberally. Others would follow Busch into the wilderness that same week, and at its end, Hitlerhis determination to win through unimpairedwas even his own Chief of General Staff, for General Zeitzler had also disappeared, either sick or sickened by events.
Hostility toward Zeitzler had mounted at the Berghof. Early in May he had formally complained about General Guderians disparaging comments on the attitude of the General Staff and tendered his resignationan offer Hitler left temporarily unanswered. Some weeks later G–ring slandered Zeitzler in earshot of the Berghof orderlies, remarking on the armys cowardice. The final clash with Hitler came on June 30, with disaster threatening General Georg Lindemanns Army Group North in the Baltic states. Zeitzler appealed to Hitler to withdraw the army group to the shorter Dvina River line while there was yet time. Buschs successorModeland Lindemann supported Zeitzler from afar, but Hitler would not hear of it ; to throw Finland into the arms of Stalin would deprive Germany of her last nickel supplies, with grave effects on arms production. I bear the responsibility, not you, he acidly reminded Zeitzler. Undaunted, Zeitzler told him that now that the the invasion of France had manifestly succeeded, the war could not be won unless the much-publicized total war effort became a reality. He suggested the appointment of the Reichsf¸hrer SS Himmler as dictator to put teeth into the campaign. Total war alone would release the manpower the eastern front now needed. Hitler felt that Zeitzlers nerve had deserted him and commented spitefully on the defeatism of the General Staff.
Zeitzler left without saluting and suffered a complete nervous and physical collapse later that day. Hitler never saw him again. He managed without a Chief of General Staff for the following three weeks.
Rundstedt, the Commander in Chief West, was also a marked man. For several daysfollowing June 26, 1944Hitler had invited Field Marshal von Kluge as the heir-apparent to sit in on the Berghof war conferences and thus steep himself in Hitlers forced optimism.
He introduced Kluge to the murderous V-1 flying bomb and explained its strategic purpose. The enemy was already forced to keep 250 fighter aircraft on patrol against the V-1s ; to add an element of confusion, Hitler had ordered them painted with the same black-and-white stripes as the Allied invasion aircraft. On June 26 he stepped up the V-1 saturation of London, still hoping to force the Allies to stage a disastrous second invasion in the Pas de Calais ; and when the OKL suggested filling 250 V-1s a month with an extradestructive aluminized explosive, Trialen, Hitler responded by ordering ten times that number. He was ecstatic that England was suffering again, and by all accounts even worse than in 1940. The all-out bombing attacks on our catapult sites are sufficient proof of the effectiveness of our weapons ! two officers of the V-1 regiment assured Hitler at the Berghof on June 29. Hitler proudly explained to Kluge that all the shells fired at Paris by Krupps Big Bertha in World War I contained less explosive than one V-1. We spare our men and our aircraft.The V-1 is aircraft and bomb alike, and it needs no fuel for a return flight ! That night the two-thousandth flying bomb was launched against England.
The latest disheartening Intelligence forwarded by Rundstedt from Rommels headquarters was that about thirty enemy divisions had already landed in Normandy and that at least sixty-seven more were standing by in England.(2) This phantom invasion army overshadowed Hitlers conferences at the Berghof that June 29, 1944. It meant that Salmuths well-appointed Fifteenth Army, covering the Pas de Calais, still could not be weakened. Thus Hitler had to bow to the painful verdict, as he called it, of Rundstedt and Rommel that no attack could be sprung on the American army in the Cherbourg peninsula, where isolated pockets of German troops were still fighting a fanatical last stand. On this day he finally accepted that Germany was on the defensive in France too. Rommels primary concern had to be to prevent the enemy from breaking through into Frances open countryside toward Paris, and the main counterattack on the beachheadfirst proposed by Hitler at Soissons and subsequently enlarged at Guderians suggestion to include the 2nd Panzer Division and the crack Panzer-Lehr Division as well as the four SS panzer divisionswas doomed to failure unless certain elementary requirements were first met.
These he spelled out on June 29, first to Rundstedt and Rommel and then that evening to D–nitz, G–ring, and Sperrle, the Third Air Force commander in France. First, the enemys offshore battle fleet had to be driven off or sunk, and his transport ships had to be prevented from reaching the invasion coast ; Hitler proposed saturating the coastal waters with the new secret mines, sowing them with the same bulldog tenacity the enemy had shown in bombing the German ground-transport system. Its far more effective to sink an entire ships cargo than to have to deal with the troops and equipment piecemeal after they have been unloaded, he pointed out. He recommended the ruthless employment of every weapon availablecircling torpedoes, submarines with snorkel breathing-tubes, radio-controlled launches packed with high explosives, and V-1 flying bombs manned by suicide-pilots.(3) The second requirement was for motor transport to match the enemys immense mobility ; if necessary, trucks and buses would have to be ruthlessly requisitioned from the French. Third, no proposed counterattack could survive long without logistics support ; Hitler asked the Luftwaffe to establish certain convoy highways to the bridgehead, heavily protected by antiaircraft and fighter cover. The fourth requirement was for at least localized air superiorityan armada of fighters and fighter-bombers to keep the enemy bombers at bay.
While G–ring called his generals together to examine Hitlers demand for the Luftwaffe to regain air supremacy in the west, Hitler himself asked Keitel to hint to Field Marshal von Rundstedt that he should take an extended leave. How often in later monthsright to the endHitler bemoaned the fact that he had to occupy himself with even the most trivial matters ; the fact that his Commander in Chief West had on his own initiative reached none of these relatively simple decisions was a persuasive argument against appointing a Commander in Chief East as well. Privately, Hitler blamed the women of France and the good food and liquor for softening his armies in the west. Rundstedt had done nothing to prevent this corruption of the Wehrmacht and erosion of its fighting spirit.
Rundstedts fatalism was powerfully expressed on July 1, when he submitted to the OKW his own view that no counterattack would ever be possible and advised them to give up the bridgehead at Caenthe main enemy Schwerpunkt of attackand withdraw the remaining front line beyond the range of the enemy ships artillery. He enclosed a similar appreciation by General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, commander of Panzer Group West ; Geyr suggested that there was a choice between tactical mending, which left the initiative with the enemy, and elastic warfare, which would give the defenders the initiative for at least some of the time. Precisely how he hoped to fight an elastic war with the panzer divisions immobilized by lack of fuel and motor transport he did not stipulate. Jodl soberly pointed out that the Rundstedt-Geyr proposals would be the first step toward a catastrophic evacuation of France. There were only two choices : either evacuation, or fighting this decisive battle where they stood at the first possible opportunity. Late that day Hitler signaled to Rommel that the present lines are to be held. Any further enemy breakthrough is to be prevented by tenacious defense or by local counterattacks. Rundstedt was dismissedHitler sent one of his army adjutants, Colonel Heinrich Borgmann, to decorate him with the Oak Leaves and hand him the ominous blue envelope in personand Kluge took his place. Geyr von Schweppenburg was also sacked, and Hitler nearly dismissed Blumentritt, Rundstedts Chief of Staff, as well. For a time the energetic commander, fresh from the Berghof, brought new inspiration to the defense of France.
Hitler thus learned the hard way that the key to victory lay in the air defenses just as the British had in 1940. In four months he hoped to recover air supremacy. The measures proposed by Reichsmarschall G–ring to his astounded colleagues on the evening after the F¸hrers Berghof conference on June 29 were revolutionary. In the future only fighter aircraft would be manufacturedthis was the will of the F¸hrer. Anybody disobeying would be stood before a firing squad.
Hitlers final discontent with the bomber arm had begun smoldering on the twentieth, while discussing with Milch and Saur ways of reaching the Me-262 production target of one thousand a month in the shortest time. But his real anger blazed up against the huge twin-engined Heinkel 177 heavy bomber a few days later : it was backward, plagued by faults, and suffered heavy casualties.(4) Its fuel consumption was so high that there was no future for it in a Germany clearly entering upon a crippling fuel crisis as one refinery after another was destroyed by enemy air raids. On June 25, at his midday conference, anguished by General von Schliebens harrowing last appeals for the promised air support for Cherbourg, Hitler first remarked that mass production of fighters was more important than bomber production now. As for the four-engined version of the Heinkel 177, only now did he learn that the squadrons would not see it before 1946 ! But by then four-engined propellor-driven bombers would be in museumsrendered obsolete by mass-produced jet fighters like the Me-262. He telephoned Saur and asked him, How many fighters can I build for one Heinkel 177 ? Saur replied that five thousand workers making two hundred Heinkel 177s a month could produce a thousand fighters more. That settled it. At the next days war conference, Hitler reiterated : What matters in our situation is to build fighters and still more fightersand high-speed bombers too. Weve got to get that air umbrella over our home base and our infantrymen ! And if that means going without a strategic bomber force for years on end, then so be it ! At a midnight conference with Guderian two days later, Hitler happened to ask the generals Chief of Staff, Colonel Wolfgang Thomale, if he had seen the Luftwaffe in evidence in France that day. No, the colonel replied. That is, apart from two fighters between Paris and Chartres.
Such was the background to Hitlers final decision to scrap most bomber production, announced on July 1. General Koller forcefully argued that if only fighters were produced, there would be no minelaying, no guided bombs, no air launching of the V-1, and no Fourth Air Corps operations in the easttheir only strategic bombing experiment ; moreover, if the enemy began to use poison gas, the Luftwaffe would be powerless to reply. Thus Hitlers ax fell only on the Heinkel 177but that decision was final. The next day he asked Saur on the phone how fighter production would now rise. In June we turned out twenty-six hundred single- and twin-engined fighters, came the reply. In July I hope to top the three thousand mark. In August thirty-three hundred, and then rising three hundred a month to forty-five hundred fighters in December. This will make our total aircraft output eventually sixty-five hundred, of which five thousand will be single- and twin-engined fighter types. As he replaced the receiver, Hitler recognized that the strategic issue was now this : could the bulging, straining battlefronts be kept from the Reich long enough for these figures to be attained ? Much would depend on the courage and convictions of his field marshals.
The F¸hrer lectured Kesselring on this when the field marshal came to the Berghof on July 3. After weeks of unremitting, hard-fought retreats, Kesselring had brought the enemys advance in Italy to a standstill, still some way south of the as yet unfortified Apennine line. Kesselring depicted his plight in Italywith insufficient troops, air cover, and civilian manpowervividly. General Koller wrote that day :
The F¸hrer replied in great detail to all this, and explains just why we have to fight for every square meter of groundbecause for us gaining time is everything now. The longer we can hold the enemy off at the periphery the better. Perhaps the individual soldier or NCO may not grasp why he is asked to fight in the Abruzzi mountains instead of the Apennines, but his Supreme Commander must understand why and comply, because the interests of Germanys fight transcend those of the individual soldier.
Kesselring fears that he will be breached in his present position if he holds it too long, and he wants to fall back on the Apennine line early on. But the F¸hrer wants that postponed as long as possible, as there is nothing else behind the Apennines, and if the enemy gets through there, the entire lowlands of Upper Italy will be lost ; nor is that all, because the troops will find their escape cut off by the leapfrogging Allied tank formations. Another reason is that any withdrawal to the north increases the threat to the coasts of Greece, Albania, and Dalmatia.
Turning to the war in the air, the F¸hrer again emphasizes how enormously different the situation would be if we still had the air superiority we used to. We are going to win it backat least partiallybut for that we need time, and we must not give up ground before then.
In the east, the catastrophic eclipse of Army Group Center was all but complete. At the midday conference on July 6, 1944, the F¸hrer again rejected Models view that four divisions could be extracted from Army Group North by ordering its withdrawal. It was an illusion, he said, to expect any savings ; all that would happen was that the group would lose its fortified positions and its heavy guns and equipment. Turning to General Heusinger, Hitler quietly asked what the disaster had cost them so far in the Center and was told : Twelve to fifteen divisions are encircled, but the overall losses will run to twenty-eight divisions.
Twenty-eight ! Since June 22in just two weeksHitler had lost 350,000 trained German soldiers to the Russians. Another might have lost his nerve, but Hitlers restless mind thought only of winning time for a few more months until the new Luftwaffe and the secret weapons reversed this trend. I dont mind saying, he reminisced later, it would be hard to imagine a graver crisis than the one in the east. When Field Marshal Model took over, Army Group Center was all gap. There was more gap than frontbut then at last there was more front than gap. He had given Model a more realistic directive than had been given to his predecessor : the fortified places were only to be held long enough for a cohesive new front to be established farther back ; but even this was a labor of Sisyphus, for by July 3, when Minsk itself had been overrun, the enemy had poured 126 infantry and 6 cavalry divisions with 45 tank brigades through a breach now over two hundred miles wide. Model had only 8 divisions worthy of the name !
At first the cause of this defeat was a mystery. Zeitzlers faulty strategic appreciation alone was not to blame ; more serious was the Luftwaffes virtual impotencethrown into confusion by the sudden loss of its forward airfields and paralyzed by the first serious fuel shortage to affect the eastern front. Hitlers demands for an airlift to the encircled Fourth Army southeast of Minsk could not be fulfilled ; the Messerschmitt 323 giant transport planes were grounded, and the entire Sixth Air Force was hamstrung by the lack of refined aviation fuel. Most ominous of the causes was the sudden unwillingness of leading army officers to continue the fight. As General Jodl put it soon after : Practically the entire Army Group Center surrendered to the enemy this summer. There was evidence that Soviet-trained Seydlitz officers had infiltrated the battle zone, in German uniforms, and issued false orders to sabotage the army groups defense. Others seemed to have been active in Moscows cause even longer. After the Fourth Army surrendered on July 8, Hitler was shown an order signed by General Vinzenz M¸ller of the Twelfth Army Corps(5) in which that armys soldiers were instructed to put an end to the pointless bloodshed:
The Russian command have promised (a) to care for the injured and (b) to let officers retain daggers and medals, and other ranks their decorations. All weapons and equipment are to be collected and handed over in good condition.
Two weeks later M¸ller and fifteen fellow generals of Army Group Center signed a long pamphlet attacking Hitler and denigrating their colleagues continued defense of the Reich. Millions of facsimiles were scattered over the German lines. The text was personally broadcast by the generals on Moscow radio. Shortly afterward, the same generals, abetted by Paulus and Seydlitz, appealed to Army Group North officers to desert or disobey Hitlers murderous orders to stand fast. Now, said Hitler, I am beginning to understand how such frightful things could have happened in the Center.
The collapse had brought the Red Army to the very frontiers of East Prussia. Hordes of weary refugees had fled before them, swamping the province from White Russia. There were fears that if the enemy penetrated farther into Poland a general uprising would break out there. When will the first task force of fifteen Me-262s begin operations ? the F¸hrer impatiently asked on July 2.
He had still not abandoned hope. Somehow, however, the Soviet tide had to be stemmed before it engulfed East Prussia. Late on July 5 he decided to create new army divisions at an unprecedented speed to act as an emergency breakwater. He announced this to Himmler, Speer, Buhle, and half a dozen others at the Berghof the next day. Fifteen blocking divisions for the army would be raised immediately from the navy and Luftwaffe ; Speers arms factories must contribute fifty thousand of their young workers. The Reichsf¸hrer SS would temporarily supervise the training of six such divisions. In addition, ten or twelve panzer brigades were to be created, each with perhaps fifty tanks. Hitler instructed Saur to institute a crash program to manufacture the necessary extra infantry equipment over the next weeks.
At this urgent conference, and an additional one called toward midnight, Hitler noticed the same one-armed colonel who had been at the Berghof a month beforea black patch on one eye, and two fingers missing from his one good arm ; Schmundt had selected this officer, who seemed particularly fanatical, to be Chief of Staff to General Fromm, a man patently weary of his job as commander of the Replacement Army. This time the colonel was armed with a bulging yellow leather briefcase.
Very early on July 9, Hitler flew back to Rastenburg for a day of urgent talks there. With him he took Himmler, Keitel, D–nitz, Jodl, and Korten, while from the eastern front came Model, General Friessner (of Army Group North), and Greim. The Wolfs Lair was in a turmoil of noise and activity, for the strengthening of the bunkers was far from complete. Hitler again ruled against any weakening of Army Group North. He was seconded in this by Admiral D–nitz, who rehearsed the familiar strategic arguments against allowing Stalin free access to the Baltic Sea. The first new divisions were promised to Model by July 17, and Hitler explained how he intended to replace the Centers lost twenty-eight divisions : some of the new divisions would arrive in the second half of July, but the rest not before the end of August ; three refurbished Crimea divisions would follow, joined by two from Norway and the 6th and 19th panzer divisions. Gauleiter Koch and the Party were to be put in charge of fortifying the East Prussian frontier. On balance, both Model and Friessner were optimistic about the Center and North ; but within one or two days, Model warned, he expected the Russians to attack his other army group, North-Ukraine, at Kovel.
Hitler flew back to the Berghof that evening, his mind at peace. General Korten had informed him that during the night the first V-1s would be air-launched from Heinkel bombers against England and that the first four Messerschmitt 262 jet bombers would attack the invasion area within ten days. The Allies only like advancing when air power is on their side, said Hitler. That is why everything now depends on our fighter production. We must keep it top-secret and start stockpiling in a big way. Then just watch the enemy gape when we turn the tables on them four months from now-as far as air supremacy is concerned !
Yet suddenly a mood of despair gripped the F¸hrer and he decided abruptly to return to Rastenburg, even though the Wolfs Lair was still unready. The battle for Vilna, the last bastion before East Prussia, had just begun. He had already ordered the General Staff and OKL to stand by to evacuate their East Prussian headquarters to Potsdam if need arose. But the cancer of defeatism he had discovered in the General Staff had deeply shocked him, and he felt that only his physical presence in East Prussia could prevent a rout. At the Berghof on the eleventh, the news was that both Model and Friessner admitted their assessments of two days earlier might have been overoptimistic. The colonel with the yellow briefcase had again come, to discuss the new blocking-divisionsnow referred to as grenadier divisions; but as Himmler did not appear, the colonel lefthis business uncompleted.
Hitler had asked Himmler to supervise all 15 embryo new divisions. He would trust the General Staff no longer.(6) On July 13 he personally addressed the generals and staff officers selected for these and the 10 panzer brigades, perhaps 160 men. Never again would he possess the physical strength to deliver such a speech, but of this, his last to his generals, there is no surviving record.
That morning Marshal Konevs attack on Army Group North-Ukraine had begun. East of East Prussia, Vilna had fallen, and Hitler was airlifting reliable SS troops to defend Kauen, the next town. The next morning he would himself fly back to Rastenburg. Desolately, he wandered through the Berghof rooms with the young wives of Dr. Brandt, his surgeon, and Colonel von Below, Luftwaffe adjutant, pausing affectionately in front of each familiar painting or tapestry as though taking leave of an old friend for the last time. One painting was of a rather plump young lady, whom Speer had always threatened to deflate with a knife. At last, the F¸hrer bid the ladies courtly good night and kissed their hands. But shortly afterward he returned to the Great Hall and bid them farewell. At this Frau Brandt began to weep. Frau von Below said reassuringly, But, mein F¸hreryou will be coming back in a week or two, wont you ?
Hitler did not reply.
1 Of Keitels speech on June 20, 1944, we know only that he had optimistically proclaimed that the Red Army would not attack until the Allies had scored major victories in the west and that its Schwerpunkt would lie in the south and not the center. This was not, of course, Hitlers view.
2 Only fifteen divisions were still in England, awaiting shipment to Normandy. It is not clear whether Hitler was being deliberately misled by German anti-Nazis or by the faulty intelligence of General Staff officers.
3 About a thousand V-1s with cockpits built in were found after the war at a depot south of Hamburg.
4 On June 27, 1944, General Karl Koller, the OKL chief of operations, was provided with statistics on the Heinkel 177 : 179 conventional bombing sorties had been flown in the first four months of 1944, resulting in 26 planes lost. From November 1943 to June 1944, 192 sorties carrying remote-controlled bombs had resulted in 43 planes lost and only 3 destroyers and 5 merchant ships definitely sunk.
5 M¸ller, fifty, was one of the little circle of dissidents around Hans Oster as early as 1939. After the war, he lived in the Soviet zone of Germany, where his memoirs, Ich fand das wahre Vaterland (I Found the True Fatherland), were published.
6 In Berchtesgaden on July 9, 1944, Speer had chanced upon the armys Quartermaster General Wagnerwho had just reported to Hitler on the equipment lost in the Centerand Generals Erich Fellgiebel, Helmuth Stieff, and Fritz Lindemann, who were conniving in a luxury hotel. Zeitzler was also in the hotel, convalescing. The hotel ambience of coffee and cigarettes formed a distasteful contrast to the topic under discussion, recorded Speers office chronicler ; namely the divisions lost on the Russian front ... [Wagner] makes the problems in the east all seem so trivial and it is hard to understand why his comments as Quartermaster General do not show greater concern, as he is responsible for the all-important military supplies. Inroads like these into the armaments sphere would have had the Minister [Speer] speaking in a very serious tone of voice. But this afternoon the generals were nonchalantly referring to the various eastern situations as mere trifles. (All were plotting, and suffered the consequences.)
p. 637 Little is known of the actual events at the Berghof during the night of the invasion. I have pieced them together from statements of Hitlers adjutants, of Keitel, Jodl, and Zeitzler, and from the times recorded in the war diaries of the naval staff Commander in Chief West, and the OKW. What is certain is that Chester Wilmots version in Struggle for Europe (pages 248 and 287), which has Hitler forbidding Jodl at 4 A.M. to release the OKW reserves, is pure fantasy. The situation crystalized far too slowly for even the OKW to be blamed for delaying this decision.
Hitler probably stayed awake until 3 A.M. (Milch diary, May 7, 1947, quoting Speer). Twenty minutes earlier (according to the naval staff diary) the Admiral, Channel Coast had telephoned the OKW tersely : Advance report : from 2 A.M. on, large number of paratroops and gliders, east coast Cotentin peninsula and east of Trouville. Not until 3:45 A.M. was this enlarged upon. By 5:45 A.M. Naval Group West believed the invasion had begunbut neither Rundstedts staff nor the OKW shared this conviction. At 7:30 A.M. Naval Group West convincingly reported : Invasion area extends from Saint-Vaast to Deauville, main efforts evidently Quistreham and Saint-Vaast. North of Barfleur major invasion force heading south. Cargo ships with the invasion forces . . . At 8:15 A.M. this was forwarded to Jodls staff at Berchtesgaden by telephone, and they now agreed that their earlier skepticism seemed misplaced. At 9:30 A.M. Reuter officially confirmed the invasion, and a string of intercepted Allied wireless messages reached the Berghof. No details so far, but we are ashore. Front line overrun. Situation on Red Beach isnt too good.
p. 638 The SD report that the BBC invasion-alerts had been monitored was forwarded by Kaltenbrunner to the OKW on June 1 ; thence to Foreign Armies West on June 2, 6:50 P.M. (T78/451/6880 et seq.). Under Nuremberg interrogation, Walter Schellenberg blamed the military for failing to appreciate the significance of this scoop. This seems justified, for on the very eve of the invasionJune 5, 1944Rommels much-praised Chief of Staff, General Hans Speidel, sanguinely dismissed the invasion-alert signals which the BBC had broadcast with increasing frequency since June 1 as not providing any evidence of an imminent invasion (Army Group B, weekly report, T311/3/2156 et seq.). See also the war diaries of the Fifteenth Army, which independently monitored the BBC messages and warned Speidel. Note that the war diary of Commander in Chief West was retrospectively written upone forms a different impression altogether of the armys readiness and alertness from sources like the naval staff diary of June 11, 1944. The admiralty was certainly warned on June 2 (see file PG/33399), and on June 3 the naval staff noted : Foreign Armies West regards June 5 to 13 as favorable invasion date.
In later months the naval staff painstakingly analyzed all the Abwehr agents reports on the coming invasion. Of the 173 received prior to June 6, 1944, only 8 percent had been right ; 14 percent had been partially correct ; the rest had been wrong or worthless (diary, March 23, 1945). What is a staggering indictment of German army Intelligence methods is the treatment of the Operational Plan of the U.S. Fifth Corpsi.e., of the entire American sector in Normandywhich fell into the hands of the German 351st Infantry Division on June 7, 1944, and can thereafter be traced (through postwar statements) up to the Eighty-Fourth German Corps (General Marcks) and thence to Seventh Army, which forwarded it to Rommels HQ on June 11. BlumentrittRundstedts Chief of Staffbelieves in manuscript B637 that he saw it and sent it up by courier on June 12 to the OKW. Had this document ever reached the OKW or Hitler it would have left no doubt that Normandy was the main invasion area. Having been seized from the corpse of an American officer killed in a gunfight, an enemy trick was ruled out. But there is no mention of the document in the files of either the OKW or Commander-in-Chief West.
p. 639 Salmuths March 1946 manuscript on the invasion is in his private papers. Not until 9:12 A.M. did the German naval commandant in Normandy forward from the big gun battery at Marcouf to the naval staff the pregnant signal : Very many landing craft are approaching under cover of battleships and cruisers.
p. 639 The hardy optimism of the Germans in the face of the colossal invasion is evident wherever we look in their records. Hitlers personal adjutant, Alwin-Broder Albrecht, wrote on June 9 : Anyway, everybody heres breathing a sigh of relief. Hitler told SztÛjay that they had been looking forward to it, because it would end with the defeat of the British. And the naval staff recorded on June 7 : As for the invasion operations in the west, the F¸hrer and Field Marshal Rommel view the situation positively and confidently, in anticipation of the success of our countermeasures. These included the laying of the new top-secret German pressure mines off the invasion coast, which Hitler authorized at his noon conference that day.
p. 639 There are sparse references to the suicide pilot project in General Kollers papers, among which I found a sequence of daily air staff reports. Speer heard of the project, because on July 28, 1944, he wrote to Hitler : The endeavors to throw these men into action against the enemy invasion fleet are to be condemned, as long as using them against Russian power stations would be capable of procuring quite different results in the long run.
p. 640 The war diary of Colonel Max Wachtels Antiaircraft Regiment 155(W)the V-1 flying-bomb launchershas survived intact.
p. 642 Schramms account of Hitlers visit to Soissons on June 17, 1944 (OKW war diary, Vol. IV, pages 316 et seq.), is unreliable. Kollers papers make it plain that Hitler went on his own initiative. My account depends on Heinz Assmanns description (naval staff diary), on Jodls diary, on signals in the war diaries of Rundstedt and Army Group B (T84/281), and on the typed narrative of the conference in the volume of appendices to Army Group Bs war diary (T311/278).
pp. 642 -43 Rommels exuberance is clear from a diary entry of Admiral Friedrich Ruge and from Rommels own weekly report of June 19 : Despite the enemys vast superiority in air power and ships artillery and ruthless expenditure of troops and equipment in repeated heavy attacks, they have gained no successes, but actually lost ground at Caumont.. . . Our Intelligence and captured documents show that the enemy has not reached one of his far-flung objectives, but has had to throw in considerably more forces than originally intended.... In the fighting so far the enemy has lost over five hundred tanks and over one thousand planes.... The population in the combat area is friendly toward us ; there has been a perceptible decrease in the sabotage and other resistance activity that sprang up in the first postinvasion days (Army Group B, war diary, annexes).
p. 643 In August 1944 Hermann Gackenholz wrote a full report on the disastrous collapse of Army Group Center for its war diary ; the war diary is in OCMH files. Gackenholz kept the report and published it in VfZ, 1955, pages 317 et seq. The faulty appreciations of Stalins intentions by Gehlens branch of the General Staff can be followed in this, in the naval staff war diary, and above all in Kollers daily reports.
p. 644 General Student described on September 22, 1945, to fellow generals how in his presence, two days before the Russian offensive began, Zeitzler explained his reasons for expecting the main enemy effort to come in the south. He considered a big attack in the center quite improbable. Hitler thought otherwise and at the last moment ordered reserves sent to Army Group Center (General Kurt Dittmar, diary).
p. 645 Himmlers speech of June 21, 1944, is on microfilm T175/93/3950 et seq.; Hitlers of the next day is on microfilm T580/871.
p. 647 Hitler later learned from Allied press reports that General von Schliebens surrender had been somewhat inglorious. A braggart, Hitler complained to Jodl on July 31. He issues a defiant proclamation ... and then waits for the others [the Americans] to arrive, whereupon he immediately runs up a white flag. When they ask him, How can you square issuing such a proclamation with your own honor ? he just shrugs.
p. 647 Dollmanns Chief of Staff, Max Pemselwho hitherto has always denied thisadmitted to me for the first time that it was indeed suicide ; Dollmann had retired for the first time to Pemsels vacant bed and was found in it the next morning.
p. 648 Even if Hitler had authorized the withdrawal of Army Group North, its divisions could not have reached the crisis area of Army Group Center in less than four weeks (see Hitlers conference with D–nitz, July 9, 1944).
p. 648 Zeitzler described his last row with Hitler in various postwar manuscripts (N63/1, /80, and /96); his adjutant G¸nther Smend described it to the Gestapo on August 1, 1944 (T84/22/4535 et seq.) By July 1 he wasaccording to Gackenholzs reportalready off sick.
p. 649 The quotations are from the war diary of Antiaircraft Regiment 155(W). See too Rommels appreciation, dated June 26, 1944, on the internal situation in France. The population affected continues to be embittered by the Allies ruthless mode of warfare, especially by their use of air power, while otherwise the population is reserved. Coastal population in Belgium is tending to migrate away. Combat operations by the new weapon [V-1] against England evoked interest and in some parts satisfaction. For Rommels conference with Hitler on June 28, see the note taken by his adjutant (Appendix to Army Group B war diary, T311/278).
p. 651 Kollers formal record of Hitlers remarks on June 29, 1944, is in his papers ; he also jotted down a shorthand record of both these and G–rings subsequent outbursts about the cowardly fighter pilots.
pp. 652-53 Again I quote Kollers lengthy record, but equally explicit accounts of Hitlers speech are to be found in both Jodls diary and the naval staff war diary of July 3, 1944.
p. 653 Koller noted Hitlers question to Heusinger ; his later reminiscence is quoted from his conference with Generals Siegfried Westphal and Hans Krebs on August 31, 1944 (Heiber, page 615). He had said the same to Antonescu on August 5.
p. 654 General Vinzenz M¸llers order of July 8, 1944, will be found on microfilm T77/1038/0780 et seq., together with other similar documents emanating from the renegades. See also the war diary of the chief of army personnel, July 27.
pp. 654-655 This war diary (see note for page 654, above), together with Kollers, Speers, Thomales, and Himmlers papers, was used to trace the origins of the fifteen blocking divisions (Sperrverb”nde)out of which the Volksgrenadier divisions were born.
p. 655 With the exception of Peter Hoffmann, no historian noticed that Hitler undertook this lightning one-day visit back to the Wolfs Lair on July 9, 1944. From the records of Jodl, D–nitz, and Koller there can, however, be no doubt. It is also referred to by Major General Peter von Groeben in his study The Collapse of Army Group Center (U.S. army manuscripts, T31). It was here tooas Himmler wrote to Rosenberg on July 14that Hitler ordered every available man in Estonia to be recruited into the SS (T175/125/0532).
p. 656 According to the stenographers diary, Hitlers July 13, 1944, secret speech lasted from 10:22 to 11:40 P.M. Eighteen days later, his health shattered by the bomb attempt, Hitler admitted to Jodl : Obviously I can stand up and even speak for a certain length of time, but then I suddenly have to sit down again. I would not trust myself to speak to ten thousand people today. Nor would I trust myself to make a speech like that one I recently did on the Obersalzberg, because I might suddenly faint and collapse (Heiber, page 608). Its content was evidently the familiar litany. On April 11, 1945, General Fellgiebels adjutant told British interrogation officers that General Stieffchief of the OKH organization branchhad privately muttered, If I hear that phonograph record played once more Ill go crazy !to which Fellgiebel, a fellow-conspirator, replied with heavy irony, Well, Stieff, that was the last time.