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Rommel's Dilemma

When Hitler appointed Erwin Rommel to study the coastal defences of occupied Europe, and ultimately to command Army Group B in the west, he handed his Field Marshal a knotty problem.


Just like everyone else Rommel had no knowledge of where an Allied invasion might come, or when come to that, but the more he studied the matter the more he began to see that Normandy was a serious possibility.

map of german defences on d-day

Thinking on the grand scale Rommel was particularly concerned about the risk to Germany of fighting on two major fronts. Discounting the Italian front as no great threat for the present he saw that a successful Allied landing in France, while Germany was fighting for its life against the Russians in the east, could prove fatal.

cause and effect

Rommel's intention, therefore, was to create a situation where all German forces in France would be immediately available to push the invaders back into the sea. He was also fearful, knowing the strength of Allied air-power, of the risk if units had to be moved any distance by road or rail to the battle zone.

Unfortunately, despite his experience and reputation Rommel was unable to convince his colleagues, in particular Generals von Runstedt, Heinz Guderian and Geyr von Schweppenburg. They argued for a concentration of divisions close to Paris but within easy reach if the coast. They played down the threat from the air.

Tank Museum photo No. 2383/D/3 Tank Museum photo No. 2383/D/3

History shows us that Rommel was probably correct, although whether it would have made any difference in the long run is debatable.

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