By J.E. Kaufmann and Robert Jurga
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Most of this is material which is not in the book, nor will it be in a revised edition. This is intended to give the reader additional information about the European fortifications:
1. FRENCH ORDER OF BATTLE AS SEEN BY THE GERMANS
Order of Battle for the French Army in the Spring of 1939
(Report dated April 30, 1939)
French units along the German and Lux-Belgian borders:
17 Fortress Brigades at about 1/2 strength
9 Infantry Divisions
(14th, 42nd, 43rd at about 2/3 strength, 1st, 3rd, 11th, 13th,
2nd North African, 4th North African at about 1/2 strength)
French units on the Italian border:
3 Alpine Brigades
4 Moutain Divisions (27th, 28th, 29th and 30th)
2 Infantry Divisions ( 1st North African, 2nd Colonial)
1 Infantry Division on Corsica (at about 1/2 strength)
French units in the interior and in reserve:
8 Infantry Divisions
2 Cavalry Divisions
1 Mechanized Division (all of these units just above 1/2 strength.
2. Pier G. Corino has written several books on the Vallo Alpino and this information is derived from his books. It is intended to give the reader a clearer and more detailed picture of the Italian positions along the French frontier.
Work on the Vallo Alpino began in the early 1930s. During this time several Circulars were issued which were used as the basis for the type of fortifications built. In January 1931, Circular 200 began the Vallo Alpino, while the last important document was Circular 15,000 which was issued on the last day of 1939.
During the 1920s work was done on some Alpine positions. The Baraccamenti della Bandia by the mid 1920s was armed with batteries of 75-mm, 149-mm, 210-mm and 260-mm weapons and apparently 100 mm guns which may have been removed after 1927. Work during this period included the creation of caverne type positions in the Alpine sectors with the use of military labor. Only a renewed fear of a future French invasion spurred the government on after 1929 to taking action. The result was that in 1931 Circular 200 was issued.
Circular 200 refereed to the fortified positions as "Centro de Resistance" and assigned them a letter and number for identification. Later Circular 7000 became the basis for a new type of position simply known as a "postazione" or "position". Finally Circular 15,000 which was the basis for the largest positions and replaced the term "centro" with "opere". It also began a more advanced type of fortification building on the Vallo Alpino. The earlier positions
are generally referred to as "centro" and the Type 15,000 as "opera" although in general terms everything today is identified as an opera. Additional
circulars established different procedures and designs.
Corino has identifed several construction phases on the Vallo Alpino:
Phase I 1931-1937. Ciruclar 200 and a few others set the standards for this period. The "centros" of this era could now be placed at higher altitudes and in more inaccesible locations from which they could dominate the lines of communciation thanks to new technology and methods. The main armement of these new positions was the machinegun, although some had anti-tank guns. These "centros" varied in size with garrisions of from a half dozen men to a full platoon. The Ethiopian Crisis and the formation of the Axis led to the military giving more consideration to strengthening the Vallo Alpino and developing new plans and designs.
Phase II 1938- 1939. The firm up the defenses and give greater depth, Circular 7000 was issued. Work on the "centros" developed during the first phase came to completion and these new smaller Type 7000 positions allowed the Italians to strengthen the Vallo Alpino quickly as it became apparent their Axis partner would soon ignite another European war.
A number of the Type 7000 positions created called for by Circular 7000 in 1938 were completed before Italy entered the war. These were basically simple casemates forming a defensive line and known as Pariani Positions after the general whose name was found affixed to the circular. These were rather small positions designed to take advantage of the terrain. Most consisted of only a single block which mounted two machine guns and sometimes an anti-tank gun.
Phase III 1940 - 1942. The final phase began when General Grazzini issued Circular 15,000 on December 31, 1939. This directive called for more advanced and sophisticated positions known as "opere".
New standards were set for the Vallo Alpino. By the fall of 1942 most work had stopped with few of the multi-block Type 15,000 opere nearing completion. One significant feature on these new opere can be seen on a few which neared completion. This was the use of a type of caponier to protect the entrance and even a fosse, similar to the type used by the French, with a grenade launcher, was to be used with them.
Circular 15,000 is of great significance since it was issued during the Phony War after Poland had been crushed and all eyes watched for events on the Western Front. Mussolini, had not committed himself to joining his Axis partner and this document called for the creation of a more imposing fortified system along the French, German (former Austrian) and Yugoslav borders. After June 1940 work stopped on many of the positions, especially on the French front. A year later in August 1941, a new Circular was issued by General Rotta, Circular 13,500 gave instructions for continued work and improvements on the fortifications which included the use of 81-mm mortars, and 75-mm and 90-mm AA guns converted to an anti-tank role. At this time the only threat to any of Italy's northern border could come from German occupied territory.
With Circular 15,000 there seems to begin some confusion in the use of the terms Type A, B and C. This circular designated the location of certain defensive systems in relation to roads with these types. But it also used the same type designations to identify the type of opere used. Type A and B were the strongest with a platoon size or larger garrison while Type C was only meant to resist small and medium weapons with a smaller crew. Types A and B were to be supported by smaller positions, similar to interval positions of the Maginot Line, with squad size units covering dead space.The designers even planned to link these positions to the opere.
The classification of the positions is summarized by Corino as:
1. Opera Grossa.
These had 5 or more weapon blocks which could include machine guns, anti-tank weapons, artillery, mortars and flame throwers when completed. This could include both Type A and B and was commanded by an officer.
2. Opera Media.
From 2 to 4 combat blocks with weapons similar to the Opera Grossa. Unlike, the larger type, this might be commanded by an NCO instead of an officer.
3. Opera Piccola.
This type had only 1 or 2 blocks armed with a machine gun, anti-tank gun and a flame thrower. It was commanded by an NCO. Because of its small size, the garrison only occupied just before going into action against the enemy.
In addition to the use of light and heavy machine guns, mortars, and light artillery, the Italians engineers seem to have had the same fascination with the use of flame throwers in the roof as the Germans did in their East Wall positions. Of course, most positionswere not completed or fully armed as intended. Telephone and radio communications were supplemented by signaling devices. Gas proof doors were to be used inside the opere, but in many cases not enough were available for installation because steel resources were diverted elsewhere. Latrines were equipped with septic tanks and drains carried the the waste out. One kitchen sometimes served more than one opere.
Chimneys were necessary because of the use of wood and coal stoves.
Larger usines were planned than those of the smaller 'centros'. A rather advanced ventilation system with filters was also planned to make the opere's
Obstacles were planned, and in some cases erected which included huge anti-tank defenses closing off valleys and key avenues of approach.
The main sectors of construction on the French front were in the Sturra Valley and at Monceniso. Most of the Type 15,000 opere were far from complete and it is doubtful any were completed and full outfitted by 1942. These were to have been the most advanced of the Italian positions. In some cases concrete cloche had to be built because of a lack of steel, a situation reminisent of what happened to the Yugoslavs.
It appears that the "centro" type dominated the defenses since these appear to be the most numerous. These smaller positions usually included a two or three blocks. The machine gun seems to be the dominate weapon in them. They sometimes included one or two blocks that mounted a cloche. The cloche could also mount a weapon and in some cases was the only position of a block. The interiors were rather spartan but included a small generator and a small rechargeable battery which would operate the lighting. Some even included underground emergence exits.
The weapons used in the Vallo Alpino fortifications; centros, battery positions, defensive casernes, etc. included the following:
Heavy machine gun:
Fiat Model 14, 6.5-mm, water cooled
In 1935 an 8-mm air cooled heavy machine gun was introduced
Other machine guns: Breda and Hotchkiss
Nordenfelt 57-mm model 1887 naval gun
Boholer 47-mm anti-tank gun built under licenses by Breda begining in 1935
Krupp 75-mm model 1906 and 1914 gun built under license by Ansaldo (over 100 positions mounted them in 1940)
Skoda 100-mm (used in cavern positons built between 1925 and 1930)
When construction ceased the Vallo Alpino consisted of the following:
1475 completed opere of various types with 450 more under construction
1400 other opere had not left the planning stages
700 casernes and rest areas had been completed and another 60 were under construction.
These total 3,325 fortified positions either complete, under construction or planned, so just over half were actually completed
The Italian military divided all the fortified regions into sectors and further divided them into sub-sectors. In Italy, Libya and Albania there were a total of 35 sectors. In the western section of the Vallo Alpino there wre 10 of these sectors, which were further divided into sub-sectors. The sectors included groups of fortifications known as "Gruppo Caposlado". Each of these groups was further divided into one or more "Caposaldo". Each of the "caposlado usually consisted of several other positions, but ocassionally as few as two or three. These positions could be any type of fortifications inclduing opere, batteries, centros, observatories, casernes, older forts or most any type of fortified position.
The above information is basically from several of P.G. Corino's books and for more details it is recommended those books be referred to.
FORTRESS EUROPE - Updates
(In alphabetical order add)
Jaroslaw Chorzepa (Poland),
Steve Stattharos (documents) and
Robert Tarleton (Russia)
Change Rubin to Rubim
The wrong type of accent is used over the "e" in Frontieres
Special armored outlets, similar to the intakes were used for expelling the used air, but the air also exited through cloches and entrances.
There was no periscope in the mixed-arms turret, although the mixed-arms cloche had one. The mixed-arms cloche also had two crene ls for one set of weapons. The two crenels were close together facing the same general direction since the weapons combination could only be shifted from one to the other.
All GFM cloches should have had a periscope position in the roof. The early versions did not come with these and had to be drilled to mount a periscope.
The use of the term automatic for turret weapons is not correct.
These weapons had automatic extraction, but otherwise required a loader. This term semi-automatic should have been used, but some sources have been
identifying them as automatic because of their high rate of fire. The 60-mm mortar was never mounted and plans were made to replace it with a 50-mm mortar. On source claims the first weapon would have been automaticaly fed, but others disagree.
Some entances had a cloche LG, although many did not.
Most armored doors in the gallery weighed from 12 and 17 tons. (Seven was an error) A guard must trip a release which caused the door to shut during an emergency. The guides at Hackenberg for 20 years have incorrectly insisted the force of an explosion activates the door..
One 88 mm gun fired at the rear of Fermont. (the item should not read "guns")
Item 16 is missing from the plan - it is below Item 2 on the plan
Legend - A is Maginot Line Proper
B is Maginot Extension and lighter defenses
C Little Maginot Line (Alpine defenses)
On map the "C" (above) should be between Geneva and Nice. The line between Geneva to Altkirk along the Swiss border should be dashed, as should the line from about 1/4" west of Montmedy leading to the sea to indicate lighter defenses.
In the legend it should read: Cas = Casemate (number & type guns)
Blocks of Simsherof need to be labled and all positions on both pages need to be marked with weapon types. This will have to be added later.
Lower photo caption to: Doppelgruppenunterstand, Regelbau 102V (verenfacht) on the "Spicheren Hoehe" near Saarbrucken.
In lower caption: `shadow' to `shallow' ` bank' to `band'
Legend This will have to be added later.
Accent missing on "e" in fosse (item 13)
PzWerk 974 to legend. The data for it will have to be added later.
Item 8. Elevator shift - change to Elevator shaft
On HOH BERG item U-G11a and U-G11b change `caseme' to` caserne'
Item in parenthesis (Moved into...) should begin on next line and read "Panzer Nest moved into...."
To legend - Item #8 - "location of old work camp for OWB Line."
- The information on the replacement of the twin 150-mm turrets may be in error. Instead of being replaced 120 mm mortar turrets they may have received 50-mm mortars with a range 400 m.
They also may have mounted machine guns.
- As noted before, the 75-mm turret guns were semi-automatic, not automatic. Except for the special German 50-mm fortress mortar and some anti-aircraft weapons, none of the artillery weapons of any of these fortifications should be considered automatic.
- Weapons of the PFL II and PFN . The 150 mm L/40 (old naval guns) - range 19.9 km
Caption for top. It should be noted that not all the casemates on the AT ditch were two level like the one shown. Many only had a single level.
Map - remove line labeled #5
Legend. This will have to be done later.
Reverse the two captions
In both this chapter and the chapter on Italy some of the sources we used have rounded off the size of weapons. In the Dutch material it has been found the sometimes 50-mm is used for 47-mm and 110-mm for 105-mm. For the Italian material some sources call 149-mm weapons 150-mm.
Fort Velsen had three turrets with 149.1mm (150-mm) guns and Fort Spikerboor had a single turret with a pair of 105-mm (110-mm) guns.
The fort Velsen, part of the Position of Amsterdam, had three turrets with a 149,1 mm gun (range: 9.000 m.). Another fort near Amsterdam, Spijkerboor, had
one turret with two 105 mm guns (range: 10.000m).
The Den Helder Position did not include Den Oever
The two forts on the Great Dike operated independently an were not linked to any other position.
Fort Hoek van Holland is incorrectly identified as Panzer Fort Hoek van Holland. The Dutch did not refer to any of their forts as "panzer" or
"armored", this was a term used by the Germans.
Fort Hoek van Holland apparently never had any 75-mm guns.
For the pyramids it should read "...and a periscope position in the roof..."
Apparently the periscopes were never mounted.
In addition to the sluices mentioned there were several other important ones which were used to control the eight areas that could be inundated.
Fort Pannerden was rearmed after World War I with only two 75-mm guns placed in the old 150-mm armored battery.
WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT
Coast Defense Ships Guns
240-mm 16.8 km.
One source claims that eight 280 mm Krupp guns were intended for two forts and that these guns had a range of 33 km.
Sentence in next to last paragraph should read "...Grebbe Line failed when one armored train was destroyed by the Dutch and others blocked.".
Caption on top photo refers to photo on the book cover.
Caption for top photo is: Ft. Reuenthal on German border near Koblenz, Switz.. One of two 75-mm gun casemates.
On the top plan there are two "A"s. They should read on the plan A B C
Mont Malamont was not a fort. It should read the caserne at Malamont. This position was armed with machine guns and there is some question as to whether
or not it was armed with 47-mm guns later in the war.
Construction on Opera 17 began in the spring of 1940.
The position was combined with Batteria 930, but only the galleries were excavated.
Opera 32 may not have been completed
Like most weapons, few sources agree on the range of 149-mm guns. Its range is given as 16.5 km by P.G. Corino in his books. His books appear to be
the best sources of the Vallo Alpino to date.
Some of the following positions were not completed.
Opera 116 (Cros du Rey)
Centro 116 (Melmise left)
Centro 119 (Melmise right)
Opera 15bis (Valle Cenischia)
Opera 17 (Gravere right)
Opera 21 (Gravere left)
Opera 302 (Diano San Nicalao, only gallery)
Batteria Monte Morone
To bottom legend add 14. MG position 15. AT gun position
Item #2 Open battery built in 1893 and in 1940 it mounted 3 x 280-mm Krupp guns, 1 x 305-mm gun and two older weapons with an observation position
inthe middle. The battery was intended to mount 6 x 280-mm Krupp guns.
Last sentence: "The Czech tvrzi from eat to west...." to "The Czech tvrzi from east to west were planned as follows:"
In chart information on Bartosovice from:
Plans for 4 blocks and entrance not completed to -
Plans for 4 blocks and entrance cancelled and replaced by a new plan and site for Hanicka..
Block "STM 14" to " STM-44"
Legend to describe the blocks. To read:
K S 21 Infantry Casemate 2 x 37-mm AT and 2 cloches
K S 22 Artillery Turret Block 2 x 100-mm Howt. (not installed) and 1 cloche
K S 23 Infantry Block 3 cloches
K S 24 Infantry Casemate 2 x 37-mm AT and 3 cloches
K S 22a Entrance Block 1 x 37-mm AT and 2 cloches
Legend to identify blocks - This will have to be done later.
"minsweeper" to "minelayer"
On map legend #12 - change `Veskidy' to `Beskidy'
Page 278 and 279
Item 13 (page 278) and item 12 (page 279) from `47-mm' to `37-mm'
Date April 16, 1941 to April 6, 1941.
On map `Beograd' - change to `Belgrade'
Plan for Molunat battery. The position on the left is #1 and the one on the right is #2
To legend #4 Rifle Grenade launcher position
1. Salpa Line
2. Mannerheim Line - advanced positions.
3. Mannerheim Line - main line
#1 of Million Mark Bunker from
"1. Position Sj S for 3 heavy MGs...."
"1. Position Sj 5 for 3 heavy MGs..."
Bottom legend item #1 "Crew's quarters (9 men) to "Crew's quarters (10 men)"
1st line change `objektcan' to `object can'
To Chapter 15 under GERMAN LANGUAGE:
Rolf, Rudi, Der Atlanticwall. Osnabruck, Germany: Biblio Verlag, 1998.
Complete descripition of all the Atlantic Wall positions.