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a system of permanent fortifications, combined with field fortifications, built by the Germans from 1940 to 1944, after the defeat of France; more than 4,000 km long, it ran along the European coast of the Atlantic Ocean from Denmark to the Spanish frontier.
The Atlantic Wall was built to prevent an invasion of the continent by Anglo-American troops. The Atlantic Wall was to be completed within eight years, and 15,000 permanent fortifications were to be erected. Construction actually began in 1942, and by the end of 1943 only 20 percent of the works had been completed. The Atlantic Wall was a linear fortifications system (without distribution in depth), with long stretches of weakly fortified sectors; this made the wall as a whole a weak defense system during the invasion of the Anglo-American forces. The well-fortified regions were the Belgian coast, Pas-de-Calais, Cape Gris Nez, the mouth of the Seine, the Guernsey and Jersey islands, Brest, and Lori-ent. Mobile reserves were also deployed here. The coast of Normandy had weak garrisons, with only observation and command posts, and with one artillery battery for every 20 km of shoreline. The size of the troops deployed for the defense of the Atlantic Wall was insufficient: the 700-km line from the mouth of the Schelde to the mouth of the Seine was guarded by the Fifteenth Army, composed of 14 divisions, and the 1,600-km line from the mouth of the Seine to the mouth of the Loire by the Seventh Army, composed of eight divisions. The fighting capacities of the divisions were low (so-called stationary divisions). On the whole, the Atlantic Wall did not justify the hopes of the German fascist command of forestalling a landing or of prolonging resistance to it, although it enabled the Germans to cover the western front from 1940 to 1944 with small numbers of second-rate troops while using their main forces on the Soviet-German front.
I. M. GLAGOLEV