Although there are a lot of books out there about D-Day and the German Atlantic Wall defenses, Stephen J. Zaloga's D-Day Fortifications in Normandy is a welcome addition. As usual, Zaloga is able to synthesize a great deal of useful information about a well-known subject and still produce a book that has insightful and original material. Zaloga has mined the best available English, German and French sources and these are listed in an excellent 2-page bibliography. Overall, this volume is one of the best of Osprey's Fortress series. I have been to Normandy and seen many of the fortifications that Zaloga writes about, yet I still managed to learn new facts about them in this volume.
Zaloga begins the volume with a well-written summary of the design and development of the German army and navy coastal defenses in Normandy. He manages to include a number of interesting facts, including nice-to-know items like the cost of construction. The next section deals with the actual defenses in detail, including a table that lists all strongpoints on the five D-Day beaches and another table that lists all artillery units in range of the beaches. Zaloga also provides great detail on the garrison, including mentioning individual German commanders in various bunkers. The final section on the defenses on D-Day, which covers beach-by-beach, is superb. Throughout, the volume is enhanced with an excellent mix of B/W photos from 1944 and modern color photos. Zaloga also provides excellent detailed color maps for each beach sector, which depict all the key German defenses. The color plates are also very good, depicting various types of German coastal bunkers. Overall, this volume delivers a great deal of well-packaged information for its small size.
The only item that I would disagree with is his assessment that, "the German defenses quickly failed when assaulted by Allied forces on D-Day." It is currently in vogue among many military historians to deride fixed fortifications like the Atlantic Wall as a `white elephant,' but this ignores their intended purpose. Although Rommel hoped to defeat the invasion on the beaches, it was the reserve troops who were supposed to deliver the decisive blow; the coastal defenses were merely intended to delay and disrupt the invaders long enough for the German reserves to deploy. As Zaloga notes, thirty Germans in WN 62 on Omaha Beach were able to inflict hundreds of casualties on the US 1st Infantry Division and to hold out for over six hours. In the British sector, the Hillman bunker complex prevented the British from getting into Caen on D-Day. By and large, the German beach defenses did their job admirably, inflicting several thousand casualties on the Allies and preventing the Allies from reaching many of their D-Day objectives. It was the German C2 errors that prevented a rapid and decisive commitment of mobile reserves that led to failure, not the concept of fixed fortifications. Furthermore, critics of the German Atlantic Wall rarely make any effort to suggest plausible alternatives for a resource-strapped Germany in 1944. The German defenses in Normandy were a good example of `economy of force' and not only were they useful on D-Day, but they helped to slow the Allied drive to capture ports like Cherbourg weeks after the invasion.