By Glenn Barnette and André Bernole Early in 1944, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the defeated hero of North Africa and now head of Army Group B in France, was tasked with strengthening the Atlantic Wall defenses against Allied invasion. This impossible task required fortification of 2,800 miles of coast—from the Arctic Circle in Norway to the French-Spanish border. Yet Rommel, despite his private misgivings that Germany was going to lose the war, went at it with his usual iron will. In mid-May 1944, he was dispatched to the Mediterranean coast of France to inspect the preparations being made against possible invasion there. He was horrified to find that almost nothing had been done to discourage an Allied landing anywhere from Italy to Spain. He fumed at the commander of Army Group G, General Johannes Blaskowitz, in overall charge of southern France, and ordered him to get busy. Rommel then sped away to continue his work in the north. Flush with humiliation, Blaskowitz immediately stepped up efforts to fortify the beaches and inland fields. Tens of thousands of mines were buried, and iron stakes were submerged just below the level of the tides, many with an artillery shell attached to rip open landing boats. More than 550 concrete casemates were constructed to house the guns that would defend the coast—whether the guns were available or not. Farther inland, sharp stakes were planted in open fields to impale parachutists, and stout wooden poles were planted to ri


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