WW2 trips and museum visits
Museum The Crisbecq Battery, 2007

The Crisbecq Battery (Batterie de Crisbecq) was the Germans largest coastal artillery battery on Utah-Beach with 21 pillboxes linked by over a mile of trenches covering a total area of 4 hectares. You will get a genuine feel for the battery via the diorama show which takes you into the rest rooms, the food and equipment stores, the ammunition chambers and the sick rooms all restored to their original state.

 

The battery of Crisbecq was built to be the main strongpoint of the Cotentin Peninsula’s east coast, but only two casemates were completed out of four on D-Day. The position was heavily bombed in the night of 5-6 June 1944, however the battery was able to oppose to the landings. On D-Day the solid defensive system kept in despite attacks by American parachutists. On June 7 the 210 mm guns with a range of 20,50 mile sank a destroyer and at the end of the day the 4th Infantry Division was stopped in front of the blockhouses. The following day, three American battleships, together rammed the position and ended up reducing it to silence. The German Kriegsmarine garrison evacuated the battery in the night of 11-12 June. The Commander of the battery, Oberleutnant Omhsen, was distinguished for his action against the allied landing.

 

Location: Saint-Marcouf, Normandy, France

Date: may 2007

The Crisbecq Battery situated just outside the hamlet of Crisbecq is also known as the Saint-Marcouf Battery since it is also located next to the village of Saint-Marcouf.

 

SAINT-MARCOUF : THE CRISBECQ BATTERY

GERMAN COASTAL DEFENSE

 

The only heavy battery on the eastern coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, the Crisbecq Battery, was located 2.5 kilometers from the shore on a crest overlooking all of Utah Beach. From Crisbecq, the Germans could see and defend the entire coastline from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue to Grandcamp.

 

The battery originally held six 155mm guns. However, by D-Day all but one of these had been moved to Fontenay-sur-Mer. The battery was then re-equipped with the more powerful 210mm gun. Three of these Czech-built Skoda K52 guns were in place by June 6, although only two were operational in casemates. Three casemates were under construction for the remainder of the battery's guns, but following the test firing of the first 210mm gun on 14 April 1944 the Allies bombed the site regularly. Consequently, the building of the remaining casemates was significantly delayed. The guns had a range of 33km (20,50 miles) and the Type 683 casemates allowed them to cover an arc of 120°. The battery was protected by six French 75mm anti-aircraft (AA) guns and three 20mm AA guns, one of which was sited on the roof of a control bunker.

 

Seventeen machine guns were sited in tobruk pits (concrete lined pits first used in the North African fortress town of Tobruk) and the trench system. The area was surrounded by a double barbed wire fence and a minefield and concrete bunkers were build for personnel and ammunition. In addition to that for the–––––––Cribecq guns, there was a control bunker for the Azeville battery which, although only some 2km (1.2 miles) to the south west, did not have such a good view of the sea. The Crisbecq battery was manned by 3 officers, 7 NCOs and 287 men commanded by Oberleutnant zur See, Walter Ohmsen, who later became a Lieutenant Commander in the Federal German Navy. Although manned by Naval personnel, the battery came under the control of the 1261st Army Coastal Artillery Regiment.

 

Although it was never completed, the Crisbecq battery was the keystone of this portion of the German Atlantic Wall. The Allies dropped over 800 bombs on Crisbecq between April 19 and June 6, 1944. This unrelenting aerial attack climaxed on the night of June 5 when 101 four-engine bombers unleashed 598 tons of explosives on the battery. On June 6, the surroundings were unrecognisable, but the guns were still intact and ready to fire. At 6 am on D-Day, as GI’s were landing on Utah Beach, Crisbecq opened fire, sinking an American destroyer the USS Corry. The Corry was hit at about 6:30 a.m. after a heated artillery duel with the battery that lasted several minutes. 24 crew members were killed and 60 were injured. The battery held out for several days, despite shelling by U.S. battleships and attacks from the American Infantry in hand-to-hand trench combat. To repel the Allied assault, the German commander of Crisbecq radioed to the Azeville battery and requested that it fired on his position. Crisbecq was finally taken at 8:20 am on June 12 after the German commandment ordered its troops to evacuate to La Pernelle between Quettehou and Barfleur. The fierce German resistance momentarily halted the Allied Advance to the north.

Aerial photo of casemate nr1 after D-Day.
You can just see the heavy gun position to the left.(under the American Jeep)
Aerial photo of the Crisbecq Battery after D-Day.
Aerial photo of the Crisbecq Battery's heavy gun positions and trench system today.
Aerial photo of casemate nr1 today, collapsed when engineers destroyed it after it was captured.
One of Crisbecq’s three 210-millimeter (8.25-inch) guns in casemate nr 2 on June 21, 1944. As one can see engineers also tried to destroy this casemate.
View of casemate nr2 and in the back casemate nr1.
Here are a couple of photo’s taken 65 years apart, in the first photo is a German soldier exiting a personnel shelter the second one is of the same shelter today.
To the left in this photo the roof of the personnel shelter and to the right the roof of the destroyed casemate nr1. The roof of this casemate was nearly 13-feet thick and collapsed when engineers destroyed it after it was captured.
Two photo’s of the fire control post taken in 1944 after the Allies had captured Crisbecq.
One 1944 photo clearly shows that large caliber shells were dropped on this fire control post/bunker as the crater seen was at least six meters in depth at the foot of the bunker.
The 2nd now photo clearly shows the size of the bunker as my buddy stands on the roof.
The 3rd now photo shows me standing near the crater of a direct hit on the bunkers roof.
View towards Utah Beach from the Crisbecq battery 1944 and today.
(Houses along the beach, 1.5 miles distant from the battery.)
The road to Utah Beach today.
Below: Page 150 and 151 of the German Commander of Sea Defenses report -- June 6 1944: at 06:35 the Saint Marcouf (Crisbecq) Battery, being 1.5 miles inland, saw the silhouette of the USS Corry (DD463) as a light cruiser and reported direct heavy hits on what it believed was a cruiser. The Corry was the US Navy's only major loss on D-Day. No other warship was sunk or sustained heavy hits off Utah Beach. See translation below.

From the 1st report:

06:35
Marcouf reports heavy hits. Direct hit on cruiser.
German Commander of Sea Defenses report -June 6, A
German Commander of Sea Defenses report -June 6, B

CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE

Translation of June 6 activity from 07:15 to 07:39.  

Evidently At 07:15 the German unit Arko 118 reports cruiser shelled by Marcouf burning. From the distance, the Corry's smoke screen generator emitting smoke would appear as a ship burning, but the smoke screen tank on the Corry's stern was hit by a German shell as the Corry was sinking, which set off the smoke. At 07:28, a unit from German regiment 1261, correctly identified the Corry as a destroyer and reported seeing the Corry's smoke screen generator functioning, believing that the Corry had intentionally fogged itself.  

From the 2nd report:

07.15
Arko 118 reports: Marcouf got hits before battery. Cruiser shelled by Marcouf, burning. 4./1261 (Quinéville) shot at vehicle. Apparent sinking. Small vehicles drive around. 5.u.6. do not shoot, since range of fire is not sufficient. No connection to the 1. Department. Before Grandcamp and Vire delta of ship at collections and accrete

07:20
Battery Marcouf reports: Enemy cruiser sunk.  Battery unclear. 1 cannon direct hit, several wounded - medical assistance urgently needed.

07.20   
III./1261 (also Marcouf) reports: 7. Battery fired on enemy ship, position 2600 distance 149 hm with 1 cannon to fire on enemy.

07:28
Unit from 1261 reports: 4. Battery fired at destroyers - distance 4 km -. Destroyer in sinking condition fogs itself.

07,30
To Battery Marcouf: Well done, medical assistance on the way.  

07,39
FT to Channel Coast Admiral: Enemy cruiser after bombardment Marcouf 07:20 sunk. Battery unclear. 1 cannon direct hit.
USS CORRY-DD463
the captain of the USS Corry, Lieutenant commander George Dewey Hoffman

Oberleutnant Walter Ohmsen was born on June 7, 1911 and joined the German Navy in April 1929. Prior to commanding Crisbecq, he was a German Navy chief of instruction in telemetry at the marine artillery school of Sassnitz. Wounded during the invasion, he received the Knights Cross for his efforts in repelling the attack. He was captured in late June 1944.

Oberleutnant Walter Ohmsen, commander of the Crisbecq Battery after D-Day.

Casemate nr1.
Casemate nr1.