The D-DAY Landings and the Battle of Normandy

General Richter's underground bunker

Located beneath the Mémorial de Caen museum, this command post played a crucial role during the Occupation and the Battle of Normandy.

History of the site

In 1943, General Richter, commanding the 716th German Infantry Division, stationed in Normandy to defend the coast, decided to provide his unit with an underground command post to supervise the operations in the event of an invasion.

The site chosen was a former stone quarry located northwest of Caen. Workers of Organization Todt dug a 70-meter long and 3-meter high tunnel in the limestone. With its coalface back to the sea and the thickness of the rock, the structure was well protected from bombardments. The construction was completed late 1943.

It is in this bunker that on June 7, 1944 General Marcks and the commanders of units stationed in the sector, met to attempt and set up a counter-attack capable of pushing the Allies back to the sea. This command bunker is therefore an exceptional patrimonial element of the Battle of Normandy. This is why the Caen Mémorial Museum opened it to the public in all its historical truth and dimension, thus enabling it to be part of the on-site museums.

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The site today

The museography guides you along the underground gallery with a dark and oppressive ambiance.

After an introduction presenting the historical interest of the bunker and a map showing the initial partitions, 3 themes string together:
- The Calvados department under the Occupation
- The Atlantic Wall
- The 716th infantry division faced with the landing.

The exhibition develops each of these theme through a set of artifacts, a video, and reference texts. The ensemble is supported by a sound design that evokes life in the bunkers. The visit of the gallery ends with the portrait of Anne Frank, with, next to it, an excerpt from her diary, dating from June 6, 1944.

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The transmission center

Buried telephone cables connected the position to each regimental CP and the Carpiquet aerodrome.

The bunker contained a radio transmission center and was equipped with a ventilation system, generator and water cistern. A team of secretaries, telephonists, cartographers and officers worked constantly beneath this thick limestone shell. A small garrison was in charge of defending the structure. Each of the three entrances on alternate sides was defended by a machine gun. Double-leaf armoured doors completed the defence system.

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The 716th ID and D-Day

On the plateau overlooking the quarry, a buried tank and minefields protected the immediate surroundings.

In the night of 5 to 6 June 1944, the general staff of the 716th ID was informed of unusual aerial activity and parachute drops to the east of the Orne and west of the Dives. In the small hours of the morning, the HQ staff received a stream of information from the CPs along the coast. This information had to be collected and analysed before reporting to the higher echelons. The long-awaited D-Day landings had finally taken place. This position was at the centre of the operations.

Richter reported the situation to General Marcks, commander of the 84th army corps headquartered in Saint-Lô. The following night, the general officers met to devise a strategy aimed at driving the Allied troops back to the sea, but the tank counter-attacks were repelled and the front line remained in the same place for several weeks. During the battle, the underground galleries were used as a CP and shelter for the troops. During the main offensives, they were turned into a makeshift hospital. The CP was finally abandoned on 23 June. Canadian soldiers took possession of the premises on 9 July.

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