History and museums
The Crisbecq Battery, also called Marcouf Battery, was a World War II artillery battery constructed by the Todt Organization near the French village of Saint-Marcouf in the department of Manche in the north-east of Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. It formed a part of Germany's Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. The main armament were three Czech 21 cm Kanone 39 canons, two of which housed in heavily fortified casemates. The Battery, with a range of 27–33 kilometers (17–21 miles), could cover the beaches between Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Pointe du Hoc.
Prior to the Invasion of Normandy, the battery was subject to frequent aerial bombardments but it was still operational on D-Day, 6 June 1944. On this day, the battery was engaged in combat with the Allied naval and landing forces on Utah Beach. During the course of the battle, it sank the USS Corry and damaged several other ships. The battery came under attack from the American 4th Infantry Division on 7 June. Under the leadership of Walter Ohmsen, the crew of the battery defended itself until 11 June. On 12 June, soldiers of the 9th Infantry Division, started their attack but found only an empty evacuated battery.
Prior to construction of Marine Küsten Batterie "Marcouf" (Naval Coastal Battery Marcouf) or Seeziel Batterie "Marcouf" (Sea Target Battery Marcouf) an alternative position on Mount Enaut, near Dodainville (roughly 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) south southeast of the battery), had been considered. However, the exceptional view of the coast from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue to Pointe du Hoc from its current position was the decisive difference.
Construction of the battery began in mid-1941 by the Todt Organization. Initially, the laborers were Russian and Polish prisoners of war, in later 1943, the workforce was augmented by hired workers from France. The original armament planned for the battery was four 210-mm navy guns (21 cm Kanone 39), six 75-mm anti-aircraft guns (Canon de 75 modèle 1897) and one 150-mm gun in an open firing pit.
Due to ordnance supply problems, the site instead consisted of three 210-mm navy guns, with only two of them protected by large concrete casemates, a command post, shelters for personnel and ammunition, and several defensive machine-gun emplacements. The site also had several natural defensive features. Any attack on the fort could only be prosecuted by moving along a narrow trail. On the western side lay open fields, while the eastern side consisted of swamps or deep slopes. Except for the Cherbourg and Le Havre harbor batteries, it was the most powerful battery in the bay of the Seine with a range of more than 30 km (19 mi). The first 210-mm gun was installed on the 19th of April.
The garrison, including the battery commander Oberleutnant zur See (navy lieutenant) Walter Ohmsen, consisted of three officers, 24 non-commissioned officers and 287 men of the Kriegsmarine. The unit was subordinated to the Marine-Artillerie-Abteilung 260 (M.A.A. 260—260th Naval Coastal Artillery Battalion). The battery's personnel was further augmented by members of the 6./Grenadier-Regiment 919 (6th Company, 919th Grenadier Regiment) of the 709. Infanterie-Division (709th Infantry Division) for ground defense under the command of Leutnant Geissler, which brought the overall manpower of the battery close to 400 men.
M.A.A. 260 was commanded by Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant) Karl Wiese in Cherbourg. The overall command was with the Kommandant der Seeverteidigung Normandie (commander of sea defense Normandy), Konteradmiral (Counter Admiral) Walter Hennecke.
Despite many bombings during the spring of 1944 and a large bombing the night before the Normandy landings, two of the guns stayed operational and opened fire on the Utah Beach area on D-Day, sinking the destroyer USS Corry, which either ran onto a mine while trying to maneuvre, or was hit by the gun fire from the battery, and damaging several other ships. The battleships USS Arkansas, USS Nevada and USS Texas were ranged and fired against the battery, knocking one gun out at approximately 08:00hrs and destroying the second one at around 09:00hrs. The first gun was repaired and fired again on 8 June.
Just after the night bombing, isolated groups of US paratroops from the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment dropped too far south to attack the Saint-Martin-de-Varreville battery, 65 km (40 mi) in north-east. On 7–8 June, the Germans pushed back attacks from elements of the US 4th Infantry Division. On 11 June, Ohmsen was tasked to evacuate to a new German north defense line, which he succeeded in doing with only sixty-seven able men. The battery was captured in the morning of 12 June without a fight by the 39th Regiment after the 9th US Infantry Division landed at Utah Beach.