NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The gray, concrete, heavily scarred slabs that arrived at the National World War II Museum this week are more than just chunks of an old wall to historians.
The slabs are part of Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall, a string of defenses ordered by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in 1940. The defenses, also known as “Hitler’s wall,” stretched 3,200 miles from France to Norway and were designed to stop, or at least slow, the Allies from advancing inland during an invasion.
Allan Millette, a history professor and director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, said the relic is a portal to studying what happened in 1944 and 1945, when Allied forces penetrated the wall and the tide began to turn against Germany.
“The concept was to build coastal defense, gun positions that could shell ships and places that could cause havoc with landing forces,” he said.
Each of the three sections of wall is 5 ½ feet high, 18 inches thick. Together they total 35 feet long and weigh 22 tons. Shots fired by incoming Allied troops who stormed Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, have pock-marked the surfaces.