Today, I had the opportunity to visit Gen. Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben’s headquarter during the battle of Cherbourg.
On D-Day, Gen. von Schlieben was commander of the 709th German Infantry Division, defending Utah Beach and the eastern coast of the Cotentin peninsula. On the 23rd of June 1944, Hitler appointed him as commander of Festung (fortress) Cherbourg with orders to defend the strategic harbor to the last man. He retreated into a huge underground complex overlooking the harbor. German forces held for three days until, on the morning of June the 26th, von Schlieben and 800 German soldiers surrendered to Gen. Manton S. Eddy of the 9th US infantry division. He was then taken to Gen. Lawton J. Collins’ VII Corps headquarter at the chateau of Servigny in Yvetot-Bocage where he signed the capitulation of German forces in Cherbourg.
Nowadays, the entrance to the underground headquarter is on a private property. The complex started to be built in the fall of 1943 but it was never finished. It is made of four long galleries, up to 100 yards long, linked by smaller corridors. Although completely empty, dark and very damp, you can still make out some of uses of the galleries : Quarters, depots and storage, a large room for the generators, aid station etc.
A unique remain of the Atlantikwall, this complex is a great example of the delusion of grandeur and ultimate futility of the German defensive efforts.