Photo -- See Caption Below

Made by Stahlheim, Germany

The German helmet shown here is a standard issue model 1942 Stahlheim. It was found near Omaha Beach, were the Americans encountered the heaviest resistance. The helmet was probably worn by either a member of the 716th Coast Defense Division or the 352nd Infantry Division which defended the beach in that area.

The German Army (Wehrmacht) and Waffen SS Troops in Normandy were a formidable force opposing the Allied invasion forces in 1944. Also present were parachute infantry troops from the German Luftwaffe. As Eisenhower said in his pre invasion message to his troops, “Your enemy is well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.”

Many of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS that fought the war did so honorably without committing any war crimes or atrocities. However, members of the Waffen SS were responsible for some of the worst and most infamous massacres of unarmed civilians and Prisoners of War (POWs). On June 10, 1944, members of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, while en route to the fighting in Normandy, ruthlessly massacred 642 civilian men, women, and children in the French town of Oradour sur Glane.

During the Battle of the Bulge at Malmedy, Belgium, on December 17, 1944, about 150 soldiers from the 285th U.S. Field Artillery Observation Battalion were taken prisoner by the lead element of Joachim Peiper’s German SS Battlegroup. After being disarmed by members of the 1st Waffen SS Panzer Division, the Americans were gunned down in an open, snow covered field near the crossroads. There, 86 of the POWs were killed. Those who escaped passed word of the massacre on to other units.

Two major factors that tipped the fighting in Normandy to the Allies’ advantage were the failure of the Germans to send their Panzer Tank units to the front soon enough to drive the invaders back into the English Channel, and the fact the Allies had air superiority. However, this was greatly off-set by the Normandy region bocage, or hedgerow country.

In June and July of 1944 the Germans took advantage of this terrain feature. Advancing Americans found it very difficult to push the enemy back, since the dense hedgerows that divided the small Normandy farm fields made excellent strongholds for the defenders.

Steel. L 30.5, W 25.3, H 15.8 cm
Eisenhower National Historic Site, EISE 12219.