During the occupation of France leading up to the allied invasion in 1944, the Cotentin Peninsula up to and including Cherbourg was heavily defended by German soldiers of the 709th Infantry Division. At the time of the Normandy invasion, the 709th Infantry Division was commanded by Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm Von Schlieben.
The 709th Infantry Division was formed in 1941, made up with men from many nations, including Russians and Georgians. Many of the soldiers within the various units of the 709th Infantry Division had not experienced combat, despite their age. Their average age was approximately thirty; this was in stark contrast to the young Americans who landed on Utah Beach on June 6th 1944.
In the small village of La Madeleine, just a few minutes walk from what is now known as Utah Beach, there was a small regiment of German Soldiers from the 3rd Company 919 Grenadier-Regiment. These soldiers were manning the Atlantic Wall coastal defences in this area and were commandered by Oberleutnant Matz.
Many of the houses located in La Madeleine were commandeered by the Germans to use as accommodation for the troops manning the bunkers; this included the farm house and stable block of Ivy House.
Each strongpoint of the Atlantic Wall was given a codename by the German High Command and the most notable bunker complex was that of WN5. The location of WN5 is where the American forces would land on Utah Beach, June 6th 1944.
Before the allied beach landings commenced on D-Day, American Airborne troops were dropped in to secure strategic locations and also to disrupt German communications. The villages of Sainte Mere Eglise and Sainte Marie Du Mont would see fierce fighting in the early hours of June 6th.
Arthur Janhke, the commander of the WN5 bunker position, ordered many of his troops to go to the nearby village of Sainte Marie Du Mont to deal with the American threat. This decision would leave the bunker stronghold of WN5 in a considerable weaker position. As a result, once the beach invasion started, WN5 was taken with very few American casualties. In this photo, Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm Von Schlieben is seen presenting Janhke with a medal; the date of this photo is unknown.
Many years after the end of World War 2, part of the bunker stronghold of WN5 would become the home to the Utah Beach D-Day Museum and the Roosevelt Cafe.
The bunker stronghold of WN10 is also a few minutes walk from La Madeleine. This is the location where General Leclerc and his men of the Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres) would step foot on French soil for this first time in many years. At the location of WN10, there are a number of monuments dedicated to General Leclerc and the men he commanded.
Ivy House is ideally located for exploring the many remnants of Hitler's Atlantic Wall in this part of the Cotentin Peninsula. Just a short walk from our house, you can right at the heart of the bunker complexes that were overcome by American forces. The bunkers are a constant reminder of France's occupation by Nazi Germany and the heroics of the men who liberated her.
As part of our "D-Day Stories" pages, we would like to find out more about the Germans who occupied La Madeleine and Ivy House. We would especially like to find archive photo's of soldiers of the 3rd Company 919 Gerandier-Regiment at Utah Beach and our house. If you have any further information, please feel free to contact us at Ivy House, Utah Beach Normandy.
Related pages: Sainte Mere Eglise  Sainte Marie Du Mont  Utah Beach  Longues Sur Mer  Dead Man's Corner Museum  Omaha Beach American Cemetery  Pointe Du Hoc  Carentan  Bed & Self Catering Breakfast  Bayeux