The Siegfried Line and the Western Air Defense Zone


Mission Photo Album

A camouflaged pillbox in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge.

A camouflaged pillbox in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge.

By January 1945, World War II was nearing its end, but some of the toughest fighting had not yet finished. The Battle of the Bulge raged on the Western Front, the Wehrmacht retreated from the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front, and the U.S. continued to bomb Tokyo in the Pacific Theater.

Meanwhile, Lt. Mike Powell has been dispatched to a heavily forested area near Fort Schmerzen along the Siegfried Line. Although Medal of Honor lore calls the fort the largest on the line, it’s entirely fictional. The fort, located near the Moselle River and close to the French city of Metz, was sabotaged in the original Medal of Honor game by Lt. Jimmy Patterson in November 1944, but it was rebuilt by its commander, Col. Hermann Müller, by Jan. 18, 1945.

In the words of Col. Stanley Hargrove, Powell and a special team of Rangers have been sent to “permanently wipe it off the map.”

Powell's first look at the Siegfried Forest.

Lt. Mike Powell’s first look at the Siegfried Forest.

When the mission begins, Powell is alone in a dark, snowy forest, having “treejumped” into a area 20 miles (32 km) north of the fort, a place where the U.S. Army Air Force has lost several reconnaissance planes.

His objective is to investigate the forest, find and destroy the 20 mm FlaK guns, and “look for anything out of the ordinary.” As it turns out, this forest holds many secrets.

The location is only described as the Siegfried Forest, which doesn’t exist, so it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where along the Siegfried Line the mission takes place.

Using the approximate location of Fort Schmerzen, the course of the Moselle, and the fact that trains carrying prisoners of war have been reported traveling between the Hürtgen Forest and the fort, the events of Allied Assault’s final mission likely take place in an area known as the Western Air Defense Zone.

A map of the Siegfried Line from German Wikipedia user Sansculotte.

A map of the multiple aspects of the Siegfried Line from German Wikipedia user Sansculotte. The gray-striped area is the Western Air Defense Zone.

This zone extended from the northern end of the Siegfried Line near Kleve to near Karlsruhe in the south. Its approximate boundaries were the German border in the west, and the Rhine in the east.

As its name indicates, the area served mostly to protect Germany from Allied air attacks, and fixed positions included FlaK cannons and machine guns. Appropriately, the enemies Powell encounters are near either anti-aircraft guns or MG42’s.

However, the most formidable enemies lurking among the trees are highly-skilled snipers positioned on ledges or other high points. If Powell doesn’t move slowly and carefully while using his sniper rifle to scan for enemies, these soldiers will hear him and fire shots that rarely miss, killing him quickly.

I’ve already discussed some of the strategies utilized by German snipers during WWII, and it’s unlikely that expert marksmen would’ve been assigned solitary guard duty in a remote forest. Given that the area appears to be a hot spot for secret military activity, their presence makes slightly more sense, but their jobs could have been easily accomplished by less-skilled riflemen.

The Siegfried Line itself was built between 1938 and 1940, and it stretched more than 390 miles (630 km) along Germany’s western border between Kleve in the north and Weil am Rhein in the south.

It was a defensive line of forts and tank defenses constructed opposite the similar French Maginot Line, and was known to the Germans as the Westwall, but the Allies renamed it after a section of World War I’s Hindenburg Line.

Thousands of bunkers were built along the line, with wall thicknesses varying from 20 inches to 11 feet, depending on the construction program they were part of. During the Allied Assault mission, Powell encounters a few bunkers with what appear to be four-foot-thick walls, matching the description of the Type 10 bunkers built during the Limes program, though their layout and design don’t match.

The final FlaK bunker also appears to resemble an L409 FlaK bunker, which had an anti-aircraft gun on its roof.

The third, and final, FlaK position Powell encounters in the forest.

The third, and final, FlaK position Powell encounters in the forest.

At the start of the war, the line was not yet finished and had serious weaknesses, but it didn’t see major fighting until August 1944.

According to Steve Zaloga’s book, “Defense of the Rhine 1944-1945,” Adolf Hitler ordered the zone reinforced on Aug. 24, 1944 and called for “an uninterrupted system of tank obstacles,” “a continuous and deeply echeloned system of fortifications,” and the inclusion of some parts of the Maginot Line in the German defenses.

With the Germans fighting to keep the Allies out of their homeland, the line was the site of intense fighting during the last months of the war, including the Battle of the Bulge, which resulted in 160,000 to 200,000 casualties on both sides.

Fittingly, some of the toughest fighting of Powell’s career will take place along this line as he moves deeper into German territory towards Fort Schmerzen in the game’s final mission.

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~ by John on November 24, 2014.

One Response to “The Siegfried Line and the Western Air Defense Zone”

  1. Reblogged this on John Does Stuff and commented:

    I’ve just started the final mission of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and it’s probably one of the toughest in the game. It’s also probably the most fictional.

    This week’s post deals with Germany’s Siegfried Line and how it relates to Lt. Mike Powell’s actions in and around the fictional Fort Schmerzen in Allied Assault.

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