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  • The Channel Islands.

  • A picturesque group of rocky isles between Great Britain and France.

  • For the residents of these islands, life is usually sleepy - making them a popular vacation

  • destination.

  • But in 1940, they would be anything but calm and relaxing.

  • Because Nazi Germany had conquered France and the United Kingdom was next in their sights

  • - and the Channel Islands were in the way.

  • The small population and lack of military hardware meant defending the islands would

  • be impossible - and the UK had no resources to spare in the middle of the war.

  • They quickly demilitarized the island and evacuated as many civilians as they could

  • while the German forces bore down.

  • While a significant percentage left, the majority of the major islands of Jersey and Guernsey

  • chose to stay - and faced an indefinite Nazi occupation.

  • But Adolf Hitler had bigger plans for the island than a new source of slave labor.

  • The Wehrmacht took over the Channel Islands on June 30th, 1940, and were quickly unimpressed

  • by the island's defenses.

  • The islands weren't a common staging ground for war, and the Nazis weren't expecting

  • to spend much time there.

  • They planned to quickly move on to conquering the United Kingdom mainland.

  • But Hitler's ambition got the better of him.

  • Britain didn't go down to air assault nearly as easily as they expected, and rising tensions

  • with Russia meant Hitler was more worried about war on the Eastern front than proceeding

  • on to London.

  • And suddenly, the Channel Islands looked a lot more significant.

  • After looking at maps of the islands, Hitler called additional forces to the small outposts.

  • He announced a massive construction project that would take the Channel Islands from a

  • footnote in the war to one of the Nazi regime's most fortified outposts.

  • The Organization Todt, Hitler's civilian infrastructure organization, was brought to

  • the island with the mission of providing labor and building over two hundred military facilities,

  • bunkers, and casemates on each of the larger islands.

  • They would need a lot of manpower.

  • And Hitler, of course, had a favorite way of getting manpower.

  • While the Channel Islands occupation hadn't initially been as brutal as the occupation

  • of France and other nations Hitler conquered - save for the Jews of the islands, who were

  • quickly deported - that would soon change.

  • Hitler needed labor, and the remaining citizens of the islands would be conscripted.

  • As the islands weren't seen as a priority initially and were being blockaded by the

  • allies for much of the war, resources were slim, and conditions would get worse over

  • the course of the war.

  • While there was some resistance on the islands, the residents were so outnumbered by armed

  • occupiers that it never had much of a chance.

  • And soon, the Channel Islands would be completely transformed.

  • The Nazis used a system called Regelbau, or Standard Build, to mass-produce bunkers that

  • could withstand enemy attacks.

  • Built from over two hundred standardized armor parts, they could be assembled much faster

  • than other constructs after being built in German factories.

  • Almost like the world's largest Lego set, if they could withstand aerial assaults.

  • There were three primary types of designs - temporary ones in the field made out of

  • timber and soil with a concrete ceiling, reinforced models with a meter-strong concrete ceiling,

  • and permanent facilities with two-meter thick concrete ceilings and walls.

  • Hitler approved the plan - and one of the biggest construction projects in WW2 history

  • began.

  • Soon the Channel Islands were met with a throng of workers coming to begin construction.

  • Some were civilian workers and military members in non-combat positions, but many were taken

  • from the Nazi labor camps around Europe and from military detainees, along with the native

  • Channel Island populations.

  • Supplies were brought in, particularly cement, steel, and timber, and work camps were built

  • to keep the workforce in a centralized location - and to keep them from escaping.

  • By the end of 1942, the Channel Islands had become a massive military fortress.

  • Sites would be excavated using manual labor, often using explosives to speed things up.

  • As soon as this was done, the construction experts would come in and direct the labor,

  • carefully assembling sites according to the exact specifications of the plans.

  • There were several types of facilities, each designed for a specific purpose - and to make

  • it near-impossible for any allied forces to dislodge the Nazi occupation.

  • The first line of defense - artillery.

  • For those visiting the Channel Islands today, one of the most impressive landmarks is Batterie

  • Mirus, a massive artillery position, With massive range-finding towers and four barrels,

  • its powerful guns could shoot a stunning thirty-two miles with lightweight shells or almost twenty

  • miles with heavier anti-armor shells - making them able to gun down enemy forces long before

  • they could set foot on the island.

  • The powerhouse artillery position would be joined by ten coastal artillery batteries

  • on Guernsey alone, surrounded by bunkers that would contain spare ammunition.

  • But they were prepared for dangers coming from all directions - including above.

  • The islands were also filled with longer-range guns designed for taking out aircraft, with

  • some able to shoot as far as 7,500 meters.

  • Six island anti-aircraft batteries were set up, equipped with radar and searchlights.

  • The Nazis wanted a clear line of sight and fire, so they looked for wide open locations

  • - including a converted golf course.

  • The radars and command bunkers for the anti-aircraft barriers were fortified, with around a hundred

  • and seventy-five total positions - and just in case anyone got through, the island had

  • been littered with explosive-rigged obstacles to get planes when they landed.

  • But if any enemy forces got through, the Nazis were prepared.

  • If the Allies got to the beach, they would be met by countless casemates designed for

  • close-range assaults.

  • While the small bunkers would be hard to penetrate, any soldiers approaching them would be met

  • with multiple soldiers' worth of heavy fire.

  • The machine guns within were equipped with searchlights for nighttime fire.

  • But the defenses were just as strong as the offensive posts.

  • Barbed wire and minefields made it dangerous to cross the islands.

  • Trenches made it hazardous and hard to navigate.

  • These would usually lead to heavy fire zones, funneling the invading soldiers right into

  • the line of fire.

  • The twelve Strongpoint areas around Guernsey protected most of the critical points, with

  • resistance nests around the island providing simpler defenses.

  • But the strongest island defenses may have been hidden from sight.

  • To the untrained eye, much of Guernsey would seem to be unspoiled green.

  • But this was often camouflage - with paint and straw being used to resemble grass and

  • natural stones being built into concrete.

  • And under many of these camouflaged positions would be a massive network of tunnels that

  • spanned much of the islands.

  • Built over two years, fourteen full tunnels were completed while others were started but

  • never finished.

  • They would allow Nazi personnel and their workers to navigate from one position to another

  • away from enemy eyes.

  • And for the most important facilities on the island, secrecy was key.

  • Leadership and technical support were housed in underground bunkers, as well as the infrastructure

  • that was needed to keep the massive Nazi war machine on the island running.

  • Radar units were the top target for allied bombers, and were usually disguised with the

  • crew working in underground bunkers.

  • While the transformation of the Channel Islands was very visible, much of its most powerful

  • tools were hidden.

  • The Channel Islands megafortress designed by Adolf Hitler seemed indestructible - but

  • there was one thing they hadn't counted on.

  • As the years went on, resistance to the occupation grew, and Nazi oppression increased.

  • Resisters were sent abroad to Nazi prisons, with some dying.

  • The British government made several attempts to liberate the islands, but raids had to

  • be called off due to heavy fire, weather conditions, or resources being needed elsewhere.

  • In 1944, the Allied forces launched the D-Day landings and liberated Normandy - but decided

  • to pass by the Channel Islands because it would take far more resources than they had

  • to take on the German fortifications.

  • But it had another consequences.

  • Almost all the Channel Islands' food supplies went through Nazi-occupied France - and that

  • pipeline had just been cut off.

  • The Channel Islands were starving.

  • Negotiations began for the Channel Islands' fate, with the Germans initially making an

  • offer to the British to release all civilians besides military-age men.

  • Winston Churchill was unimpressed, telling themLet 'em starve.

  • They can rot at their leisure”.

  • The tide of the war was turning, and the Allies only wanted one thing - unconditional surrender.

  • The Germans refused to discuss it, and it would be several long months in December of

  • 1944 until a Red Cross ship was finally able to bring food and medical supplies.

  • But the end was only months away.

  • May 8th, 1945 saw the Germans surrender, and only days later Allied forces arrived across

  • the Channel Islands and the German soldiers laid down their weapons.

  • And slowly but surely, the population that fled the occupied islands began to return

  • - and were shocked at how their little islands had been transformed.

  • The Nazi forces were gone, but the islands were still dotted with their massive military

  • infrastructure.

  • And in the years to come, it would define the islands in some unique ways.

  • What was the ultimate purpose of Hitler's island megafortress?

  • The Germans put an enormous amount of effort into defending a small group of islands, but

  • it amounted to very little.

  • They were able to hold the islands, but never mounted any successful attacks on Britain

  • from there.

  • They were never conquered, but nearly starved to death as soon as they were cut off.

  • Was it just another elaborate project of the madman who met his end inside a German bunker

  • - or was it intended as something else?

  • Some suspect it may have been a place Hitler planned to hide if he got out of Germany in

  • time.

  • A group of Channel Island residents were determined to answer those questions.

  • It was 1961 when the Channel Islands Occupation Society was formed.

  • A group of volunteers dedicated to investigating and managing the history of the German occupation,

  • they took over management of many of the German sites from the British military and publish

  • an annual newsletter sharing stories from the era.

  • Based in both Jersey and Guernsey, they are most people's entry point into this little-known

  • part of World War 2 history.

  • But they're not the only way to learn about it.

  • Today, one of the Channel Islands' biggest industries is tourism.

  • The islands are open to visitors, and most of the most famous Nazi bunkers have been

  • cleaned out of anything dangerous and are open to tourists.

  • Historian Dan Snow put out a documentary as he traveled the length of Guernsey, visiting

  • Hitler's island fortress and sharing tales of the Second World War.

  • A German Occupation Museum stands in Les Houards, offering a look into artifacts and communications

  • from the occupation era.

  • His whole trip consisted of a six-day itinerary - much of which can be covered by daring visitors.

  • But not all the secrets of the Nazi occupation have been uncovered yet.

  • It was early 2020 when Snow's documentary crew explored a bunker that had only recently

  • been uncovered and renovated.

  • It was even filled with the original bunks for the soldiers stationed there, and the

  • walls were painted with murals from the men who lived underground.

  • There were places reserved for pictures of high-ranking German officials, including Hitler

  • himself.

  • Even today, over seventy years since the war, Hitler's island megafortress continues to

  • give up its secrets.

  • While the occupation lasted only five years, the fortress was built to last - and historians

  • of the war will likely be making new discoveries for decades to come.

  • Check outDid Hitler REALLY Escape to Argentinafor another look at a possible Nazi plan for

  • the end of the war, or check out this video instead.

The Channel Islands.

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Hitler's Mysterious Mega Fortress - The Secret Nazi Base Revealed

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    Summer posted on 2021/08/14
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