|Active May 1941 – June 1944|
Role Coastal Defence
|Country Nazi Germany|
Type Static Infantry
|Size Division 12,988 at full strength.|
The 709th Static Infantry Division was a German Army static division in World War II. It was raised in May 1941 and used for occupation duties during the German occupation of France in World War II until the Allied invasion. It was on the Normandy coast when the invasion fell, and thus fought in the Battle of Normandy. The division was trapped in the Cotentin Peninsula and destroyed in the defense of Cherbourg.
Static Divisions occupied a rigid defence position, usually on a broad front (for example in 1944, 2,000 km of Atlantic coast line was covered by 23 Static Divisions). They were not trained in mobile warfare and as such possessed very limited transport; any transport assigned to the Division was usually horse drawn. Many of the officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and men in these divisions were either previously wounded, older men, lacking combat experience, with ailments or conscripted prisoners-of-war.
The 709th static infantry Division was a Coastal unit assigned to protect the Eastern and Northern coasts of the Cotentin Peninsula, including the Utah Beach-head and the US airborne landing zones. Its sector was considered to be over a 250 km wide front and ran in a line from the North East of Carentan, via Barfleur-Cherbourg-cap de la Hague to a point west of Barneville. This included the 65 km Land front of Cherbourg.
The Division included a number of "Ostlegionen" – Eastern – units of various nationalities, mainly from the occupied countries such as eastern volunteers, conscripts and former Soviet prisoners-of-war who had chosen to fight in the German Army rather than suffer the harsh conditions as prisoners. Two battalions of the 739th Grenadier Regiment were Georgian Battalions and two other battalions were also designated as Ost units in the Divisional Order of Battle. These battalions were led by German officers and NCOs.
The commander of the division at the time of the D-Day landings was General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben who took command in December 1943 after two and a half years of continuous command of Eastern Front combat units, including the 108th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 4th Rifle Brigade, 208th Infantry Division and the 18th Panzer Division.
The quality of the troops in the 709th had been reduced as personnel were constantly transferred to the Eastern Front including entire divisional combat units such as the 1st Battalion of its 739th Grenadier Regiment. A high percentage of the division had no combat experience. However the 709th was well acquainted with its sector and well trained for defence though after months of sustained labour work on coastal defences, the combat readiness of these troops was significantly reduced.
Elements of the 709th were heavily engaged on D-Day, defending the peninsula against US airborne landings and also against the US 4th Infantry Division landing on Utah Beach. Ten days later the division reported that it had sustained around 4,000 casualties from a strength of over 12,000. General Schlieben surrendered ‘Fortress’ Cherbourg to the Americans on 29 June 1944.