Why did the destroyers have to close on the beach to take out guns? The anti-ship batteries (such as at Longes, photos to come, and at Pointe du Hoc) faced outward and could be engaged by ships in broadsides running parallel to the coast. The shore defense batteries, however, had thick walls facing the sea, and their openings were designed to point down the coast. You can see how thick some of those sea-walls were from the photo above.
The idea was to protect the shore batteries from naval guns, while allowing them full range to fire up and down the beaches. Big gun bunkers, such as the 88s, were often placed facing each other so that they could concentrate fire and potentially even scratch each other's back at need (something actually done inland to stop a tank attack).
To get at these bunkers, ships had to close in close to the beach, so that they could fire at an angle to hit the guns, as even direct hits by large guns from seaward often failed to take them out.
The destroyers were often the only ships that could approach the beaches without going aground, so they pressed in and did what they could.
If you wander the bunkers along the Atlantic Wall where the Normandy landings took place, you can see where naval gunfire, tanks, and even some halftracks did a job on them. Precise fire was needed as the bunkers often shook off everything from big naval guns to direct hits by bombs.
If you paid attention to the caption above, you noticed the divot. That divot was from a naval shell that appears to have barely grazed the sea wall, put the divot into the iron of the roof, and got past the armor/splinter shields of the beach gun, and hit the wall behind.
That wall was for the shell room, and the round pentrated inside.
The historian I was fortunate enough to spend some time with and I both agree that this was probably the shot that put this bunker out of the fight.
While tanks could, would, and did engage these and other similar bunkers more inland, the bunkers could often see and range the tanks. Guns such as these, along with the superior panzers, were the reason the Germans took to calling British tanks "Tommy Cookers."
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