Throwback Thursday: Hedgehogs!
The likely landing beaches on Normandy in 1944, after Rommel took over, were filled with obstacles, element “C,” tetrahedrons, barbed wire, mines, and so-called Czech hedgehogs. These were arranged to direct landing forces down natural beach exits that would be blocked with overlooking and self-supporting pillboxes. You know, the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
When talking of the Czech hedgehogs, the trope is that the name came from the extensive border defenses erected along the German-Czech border in the late 1930s, essentially a steel version of the ancient Cheval de frise, which had been used to defeat cavalry charges and break up the momentum of attacks going back for centuries. Made simply of cut I-beams riveted together (during the 1930s and 40s), and enhanced with concertina and land mines, they could be effective if used in conjunction with the right tactics (i.e. channeling incoming attackers into an ambush or enfilade.)
While famous at Normandy, they were also used extensively on land, as seen by this October 1940 shot from the Western Desert.
While the hedgehog became scarce in Europe after 1945, with wartime examples soon cut up for scrap metal, they made a return along the Iron Curtain in the 1960s then promptly went extinct once again when the Berlin Wall fell. They became so rare, in fact, that in Western Europe and the U.S. it became a cottage industry for folks to make reproductions for film, paintball fields, and battlefield museum use.
Well, in the past couple of weeks, hedgehogs have made a big comeback!