The essential, commercial port of Le Havre was well defended by the forces of nature as well as by the combination of the firepower of Krupp factories and the concrete of the Todt Organisation. The port is protected by water on three sides, the sea to the West, the flooded valley of the Lezarde river to the East and the estuary of the Seine to the South. These natural defences were supplemented by a system of bunkers and strong points that fairly bristled with machine guns and anti-tank weaponry. The only possible approach for a landward assault i.e. from the North would be severely hampered by defencive positions located on the high ground of Octeville-sur-Mer and on two plateaus to the North East of the port area. The Northern approaches were also protected by an anti-tank ditch some twenty foot wide by ten foot deep. Further into the centre of the town, were located many artillery positions (albeit largely with their guns trained out to sea), nevertheless, the Forts of Ste Adresse and Saniv combined with pill boxes, bunkers, wire and roadblocks to form a formidable interlocking system of defences that protected the port area from land approaches.
Nevertheless, despite such formidable defences, the fighting ability of a high proportion of the available troops was in doubt, through injury or a lack of experience in combat. Post war interrogation transcripts reveal such concerns:
'Battle-experienced men on leave from the Eastern front, hastily banded together into two battalions, had not yet shaken-down into a smooth-working team. The men of 81 Fortress Unit and two battalions of 5 Sicherungs Regiment (Protective Regiment) were infirm and of small fighting value. The fortress commander having considered the quality of his troops and the facilities for defence, had reported to the Commander of Fifteenth Army, so he alleged later, that the fortress could be held against an assault for 24 hours in unfavourable circumstances, or 72 hours if circumstances favoured the defence'