12 May 1940

12 May 1940


Traces of World War 2 RAF - No. 12 Operational Training Unit 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

52, 63 and 207 Squadron were re-formed as No 12 Operational Training Unit in April 1940.

Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Not all operations listed those with fatal losses are.

24/05/1940: training?, UK. 1 Plane lost, 2 KIA (+1 unidentified)
11/06/1940: training?, UK 1 Plane lost, 1 KIA
20/06/1940: ?, UK. 1 Plane lost, 1 MIA

24/05/1940: ?, UK

Type:
Fairey Battle I
Serial number: L4977, -?
Operation: ?
Lost: 24/05/1940
Pilot Officer (Pilot) William D. Finlayson, RAF 36268 (NZ), [12 Operational Training Unit], age 25, 24/05/1940, Ford Park Cemetery (formerly Plymouth Old Cemetery) (Pennycomequick), UK
See his page on the Cenotaph database for a photo.
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Peter K. Sigley, RAF 36276 (NZ), age 25, 24/05/1940, Ford Park Cemetery (Formerly Plymouth Old Cemetery)(Pennycomequick), UK
See his page on the Cenotaph database for biography and photos.
This plane, flying in low cloud and poor visibility, crashed into a hill at Bowd Croff in Devonshire at 1120 hrs, resulting in the death of all three crew. The name of the third crew member is (yet) unknown, but he must be one of the men of unknown units who died on 24/05/1940.

11/06/1940: ?, UK

Type: Fairey Battle I
Serial number: ?, -?
Operation: ?
Lost: 11/06/1940
Pilot Officer Basil P. Thomson, RAF 36264 (NZ), age 20, 11/06/1940, Benson (or Bensington) (St. Helen) Churchyard Extension, UK
Pilot Officer Thomson was the pilot of a Battle aircraft which took off in the early morning for a short cross-country flight. It suffered engine failure immediately after take off and crashed and burned near Benson.
Fate of other crew member unknown by the editor of this page.
See his page on the Cenotaph database, where his date of death is incorrectly mentioned as 6 November 1940.

20/06/1940: ?, UK

Type:
Fairey Battle I
Serial number: K9420, -?
Operation: ?
Lost: 20/06/1940
P/O Denman, 42595
Name second crew member unknown
Third crew member likely to be: Sergeant Frederick L. Anderson, RAFVR 743074, age 22, 20/06/1940, missing
Ditched off Seaton, Devon. 'Three fishermen rowed quickly to the spot and rescued two airmen. The third had been jammed in the fuselage and had gone down with the aeroplane, which had sunk within a few minutes of crashing. - Rewards, £2 5s' (RNLI Records of Service 1939-46)
(source: RafCommands)

W.R. Chorley, Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses. Volume 7: Operational Training Units 1940-1947: Operational Training Losses 1940-1947 v. 7, Midland Publishing, 2002
Jack Dickinson 'The time of my life: life with 218 & 623 Sqns'
Bill Randle 'Blue skies & dark nights'
D Reader 'A village in wartime: the story of RAF Chipping Warden' (1995)
Albert & Ian Smith 'Mosquito Pathfinder' (Crecy Publishing 2004)

This page is dedicated to the men of No. 12 Operational Training Unit


12 May 1940 - History

World War II On The Air: Edward R. Murrow And The Broadcasts That Riveted A Nation

    -- Dan Rather -- Edward R. Murrow -- Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer -- Edward R. Murrow -- William L. Shirer -- Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer -- Mary Marvin Breckenridge -- William L. Shirer and Thomas Grandon -- Edward R. Murrow -- Eric Servareid -- Cecil Brown -- Edward R. Murrow -- William L. Shirer -- William L. Shirer -- Edward R. Murrow and Eric Servareid -- William L. Shirer -- Edward R. Murrow -- Edward R. Murrow -- Edward R. Murrow - December 24, 1940 -- Edward R. Murrow - April 16, 1941 -- Edward R. Murrow -- Larry LeSueur -- Eric Servareid -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- Cecil Brown -- Larry LeSueur -- Charles Collingwood -- Winston Burdett -- Winston Burdett -- Eric Servareid -- Winston Burdett -- Edward R. Murrow
  1. Capture Of Rome - June 5, 1944 -- Winston Burdett -- Edward R. Murrow -- Edward R. Murrow -- Richard C. Hottelet -- Charles Collingwood -- Richard C. Hottelet -- Larry LeSueur -- Edward R. Murrow -- Richard C. Hottelet -- Howard K. Smith -- Bill Downs -- Edward R. Murrow -- William L. Shirer -- Edward R. Murrow -- Edward R. Murrow

Professor Emeritus Rick Musser :: [email protected]
University of Kansas, School of Journalism & Mass Communications, 1976-2008

American Decades © International Thompson Publishing Company

Original site designed May 2003 by graduate students Heather Attig and Tony Esparza
First update: January 2004 by gradute students Staci Wolfe and Lisa Coble
Second update: May 2007 by graduate students Chris Raine and Jack Hope
Complete graphical and content revision: December 2007 by graduate student Jack Hope

Disclaimer
This site was built by students in Rick Musser's Journalism History class as a study aid. While both the teacher and the graduate students who prepared the site have tried to assure that the information is accurate and original, you will certainly find many examples of copyrighted materials designated for teaching and research as part of a college level history of journalism course. That material is considered "fair use” under Title 17, Chapter 1, Sec. 107 of the Fair Use Statute and the Copyright Act of 1976. Contact [email protected] with further questions.

The material was last checked for accuracy and live links December 31, 2007. This site is in no way affiliated with any of the people displayed in its contents, their management, or their copyright owners. This site has a collection of links to other sites, and is not responsible for any content appearing on external sites. This site is subject to change.


The Brandenburgers Pave the Way

Prior to or at the beginning of “Blitzkrieg West,” a number of special operations paved the way for the panzers. Most of the special operations were carried out by paracommandos of the special forces regiment Brandenburg.

Several days before the attack in the West began, German commandos posing as tourists crossed the border into Luxembourg and, at 4 o’clock on the morning of the attack, they occupied vital road junctions and bridges and kept them open for the panzers.

Three bridges provided entry into the Low Countries for the panzers, at Gennap, Roermond, and Stavelot, and it was vital they remained open. They were known to be mined, and ruses were necessary to prevent them from being blown.

Everything fell on the shoulders of a second lieutenant named Walther of the Brandenburgers, who was ordered to seize the major railway bridge at Gennap, located on the Meuse between the German province of Westphalia and the Dutch province of Brabant, and to hold it intact until the panzers arrived.

With their weapons hidden, Walther and several of his commandos, dressed in uniforms of the Royal Dutch gendarmerie, and with seven other commandos acting the part of prisoners, arrived at the guardpost on the bridge 10 minutes before the panzer assault was to begin on May 10.

At a signal from Walther, the “prisoners” attacked the guardpost and firing broke out, wounding three of the commandos. The guardpost was captured, and Walther and two of his commandos walked along the bridge to the guardpost at the other end. The guards there, seeing three men in Dutch uniforms coming toward them, hesitated, and Walther, now close enough, tossed a grenade at them and quickly took possession of the detonator set to fire the explosives that would destroy the bridge.

A French patrol moves through a wooded area to make contact with le Boche, June 3, 1940.

At this point the first panzers arrived and began to cross the bridge. Walther ran toward them, but the tankmen, unaware of the commandos’ mission, took him to be a Dutch soldier and opened fire, severely wounding him. He survived and was awarded the Iron Cross for his part in the mission.

Similar ruses were used to secure the other two bridges.

With the first faint light of dawn over Belgium, a reinforced platoon, designated “Granite,” comprising two officers, 73 Brandenburger paracommandos, and 11 pilots, all under the command of 23-year-old Lieutenant Rudolf Witzig, landed in gliders on the roof of the modern fortress complex of Eben Emael.

The fortress guarded the juncture of the Albert Canal and the River Maas (Meuse) on the Belgian/Dutch border just south of Maastricht. In addition to their personal weapons, the attack force carried flamethrowers, bangalore torpedoes to blast through barbed wire, and 56 highly destructive hollow-charge bombs capable of breaking through the defensive armor of the fortress.

British General Lord Gort, left, commander of the BEF, observes maneuvers with British War Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha, 1940.

At Eben Emael, Belgian Major Jean Jottrand, alerted by a nationwide radio broadcast that German troops were crossing the frontier, had 780 troops of the garrison at action stations awaiting an attack on the ground, not from the sky. When Jottrand’s men realized what was happening, it was too late—the gliders had landed on the roof of the fortress and German paracommandos were racing for their objectives.

Several of them, carrying a 110-pound hollow-charge bomb, raced unseen to one of the major artillery emplacements, placed the charge against the base, set the fuse, and ran for safety before an explosion shook the fort. The explosion blew the 120mm gun in the emplacement off its mounts, and it fell into the shaft below it. Every defender in the emplacement was killed.

Other paracommandos set a 25-pound hollow-charge bomb against the steel doors of a 75mm gun emplacement that, on detonation, blew the gun across the casemate, wrecking the interior. The Germans then went in through the large hole torn by the blast in the casemate wall and deeper into the interior of the fort, spraying everything and everyone with their submachine guns.

Paracommandos were systematically blasting gun casemates all over the fortress roof, one of them knocking out the electric power on the first subterranean level, plunging it into darkness and leaving the Belgian defenders shocked and confused.

The finale of the assault came when paracommandos blew in the steel doors of Jottrand’s redoubt in the deepest part of the fort and a bugle sounded the call for surrender.

The ultimate credit for the success of the operation at Eben Emael goes to the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, who came up with the idea of using gliders and the new hollow charges and planned the operation against the protests of most of his generals, who argued for a frontal assault on the fortress that would have taken days, if not weeks, of fighting to secure. The taking of Eben Emael in just a few hours was the key to starting the blitzkrieg in the West.

At the same time as the paracommandos were landing on the roof of Eben Emael, soldiers of the Waffen-SS Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland landed behind the Belgians west of Martelange, glider-borne troops landed around Rotterdam and the Hague, and more landed from aircraft at the besieged airfield of Waalhaven.


Post by Furyman » 15 Mar 2005, 06:11

Post by Bronsky » 11 Apr 2007, 12:40

What the stirring narrative omits is that the first two days' raids had been so murderous to the Battle-equipped formations that the Squadron CO asked for volunteers to conduct what was clearly going to be a suicidal mission.

The "our rear gunner shot one down" bit is also most doubtful, IMO, the Bf must have broken up its attack by diving below the British bomber rather than expose itself by overflying it. Given the wild overclaiming by RAF crews in that campaign, that would be more than sufficient to register as a "kill".


12 May 1940 - History

1588 - King Henry III fled Paris after Henry of Guise triumphantly entered the city.

1780 - Charleston, South Carolina fell to British forces.

1847 - William Clayton invented the odometer.

1870 - Manitoba entered the Confederation as a Canadian province.

1881 - Tunisia, in North Africa became a French protectorate.

1885 - In the Battle of Batoche, French Canadians rebelled against the Canadian government.

1888 - Charles Sherrill of the Yale track team became the first runner to use the crouching start for a fast break in a foot race.

1926 - The airship Norge became the first vessel to fly over the North Pole.

1926 - In Britain, a general strike by trade unions ended. The strike began on May 3, 1926.

1937 - Britain's King George VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1940 - The Nazi conquest of France began with the German army crossing Muese River.

1942 - The Soviet Army launched its first major offensive of World War II and took Kharkov in the eastern Ukraine from the German army.

1943 - The Axis forces in North Africa surrendered during World War II.

1949 - The Soviet Union announced an end to the Berlin Blockade.

1950 - The American Bowling Congress abolished its white males-only membership restriction after 34 years.

1957 - A.J. Foyt won his first auto racing victory in Kansas City, MO.

1965 - West Germany and Israel exchanged letters establishing diplomatic relations.

1970 - Ernie Banks, of the Chicago Cubs, hit his 500th home run.

1975 - U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez was seized by Cambodian forces in international waters.

1978 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that they would no longer exclusively name hurricanes after women.

1982 - South Africa unveiled a plan that would give voting rights to citizens of Asian and mixed-race descent, but not to blacks.

1984 - South African prisoner Nelson Mandela saw his wife for the first time in 22 years.

1999 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and named Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin as his successor.

2002 - Former U.S. President Carter arrived in Cuba for a visit with Fidel Castro. It was the first time a U.S. head of state, in or out of office, had gone to the island since Castro's 1959 revolution.

2003 - In Texas, fifty-nine Democratic lawmakers went into hiding over a dispute with Republican's over a congressional redistricting plan.


12 Bizarre Facts About The History of Birth Control

The quest to separate sex from baby-making is an ancient one. From drinking small amounts of poison to shoving dung, rock salt, or oil up the hoo-ha, ladies and gentlemen have been trying to get it on without the responsibility of bearing children for millennia. It’s only been in the last century or so that we’ve really gotten it right, developing modern drugs and implantable devices that can stop sperm from fertilizing an egg with precision and reliability. But the path to making it easy to choose when exactly to have a child (or not to have one at all) hasn’t always been a smooth one. Here are just a few surprising, disturbing, and downright bizarre facts from the history of human research into non-reproductive sex.

1. The Pill wasn’t the first oral contraceptive.

Long before hormonal pills were readily available to women of childbearing age, eating and drinking certain substances served as a rudimentary form of birth control (along with various other fascinating methods). The residents of Cyrene, a North African city-state in the Greek and Roman Empires, ate a plant called silphion (and harvested it to extinction). Some ancient women ate pomegranate seeds to prevent unwanted pregnancies—inspired by the legend of Persephone—or ingested pennyroyal, which is toxic in higher doses. Recent research has shown these techniques to be at least somewhat effective, though other ancient methods, like the Chinese practice of drinking mercury, were downright dangerous.

2. The Talmud OKs the use of contraceptive sponges.

The ancient Jewish text recommends using a sponge soaked in vinegar to block semen in a few select cases: if a girl is too young to bear children, or if a woman is already pregnant or nursing.

3. The idea for the IUD may have come from a camel.

Ancient Arab camel owners reportedly placed small stones in the uteruses of their animals to prevent pregnancy, though this is likely just a legend. However, animals have played a vital role in the development of intrauterine devices. In 1909, a Polish doctor named Richard Richter published the first paper on the successful use of an IUD created from the guts of a silkworm.

4. No IUD has been designed by a woman.

Though ancient reproductive medicine was generally a woman’s domain, practiced by midwives, gynecology eventually became a standardized medical practice under the domain of the medical establishment (largely dominated by men). Activists like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger were instrumental in the fight for easily available birth control, but most of the people involved in developing modern birth control have been men. The IUD, which sits inside the uterus, has been designed by people without uteruses (which may be how some of the devices ended up looking like implantable shark teeth).

As an IUD designer told reporters Lucy Vernasco and Arikia Millikan in their excellent history of the IUD over on Vice:

"When I was in school, [women] were discriminated against. They weren’t accepted," said Dr. Jack Lippes, designer of the Lippes Loop, a once-prominent player in the progression of better, safer IUDs. He listed off all the men who’ve historically made the IUDs. "They’re all males, right."

5. Diaphragms were once known as “womb veils.”

In the late 1800s, American women had some access to early versions of the female condom. These diaphragms and cervical caps were sometimes called “womb veils” or even a “mechanical shield for ladies,” as historian Janet Farrell Brodie writes in her book Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth Century America.

6. Birth control wasn’t legal for everyone until 1972.

While contraceptives like the Pill were available to married couples looking to plan their families, laws against distributing contraceptives to single people were still on the books until the 1970s. The U.S. Supreme Court finally brought birth control to the masses in Eisenstadt v. Baird, arguing that treating married and unmarried people differently violated the Equal Protection Clause. In the case, William Baird had been charged with a felony for giving Emko Vaginal Foam to a woman after a Boston University lecture on birth control.

7. An IUD can rip a sperm’s head off.

IUDs work in a variety of different ways, mainly by making the uterus a terrible place for sperm. Copper can act as a spermicide, and non-hormonal copper IUDs have been known to rip sperm heads from tails.

8. We’re still arguing about how an IUD works.

While the IUD is one of the most effective contraceptives on the market, with an efficacy rate of 99 percent, scientists still aren’t precisely sure of the method through which it prevents pregnancy in some cases. The IUD largely hinders sperm mobility and function (see: ripping heads off), keeping the sperm from ever reaching the egg. However, if by chance a sperm does make it to the egg, the IUD thins the cervical mucus to keep the embryo from implanting in the uterus—which is why some lawmakers and craft stores argue (contrary to scientific research) that IUDs are a method of abortion.

9. The Pill’s active ingredient comes from a yam.

In the 1950s, a Mexico City-based company called Syntex synthesized progestin, the main hormone in birth control pills, from a wild Mexican yam called barbasco. Carl Djerassi, the chemist responsible for the breakthrough, is now heralded as one of the fathers of the Pill.

10. Condoms and tires have more in common than you thought.

Modern condoms wouldn’t be possible without Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized rubber. Ancient incarnations were made with linen and animal intestines, and were typically aimed at reducing the risk of disease, rather than preventing pregnancy. Goodyear patented his method of shaping and strengthening rubber in 1844, and the first rubber condom was produced a decade later. Latex versions, however, weren't invented until 1920.

11. The Pill has a four-week cycle because of the Catholic Church.

John Rock, (far left) one of the inventors of the Pill, in 1948 Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution via

Most birth control pills feature a three-week cycle of active pills followed by one week of placebo pills made of sugar. There’s no biological underpinning that dictates this cycle. Rather, it is the design of John Rock, a devout Catholic doctor who conducted the first human trials of the birth control pill, and biologist Gregory Pincus. Rock argued that the Pill was a “natural” form of contraception, using hormones that occur naturally in the female body almost like a pharmacological extension of the Catholic-endorsed rhythm method—and thus should be accepted by the Catholic Church. (Needless to say, his argument was unsuccessful.) In an era when birth control was still quite controversial—the Pill wouldn’t be legal for unmarried couples in all states until more than a decade after its 1960 approval by the FDA—the researchers speculated that making it seem like birth control wasn’t interfering with the natural menstrual cycle would make it more palatable to the public.

However, the period that women get during the placebo week isn’t even a real period—it’s a withdrawal response from discontinuing the hormones. It’s perfectly healthy to skip your period by continuing to take the active pills.

12. The first trials of the Pill in humans involved test subjects who couldn’t technically consent.

Starting in 1954, gynecologist John Rock and biologist Gregory Pincus began tests of synthetic oral progesterone, or birth control pills. While 50 of Rock’s infertility patients volunteered, the drug was also tested on 28 psychiatric patients at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. At the time, anti-obscenity laws in Massachusetts prevented the researchers from putting out a public call for volunteers.


Mother’s Day Is May 12 – What of Other 364 Days?

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 19, 11 May 1940, p.ل.
Transcribed by Marty Goodman.
Marked up by David Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mother’s Day comes this Sunday, May 12. What a mockery! The brain storm of those miracle men of this ailing system, the advertising specialists, who conceived it as business tonic and a rare opportunity to unload on a limitless public (everyone has a mother) tawdry and unsaleable merchandise that might otherwise remain unsold. Thus a fine and genuine emotion is degraded and distorted by contact with the world of quick sales and huge profits. Mother love is now given its market value by these worthy sentimentalists, the manufacturers and shopkeepers, whose crabbed souls respond to only one overpowering emotion – greed for profit.

Today mother is feted with candy and flowers and gifts. Today, by order of the bosses, everyone remembers mother. Tomorrow and tomorrow, for 364 tomorrows mother continues to struggle with problems created by those very bosses and their system – poverty, unemployment, hunger, want, disease, and the scourge which often deprives her of her motherhood – war.

What does motherhood mean to the wife of a worker or middle class man today? Mother may be the wage earner, partially or totally. Motherhood means extra work and constant worry not only for the immediate present but also for the future. Mothers recall their own unhappy childhood, their overworked, embittered parents dulled and aged by lives of toil and drudgery with whom no real companionship was possible. They remember their dreams – of school, of training for useful work, of simple luxuries, of contact with an unknown world of art and music – most of which were never realized. And because they so love their children, born and unborn, women today recoil from motherhood rather than see repeated by those dear to them a miserable childhood and thwarted preparation for adult life.

Many women today are on strike against children, as their expression of protest against the conditions in which they must face motherhood and raise families. The first inquiry of every newly-married woman is how to avoid unwanted motherhood. Has human nature changed? Have women become hard and loveless and selfish? How absurd! The urge to recreate one’s own, to watch the development of a human being, almost part of yourself, from a little animal that sleeps and eats to a growing, thinking adult whose progress you follow with pride and concern – that instinctive desire for progeny cannot be repressed – no! not even by the capitalist system that today deprives so many parents of their right to raise families. The dream of most young married couples is to achieve that condition of modest financial security which will make it possible for them to have a child and perhaps a whole family.

Women today are not granted (legally) the right to regulate the size and spacing of their family. Clinics and physicians in many states are not permitted to inform women about birth control. A business dealing in bootleg information, dispensing inadequate, expensive and often harmful drugs and appliances has been created because of this hypocritical and barbaric law. Women every day endanger their health, suffer pain and needless torture, rather than bear children whom they can offer nothing but love.

Today with war on the agenda, celebration of Mother’s Day adds insult to hypocrisy.

“Mother,” the bosses say, “we appreciate you – you bear the young men we need for the army. You suffer and toil, sacrifice and plan, to produce fine healthy boys. We can use plenty of them in battle with the sons of mothers of other countries – to protect our trade and profits that is – democracy. The thought of those mothers whose sons are killed shouldn’t disturb you. They are enemies and haven’t the same feelings as you have. What’s that you say? Your son may be killed and the sons of other mothers who are not enemies? Yes, but then you will have the satisfaction of knowing he died a hero – and you will be rewarded with a gold medal and given an honor seat at public functions. Besides, he probably would not have had a job, and have been a bum or a crook, so perhaps it’s just as well.”

Mothers! The sugar-coated gifts hide the bitter pill of the boss system. Under capitalism there can be no improvement of conditions for women, mothers of families. Only in a Socialist society will mothers achieve that security which will permit them to raise children without fear for their future. But no one will give you that as a gift. You will have to struggle and fight for Socialism, you together with the workers, men and women, black and white, old and young in this country and in others – for their cause is yours and only through the victory of the workers will mothers solve their problems. Only when all mankind raises itself from slavery and exploitation and enjoys a free and full life will women choose mother happily, confidently and proudly. Rearing and preparing the young for a life in a socialist society, for useful labor, for boundless achievements in science, industry and art – that will indeed make of motherhood an interesting, important and honored profession.


Following this summer semester, Frank worked at a local bank for one year. He had also recently begun studying economics. When a former classmate set up an internship for Frank at Macy&aposs Department Store in Manhattan, New York, he jumped at the chance to gain business experience. Unfortunately, in 1909, just a couple of weeks after Frank arrived in New York for his internship, his father passed away. Frank quickly headed home for the funeral. Determined to forge ahead in his career, Frank soon returned to the states and spent the next two years working there𠅏irst at Macy&aposs and later at a bank.

In 1911, Frank went home to Germany and took a job with a company that fabricated window frames. During World War I, he worked for a manufacturer of horseshoes for the Germany military. In 1914, however, Frank was conscripted into the German army and sent to the Western Front, where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. When the war ended, Frank took over the family bank, which his younger brother had been managing poorly.

Years later, in 1936, Frank would further exhibit his business acumen by establishing the Opekta Company and appointing himself its director. Two years later, he would set up a second company, Pectacon.


German soldiers move through a devastated French village

The Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during World War II. The battle took place from May 10 to June 14, 1940, and consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb, German for "Case Yellow," German armored divisions made their way through the Ardennes to cut off and surround the Allied forces that had moved into Belgium. In the second operation, called Fall Rot in German (Case Red), carried out from June 5, German troops outflanked the Maginot Line to attack the larger territory of France. Although the Allied armies were quickly and thoroughly defeated, the British Expeditionary Force and French Army units were evacuated from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.

After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Hitler had hoped that France and the United Kingdom would accept the new political order and make peace with Germany. This was very important to him as Germany’s stock of raw materials was critically low at that moment and Germany depended on supplies from the Soviet Union such as oil. As this situation was uncomfortable for him for ideological reasons, he made a peace offer to both Western countries on October 6. But he also formulated a new military strategy in case their reply was negative: the Führer-Directive Number 6, which was a plan of invasion of the Low Countries and part of French territory.

Great Britain refused Hitler’s offer of peace on October 10, 1939, and France did the same on October 12. Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the German Army High Command, presented the first plan for Fall Gelb, "Case Yellow", on October 19. Fall Gelb was the pre-war codename of plans for campaigns in the Low Countries. However, Hitler was very disappointed by Halder’s plan as it would be longer and more costly and difficult than he had thought. General Gerd von Rundstedt, the commander of Army Group A, and Lieutenant-General Erich von Manstein also disagreed with it. An alternative operational plan had to be devised.

Erich Von Manstein considered that, if he involved Heinz Guderian in his plans, the tank general may come up with some role for his Army Corps to play in it, and this might then be used as a decisive argument to relocate XIXth Army Corps from Army Group B to Army Group A, much to the delight of von Rundstedt. At this moment von Manstein’s plan consisted in a move from Sedan to the north, right in the rear of the main Allied forces, to engage them directly from the south in full battle. But Guderian proposed a radical and new plan the entire Panzerwaffe should be concentrated at Sedan. This concentration of armor should move to the west, to execute a swift, deep, independent strategic penetration towards the English Channel without waiting for the main body of infantry divisions. This would lead to a strategic collapse of the enemy, avoiding high number of German casualties.

German forces take over the Maginot Line from the French. The Line did not deter the Germans. Their strategy was to bypass it totally.

Von Manstein agreed with Guderian’s plan. He only had one objection it would create an open flank of over 220 miles, vulnerable to French counterattack. Guderian convinced him that this could be prevented by launching simultaneous spoiling attacks to the south by small armored units. Erich von Manstein drew a final plan for an invasion of France. It was almost similar to Guderian’s view the main attack would be carried out through the Ardennes by the panzer divisions of Army Group A under the command of Gerd von Rundstedt. This heavily wooded mountainous region with poor road network, implausible as a route for an invasion. Thus, an element of surprise would be present. To help to ensure this operation, the German Army Group B would have to launch an attack into Belgium and the Netherlands to give the impression that it would be the main German attack, and draw Allied forces into Belgium, into the developing encirclement and hold them there. For this, three of the ten available armored divisions were allocated to Army Group B.

The battle of France began with Operation Fall Gelb, during the night of May 10, 1939, when Army Group B launched its feint offensive into the Netherlands and Belgium. German paratroopers from the 7th Flieger and 22. Luftlande Infanterie-Division under the command of Kurt Student executed that morning surprise landings at The Hague, on the road to Rotterdam and against the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael in order to facilitate Army Group B’s advance.

The French command reacted quickly by sending its 1st Army Group north. This move committed their best forces. When the French 7th Army crossed the Dutch border, they found the Dutch in full retreat. The French and British air command was not as effective as their generals had anticipated, and the Luftwaffe quickly obtained air superiority, disrupting Allied communication and coordination.

With air superiority over the Netherlands, the German 18th Army secured all the bridges in and toward Rotterdam. Although German paratroopers were unable to capture the main airfield, Ypenburg, in time for the airborne infantry to land safely in their Junkers, they captured quickly the auxiliary airfield of Ockenburg. The airfield of Valkenburg was likewise quickly taken. Meanwhile, the 9th Panzer Division reached Rotterdam on May 13. The French 7th Army had failed to block the German advance. That same day in the east, after the Battle of the Grebbeberg in which a Dutch counter-offensive to contain a breach had failed, the Dutch retreated from the Grebbe line to the New Water Line. The Dutch Army surrendered in the evening of May 14, after the Bombing of Rotterdam. The capitulation document was signed on May 15.

The Germans were able to quickly establish air superiority over Belgium, too. But the main approach route of the German 6th Army was blocked by Fort Eben-Emael, which was the largest fortress in Belgium, controlling the junction of the Meuse and the Albert Canal. This Belgian stronghold could stall the German advance and it was of the upmost importance that the main body of Allied troops was engaged before Army Group A would establish bridgeheads at the Sedan. To surmount this obstacle, the Germans resorted to unconventional means in the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael.

Entering the town of Yupern

Crossing a French river over a broken bridge

The French High Command was reeling from the shock of the sudden German offensive and stung by a sense of defeatism. On the morning of May 15, French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud called Winston Churchill and said that they had been defeated and lost the battle. Colonel Charles de Gaulle hastily reorganized some French forces and attempted to launch an attack from the south which achieved a measure of success. However, de Gaulle’s attacks of May 17 and May 19 did not even make a dent in the German offensive.

In the north the Allied troops retreated to the river Scheldt which exposed their right flank to the 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions. The Panzer Corps, which had stopped for refueling, started moving again, smashing through the weak British 18th and 23rd Territorial Divisions. The Panzer Corps took Amiens and secured the westernmost bridge over the river Somme at Abbeville. This move isolated the British, French, Dutch, and Belgian forces in the north. That evening, a reconnaissance unit from 2nd Panzer Division reached Noyelles-sur-Mer, 62 miles to the west. From there they were able to see the estuary of the Somme flowing into the English Channel.

Moving through a French village

Determined German soldiers march towards Paris

German artillery moves towards Paris

Crossing the River Loire

Surrendered French troops march through the streets of Lille as the Germans look on

Handing over Fortress Belfort

Compiegne Forest. French representatives General Huntzinger and L. Noel negotiate the armstice

The Germans receive the french representatives

Sitting down for rather one-sided talks

The French delegates, General Huntzinger and Noel

Hitler arrives triumphantly to witness the signing of the French capitulation

General Huntzinger signs the French surrender

Keitel signed on behalf of the Germans

Hermann Goering with Petain of Vichy France

German cavalry on the streets of Paris

The Nazi flag flutters over Paris. The humiliation of France was complete

German officers and soldiers on the France-Spain (now German-Spanish) border


Watch the video: May 12, 2020