World War II Question of the DayNumber Two Daniel W. Blackmon IB HL History Coral Gables Sr. High
Essay of the Day • Choose TWO battles or campaigns from EITHER the First OR Second World War, and show how they affected the subsequent course and eventual outcome of the war. (1989) (HL)
Procedure • The following campaigns will be selected: • The Fall of France 1940 • The Battle of Britain 1940-41 • The Battle of the Atlantic • Operation Barbarossa 1941 • The Strategic Bombing Offensive
The Procedure • What happened? • What significant innovations occurred? • Why was the battle won or lost? • What consequences were there for the course of the war?
The Fall of France:Allied Strategy • Allied strategy was based entirely on the assumption that the Germans would replicate the Schlieffen Plan with a vast turning movement through Belgium.
The Fall of France:Allied Strategy • The basic idea was to mass the best Anglo-French divisions behind Belgium and then to advance into Belgium along the line of the Dyle river in a meeting engagement.
The Fall of France:Allied Strategy • Belgium, as had been proven in World War I, is poor terrain for an attacker, since it is flat, can easily be flooded, and cut by frequent canals and rivers.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • Erich von Manstein conceived a bold plan: The Sichelschnitt. • The plan involved an attack through the Ardennes Forest, difficult territory. • Heinz Guderian assured Manstein that the plan was feasible, if risky.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • Manstein argued that the German right wing (Army Group B) should enter Belgium and Holland as a powerful feint, drawing off the bulk of the Allied forces.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • Then, once they were engaged, a massive armored strike from Army Group A should be launched through the Ardennes (Luxembourg), cross the Meuse, and drive on the Channel coast at Abbéville and Boulogne, thus cutting French lines of communication and severing their armies in two.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • The blow fell at a sector that was thought to be protected by the difficult Ardennes forest--the Allies (except for Liddell Hart) thought it impassible to armor.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • In addition, the French plan meant that all mobile reserves were moved away from the decisive point of the battle. • The French plan could not have been better for the Germans had they drawn it up for themselves.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • The troops defending the crucial area were among the poorest in the French army. The Germans also struck at the hinge between two French armies, the Second and Ninth. Such hinges are always potential weak spots.
The Fall of France:German Strategy • Thus, the Germans had won the battle even before it began.
The Unfolding Campaign • Manstein’s plan unfolded as he foresaw. • May 10th, Germany violated Dutch, Belgian, and Luxemburg neutrality. • The Luftwaffe destroyed the Dutch air force on the ground.
The Unfolding Campaign • German airborne troops seize bridges over the Maas and capture Fort Eben Emael, the cornerstone of Belgian defenses.
The Unfolding Campaign • Behind the paratroopers came a German Army Group • French commander Maurice Gamelin puts his mobile forces on the road into Belgium to meet the German thrust.
The Unfolding Campaign • The first great armored clash of the war will occur when French and German armored forces collide. • After a day of fierce fighting, the French withdraw.
The Unfolding Campaign • At the same time, Army Group A under Gerd von Rundstedt, with 7 Panzer divisions, begins moving through the Ardennes Forest. • Their target is Sedan on the Meuse.
The Unfolding Campaign • The sector they are attacking is a part of the Maginot Line that was not completed.
The Unfolding Campaign • May 13th: The Germans storm the Meuse. • German general Erwin Rommel begins his rise to fame when his 7th Panzer finds a weak spot and crosses the river north of Sedan
The Unfolding Campaign • Blitzkrieg theorist Heinz Guderian led his Panzer Corps across the river at Sedan. • Panic among French artillery doomed the defense.
The Unfolding Campaign • Once across the river, the Germans began pushing troops and equipment over as fast as humanly possible. • After fighting off counterattacks, Guderian lines up 7 Panzer divisions across, and drives for the interior.
The Unfolding Campaign • May 15th: The Germans break out, over running French defensive lines before they can be manned. • French resistance began to collapse.
The Unfolding Campaign • New British Prime Minister Winston Churchill flew to Paris and was appalled to learn that there was no reserve left. He asked Gamelin, "When and where are you going to counter-attack the flanks of the Bulge?"
The Unfolding Campaign • Gamelin replied "Inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of method" and shrugged.
The Unfolding Campaign • May 20th: Guderian reached the sea at Abbéville. • The French army had been cut in two. All forces in the north, French and British, are now severed from all supply--no further fuel, ammunition, food, or medicine would reach them.
The Unfolding Campaign • "[B]y 23 May, he [British commander Lord Gort] knew that the French Army was finished and that it was his simple duty to save the B.E.F., to fight another day on some other field.
The Unfolding Campaign • “Had the B.E.F. been wiped out in northern France, it is difficult to see how Britain could have continued the fight; and with Britain out of the battle, it is even more difficult to see what combination of circumstances could have aligned America and Stalin's Russia to challenge Hitler." (Horne 608)
The Unfolding Campaign • May 24th: Hitler issued his controversial “Halt Order,” stopping the Panzers in their drive for Dunkirk. • There is dispute over why he did so.
The Unfolding Campaign • The usual explanation is that Hermann Goering promised to destroy the BEF by the Luftwaffe alone, and he wanted the glory for the most Nazi of German branches of the military.
The Miracle of Dunkirk • Between May 26 and June 4, under cover of the RAF, the British executed the Miracle of Dunkirk, evacuating 227,000 British and 110,000 French troops.
End of the Campaign • France brought back Marshall Henri Petain (who was 85) to be head of state. He capitulates on June 21. • Hitler signs the papers in the same railroad car used for the Armistice in 1918
The Fall of France:Why? • In the aftermath of the Fall of France, the Allies allowed themselves to believe that they had been overwhelmed by superior forces. That is simply not true.
The Fall of France:Why? • "Hitler's armies were actually inferior in numbers to those opposing them. Although his tank drives proved decisive, he had fewer and less powerful tanks than his opponents possessed.
The Fall of France:Why? • Only in airpower, the most vital factor, had he superiority. Moreover, the issue was virtually decided by a small fraction of his forces Before the bulk came into action.
The Fall of France:Why? • Although French and British tanks were actually more numerous and better than the German tanks, they were parceled in small units. • German tanks were concentrated in the Panzer divisions.
The Fall of France:Why? • The Germans furthermore displayed better strategy, better tactics, and above all better leadership at every level than did the French.
The Fall of France:Why? • That decisive fraction comprised ten armored divisions, one parachute division, and one air-portable division . . . out of a total of some 135 divisions which he had assembled." (Liddell Hart I 66)
What Significant Innovations? • Demonstration of the power of Blitzkrieg: combined arms divisions and corps with tanks, infantry, artillery and air power working closely together.
What Significant Innovations? • Each German Army Group had an Air Fleet assigned to it. • The Air Fleets were designed to allow airfields to move forward behind the fighting.
What Significant Innovations? • Panzer divisions had a Luftwaffe liaison officer assigned to them to call down air strikes on local strong points. • Luftwaffe attacks behind the lines spread panic and paralysis
What Significant Innovations? • Air borne troops are used for the first time, achieving important objectives with a small expenditure of men.
Consequences • The Fall of France was a military and psychological disaster for the Allies.
Consequences • Militarily, it enormously increased the problems of defeating Germany. Britain had not necessarily lost the war yet; but they could not win the war without the United States.
Consequences • As a continental power, Britain was isolated; as an empire, it could continue to resist; but without the financial, industrial, and manpower resources of the U.S., Great Britain could not possibly fight its way back onto the continent.
Consequences • Psychologically, the Fall of France shook both the U.S. and USSR badly. • It marks a shift in U.S. public opinion that Hitler had to be defeated and that he posed a real threat to the U.S.
Consequences • It is therefore a turning point on the road to war. Stalin was even more badly shaken. He had counted on a long, bloody war that would fatally weaken the capitalist powers.
Consequences • Now, he faces an immensely stronger Germany. His reaction is to take pains not to offend Germany while he desperately tried to revamp his army, which he had himself seriously weakened.
Consequences • Hitler expected Britain to sue for peace. Hitler told his chief of staff on July 21 that he intended to tackle Russia, and on July 29 Gen. Alfred Jodl told a fellow general that he was determined on war with Russia.