At 7:30 a.m. on May 15, 1940, British Prime Minister Churchill was awakened in his deep sleep. French Prime Minister Renault on the opposite side of the phone said in English: “Your Excellency, we have been defeated! We have lost this battle! “Churchill hadn’t fully recovered, Renault repeated it again. “Impossible!” Churchill yelled into the phone, “It certainly won’t happen so fast.
On May 16, at this time, the Germans had only been at war against Western European countries for 6 days. The Netherlands had surrendered a day ago. And 10 days later. , The Anglo-French coalition forces in northern France would retreat in Dunkirk embarrassedly. Less than a month later, the French surrendered to the Germans. For Britain and France, the disaster came much faster than they expected. But Hitler and His generals, as early as October 1939, began to prepare for this crucial battle that would determine the fate of the European Western Front.
The war has not yet begun, and the outcome is almost a foregone conclusion. Since the German invasion of Poland, it has gradually perfected its western combat plan, and the Allied forces have completely failed militarily, and there has been an unprecedented political crisis.
When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the Anglo-French Allied forces had actually declared war with Germany. But at that time there was hardly any substantial offensive between the two armies. After Germany conquered Poland, Britain, France and Germany fell into a “fake war.” All the world can see is silence on the battlefield, but in fact both sides are preparing for the battle behind the scenes.
Hitler’s ideas are always ahead of the development of the situation. After the German invasion of Poland was over, Hitler had already begun to think about launching an offensive on the Western Front before publicly proposing a comprehensive peace proposal to Britain and France. On October 9, 1939, he issued the “Special Order No. 6 of the Head of State.” He feared that the non-aggression treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union would not ensure the neutrality of the Soviets, so he hoped to defeat the Western countries militarily with the new armored forces, in order to avoid the situation of two fronts when attacking the Soviet Union. Hitler’s ambitions were not so big at that time. He only hoped to seize the opportunity by quickly conquering the three lowland countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and further conquering northern France, and then through the Dutch airport to carry out a long-term air and sea attack on the United Kingdom. Improve Germany’s situation in the long and protracted war with Western Europe.
As early as November 1939, the Supreme Military Council of the Allied Powers approved the “Plan D” of the French commander-in-chief Maurice Kammaling. This plan decided to vigorously strengthen the left wing of the Anglo-French coalition forces facing central Belgium and the Netherlands, and expected that in the early stages of the war, they would enter Belgium before the Germans and advance eastward as much as possible. It turned out that this was tantamount to falling directly into Hitler’s hands, fully cooperating with his new plan. The farther the Anglo-French coalition advances towards central Belgium, the easier it is for the German tanks to break through the Ardennes and detour to the rear of the Anglo-French coalition to intercept and surround it. The Allies sent most of the mobile units to the central border of Belgium, leaving only one division to guard the Ardennes area.
At noon on May 9, 1940, Hitler, who had made all preparations, clearly set the total offensive time on the Western Front at 5:30 am the next morning, and quickly issued the irrevocable operation code “Danzig” to the German Western Front Army. The commanders, and set off in a special train at dusk to the new base camp southwest of Bonn that he called the “Eagle’s Nest”.
On the same day in London, the British Prime Minister Chamberlain, who had been advocating an appeasement policy, was forced to resign under pressure from the Labour Party and his Conservative Party. At the request of King George VI of England, Winston Churchill formed a new government. He did not form a wartime cabinet until the evening of May 10, and he became the prime minister and minister of defense of the coalition government.
In Paris on the same day, the conflict between the new French Prime Minister Paul Renault, who had been in office for less than two months, and the Defense Minister Edward Darardy and Commander-in-Chief Gan Malin reached a peak. At the cabinet meeting that began at 10:30 a.m., there was silence. Renault, who was suffering from the flu, was pale, haggard, and his voice became increasingly hoarse. With perseverance, he spent nearly two hours reading the accusation against Gan Malin. , Condemned him for not taking decisive action to fight against the German invasion of Norway, and demanded the appointment of a new commander-in-chief. This request met with silence from the entire cabinet. No one speaks. In the end, everyone turned to the former prime minister Daraday, who held military power tightly. He was the protector of Gan Malin. Daraday finally spoke. He opposed the request for replacement, saying that Gan Malin was not responsible. For the French-German front, he believed that “not to fire now” was the “will” of the French government. Renault asked other cabinet members to comment, but no one spoke. An angry Renault announced the immediate resignation of the government cabinet, and Gan Malin, who only learned the news this afternoon, also wrote his resignation.
At 1 a.m. on May 10th, Gan Malin was awakened in his command post at the Chateau de Vincennes in the suburbs of Paris. French spies who sneaked into the German side of the front sent a message: “The German army is marching west.”
When Germany A total of 136 divisions and a total of 3 million soldiers were assembled to prepare to attack the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom at dawn. Britain had no government cabinet, and France had neither a government cabinet nor an army commander-in-chief.
From breakthrough to coast
At that time, the German army had no advantage over the Allied forces. The German army basically used all its troops, 3 million people. The French army has a total of 6 million soldiers, but 2.2 million people are deployed in the north. With the addition of British, Belgian and Dutch troops, the Allied forces in northern France total more than 3.3 million. In addition, the Anglo-French coalition had a total of 4,000 armored vehicles, while the German Army had only 2,800 armored vehicles at the time. This also included armored reconnaissance vehicles. Only 2,200 were used in the actual offensive.
But it was the breakthrough of the German Panzer Corps in Sedan that became the key to the entire battle. The narrow crack of the Allied forces in Sedan quickly expanded into a huge gap. The German tanks had 10 armored divisions, of which 7 armored divisions commanded by General Ewald von Kleist rushed in through this gap. , The largest tank group in history completely shattered the confidence of the French army in less than a week.
In the first few days of the war, when the Germans used airborne troops in the middle of the right-wing Belgium to cooperate with the B army group and the three armored divisions, the attention of the Allied forces was all attracted. No one pays attention to sex. In 5 days, Guderian led the vanguard armored force that had broken through the French Sedan defense line and established a bridgehead on the Meuse River. The garrisoned French Ninth Army was completely wiped out. The French and German troops did not believe that the German armored forces could advance so fast, because they ignored the decisive factor Guderian. Before the war, General Guderian devoted himself to studying the theory of independent use of armored forces strategically and deeply, and was full of fanatical confidence in the theory of tank breakthroughs over long distances. It was Guderian and his tank troops who repeatedly ignored the stop orders of their superiors and dragged the entire German army forward that produced a huge victory in modern German history.
Guderian led the 19th Panzer Corps to reach the Atlantic coast in Abbeville on May 20, and immediately went north to take the coastline ports and the back of the British and French forces. At this time, the 22 divisions of the French First Corps, the British Expeditionary Army and the Belgian Army in northern France were completely surrounded. They were surrounded on three sides with their backs facing the Atlantic Ocean. The nearest seaport to them was Dunkirk. A part of the British armored forces had been commanded by the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force John Gottji to break south in Arras, but failed. But this breakout had a big impact within the German Supreme Command, and the Germans began to be conservative.
On May 24, Guderian and other tank troops all received an order from the Supreme Command to stop their advancement. All troops withdrew to the back of the outer canal line. Dunkirk’s besieged Allied forces were handed over to the Air Force to deal with them. “We all had nothing to say at the time. Because the reason for the order was not announced, it is impossible to even debate.” Guderian’s protest was answered only by “this is a warrant from the head of state.” At that time Guderian’s tank unit was only 10 miles away from Dunkirk. “So we stopped where we could see Dunkirk at a glance. While the Air Force was attacking, we watched the big ships and small boats continuously withdraw the Allied forces.”
After a total delay of two days, May 26 Guderian got Hitler’s permission to continue attacking Dunkirk. “But it’s too late. If the High Command did not stop the advancement of the 19th Army, Dunkirk would have been conquered long ago, and the result of victory would not be comparable. If we could capture all the British expeditionary forces at that time, then The future development of the war may be difficult to predict. Unfortunately, this great opportunity was ruined by Hitler’s personal neuroticism.” Guderian wrote in his war memoirs after the surrender of Germany at the end of World War II.
On May 31, Churchill flew to Paris again. He told the French generals that the Allied forces had withdrawn 165,000 from Dunkirk so far, and about 53,000 had been withdrawn the day before. “But, how many French are there?” the new commander-in-chief of the French army Maxime Weigang asked harshly. “Are all the French left in place?”
”There are about 15,000 French,” Churchill Looking directly at Wei Gang, he continued, “Furthermore, the French army has not received an order to board and evacuate until now. The main reason I came to Paris was to ensure that the same orders were given to the French and British commanders.
” Anyway,” French Prime Minister Renault interrupted, “150,000 of the 220,000 British soldiers have been evacuated, and only 15,000 of the 200,000 French soldiers have been sent away. If it cannot be corrected immediately, it will be given to everyone. Bringing serious political consequences.”
”Generator” is the code name for the retreat of British and French troops from Dunkirk. Two hours after the signal was issued, the first British ship, “Mona Island”, sailed for Dunkirk and returned with more than 1,400 British soldiers that night. The Belgian army was not notified of the transfer of the Allied forces to the sea, and London did not consider the largest Belgian army when drawing up the retreat plan. On May 28, King Leopold of Belgium formally surrendered to Germany.
The poor communication between the British and French rear command units and frontline leaders at critical moments is fatal. On the 27th, senior French navy officers and the chief of the British navy met in Dover to jointly formulate a plan to withdraw the French and British troops from Dunkirk. According to Wei Gang’s recollection, the French naval generals were dumbfounded when the British military commander put the retreat plan on the table, because France had no retreat plan.
This led to the following situation. Although the Dover Agreement stipulated that the British and French armies should use all ships jointly, the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force Gott did not know this agreement, so the French troops were not allowed to use British transport ships. The French army actually does not have its own transport ship at all.
It is precisely because of these frictions that Churchill will fly to Paris again on May 31. Churchill immediately told the French leader that the 31st would be “France Day” and that “French troops will have absolute priority over the British.”
At the same time, Admiral Darlan of the French army drafted a telegram to the Dunkirk allies. The telegram requested that when the British and French troops guarding the outer positions began to board the ship, the British troops should be in front. “No.” When he read the telegram, Churchill interjected in his inimitable French, “Non…partage…bras dessus.brasdessus.” He insisted that the two armies should go “arm in arm”. “Because there are too few French troops evacuated so far, three British divisions will be behind. I do not agree to let the French troops make greater sacrifices.” Churchill hopes to dispel Renault and Wei Gang’s doubts, “Even if One of us was overthrown, and the other would never give up the fight, and would never lay down his weapons until his friend stood up again.”
So May 31 and June 1 became the two most successful days of the retreat. As British fighter jets taking off across the strait intensified their air strikes, German artillery and bombardment were greatly reduced. In these two days, 132,000 people were evacuated from ports and beaches, and British soldiers were basically withdrawn.
At 9 a.m. on June 4, the Dunkirk retreat ended. The remaining 40,000 people of the once glorious French First Corps surrendered to the German army. These soldiers who remained in the bloody battle in Dunkirk allowed their 120,000 French comrades and more than 200,000 British expeditionary forces to safely evacuate.
Nevertheless, the desperate and inferior French and British forces stubbornly blocked the German forces with obvious advantages and rescued more than 300,000 soldiers for future battles.
The Allied forces lost a total of 61 divisions, almost half of the forces they had at the beginning of the campaign three weeks ago. The British army discarded all its artillery, tanks and heavy equipment, while the French army lost their most elite troops and all the army’s mobile and armored vehicles.