German invasion of Western Europe and the Fall of France through rare pictures, 1940

In the spring of 1940, a spirited Germany acknowledged itself as a modern conqueror of nations, successfully invaded and captured six countries in less than 100 days. On 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark, which surrendered in just six hours.

At the same time, Nazi warships and soldiers were entering Norwegian waters, attacking ships, unloading troops and starting a conflict that would last two months.

The Western European offensive began at 2:30 a.m. on 10 May, with infantry crossing into Holland and Belgium and German paratroopers at the Belgian fortress at Eben-Amel and its 2,000-strong garrison with the loss of just six German paratroopers. joined with. Other major paradrops netted strategic bridges and villages that would allow the passage of German armor.

Paratroopers also landed in Rotterdam and The Hague in complete surprise. The Dutch and Belgians tried their best to resist, but their plans were badly thwarted by the loss of frontier fortifications, hoping to buy time to deploy their troops.

While the Allies were distracted by attacks in the Low Countries, the bulk of German armored divisions were racing through the Ardennes almost unopposed to reach the Meuse River on 12 May. French reserve divisions barely slowed the German thrust, and by 15 May the Germans had a large bridgehead across the river.

A day later the German spearhead was through the French defense and far behind the Allied front lines. German tanks reached the coast on 20 September at the mouth of the Somme River, cutting off their supplies to the British and French forces.

Marching at half a ration, the British and French fell back, mounting a fighting retreat as they tried to close their wide open. Sporadic attempts to re-establish contact with the remaining French forces failed, leaving evacuation the only option.

Between 27 May and 4 June, the Royal Navy evacuated 200,000 British troops and 140,000 Belgian and French troops from Dunkirk, leaving 30,000 French on the beach until the end.

On 22 June 1940, General Pretelat surrendered to the French 2nd Army Group, marking the end of the war. The French government formally surrendered three days later in Compigne in the same railroad car that Germany had surrendered at the conclusion of WW1 in 1918.

The French attempted to pull off the surrender talks by trying for more favorable terms, and they tried the patience of the German leaders. Finally, at 5 p.m. that day, Keitel gave an ultimatum that the French must surrender by 6 p.m., otherwise, he would order the attack on the rest of France to continue. The French surrendered a few minutes after 1800.

For many German military leaders, the victory brought to shame satisfactory revenge for the defeat in WW1 and the subsequent sanctions of WW1. "It seemed to me that it was our time to take revenge on Versailles, and I was conscious of my pride in the conclusion of a unique and victorious campaign, and resolved to honor the sentiments of those who were honorably defeated in battle. was done", Keitel said. "That day was the climax of my career as a soldier".

French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, who refused to surrender, resigned and was replaced by ally Philippe Pétain. France was divided into German-occupied territory in the north and the German-sponsored Vichy government in the south.

In London, de Gaulle announced his refusal to recognize the Vichy government, and instead established a new French government in London, called the Free French. At the end of the campaign, the Germans suffered 156,000 casualties (27,074 casualties), while the Allies lost or captured 2,292,000 casualties.

The campaign showed the world that war was no longer confined to forts and trenches. French troops guarded the Maginot Line, while German troops bypassed them with speed. At the time of the surrender, some Maginot Line elements were still on good strength but they all surrendered.

In less than a month, German troops achieved what Germany could not do in four years in WW1. Astonishingly, while Germany lost 2 million men in an unsuccessful attempt to take France in the previous war, this modern German army achieved it with a fraction of the lives lost.

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