Invasion of France and the Low Countries

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Invasion of France and the Low Countries

Adopting von Manstein’s plan as Case Yellow, the Germans invaded the Low Countries at 0430 hr on 10 May 1940. Knowing that they could not afford to be delayed by the Dutch and Belgian border fortifications or the numerous rivers and canals, the Germans landed assault parties by glider and parachute to seize key positions. The Dutch and Belgians did their best to resist but their plans were badly dislocated by the loss of the border fortifications, which they were expecting to buy time for their troops to deploy. One mechanised French army and the British Army swung north from the French border heading for the Dyle Line to assist the Belgians. Another mechanised French army crossed Belgium racing to aid the Dutch. The Meuse River opposite the Ardennes was covered by reserve divisions of a secondline French army. The German plan was working perfectly.
Invasion of France and the Low Countries
While the Allies were distracted by the attacks in the Low Countries, the bulk of the German armoured divisions were racing through the Ardennes almost unopposed, reaching the Meuse River on 12 May. The 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 defences and far behind the Allied front line. The German tanks reached the coast at the mouth of the Somme River on 20 September, cutting the British and French armies off from their supplies.
Char B assault a village
French R-35 supported by infantry
Marching on half rations, the British and French fell back, mounting a fighting withdrawal as they tried to close their wide-open flank. Sporadic attempts to re-establish contact with the rest of the French Army failed, leaving evacuation the only alternative. 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 behind holding the beachhead to the end.
With Case Yellow completed more successfully than anyone could have imagined, the time had come to take Paris and subdue France in its entirety. The plan for this was Case Red. With half of the French Army and 90% of the British Army destroyed, Case Red was much simpler than Case Yellow’s sickle stroke. All that was required was simultaneous attacks along the entire front line to secure crossings over the Somme River, then an all-out pursuit to ensure that the French could not form another defensive line.
SOMUA shoot it out with Panzer III E
French counter-attack The German success in executing this plan conceals the determination with which the French and British opposed them. Stunned by the defeat in Belgium, many French soldiers felt they had been sucker punched in Belgium and were determined to stop the Germans from going further. Most of the French troops evacuated from Dunkirk were reformed into divisions, re-equipped with the latest weapons rolling off the production lines and sent back to the front eager for vengeance. The British sent divisions to France as fast as they could be prepared for combat.
When the Germans crossed the Somme on 5 June, they were initially stopped cold. The French were fighting their type of battle and were determined to win. Unfortunately they were badly outnumbered and no longer had a reserve, so when the Germans finally broke through they were unstoppable. Paris fell on 14 June, and a week later France surrendered.
The French stand fast
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Last Updated On Friday, October 1, 2010 by Blake at Battlefront