The German word meaning “lightening war”, the military strategy of softening a country up through intensive air raids followed by rapid use of armoured and infantry units, based on speed and surprise.

  • revolutionary style of hard, fast warfare based on surprise attack
  • the key to its success was close co-operation between the German Panzer (tank) divisions and dive-bombing aircraft the Luftwaffe, and the infantry
  • first wave of panzers crashed without warning through weak-spots in enemy line – pushed in as far as possible
  • overhead the German warplanes knifed out of the air – sirens shrieking causing confusion and panic
  • sabotage troops – using parachute or gliders dropped behind enemy lines to destroy key transport and communication sites
  • main body of infantry, in motorized transportation, skirted around pockets of heavy resistance to sweep deeply into lightly defended areas at the rear
  • motorcycles armed with machine gunners in sidecars scouted the countryside to report on enemy positions


1.  September 1, 1939

  • Germany hit Poland from north, west, and south
  • Polish army of 70 000 totally wiped out
  • Hitler’s casualties = 1400

2.  Sitzkrieg – “Phony War”

  • bulk of German army in Poland
  • smaller force sat on border of France – glared at each other for 7 months

3.  Maginot Line

  • By 1919 the French Army began to study how to protect France against Germany and after 1924 against Italy.
    • The French Army estimated that fortifying the border was the best way.
    • New fortification had two missions –
      • (1st) it had to protect the French troops against a surprise attack.
      • (2nd) it had to provide effective coverage for the main combat on the French-Belgian border and also on the French-German border.
      • Fortification had to be very sophisticated and to have a very good firepower.
    • Andre’ Maginot – The French War Minister after whom the Maginot line was named and under whose leadership walled defences were built along the French-German and Belgium borders.
The Schlieffen Plan

4.  April 1940

  • Denmark (1 day)
  • Norway (2 days)
  • Netherlands (5 days)
  • Belgium (18 days)
  • France (6 weeks)

5.  Miracle of Dunkirk: May 1940

  • By May 20th, Germany had French and British forces pinned at Dunkirk (coastal town on the English Channel)
  • Hitler ordered German General Wehrmact to pull back and let the Luftwaffe have the honour of finishing them off
  • This became known as Hitler’s first mistake
  • fortunately a dense fog rolled in and gave the Allies enough time to plan an escape
  • call went out for help, 900 boats of all kinds (sightseeing, trollers, pleasure, ferries, barges, and British destroyers) came out to help
  • Only 10 000 were expected to be saved; in the end over 350 000 men were rescued
  • many historians believe that only the “Miracle of Dunkirk” prevented Hitler from winning the war in 1940

6.  France, June 14, 1940

  • June 14 – Nazis marched on Paris
  • Hitler forced the French to sign surrender in same railcar that Germany had accepted defeat in 1918
  • Now, only Britain and the Commonwealth allies remain to fight Hitler
  • French General predicted that Britain would fall in 3 weeks
  • At the time Britain had: Royal Navy, a small but effective airforce, some infantry and a Canadian division
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Start of World War II," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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