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.
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- 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
TIMELINE OF ATTACK
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.
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