WW2 75th Anniversary Poll–-#10--MAY 1940 PART 2



  • The Battle of Dunkirk was an important battle that took place in Dunkirk, France, during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defense and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 26 May�4 June 1940.

    After the Phoney War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May 1940. To the east, the German Army Group B had invaded the Netherlands and advanced westward. In response, the Supreme Allied Commander�French General Maurice Gamelin�initiated “Plan D” and invaded Belgium to engage the Germans in the Netherlands. The plan relied heavily on the Maginot Line fortifications along the German-French border, but the Germans had already crossed through most of Holland before the French forces arrived. Thus, Gamelin committed the forces under his command, three mechanized armies, the French First and Seventh and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the River Dyle. On 14 May, German Army Group A burst through the Ardennes and advanced rapidly to the west toward Sedan, then turned northward to the English Channel, in what Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein called the “Sickle Cut” (known as “Plan Yellow” or the Manstein Plan), effectively flanking the Allied forces.[9]

    A series of Allied counter-attacks�including the Battle of Arras�failed to sever the German spearhead, which reached the coast on 20 May, separating the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) near Armenti�res, the French 1st Army, and the Belgian Army further to the north from the majority of French troops south of the German penetration. After reaching the Channel, the Germans swung north along the coast, threatening to capture the ports and trap the British and French forces before they could evacuate to Britain.

    In one of the most widely-debated decisions of the war, the Germans halted their advance on Dunkirk. Contrary to popular belief, what became known as “the Halt Order” did not originate with Adolf Hitler. Gerd von Rundstedt and G�nther von Kluge suggested that the German forces around the Dunkirk pocket should cease their advance on the port and consolidate, to avoid an Allied break. Hitler sanctioned the order on 24 May with the support of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). The army was to halt for three days, giving the Allies time to organize the Dunkirk evacuation and build a defensive line. Despite the Allies’ gloomy estimates of the situation, with Britain discussing a conditional surrender to Germany, in the end over 330,000 Allied troops were rescued.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dunkirk

    We are now heading into the heart of World War II.  
    It is now very difficult for me to pick just one event per month and create a poll about it.
    I know that some of my polls arent as interesting as some of my others, but trust me, the input you A&A Fans are giving me is so awesome, that i am reading everything that you guys are writing.
    Now i will have two or more polls in each month of the 75th Anniversary.
    Why?
    Well…because there is so much to discuss.
    The European Theater of Operations.
    The War in North Africa is about to start.
    The Battle of the Atlantic i have yet to touch upon.
    Among others to come.
    I just want to thank you for all that have replied and i will continue to read.
    I still will not respond, however, because its your opinions im interested in.
    I have my own views, but they are of no account in my polls.
    Its okay to criticize my polls and questions if they dont make sense.
    I am a WWII historian and i have been studying this conflict since i was very young…i will be 46 years old on May 18.
    I dont know everything about the war, of course, and thats why i needed input from the guys who know more than me or have been there or are more learned on the subject.
    I would like to thank some of the guys that have always answered my polls and put me in my place.
    CWO MARC, KURTGODEL7, AB WORSHAM, NARVIK, WITTMAN, GARGANTUA, PRIVATE PANIC, and HERR KALEUN.

    Now to the 2nd poll of May 1940!
    You are Germany!  
    The BEF is on the ropes with their backs to the sea at Dunkirk!
    The British initiate Operation Dynamo!
    The German Army approaches the enemy!
    What do you do and what do you think would have happened after Dunkirk?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I’d say this is a pretty straightforward choice: the Germans should have attacked without giving the Allies time to regroup and without losing any of their own momentum.  The “halt order” (whatever it’s attributed to) was a huge mistake because it allowed a third of a million Allied soldiers (about two-thirds British and one-third French, as I recall) to escape to Britain.  Many of the evacuated French soldiers were sent back to France, where they were ultimately caught up in the French surrender, so for them the end result was the same…but Britain’s 200,00 or so men remained available for service.  200,000 men is roughly how big Britain’s entire domestic Regular army was in 1939, so saving that number of soldiers was enormously important to Great Britain.  (To put it another way, this is about the number of men the Russians lost at the Battle of Uman, one of the largest encirclements the Germans ever achieved against the Soviets – and the UK, unlike the USSR, did not have the kind of manpower pool that would have enabled it to shrug off losses on this scale.)

    As for surrender, I doubt that the British would have accepted it as long as an avenue of escape existed, and I don’t see much point in Germany offering it before attacking since this might have sent the Allies the undesirable message that the Germans lacked the resolve to attack the Dunkirk pocket.  The best time to offer surrender terms is when you’re in the process of administering the coup de grace, not beforehand, because the argument “If you surrender, we’ll stop cutting you to pieces” carries much more weight than the argument “If you don’t surrender, we’ll start cutting you to pieces.”


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    Hi RJL

    I agree with Marc.

    I have not seen any serious suggestion that the allies might have broken out of the Dunkirk pocket but for the halt. And presumably the halt decision was based upon a mistaken belief that the trapped allied forces could not be evacuated.

    After-all, Churchill described Dunkirk as a “miracle of deliverance”.

    But I wonder what “consequences” you refer to?

    I look forward to reading responses that present a different analysis.

    Cheers
    PP


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13

    May 1940: the non-aggression pact signed between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia; collaboration between the countries is peaking that year; France is done; three players left in the map. Germany is strong, but not too much to try British even without a second front.
    As Hitler I would offer Stalin to join Axis, fight British and split its colonies (he actually did that). Particularly, I would allow Red Army cross the West Europe and support the Russian troops with invading British. Next, looking forward, saving the core British army makes perfect sense to weaken Russians in this scenario - the typical strategy ALL of the powers were following. May be that is why Hitler let Allies survive? Who knows.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Me1945:

    As Hitler I would offer Stalin to join Axis, fight British and split its colonies (he actually did that). Particularly, I would allow Red Army cross the West Europe and support the Russian troops with invading British.

    Someone as paranoid as Stalin dealing with someone as duplicitous as Hitler would probably have seen this as a trap.  Stalin spent the two years prior to Barbarossa grabbing sections of Finland, the Baltic states, Eastern Poland and Bessarabia, which made sense strategically because this pushed the USSR’s western borders outward along a solid front.  Having the Red Army transit through German territory (and German-occupied Europe) for deployment along the English Channel, supposedly to support a German invasion of Britain, would have been an entirely different matter because the Germans would have been ideally placed to double-cross the Russians.  This large Soviet force would have been completely isolated from the USSR, caught between the English Channel to the west and Germany to the east, and thus highly vulnerable.  A land power like the Soviet Union was far more dangerous to a land power like Nazi Germany than a naval power like Britain, so if Stalin had fallen for this proposal (a highly doubtful scenario in view of his suspicious nature) I suspect that Hitler would have been very tempted to cut off and destroy this Soviet force and launch an invasion of the USSR at the same time (or shortly thereafter).

    Improbable as this double-cross scenario is, it does have a couple of amusing implications.  First, it would create a situation in which both Germany and the USSR would be fighting two-front wars against each other.  Second, it opens up the prospect of Britain declaring an alliance with the USSR and carrying out a Dunkirk-like evacuation of the Red Army from western France and ferrying hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers to Great Britain.  That would have been very interesting from both a military and sociological viewpoint.  Considering the friction that existed in the U.K. between the Brits and the “overpaid, over-sexed and over here” American troops (who at least could speak the same language) during the 1942-to-1944 pre-invasion buildup, it’s fun to imagine what effect the presence of a quarter-million or so Soviet troops on British soil in 1940 would have been.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    I think the Germans had to pause, like they did. There were more campaigns to go (for Hitler) and this one was far from over. No one knew the French would surender next month, while still having so many men under arms elsewhere in the country and abroad.
    The Mechanized forces had gone full pelt since the 10th and repairs and resupply needed to be done. This was France. Not Poland.
    No one could have expected the Allies to pull off such a fantastic evacuation. The British and French armies on the coast, were to all intents and purposes, ripe for the taking. They weren’t going anywhere! The decision was right. It would be four long years before the British, with American help, could land again. That could have been sufficient time for the Germans, Hitler, to take out  the other continental nations.


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    I saw a documentary one time, that discussed the halt order.

    The conclusion was that it was to do with the power dynamic of who was in charge of the Wehrmacht.  Hitler, or the High command.

    The Dunkirk thing basically became a pissing match between the two parties, with Hitler winning the “halt” order, and exerting his will over total command.  At least… that was the opinion of the documentary, and I don’t know remember what the dynamics behind why Hitler wanted the halt order were, and why the Wehrmacht forces didn’t.



  • @Gargantua:

    I saw a documentary one time, that discussed the halt order.

    The conclusion was that it was to do with the power dynamic of who was in charge of the Wehrmacht.  Hitler, or the High command.

    The Dunkirk thing basically became a pissing match between the two parties, with Hitler winning the “halt” order, and exerting his will over total command.  At least… that was the opinion of the documentary, and I don’t know remember what the dynamics behind why Hitler wanted the halt order were, and why the Wehrmacht forces didn’t.

    Well, the Wehrmacht probably wanted to continue so they can kill the trapped army. Maybe Hitler halted because he was hoping for an alliance with the UK later? Though that doesn’t make much sense, and it’s probably more because he thought the German army was a bit overextended.



  • @wittmann:

    I think the Germans had to pause, like they did. There were more campaigns to go (for Hitler) and this one was far from over. No one knew the French would surender next month, while still having so many men under arms elsewhere in the country and abroad.
    The Mechanized forces had gone full pelt since the 10th and repairs and resupply needed to be done. This was France. Not Poland.
    No one could have expected the Allies to pull off such a fantastic evacuation. The British and French armies on the coast, were to all intents and purposes, ripe for the taking. They weren’t going anywhere! The decision was right. It would be four long years before the British, with American help, could land again. That could have been sufficient time for the Germans, Hitler, to take out  the other continental nations.

    I agree with Wittmann. The Germans needed to pause the panzers for finishing off France. Let’s remember that Germany had very few medium and heavy tanks in 1940. Had a long drawn out battle for a “beachhead” started Germany would subject the Panzer forces to the R.A.F and RN. The future battles of Salerno and Normandy pitted tanks against the heavy guns of a battle fleet with counter attacking tanks taking huge losses. Germany could not risk those type of losses. The Panzers I, II and Czech 38 tanks were not heavy enough to attack well entrenchedB.E.F fighting for it’s life backed by the full force of the R.A.F and R.N.

    Just my thought. Good question.



  • @Gargantua:

    I saw a documentary one time, that discussed the halt order.

    The conclusion was that it was to do with the power dynamic of who was in charge of the Wehrmacht.  Hitler, or the High command.

    The Dunkirk thing basically became a pissing match between the two parties, with Hitler winning the “halt” order, and exerting his will over total command.  At least… that was the opinion of the documentary, and I don’t know remember what the dynamics behind why Hitler wanted the halt order were, and why the Wehrmacht forces didn’t.

    My impression–and I could be wrong–is that a large portion of the German general staff wanted the halt order. However, its most able, creative, aggressive generals–such as von Manstein–were strongly against the halt order.

    Maybe the scale of the evacuation came as a surprise to many. On the other hand, it was common knowledge that Britain was a sea power with plenty of boats in or near the English Channel, so the idea that the soldiers might be evacuated should not have been a surprise. Perhaps more importantly, those Allied soldiers were on the run. The halt order gave them time to regroup, assume defensive positions, and to become a much harder nut to crack.

    Von Manstein wrote that there are times when very important–but very fleeting–opportunities present themselves. When such is the case, it is often necessary to push soldiers to the absolute limits of human endurance. While this may seem cruel, seizing the opportunity in question is absolutely necessary to save your own soldiers’ lives.

    The halt order was one of the two most important deviations from von Manstein’s original plan to conquer France. (Both deviations occurred over his objections.) The other deviation was that von Manstein had wanted to proceed to phase 2 (the conquest of Paris) even before having completed phase 1 (the encirclement and destruction of the BEF and nearby French forces).

    You will recall that after the Germans reached the Channel, the French counterattacked from the south. Von Manstein didn’t want Germany to sit around waiting for that counterattack. Instead, he wanted to attack the French in their assembly areas, before they were ready to strike. That German attack would have secured the German path to the Channel, while also constituting the first part of phase 2.


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