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 Hitler’s Three Greatest Mistakes

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Sandeep Sunstar

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PostSubject: Hitler’s Three Greatest Mistakes   Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:03 pm

Hitler’s Three Greatest Mistakes

1. Operation Barbarossa: the Invasion of the United Soviet Socialists Republic

Topping the list of most scholars of the Second World War as Hitler’s most climactic blunder was his invasion of the Soviet Union, yet the reasons for such a conception are deeper and far more faceted than just his almost perpetual hatred for what he viewed as the “Jewish-Bolshevik” plot. In his autobiography, Mein Kampf, written in 1925 while Hitler was imprisoned for attempting a coup against the faltering Weimar Republic two years earlier, Hitler laid out his dogma for what would become the defining principles of the Nazi regime, that would seize power with Hitler’s election as chancellor on January 30th, 1933 (although when Hitler was elected chancellor, only two other prominent NASDAP members held seats in the Reichstag, Hermann Goering and Wilhelm Frick. After the Reichstag caught fire on February 27th, 1933, Hitler utilized this to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree on February 28th and Enabling Act on March 23rd, eliminating opposition to the Nazi party in parliament). One of Hitler’s fundamental philosophies was that of the concept of “Lebensraum“, meaning literally “living space”. The concept of this “living space” ideology was quite simple. It essentially meant uprooting inhabitants of a certain area and replacing them with German settlers, the quintessential Aryan, the model German Hitler was attempting to populate the nation with. The Soviet Union, the largest nation in sheer surface area in the world, presented the greatest opportunity, and, if and when it was invaded by the German Army, Hitler could kill the proverbial “two birds with one stone”. If he invaded the USSR, he could topple the Jewish-Bolshevik regime he was so inclined to hate, as well as securing living space for his people. Yet the Soviet Union in itself presented several insurmountable obstacles, the first and foremost being the terrain. While the north and central portions of the nation, from Russia’s border with Poland to Moscow, the region is heavily forested, yet as one ventures further south, in the direction of the Caucasus Mountain Range and the Ukraine, the forests begin to taper away and are replaced by massive, semiarid steppes, plateaus so massive that you can see hundreds of miles in every direction. Along with this, the nation is crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers and rivulets, ranging from small creeks to massive rivers stretching up to two miles in width, such as the river Volga or river Don. In several regions of the country, primarily in the western Ukraine, the region is dominated by wooded swampland, the most grandiose and impassible being the Pripet Marshes. The second major factor facing an invading army are the extreme weather patterns. In the summer, the temperatures can soar well above one hundred degrees, this being the case primarily on the massive steppes, where trees do not grow and there is very scant shade, and in the winter they drop well below zero, sometimes touching twenty degrees below, Fahrenheit. In these extremes, the weather, as well as the terrain, take a huge toll on both man and machine alike. In the summer of 1942, during General Frederick Paulus’s drive to the river Volga as part of Operation Blue, the massive dust clouds kicked up by advancing tanks driving across the sun-scorched steppes caused engines to falter on a regular basis, requiring Paulus’s advance to halt every few miles in order to repair failing equipment. The third factor was the sheer size of the Soviet Union. While German armies had experience with combat in France and the Low Countries, as well as Norway, Denmark, and the Balkans, the Blitzkrieg style of warfare in the Soviet Union could only work for so long. The vastness of the Russian landmass made encircling armies, a staple of Guderian’s Blitzkrieg, an affair that had to be executed by multiple armies instead of a division, or a corps at most. Combined with Russia’s size, extreme weather patterns, and insurmountable geographical obstacles, the Russian behemoth was not one easily conquered, and, much to Germany’s alarmed surprise, the Russian hydra continued to grow more heads than Germany could sever. In the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa, the assaulting German Wehrmacht, numbering close to three million men, thrust deep into the Soviet heartland, driving rapidly over hundreds of miles of terrain, and swallowing entire cities and towns in their path, not to mention nearly two and a half million Red Army soldiers, most of whom were victims of woefully inadequate leadership, a byproduct of Stalin’s paranoid purges of the previous decade. By December 1941, just short of six months after the German invasion, the mass of Army Group Center’s armored spearhead straddled the gates of Moscow, and, according to some tank commanders, they were able to see the spires of the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square. Yet, much to Hitler’s surprise, Stalin refused to capitulate, for two reasons: the heart of the Soviet juggernaut rested in his hands, and preservation of communism was his objective as People’s Commissar of Defense, and he possessed an ace in the hole: Battle of Khalkhin Gol veteran and commander of a massive contingent of the Red Army conducting training in Siberia, Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov. A survivor, miraculously for the Soviet Union, of Stalin’s purges, Zhukov was the only man in Stavka who possessed the courage to stand up to Stalin in times of military distress. With the frostbitten and starved German Army standing poised to strike at the very heart of the Red Giant, with plans code-named Operation Typhoon resting on the map tables of Hitler’s Wolfsschanze, in Rastenburg, East Prussia, the Red Army counterattacked through thick blizzards and across snowfields the day prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After Red Orchestra spy Richard Sorge, a German-born Communist Party member operating in Tokyo, supplied the Soviet government with factual information stating that Japan had military designs on the United States and not the Soviet Union, Stalin turned his attention away from the Rising Sun and toward the Swastika. And, much to his fortune, Hitler had made a colossal mistake in the later months of the summer of 1941. In an impulse decision, Hitler had made the massive error-in-judgment of shifting the Wehrmacht‘s attention from Moscow, which was just an armored thrust away from Army Group Center, and toward the Soviet breadbasket, the Ukraine, as well as the oil-rich region of the Caucasus Mountains, with the overall objective of seizing Grozny, Maikop, and Baku. With this sudden change of heart, Hitler had also ordered the tanks of Feder von Bock’s Army Group Center to instead shift to support Gerd von Rundstedt’s lightning-fast advance in the direction of Sevastopol and Stalingrad. Von Bock’s advance was placed on hold until early November, when the first snow began to fall. With von Bock facing the beleaguered, ill-supplied, and starved troops of Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko’s Center Front. The primary issues in Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union did not rest primarily in his faulty assessment of the situation, a byproduct of conducting the war from a cozy and fortified headquarters complex in Rastenburg, East Prussia, without possessing (or accepting, for that matter) reports from the area in regards to the needs of German troops. Hitler believed that, according to a quote of his regarding Operation Barbarossa, “we have only to kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down!” Yet Hitler was unaware of the resilience of the Soviet machine, a machine which, thought by most, was backwards and poorly prepared for combat against the unstoppable German Army, but with the strength and belief in an ideology they adhered unquestioningly to, the Russians stood fast in the face of overwhelming adversity, and severely blunted the spearhead of the German advance into the vastness of the Soviet Union. With the over-extension of German supply lines, as well as the sheer vastness and extreme weather patterns of the Russian subcontinent, as well as Hitler’s poor assessment of the situation, combined with the late start due to Hitler’s shifting his attention to offensive operations in the Balkans, and finally topped with poor military decisions taken by Hitler in regards to the strike against Moscow, as well as his removing Wilhelm von Brauchitsch from his position of command and placing himself as commander-in-chief of the armed forces following the German Army’s failure to seize Moscow (remember, Hitler was but a lowly corporal in the First World War), the outcome of the Russian campaign, as many say, is history.

2. Declaration of War against the United States

On September 27th, 1940, a momentous occasion in Berlin, the alliance that Hitler had said to Italian Prime Minister and future totalitarian dictator Benito Mussolini was a veritable “pact of steel”, was brought to life with the signing of the Tripartite Pact between German representative Adolf Hitler, Italian representative Galeazzo Ciano, and Japanese representative Saburo Kurusu, and with its signing, the Axis Powers were born. Contrary to popular belief, Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan, and the Kingdom of Italy had no real communication with one another. Germany and Italy were closest to it, and yet Germany harbored resentment toward her two allies, who she viewed as militaristically incompetent. That may have been the case with Italy, who had been bogged down in static warfare against British Commonwealth troops in the Egyptian Western Desert since early September 1940 until the arrival of Erwin Rommel and his vaunted Afrika Korps in Tripoli, Libya, in February 1941. Yet Japan was quite the opposite. In actuality, the Imperial Japanese Army possessed the most combat experience, having fought for nearly ten years in China against the Kuomintang Chinese under Chiang Kai-shek, as well as Communist guerrilla forces under Mao Zedong, and had even executed a successful invasion of French Indochina in autumn 1940, which inadvertently prompted the government of the United States to ratify and levy in the League of Nations an embargo on all natural resources against the Empire of Japan. With the Imperial Japanese Army in China, the Kwantung Army, bogged down in heavy fighting against Chinese partisans, and gradually burning through a stockpile of eighteen-month’s worth of supplies, most vital of which being oil, the lifeblood of the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, Germany appeared to be the only nation in open war against a coalition of Allied states that had not been completely worn down. Following the lightning rapidity of the German advance into Norway and Denmark in April and May 1940, and with German operations against France and the Low Countries from May to June, the Wehrmacht had garnered a significant amount of combat experience, yet not against fighting an organized foe. The only real threat the German Army had faced was the threat from the poorly supplied and unprepared French Army, with little tank support, and the British Expeditionary Force, with little to no tank support. While the Allied powers had begun to move away from armored warfare following the end of the First World War, primarily in the area of demilitarization that came about at war’s end, namely in the Kellogg-Briand Pact of the 1920s, Germany, Italy, and Japan had done the polar opposite, and had begun raising and coordinating massive militaries, in Germany’s case in severe violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, although the former Allied powers were too afraid of potential war with Germany that they pursued a policy of appeasement, which culminated in France’s peaceful surrender of the Rhineland and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time”, the surrender of the primarily German Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia following massive amounts of German political pressure. The Allies also watched anxiously, yet still possessing the fear of potential military consequences, as Germany annexed Austria in the March 1938 formation of the Anschluss, as well as the Sudetenland in October 1938, and finally culminating with the invasion of the whole of Czechoslovakia, annexed almost one year after the annexation of Austria, March 1939. In with the first German tanks rolling into Prague, the last of Germany’s peacetime territorial expansions had completed, and the final step, Plan White was put into play: the invasion of Poland. Poland had been a relatively small country throughout history, yet by 1812, it had completely shrunk into a tiny kingdom in the northeastern quadrant of Europe, situated precipitously between the massive territory-hungry Russian Empire to its right, and the Spartan-like military state of Prussia to its left, a byproduct of the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 following a disastrous defeat at the hands of Napoleon at Austerlitz in Moravia in December 1805. The Duchy of Warsaw, as this tiny plot of land came to be known, ceased to exist near the mid-Nineteenth Century, swallowed by the territorial ambitions of Russia and Prussia alike. And it would remain that way until the climactic finale of the First World War in 1918, and the Treaty of Versailles the following year. Poland was finally reformed in the 1920s from massive tracts of land taken from the collapsed German Second Reich, former Russian Empire, now Soviet Union, as well as pieces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in south and central Europe. This seizure of land involuntarily had laid seeds of resentment in both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany alike, as they wished to expand into territory that possessed ethnic groups loyal to the respective countries. In August 1939, with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, essentially a nonaggression pact and not actually a peace treaty, that split Poland between the two major aggressors, without the Polish, or Allied, government’s knowledge, for obvious reasons. On September 1st, 1939, after staging a mock shootout between German and Polish troops, in which German troops clothed as Polish soldiers assaulted a radio station in the tiny border town of Gleiwitz and fought against prisoners from a local penitentiary clothed as German troops, one million German troops of the Wehrmacht crossed the river Oder into western Poland, and by mid-September had reached the Polish capital, Warsaw. Twenty six days after the German invasion, the Red Army followed suit, crossing into Poland, and subjugating the country with a far higher degree of brutality than the initial German occupiers, who had immediately set about establishing an administrative center rather than indulge in the early phases of what Hermann Goering had nicknamed “the Final Solution”. In spring 1940, Soviet NKVD troops rounded up Polish officers that had attempted to resist the invasion, numbering close to 8,000, and massacred them in Katyn Forest, in eastern Poland. With the invasion of Poland, on September 3rd, 1939, the British and French governments held true to their earlier obligation to protect Poland against foreign aggression, and declared war on Nazi Germany, ushering in a period known as the “Phony War”, and often known by another moniker, coined as a comical satire of Germany’s primary military strategy, the “Sitzkrieg”. From September 3rd, 1939 to April 9th, 1940, the stepping-off point for Operation Weserzeit, the dual invasions of Denmark and Norway, Europe remained deathly quiet. War had been declared, yet no war existed within Europe. Yet North Africa and the Atlantic were ablaze, with the British Revenge-class battleship HMS Royal Oak being sunk on October 13th, 1939, by Gunther Prein’s U-47, and the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, veteran of combat in the Spanish Civil War, in Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 17th. Italian forces waged war against the British in the Egyptian Western Desert, as well as in Abyssinia, Eritrea, British, French, and Italian Somaliland, and southern Kenya, yet most combat ended in dreary stalemates. In Albania and northern Greece, Italian troops and Greek soldiers of the Hellenic Army slugged it out in the Pindus Mountains in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece, and in November 1939, Soviet forces of the Red Army invaded the Karelia Peninsula and openly assaulted Finnish troops after negotiations regarding Soviet interests and designs on Finnish territory (Russian land until 1917) ended in a bust for the Russian government. Following the lightning German invasions of western Europe in the spring and early summer of 1940, ending in the capitulation of Paris on June 25th, and the subsequent commencement of the German preparations for Operation Sea Lion, culminating the near-legendary Battle of Britain, Europe had stabilized, and would remain so until the spring and summer of the following year, when German forces, on the one year anniversary of the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, and, on June 22nd, 1941, invaded the Soviet Union, a move that struck Stalin completely off guard. With German territorial designs on Europe nearly complete, save for brutal scorched-earth-style combat ravaging the wheat and corn fields of the western Soviet Union, as well as German armored divisions driving through the vicious sandstorms of the Western Desert under Rommel, Hitler turned his attention to the United States. The German dictator, or, as many viewed him, messiah, had had designs for the United States since his ascension to power on January 30th, 1933. Along with the USSR, the United States was Hitler’s nemesis, and, as another of der Fuerher‘s misconceptions, one that would severely damage his war against the western Allies, Hitler viewed the United States as inferior to Nazi Germany. While the German military had climbed to nearly five million men prior to Operation Barbarossa, the United States had enacted the first peacetime draft in American history, issued at the behest of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff George C. Marshall, the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940, designed to prepare the United States for potential warfare against Nazi Germany or the Empire of Japan by bolstering the U.S. Army to a high of nearly one and half million men, yet until that day came, President Franklin Roosevelt wished to maintain American neutrality, an ideology he violated on numerous occasions, the first by signing into law the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, and also by openly allowing American pilots to journey to Kuomintang China and Great Britain to join their respective air forces as volunteer pilots, forming the British Eagle Squadron and Chinese First American Volunteer Group, or “Flying Tigers”. Yet the day the neutrality of the United States was compromised was only indirectly brought on by the United States: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With Japan thoroughly indulged in war against the Chinese, one they continued to demonstrate their brutality in, primarily at the Rape of Nanjing, when Japanese troops looted, burned, murdered, and raped their way through Chiang Kai-shek’s capital, as well as the bombing of civilian metropolitan centers, primarily Shanghai, with blatant disregard, the United States remained a hapless onlooker, wishing to avoid war yet also wishing to intervene. In September 1940, with the Japanese invasion and annexation of French Indochina, a part of their overall scheme of forming the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”, the United States had been placed in a position to act. Roosevelt immediately set about authoring legislation designed to hinder further Japanese aggression, and following its ratification in the League of Nations, an international organization Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan had already vacated, the intercession came in the form of a trade embargo placed on all natural resources en route to Japan, the most vital of which being oil, produced on the isle of Java, in the Netherlands East Indies. With the embargo ratified in the spring of 1941, the Dutch did not accept it until the summer, in which case the Japanese were no longer importing foreign oil, yet the Japanese did not possess any indigenous sources of oil. With a stockpile of nearly eighteenth month’s worth of oil, among other resources including rubber, produced in British Malaya, the Japanese were short on time. With the Army bogged down in heavy fighting in China, and with the United States Pacific Fleet, with her flagship, the USS Pennsylvania, enforcing the embargo, Japan would have to move fast in order to annex the Pacific, the final cog of their overall design for the Pacific region, from the Home Islands to New Guinea. Yet the doorway to the Pacific could not be opened until the crushing blow was issued against the United States, who controlled the Philippine Archipelago, a series of islands which, if left in American hands, could prove to be an overwhelming thorn in the Japanese side. In early 1941, Roosevelt had also authorized the construction of an additional one hundred and fifty warships to bolster the U.S. Navy, an act that could hamper Japanese movement in the Pacific. The Imperial Japanese Navy was incredibly small, yet they possessed an incredible amount of experience and tactical cunning, including one of their foremost admirals, the constructor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and veteran of the 1905 Battle of Tsushima Strait, one he had lost two fingers on his left hand during, Isoroku Yamamoto. In order to effectively move about the Pacific and occupy and annex the amount of territory desired by Japan, the United States would have to be neutralized, and the first step would by the destruction of the Pacific Fleet at her mooring at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The American Chiefs of Staff had believed that an attack on Pearl Harbor was impossible, for a number of reasons, the foremost being the depth of the harbor. At forty feet, they believed it to be too shallow to allow a torpedo to effectively arm itself. Combined with the amount of aircraft in the vicinity, at Hickam, Wheeler, Kanahoe, and Ford Island Naval Air Stations, an assault, they decided, would be impossible. This misplaced sense of immunity placed Admiral Husband Kimmel, commanding officer at Pearl Harbor, in a sense of amnesty against attack, yet his executive officer, General William Short, remained cautious and alert, and ordered the aircraft on the nearby airfields to be moved close to one another to prevent sabotage from the nearby Nisei immigrants, which Short believed were loyal to Japan, a mentality held by most in the U.S. Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, air assets from four Japanese aircraft carriers attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet in two waves, striking at dawn and slipping back before midday. Although their overall targets were the American aircraft carriers Lexington and Enterprise, both of which were absent from the assault, the Japanese nonetheless wiped out all eight American battleships moored alongside Ford Island, the most infamous of which being the USS Arizona, who lost over two-thirds of her crew after a bomb exploded in her forward magazine, jettisoning the bow and engulfing the lower decks in an inexorable inferno. Nearly four hours after the attack had finished, around 9:30 that morning, the news had already reached Washington, as well as the final piece of the Japanese declaration of war. The Japanese had been delivering segments of a fourteen-part declaration of war to the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., with the overall objective of delivering the final piece on the morning of the attack, and to send the complete message to President Roosevelt and General Marshall prior to the attack. American “Magic” intelligence had already decoded the thirteen pieces that had already been sent, and had dispatched them immediately to Marshall, who kept American bases in the Pacific and western coast alert, but not to engage in an act of war unless engaged by Japanese forces. During a communications lapse throughout the attack on Pearl Harbor, the final piece did not arrive on ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura’s desk until around one in the afternoon, three and a half hours after the attack had ended. And with this, the United States was at war with the Empire of Japan, but not with the Kingdom of Italy or Nazi Germany. The United States was the leading industrial power in the world, and could far outproduce any competitor, a product of protective tariffs passed at the behest of Henry Clay during the Industrial Revolution. If Hitler had kept the United States at war with just Japan, something that could have been a reality considering the United States’ stance that it would not engage in war unless war was declared against it, he may well have defeated the Allies, not the Soviet Union, but at the very least Great Britain. On December 11th, 1941, Hitler appeared before the German Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin, now packed with Nazi representatives after the 1933 Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act, and declared war on the United States, something he was not obligated to do under the terms of the Tripartite Pact. Similarly in Rome, Mussolini did the same. By 1945, the U.S. numbered close to seventeen million men, far outnumbering almost every Allied army except that of the Soviet Union, and bordered closely by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Army. Hitler had made a fundamental mistake that may have cost him the war in spreading his armies far too thin.

3. Sparing the British Expeditionary Force and French Army at Dunkirk

On May 10th, 1940, German troops stormed through the vast Ardennes Forest in southwestern Belgium, supported by Panzers under the command of Heinz Guderian, the designer of the “blitzkrieg”, and Erwin Rommel. The Ardennes, an ancient artificial forest planted by farmers centuries before, was regarded by the French military as impregnable and impassible by tanks, which had allowed the French military, under the advisory status of Minister of War Andre Maginot to begin construction on a massive series of subterranean border defenses that, once completed, bore his name: the Maginot Line. The line stretched from the southern Alsace-Lorraine, through Sedan, and into northern France, near the Belgian frontier, and to the Atlantic coast, the region where the majority of combat in the First World War had been fought. Through the Phony War, the area had been manned by a strong contingent of French forces, yet the Allied armies shared one common denominator that put them at the mercy of the unstoppable German juggernaut: armor. The German Wehrmacht was supplemented by additional strength from armor, and many of the German troops were veterans of the Condor Legion, a contingent of German troops that had fought alongside Franco and his Army of Africa in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, and no doubt had experience combating enemy troops alongside the benefit of tanks. The German tank at the beginning of the Second World War was incredibly primitive compared to Germany’s later achievements, such as the Tiger or Panther, yet against the scant amounts of British and French armor, the German Panzer struck fear into the hearts of its adversaries, not only due to its incredible coordination with ground and air units, but also for an invention given to an Italian immigrant to the United States: the wireless radio. Where French and British, and later Russian, tank commanders were forced to command their tanks utilizing flags or hand signals until much later in the war, the German panzer legions possessed built-in wireless radios, which allowed commanders to speak with one another from the security of within the armor of their steal behemoth, safe from enemy fire and also able to give orders without compromising a potential command. The German plan for the invasion of France, part of a larger operation code-named Plan Yellow, and later Plan Red, the drive to Paris, closely mirrored the First World War Schlieffen Plan, which had been stopped short of Paris by French resistance at the River Marne in summer 1914 and pushed back to Ypres, Belgium, during the Race to the Sea after the British arrival in August, yet Plan Yellow possessed two major differences: armor, and paratroopers. The concept of airborne infantry had been devised by the Italians in the late 1920s, yet had not been perfected until the Red Army took up the idea in the early 1930s, yet airborne infantry remained a somewhat controversial and laughable concept in the eyes of most military leaders, including those in the United States, who were later utilizing paratroopers for almost every major operation after their utilization of paratrooper en masse during the invasion of Sicily on July 10th, 1943. The German military devised a paratrooper corps, known as Fallschirmjaeger, commanded by General Karl Student, to parachute behind enemy lines and cause an infinite deal of mischief and surprise before an army could be gathered in the assaulted territory to either repel or besiege them. When the German armies crossed the frontier into the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium on May 10th, they utilized paratrooper drops to secure any and all forward objectives prior to the main army’s arrival, such as the Belgian frontier fortress at Eben Emael, which had been a massive thorn in Germany’s side as her armies attempted to invade northern France, as well as paratrooper drops near the Hague, the administrative capital of the Netherlands, to seize Dutch Queen Wilhelmina, although the drops failed and she escaped unscathed to enter exile in the United Kingdom. After the defeats of the Netherlands and Belgium within weeks of their invasions, the Germans had already invaded France. The French had made the decision to neglect constructing fortifications near the Ardennes due to their belief of its impregnability, yet this would prove their ultimate downfall. As German tanks rolled through the Ardennes and surrounded the Maginot Line from behind, the French immediately requested the British to send forces to bolster the French defenses. The British Army, a professional force numbering close to 400,000 men, dispatched 300,000 to aid the French in their defense against the German onslaught, yet it was in vane. Within weeks, the Germans breached the Maginot Line near Sedan, the same region where French emperor Louis III was captured by German troops in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War prior to Germany’s unification under Wilhelm I the next year. With the British Expeditionary Force and battered and beleaguered remnants of the French Army attempting a fighting retreat in the direction of the English Channel, the ravenous German Army swallowed everything of value in its path, aiming to crush Allied resistance before moving against Paris, the City of Light. Before the end of May, the British and French forces were pinned with their backs against the sea at the small port city of Dunkirk, facing sheer defeat as the German Army fell down upon them. Yet suddenly, Rundstedt and Gunther von Kluge, later to die in the Falaise Pocket in August 1944, ordered a cease to the advance against the remnants of the Allied armies falling back to Dunkirk in order to consolidate defenses against a potential Allied counterattack. With Hitler behind the scenes, he could have overridden Rundstedt’s order and commanded his forces into the city to crush the remains of the Allied armies, yet he did not and chose rather to watch as British and French troops were evacuated during what Winston Churchill named Operation Dynamo, in which ships of all types and sizes were scraped together from across the British coast to assist in evacuating the British and French troops from Dunkirk before the German armies could arrive to crush them completely. With German attention turned to face Paris, and a week of perpetual good weather on the Channel, something of a rarity, the British began the evacuation, yet, much to the dismay and misfortune of the Allied troops trapped at Dunkirk, they soon found themselves sailing north to face the German advance in Norway, which ended in the First and Second Battles of Narvik Fjord in a misplaced British attempt to halt the German advance in the Scandinavian coastal country, one Hitler had utilized to ship iron ore through out of Sweden, a neutral country. With the evacuation of the British and French troops from Dunkirk while German troops looked on, those Allied nations would live to fight another day, the British in the form of resistance in North Africa culminating in the Battle of El Alamein in autumn 1942, and the French in resistance movements and Free French divisions organized under the leadership of exiled general Charles de Gaulle.

Hitler made several momentous mistakes in his leadership of Nazi Germany, and there will be more articles to come in regards to those.

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