POD after the defeat of Britain, the Reich and Japan invade America leading to a much bloodier war.
The Battle of Dunkirk
On 24 May, Hitler had visited General Gerd von Rundstedt's headquarters at Charleville. Von Rundstedt advised him that the infantry should attack the British forces at Arras, where they had shown themselves capable of significant action, while Kleist's armour held the line West and South of Dunkirk in order to pounce on the Allied Forces retreating before Army Group B. This order allowed the Germans to consolidate their gains and prepare for a southward advance against the remaining French forces. In addition, the terrain around Dunkirk was considered unsuitable for armour, so the destruction of the Allied forces was initially assigned to the Luftwaffe and the German infantry organised in Army Group B.On the 25th of May Hitler , after pressure from Von Rundstedt, ordered a large armoured attack on Dunkirk. On 25 May 1940, General Lord Gort, the commander of the BEF, decided to evacuate British forces. From 25 May to 28 May, British troops retreated about 30 miles northwest into a pocket along the France-Belgian border extending from Dunkirk on the coast to the Belgian town of Poperinge. The Belgians surrendered on 28 May, followed the next day by elements of the French 1st Army trapped outside the Dunkirk Pocket.
Starting on 27 May, the evacuation of Dunkirk began. The German Panzer Divisions had been ordered to resume their advance four days before. Soon the remaining Allied forces were compressed into a three km wide coastal strip from De Panne through Bray-Dunes to Dunkirk, by 31 May the area was fully occupied.
The defense of the perimeter led to the loss or capture of a large number of British Army units such as the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment who were involved in the Le Paradis massacre on 26 May. More than 35,000 French soldiers were made prisoners. Nevertheless, in the nine days from 27 May to 4 June, 338,226 men left France, including 139,997 French and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch troops.
Number of men rescued (in chronological order):
27 May (7669 men) 28 May (17,804 men) 29 May (47,310 men) 30–31 May (120,927 men)
10,000 German soldiers lost 40,000 wounded 8467 missing 1,212,000 Dutch, Belgian, French and British prisoners taken 30,000 British died 200,000 British captured The Germans gained:
1200 field guns 1250 anti-aircraft guns 11,000 machine guns 25,000 vehicles
The loss of 200,000 Allied troops in Dunkirk ended the first phase in the Battle of France and is probably what encouraged Hitler to invade in 1941. It droped British morale, and left the remaining French to stand alone against a renewed German assault southwards. The British 51st (Highland) division was left behind by the British to cover the allied retreat. The division was made up of the Black Watch, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Gordon Highlanders, Seaforth Highlanders and Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. Many were captured or killed. German troops entered Paris on 14 June and accepted the surrender of France on 22 June.
The massive loss of so much men and materiel on the beaches meant that the British Army would need many months to re-supply properly and some planned introductions of new equipment were halted while industrial resources concentrated on making good the losses. Troops falling back from Dunkirk were told by their officers to burn or otherwise disable their trucks (so as not to let them benefit the advancing German forces). The shortage of army vehicles after Dunkirk was so severe that the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was reduced to retrieving and refurbishing numbers of obsolete bus and coach models from UK scrapyards to press them into use as troop transports. Some of these antique 1930s workhorses (some with only rear-wheel braking, which made them illegal for use on British roads) were still in use as late as the North African campaign some two years later.
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England) is the name given to the sustained strategic effort by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from a speech made on 18 June 1940 in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He said: "The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin..."
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. It was the largest and most sustained bombing campaign attempted up until that date. The success of Nazi Germany to reach its objectives - to destroy Britain's air defence - is considered a crucial point in the war. Had it failed, the planned amphibious and airborne forces landings in Britain of Operation Sealion that followed may have been followed.
The Kanalkampf comprised a series of running fights over convoys in the English Channel and occasional attacks on the convoys by Stuka dive-bombers. It was launched partly because Kesselring and Sperrle were not sure about what else to do, and partly because it gave German aircrews some training and a chance to probe the British defences. In general, these battles off the coast tended to favour the Germans, whose bomber escorts massively outnumbered the convoy patrols. The need for constant patrols over the convoys put a severe strain on RAF pilots and machines, wasting fuel, engine hours and exhausting the pilots, but eventually the number of ship sinkings became so great the British Admiralty cancelled all further convoys through the Channel. However, these early combat encounters provided both sides with experience. They also gave the first indications some of the aircraft, such as the Defiant and Bf 110, were not up to the intense dog-fighting that would characterise the battle.
The main attack upon the RAF's defences was code-named Adlerangriff ("Eagle Attack").
Weather, which proved an important feature of the campaign, delayed Adlertag, ("Eagle Day") until 13 August 1940. On 12 August, the first attempt was made to blind the Dowding system when aircraft from the specialist fighter-bomber unit, Erprobungsgruppe 210 attacked four radar stations. Three were briefly taken off the air but were back working within six hours. The raids appeared to show that British radars were difficult to knock out for any length of time. The failure to mount follow-up attacks allowed the RAF to get the stations back on the air, and the Luftwaffe neglected strikes on the supporting infrastructure, such as phone lines or power stations, which could have rendered the radars useless, even if the towers themselves (which were very difficult to destroy) remained intact.
Adlertag opened with a series of attacks, led again by Epro 210, on coastal airfields used as forward landing grounds for the RAF fighters, as well as 'satellite airfields'[nb 6] (including Manston and Hawkinge). As the week drew on, the airfield attacks moved further inland, and repeated raids were made on the radar chain. 15 August was "The Greatest Day" when the Luftwaffe mounted the largest number of sorties of the campaign. Luftflotte 5 attacked the north of England. Believing Fighter Command strength to be concentrated in the south, raiding forces from Denmark and Norway ran into unexpectedly strong resistance. Inadequately escorted by Bf 110s, bombers were shot down in large numbers. As a result of the casualties, Luftflotte 5 did not appear in strength again in the campaign.
18 August, which had the greatest number of casualties to both sides, has been dubbed "The Hardest Day". Following the grinding battles of 18 August, exhaustion and the weather reduced operations for most of a week, allowing the Luftwaffe to review their performance. "The Hardest Day" had sounded the end for the Ju 87 in the campaign. This veteran of Blitzkrieg was too vulnerable to fighters to operate over Britain, and to preserve the Stuka force, Göring withdrew them from the fighting. This removed the main Luftwaffe precision-bombing weapon and shifted the burden of pinpoint attacks on the already-stretched Erpro 210. The Bf 110 had also proven too clumsy for dog fighting with single-engined fighters, and its participation was scaled back. It would only be used when range required it or when sufficient single-engined escort could not be provided for the bombers.
Göring made yet another fateful decision: to order more bomber escorts at the expense of free-hunting sweeps. To achieve this, the weight of the attack now fell on Luftflotte 2, and the bulk of the Bf 109s in Luftflotte 3 were transferred to Kesselring's command, reinforcing the fighter bases in the Pas-de-Calais. Stripped of its fighters, Luftflotte 3 would concentrate on the night bombing campaign. Göring, expressing disappointment with the fighter performance thus far in the campaign, also made a large change in the command structure of the fighter units, replacing many Geschwaderkommodoren with younger, more aggressive pilots like Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders.
Finally, Göring stopped the attacks on the radar chain. These were seen as unsuccessful, and neither the Reichsmarschall nor his subordinates realised how vital the Chain Home stations were to the defence. It was known that radar provided some early warning of raids, but the belief among German fighter pilots was that anything bringing up the "Tommies" to fight was to be encouraged.
On 19 August 1940, Göring ordered attacks concentrating on aircraft production, then on 23 August 1940 his directive added a focus on RAF airfields, as well as day and night attacks aimed at weakening fighter forces across the United Kingdom. That evening saw the start of a sustained campaign of bombing, starting with a raid on tire production at Birmingham. Raids on airfields continued through 24 August, and a major attack hit Portsmouth. That night, several areas of London were bombed, with the East End set ablaze and one release hitting central London. These have been attributed to a group of Heinkel He 111s, unable to find their target, releasing their bombs and returning home, unaware they were dropping them on the city, but this account has been contested. In retaliation, the RAF bombed Berlin on the night of 25–26 August, and continued bombing raids on Berlin. These hurt Göring's pride, as he had previously claimed the British would never be allowed to bomb the city, and enraged Hitler.
From 24 August onwards, the battle was essentially a fight between Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 and Park's 11 Group. The Luftwaffe concentrated all their strength on knocking out Fighter Command and made repeated attacks on the airfields. Of the 33 heavy attacks in the following two weeks, 24 were against airfields. The key sector stations were hit repeatedly: Biggin Hill and Hornchurch four times each; Debden and North Weald twice each. Croydon, Gravesend, Rochford, Hawkinge and Manston were also attacked in strength. At least seven attempts were made against Eastchurch, which was not a Fighter Command aerodrome but was believed to be by the Germans. At times these raids knocked out the sector stations, threatening the integrity of the Dowding system. Emergency measures had to be taken to keep the sectors operating.
The RAF was taking many casualties in the air. Aircraft production could replace aircraft, but replacement pilots were barely keeping pace with losses, and novice fliers were being shot down at an alarming rate. To offset losses, some 58 Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot volunteers were seconded to RAF squadrons, and a similar number of former (single-engine) Fairey Battle pilots were used. Most replacements from Operational Training Units (OTUs) had as little as nine hours flying time and no gunnery or air-to-air combat training. At this point the multinational nature of Fighter Command came to the fore. Many squadrons and individual personnel from the air forces of the Dominions were already attached to the RAF — Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Rhodesians and South Africans — they were bolstered by the arrival of fresh Czechoslovak and Polish squadrons. These squadrons had been held back by Dowding, who mistakenly thought non-English speaking aircrew would have trouble working within his control system. In addition there were other nationals, including Free French, Belgian and even a Jewish pilot from the British mandate of Palestine.
303 squadron pilots, 1940. L–R: P/O Ferić, Flt Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski, P/O Zumbach, P/O Łukciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt. Rogowski, Sgt. Szaposznikow. Polish fliers proved especially effective — the pre-war Polish Air Force had lengthy and extensive training, and high standards; with Poland conquered and under German occupation, the Polish pilots of 303 Squadron were strongly motivated. Josef František, a Czech regular airman who had flown from the occupation of his own country and joined the Polish and then French air forces before arriving in Britain, proved effective but undisciplined and flew as a guest of 303 Squadron chasing Germans. He shot down 17, now accepted as the highest "RAF score".
The RAF had the advantage of fighting over home territory. Pilots who bailed out of their downed aircraft could be back at their airfields within hours. For Luftwaffe aircrews, a bail out over England meant capture, while parachuting into the English Channel often meant drowning or death from exposure. Morale began to suffer, and Kanalkrankheit ("Channel sickness") — a form of combat fatigue — began to appear among the German pilots. Their replacement problem was even worse than the British. Though the Luftwaffe maintained its numerical superiority, the slow appearance of replacement aircraft and pilots put increasing strain on the resources of the remaining attackers.
Formerly, conventional wisdom was that the Luftwaffe was winning even so. Recent research shows that this was not true. Throughout the battle, the Germans
greatly underestimated the size of the RAF and the scale of British aircraft production. Across the Channel, the Air Intelligence division of the Air Ministry consistently overestimated the size of the German air enemy and the productive capacity of the German aviation industry. As the battle was fought, both sides exaggerated the losses inflicted on the other by an equally large margin. However, the intelligence picture formed before the battle encouraged the German Air Force to believe that such losses pushed Fighter Command to the very edge of defeat, while the exaggerated picture of German air strength persuaded the RAF that the threat it faced was larger and more dangerous than was actually the case.
This bombardment continued for three weeks which led the British to the conclusion that Fighter Command must withdraw their squadrons from the south of England.
Due to the success of the Luftwaffe to establish air supremacy, a conference assembled on 14 September at Hitler's headquarters. Hitler concluded that air superiority had been established and "promised to review the situation on 17 September for possible landings on 27 September or 8 October. Three days later, Hitler approved Sealion .
Following swift victory in the Battle of France and Battle of Britain, Germany believed the war in the west was won. However, the United Kingdom refused peace talks. As a result, more direct measures to break British resistance were considered.
Grand Admiral Erich Raeder of the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) oversaw numerous studies for a German naval assault across the English Channel. The earliest of these, made around November 1939, identified the conditions for invasion:
The British Royal Navy must be eliminated. The British Royal Air Force air strength must be eliminated. British Coastal defences must be destroyed. British submarine action against landing forces must be prevented. The German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH) originally planned an invasion on a vast scale, extending along most of the English Channel, from Dorset to Kent. This was far in excess of what the Navy could supply transportation for and final plans were more modest, calling for nine divisions to land by sea with around 67,000 men in the first echelon and an airborne division to support them. The chosen invasion sites ran from Rottingdean in the west to Hythe in the east.
The battle plan called for German forces to be launched from Cherbourg to Lyme Regis, Le Havre to Ventnor and Brighton, Boulogne to Eastbourne, Calais to Folkestone, and Dunkirk and Ostend to Ramsgate. German paratroopers would land near Brighton and Dover. Once the coastline was secured, they would push north, taking Gloucester and encircling London. There is reason to believe that the Germans would not attempt to assault the city but besiege it, and bombard it. German forces would secure England up to the 52nd parallel (approximately as far north as Northampton), anticipating that the rest of the United Kingdom would then surrender.
Adolf Hitler's initial warning order on 16 July 1940, reflected the most current thinking and set out the revised minimum preconditions. He prefaced his order by stating: "I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England and, if necessary, to carry it out".
Hitler's conditions for invasion were:
The RAF was to be "beaten down in its morale and in fact, that it can no longer display any appreciable aggressive force in opposition to the German crossing". The English Channel was to be swept of British mines at the crossing points, and the Straits of Dover must be blocked at both ends by German mines. The coastal zone between occupied France and England must be dominated by heavy artillery. The Royal Navy must be sufficiently engaged in the North Sea and the Mediterranean so that it could not intervene in the crossing. British home squadrons must be damaged or destroyed by air and torpedo attacks. This placed responsibility for Sealion's success on the shoulders of Naval High Command (Oberkommando der Marine, or OKM) Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) Erich Raeder and Air Force High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, or OKL) Imperial Marshal (Reichsmarschall) Hermann Göring.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini offered to send Italian troops to participate in the projected invasion, but Hitler declined his offer. However, the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano, or CAI) did participate towards the end of the Battle of Britain.
Operation Eagle and air superiority The aerial battles which resulted from Unternehmen Adler (Operation Eagle) later became known as the Battle of Britain. Adler's objective was for the Luftwaffe to achieve air superiority over the Royal Air Force and allow the German invasion fleet to cross the English Channel. This ended in August with the RAF south comamnd in tatters.
Navy Barges assembled for the invasion at the German port of Wilmhelmshaven. The main difficulty for Germany was the small size of its navy. The Kriegsmarine had lost a sizable portion of its large modern surface units in the Norwegian Campaign, either as complete losses or battle damage. In particular, losses of destroyers were crippling. The U-boats, the most powerful arm of the Kriegsmarine, were not suitable for operations in the relatively shallow and restricted English Channel. Although the Royal Navy could not bring the whole of its naval superiority against the Kriegsmarine to bear (most of the fleet was engaged in the Atlantic and Mediterranean) the British Home Fleet still had a very large advantage in numbers. This is not to say that ships were not vulnerable in the case of enemy air superiority, as demonstrated during the Dunkirk evacuation and by the later sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse. However, the 22-mile width of the English Channel, and the overall difference in power between the British and German naval forces, made the amphibious invasion plan very risky, regardless of victory or defeat in the air during the Battle of Britain. In addition, the Kriegsmarine had allocated its few remaining larger and modern ships to diversionary operations in the North Sea.
The French fleet, one of the most powerful and modern in the world, might have tipped the balance against Britain if operated by the Kriegsmarine. The destruction of the French fleet by the British during the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, as well as the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon two years later, ensured that this could never occur.
Although the navy was weakened Hitler believed that chances of victory were still high, he ordered the invasion to commence on 17 September.
At 5:00 AM around Britain the church bells rang, the Home guard began setting up roadblocks and the Navy began to move towards the channel. 65,000 German troops all crack SS along with 10 000 paratroopers were disembarking on British beaches they were being held up by local troops and home guard but by 7 o'clock two out of five beaches had been secured. The Luftwaffe rained down on the British beach defense as British casualties began to rise dramatically at 8:00 am when Churchill heard three beachheads had been secured by the SS he ordered all British citizens to stock up and head underground with their gas masks. An hour later he ordered General Stillwell to unleash the empires chemical capabilities on the beaches. By noon a chilling silence was on the beaches 100,000 British and Germans lay dead from mustard and chlorine Gas the invasion force had been slaughtered.
Despite ferocious defense and gas attacks from Day One by the second day the Germans had managed to establish three beachheads due to a combination of air superiority and a gas attack on Scapa Flow. As the Germans began to slowly push up against increasing Gas and conventional attacks by the British. Infuriated by the large German casualties because of gas, Hitler ordered London to be bombed with mustard gas. This attack, although only partially successful, would spark of a mass gas exchange between Britain and Germany over the next months.
The first target for the RAF was Brighton, the only Port seized intact by the Germans. The Brighton area was heavily gassed killing everyone in the area.
The 2nd Gas attack was on Cologne which was thoroughly more successful than the German one on London due to better British chemical weapons and worse German preparations for chemical warfare. As Gas began to be traded off more and more often, only German air superiority allowed the Germans to push forward and crush the Royal Navy and breakthrough the British lines to encircle London. By the time the Battle of London was over 30 German and British cities had been severely bombed with gas.
Advance into Yorkshire
With London and the south under German control the Wehrmacht began its advance into the North. The Royal Navy continued to cause absolute havoc with German supply lines.