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Author Topic: 13 MAY 1940: THE GERMANS STORM THE MEUSE, INVADE FRANCE  (Read 98 times)
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« on: May 14, 2020, 01:13:46 am »

The plan was simple. Use one Army Group to invade the Netherlands and Belgium, acting as a Matador's cape. Use a second to block the Maginot Line. Use the third to penetrate the "impenetrable" Belgian Ardennes, and outflank and roll up French and British armies that would, presumably, move into Belgium and Holland.
While the plan was simple, the execution was not. German airborne units not only had to take bridges into Holland, but also seize the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael. And seven Panzer divisions , in columns 100 miles deep, had to traverse the heavily forested Ardennes, and then force a crossing of the Meuse River between Dinant and Sedan.

Army Group B invaded Belgium and Holland on 10 MAY. As expected, the British Expeditionary Force and the 7th French Army, plus other French units moved up to the Dyle river to link up with the Belgians and Dutch. To do this, the French 7th Army, originally held in reserve behind Sedan [France's only reserve Army] had been moved north.
Army Group A began moving some 7 [of 10] Panzer Divisions, in a column 100 miles long, through the Ardennes. The Allies who had written off the Ardennes as unusable to tanks, were shocked, when on the evening of 12 May, German Armor appeared on the east bank of the Meuse, opposite French lines.

On the northern end of the German armor phalanx was the newly formed 7th Panzer division, commanded by Generallmajor Erwin Rommel. It was his first Armor command. At the southern end was the XIX Panzer Corps of Heniz Guderian, the same unit Guderian had commanded in Poland.

Rommel was the first German over the Meuse.He found a weir, and used it to move some troops across on the night of the 12th, and personally helped his engineers build a bridge, while under fire. Guderian sent infantry across the river in rubber boats [Hermann Balck], while under covering fire and massive air support [Stukas] from Fliegerkorp VIII.

By the end of the day, the French army facing Guderian, the 9th [a reserve unit] had broken, and Guderian had a bridgehead eight miles wide, and several miles deep. To his north other units were crossing the river, and Rommel was off and running. And the French had no reserves of any sizable force to stop the Germans. Guderian would reach the Channel in six days. The French and British, now cut off, and under pressure from Army Group B fell back. Ahead of the Allies was the withdrawal from Dunkirk, and for the French surrender on 22 JUN.

You can get more with a smile, a handshake and a gun than you can with a smile and a handshake - Al Capone
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