Blitz-Like Tactics Used to Deliver Nations of Millions; Historian Dr Chris Upton Studies Hitler's Blitzkrieg Tactics WITH THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT

By Upton, Chris | The Birmingham Post (England), December 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Blitz-Like Tactics Used to Deliver Nations of Millions; Historian Dr Chris Upton Studies Hitler's Blitzkrieg Tactics WITH THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT


Upton, Chris, The Birmingham Post (England)


For all the complexities of diplomacy and long-term strategic aims, Germany had developed a military gambit that was simplicity itself. It had worked against Poland, and it was about to work just as effectively against the Low Countries and France.

It was called "Blitzkrieg," a productive advance on all those long, fruitless campaigns in the trenches of Flanders.

First came the bombers, directed to hit the defenders' air forces before they could get off the ground. Then the Luftwaffe turned its attention to lines of communication and military installations, before bombing - Guernica-style - centres of population. Finally, dive-bombers targeted troop movements and machine-gunned fleeing civilians.

Simultaneously, motorized vehicles, light tanks and artillery, moved in swiftly to occupy as much territory as possible, leaving the heavier tanks and infantry to mop up behind. A combination of panic, fear and military impotence could deliver up a natio n of millions in a matter of days.

"Operation Yellow," the assault on Western Europe, began on 10 May, 1940. By then Hitler had already claimed his first overseas conquest in the shape of Norway, and Denmark had fallen almost as passively as Austria. Holland and Belgium, he imagined, woul d be a rather sterner test.

In fact the Low Countries fell remarkably swiftly, despite the presence of British and French troops. By May 15, the Dutch had capitulated, and two days later the German Sixth Army entered Brussels, the fifth European capital to fall to the Nazis in less than a year.

As Churchill told Roosevelt by telegraph on the day that Amsterdam fell: "The small countries are simply mashed up, one by one, like matchwood." The British Expeditionary Force withdrew to the coast, with little option but to abandon continental Europe t o its fate. …

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