With France secure along its famed Maginot Line, the German Army traversed the seemingly “impassable” Ardennes Forest – taking its enemies by surprise.
May 10th, 1940 to June 14th, 1940. The armistice between France and Germany was signed on June 22nd .The majority of the battles centered within Belgium up to the Channel coast and across northern France.
Prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler and his Generals planned the conquest of France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The Germans laid down a careful plan in which diversionary forces would enter Belgium and draw up British and French units from their prepared positions. A second force would navigate the Ardennes Forest and bypass the Maginot Line , its drive intended to severe the northern Allied forces from the south. Beyond the concrete fortifications and heavy guns of the Maginot Line, the French were relying on the natural obstacle that was the Ardennes Forest , deemed impassable by French authorities. The German goal was simple – taking Holland and Luxembourg before conquering Belgium and France – making for the English Channel, crushing any Allied resistance along the way and capturing Paris. From this, a short crossing of the English Channel was all that was required of the German military to take Britain. German success with the “Blitzkrieg”, under the Generals Heinz Guderian‘s 2nd Panzer Division and Erwin Rommel‘s Ghost Division , being a key proponent of the doctrine) against Poland streamlined the invasion process and offered priceless experience to units.
The western European invasion began at 2:30 am on May 10th involving infantry crossing into Holland and Belgium and joined by German paratroopers taking the Belgian fort at Eben-Emael and its 2.000-strong garrison with the loss of just six German paratroopers. under Oberleutnant Walter Koch, all men of General der Luftwaffe Kurt “Papa” Student.
The Germans were able to commit 141 total divisions to the fighting, made up of 2.445 tanks, 7.378 artillery and 5.638 aircraft complementing its 3.35 million-strong infantry force. Comparatively, the Allies mustered 144 divisions with 14.000 artillery, 3.383 tanks and 3.000 aircraft to go along with their contingent of 3.3 million troops. The BEF was made up of 10 divisions under French command.
Despite valiant attempts by the Allies to hold positions, the Germans prevailed at the cost of 157.600 dead and as many as 1.345 aircraft and 800 tanks lost. The Allies fared much worse with 360.000 dead/wounded, 2.233 aircraft lost and some 1.9 million soldiers taken prisoner. Much to Hitler’s delight, his offensive to take Paris lasted all of 1 month and 12 days leading up to the French surrender.
Upon reaching the coast, German units in the north were halted to allow supplies to catch up and ready the army for the conquest of France. The remaining BEF and French forces holed up along an ever-shrinking defensive perimeter at Dunkirk , left to Hermann Goering‘s vaunted Luftwaffe to ultimately destroy.
With that, the German Army in the north turned its attention south and entered the French frontier. A defensive front was established at the Somme and Aisne rivers but their proved futile. Lest the historical structures of Paris be lost to German bombs and tanks, the capital city was handed over without a fight to the Germans who arrived on June 14th. The armistice was signed on June 22nd 1940, officially ending the German campaign against the Low Countries and France. To add insult to France’s injury, Adolf Hitler ordered the French surrender to be signed in the same railway car that the humiliating German surrender to France was signed at the end World War 1 decades earlier.