Start of World War II


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The German word meaning “lightening war”, the military strategy of softening a country up through intensive air raids followed by rapid use of armoured and infantry units, based on speed and surprise.

revolutionary style of hard, fast warfare based on surprise attack
the key to its success was close co-operation between the German Panzer (tank) divisions and dive-bombing aircraft the Luftwaffe, and the infantry
first wave of panzers crashed without warning through weak-spots in enemy line – pushed in as far as possible
overhead the German warplanes knifed out of the air – sirens shrieking causing confusion and panic
sabotage troops – using parachute or gliders dropped behind enemy lines to destroy key transport and communication sites
main body of infantry, in motorized transportation, skirted around pockets of heavy resistance to sweep deeply into lightly defended areas at the rear
motorcycles armed with machine gunners in sidecars scouted the countryside to report on enemy positions


1. September 1, 1939

Germany hit Poland from north, west, and south
Polish army of 70 000 totally wiped out
Hitler’s casualties = 1400

2. Sitzkrieg – “Phony War”

bulk of German army in Poland
smaller force sat on border of France – glared at each other for 7 months

3. Maginot Line

By 1919 the French Army began to study how to protect France against Germany and after 1924 against Italy.
The French Army estimated that fortifying the border was the best way.
New fortification had two missions –
(1st) it had to protect the French troops against a surprise attack.
(2nd) it had to provide effective coverage for the main combat on the French-Belgian border and also on the French-German border.
Fortification had to be very sophisticated and to have a very good firepower.
Andre’ Maginot – The French War Minister after whom the Maginot line was named and under whose leadership walled defences were built along the French-German and Belgium borders.

4. April 1940

Denmark (1 day)
Norway (2 days)
Netherlands (5 days)
Belgium (18 days)
France (6 weeks)

5. Miracle of Dunkirk: May 1940

By May 20th, Germany had French and British forces pinned at Dunkirk (coastal town on the English Channel)
Hitler ordered German General Wehrmact to pull back and let the Luftwaffe have the honour of finishing them off
This became known as Hitler’s first mistake
fortunately a dense fog rolled in and gave the Allies enough time to plan an escape
call went out for help, 900 boats of all kinds (sightseeing, trollers, pleasure, ferries, barges, and British destroyers) came out to help
Only 10 000 were expected to be saved; in the end over 350 000 men were rescued
many historians believe that only the “Miracle of Dunkirk” prevented Hitler from winning the war in 1940

6. France, June 14, 1940

June 14 – Nazis marched on Paris
Hitler forced the French to sign surrender in same railcar that Germany had accepted defeat in 1918
Now, only Britain and the Commonwealth allies remain to fight Hitler
French General predicted that Britain would fall in 3 weeks
At the time Britain had: Royal Navy, a small but effective airforce, some infantry and a Canadian division


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