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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

May 18, 1940: Germans Take Antwerp


Saturday 18 May 1940

18 May 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com German mounted troops
German mounted troops, 18 May 1940 (Schweizer, Federal Archives).

Western Front: The XXVI Corps of General Georg von Küchler's 18th Army captures the vital port of Antwerp, Belgium on 18 May 1940.

Brigadier General de Gaulle regroups after his failure of 17 May and prepares for another flank attack on the German spearhead with his French 4th Armoured Division. He prepares for another attack.

At Noord-Beveland, the last Dutch holdout in Zeeland, a German under a flag of truce goes over and informs the Dutch that all of their comrades have surrendered. They have been out of touch, and now surrender.

General Erwin Rommel is at Cambrai, having advanced 85 miles to the west. He takes the town with one of his usual clever strategems: he has his tanks roll over a dusty field near the town, giving the defenders the impressions that his force is larger than it is, and causing them to flee in terror. Rommel is over halfway to the English Channel, having captured (by his own account) 10,000 prisoners and 100 French tanks for losses of his own of only 50 dead and 100 wounded. He pauses to refuel, resupply and plan his next axis of attack.

General Guderian's troops also are refueling and consolidating gains. The 1st Panzer Division troops reach the vicinity of Péronne in their drive toward Amiens.

Hitler issues Fuhrer Directive 12, Prosecution of the Attack in the West. It does not contain anything significant, and is more an expression of his desire to appear in charge and reassert control over a campaign which has developed due to decisions of commanders at the front rather than OKW headquarters.

Morale in the BEF is low, because they are being told to retreat despite giving a good account in every battle they have fought. The problem is not their military skill, but the German eruptions to the south that threaten their lines of communication.

18 May 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com 88 mm gun
In Belgium, a German 88mm gun model Flak 18 and crew pass Wehrmacht motorcycles (a BMW R18 and a DKW NZ350) alongside a British Morris C8.

Norway: Colonel Gubbins arrives at Mo i Rana. He has orders from Lieutenant General Claude Auchinleck to defend Mo i Rana. However, the local commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Byrnand Trappes-Lomax of the Scots Guards, tells him that he cannot hold out without reinforcement - of which none is available. Gubbins thus, against orders but based on the best available information, authorizes a withdrawal. In Gubbins' opinion, the Scots Guards withdraws "precipitately" toward the ferry terminus at Rognan and leaves behind much valuable equipment. The German 2nd Mountain Division approaches the town, though Gubbins leaves behind some skeleton forces.

The Luftwaffe continues its gradual reinforcement of General Dietl at Narvik, dropping another 16 troops of 1st Fallschirmjaeger Regiment. In addition, Luftwaffe seaplanes bring 15 more troops.

The Luftwaffe damages Royal Navy battleship HMS Resolution off Narvik.

The Germans capture a Norwegian torpedo boat, Troll, at Floro.

European Air Operations: The RAF sends 13 aircraft against German columns around le Cateau.

Battle of the Atlantic: The U-boat fleet has been occupied with tactical patrolling the Dutch/Danish/Norwegian coasts. They now resume strategic patrolling around Great Britain. U-37 and U-43 are already are sea, while U-60 and U-62 leave Kiel for stations around Great Britain.

Convoy OA 150G departs from Southend, Convoy OB 150 departs from Liverpool.

Anglo/US Relations: Churchill sends Roosevelt a telegram stating, "if American assistance is to play any part it must be available [soon]."

Spies: A member of the US embassy staff, clerk Tyler Kent, is arrested for spying. He has been (allegedly) passing copies of Prime Minister Churchill's correspondence with President Roosevelt to Anna Wolkoff, a Russian emigre with ties to a Fascist organization. Wolkoff, also arrested, has been (allegedly) passing the documents to Italian diplomats, who (allegedly) forwarded them on to Hitler. The US waives Kent's immunity.

French Government: Prime Minister Paul Reynaud shakes up the cabinet. Former PM Daladier switches to Foreign Minister, Philippe Pétain becomes Vice Premier. Reynaud takes Defense. General Weygand, recalled from the Middle East, is the new Commander-in-chief. Both 84-year-old war hero Pétain, who was the Ambassador to Spain, and Weygand are somewhat "out of the loop" and bring a fresh attitude to the government which may not be entirely positive. Weygand arrives in Paris from the Levant via Tunis.

Pétain is a particularly interesting choice. He has developed a friendly relationship with Francisco Franco and has commented that "France's greatest mistake has been to enter this war" - not exactly a resoundingly enthusiastic position.

The Paris sector is declared a military zone, with martial law imposed. For now, the government remains in Paris.

Belgian Government: King Leopold and his cabinet set up improved headquarters in Brugges.

Holland: The new Reich Commissioner for Holland, which surrendered on 15 May, is Artur Seyss-Inquart.

Germany re-incorporates into its borders the small slices of territory handed to Holland pursuant to the Treaty of Versailles.

Queen Wilhelmina is in Great Britain and visits Dutch vessels at Portsmouth.

French Homefront: The refugee crisis is only growing. An estimated 6 million Frenchmen are on the road south, while the population of northern French cities has fallen by 90%.

Belgian Homefront: The Belgians now really have nowhere to run, so the refugee crisis is much less there than in France.

Norwegian Homefront: The Nazis ban celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day, which typically includes traditional children's parades.

British Homefront: British men continue volunteering for the local defence groups - and estimated 250,000 have now signed up (eventually known as the Home Guard). They do not have any uniforms or equipment and are told "We'll get back to you." They are nicknamed "parashots" due to their presumed role of guarding against Nazi paratroopers.

American Homefront: In California, the El Centro earthquake hits at 21:35 Pacific Standard Time. It is the first earthquake recorded by a nearby strong-motion seismograph and registers 6.9 on the Richter scale. It is the strongest earthquake in Imperial Valley, killing nine people. The area is largely agricultural, so, while irrigation systems and other farming infrastructure is destroyed, damage is much more limited than it if had hit, say, a little further northwest at Los Angeles.

18 May 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com NYC headlines
It is a quiet morning in New York. Today's headline: "Nazi Army Now 75 Miles From Paris." The sports section, however, is more interesting at the moment. Sixth Avenue and 40th Street, near Times Square, New York City. May 18, 1940.

May 1940

May 1, 1940: British Leave Åndalsnes
May 2, 1940: British Depart Namsos
May 3, 1940: Many Norwegians Surrendering
May 4, 1940: Bader Returns
May 5, 1940: HMS Seal Survives
May 6, 1940: Allies Focus on Narvik
May 7, 1940: In The Name of God, Go!
May 8, 1940: Exit Chamberlain
May 9, 1940: Enter Churchill
May 10, 1940: Fall Gelb
May 11, 1940: Eben Emael Surrenders
May 12, 1940: Germans at Sedan
May 13, 1940: Rommel at Work
May 14, 1940: German Breakout in France
May 15, 1940: Holland Surrenders
May 16, 1940: Dash to the Channel
May 17, 1940: Germans Take Brussels
May 18, 1940: Germans Take Antwerp
May 19, 1940: Failed French Counterattack
May 20, 1940: Panzers on the Coast
May 21, 1940: Battle of Arras
May 22, 1940: Attacking Channel Ports
May 23, 1940: British Evacuate Boulogne
May 24, 1940: Hitler's Stop Order
May 25, 1940: Belgian Defenses Creaking
May 26, 1940: Operation Dynamo
May 27, 1940: King Leopold Surrenders 
May 28, 1940: The Allies Take Narvik
May 29, 1940: Lille Falls
May 30, 1940: Operation Fish
May 31, 1940: Peak Day for Dynamo


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