Friday, June 3, 2016

May 10, 1940: Fall Gelb Begins

Friday 10 May 1940

10 May 1940 German paratroopers Holland
German Junkers Ju 52s dropping paratroopers in the Netherlands, 10 May 1940.
Fall Gelb: Hitler finally permits the much-postponed invasion of France and the Low Countries to proceed on 10 May 1940. The German ambassadors in Belgium and Holland issue memoranda to those governments full of justifications for the violation of their neutral status. The two nations in turn appeal to Great Britain and France. Queen Wilhelmina of Belgium in particular is incensed.

The British government is now led by Winston Churchill, who has been warning the neutral countries of their danger for months. It immediately warns the Germans against bombing civilians.

Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg declare war on Germany.

10 May 1940 German paratroopers Holland
French fortifications along the frontier were incomplete and never were intended to cover the entire border. The French, however, placed a great deal of faith in them.
Western Front: Fall Gelb opens with 77 Wehrmacht Divisions (10 Panzer, 2 airborne) in the front line. Hitler issues his prophetic order of the day:
Soldiers of the West Front ! The battle which is beginning today will decide the fate of the German nation for the next thousand years.
During the night, Army Group B (Fedor von Bock) launches its offensive into Holland and Belgium. The ground troops are supported by Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) from the 7th Flieger Division and 22nd Luftlande Division (Kurt Student). These paratroopers land beginning at 05:35 at The Hague, on the road to Rotterdam and atop the Belgian fort at Eben-Emael on the Albert Canal. During the day, the German forces advance 10-15 miles into both Holland and Belgium.

At the Battle of Maastricht, the 4th Panzer Division is briefly delayed by resistance at Gulpen. By the time they get to Maastricht, the Dutch have time to destroy the bridges across the Maas which the Wehrmacht needs. After resisting throughout the day, the Dutch retreat and the Germans take the sector. The German losses are about 190 dead, 9 armored cars and tanks, and 10 Luftwaffe aircraft, while the Dutch losses are  47 troops.

The main German thrust is through the Ardennes with Panzer Corps XI (Guderian), XLI (Reinhardt) and XX (Hoth). Army Group A (von Rundstedt) has 41,000 vehicles in General von Kleist's Panzergruppe, and they have only four road routes through the forest. Congestion occurs immediately. The Luftwaffe maintains air superiority, shooting down dozens of French bombers, allowing the armored columns time to sort things out.

Further south, facing the Maginot Line, Army Group C (von Leeb) attacks the front between Trier and the Swiss border.

The French high command under General Gamelin reacts quickly. It implements Plan D. The French Seventh Army crosses the Dutch border only to run into retreating Dutch forces. It heads to Brussels, Belgium to form a defensive perimeter. The BEF and French with 32 divisions execute the Dyle Plan, crossing into Belgium.

The Dutch commence defensive flooding in East Holland.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe has 3500 aircraft in operation to support Fall Gelb. They fly over 1000 sorties during the day.

At Eben-Emael, 78 paratroopers under Oberlt. Rudolf Witzig land in DFS 230 gliders directly atop the fortress itself. The attackers eliminate all above-ground opposition and enemy firepower using top-secret magnetic hollow charges. The day ends with the paratroopers in complete control of the surface of the strategic fort and the 650 Belgian defenders trapped in underground galleries. While the defenders have not yet surrendered, they are helpless and the way is clear for the German 6th Army to advance as the paratroopers also seize bridges over the canal.

At The Hague, the Luftwaffe first bombs the area around Ypenburg airfield then drops paratroopers there. Other paratroopers land at Ockenburg airfield and Valkenburg airfield. The Luftwaffe is unable to land at the airfields due to destroyed aircraft on them, and the Dutch launch furious counterattacks. At the end of the day, the Dutch have retaken all of the airfields and the paratroopers forced into nearby villages and dunes. The Germans also lose a staggering 182 transport aircraft, primarily the workhorse Junkers Ju 52.

The Luftwaffe conducts raids against airfields in all of the enemy territories commencing at dawn.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Dutch liners Statendam (28,300 t) and Veendam (15,500 t) at Rotterdam.

The RAF and Dutch fighters shoot down Junkers Ju 52 transport planes over Holland. The RAF also conducts fighter-bomber raids on advancing Wehrmacht armored troops. Of 32 RAF Battle bombers sent into action, 16 are shot down and the rest damaged.

The Luftwaffe mistakenly bombs Freiburg by mistake, killing 57 civilians. Propaganda Minister Goebbels promptly blames the French.

There is a major dogfight over Belgium as Nine Belgian Fairey Fox biplane fighters intercept a group of Bf 109s. The biplanes manage to shoot one Messerschmitt down for three of their own number.

The RAF sends 33 Bristol Blenheim light bombers against the advancing Wehrmacht in Holland, losing three bombers.

The RAF also sends 32 Fairey Battle light bombers against the German troops in Luxembourg, losing 13 of their number to anti-aircraft fire and 10 to Luftwaffe fighters.

During the night, the RAF bombs the Wehrmacht lines of communications to the east of the Holland/German border. This is the first attack by the RAF on German soil.

The RAF commences the much-delayed Operation Marine, the mining of the Rhine River.

British Politics: Prime Minister Chamberlain resigns at 18:00 after the Labour Party at 17:00 reports that it will only agree to support a coalition government led by someone other than Chamberlain. Winston Churchill is voted in as the new Prime Minister, visits the King, and forms a coalition government.

New British Cabinet:
  • Churchill: Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, First Lord of the Treasury;
  • Chamberlain: Lord President of the Council;
  • Clement Attlee: Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Privy Seal;
  • Lord Halifax: Foreign Minister;
  • General Ismay: Secretary of the Imperial Defense Chiefs of Staff Committee, Deputy Secretary of the War Cabinet, and Chief of Staff to Churchill in his role as Minister of Defense.
Battle of the Atlantic: Iceland has declared its de facto independence from Denmark, but the British are not taking any chances. Four Royal Navy warships deposit 800 Royal Marines in Reykjavik of the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion under Force Sturges. They arrest German citizens and sympathizers, close down the German embassy, and fortify the harbor. The Icelandic government issues a formal protest to the British government. It also asks its citizens to treat the British invaders as "guests."

The British and French send troops to the Dutch West Indies. The Dutch seize 26 German merchants ships in their overseas possessions and intern German civilians.

German raider Atlantis lays 92 magnetic mines off Cape Agulhas in South Africa. German raider Orion heads in that direction.

Dutch submarines  HNLMS O-21 (P 21) (Lt. Commander Johannes F. van Dulm) and HNLMS O-22 (Lt. Commander Albertus M. Valkenburg) are commissioned.

Convoy OA 145G departs from Southend, Convoy 145 departs from Liverpool.

Italian/Croatian Relations: Italian Foreign Minister Ciano and Ustashi leader Ante Pavelic discuss plans for a Croatian insurrection to separate it from Yugoslavia.

Dutch East Indies: Colonial Governor-General Jonkheer van Starkenborgh declares martial law.

On Aruba, 180 French marines arrive to defend the Lago oil refinery at San Nicolas.

US Government: Secretary of State Cordell Hull states that the US will not allow any nations to take advantage of Dutch difficulties in Europe to seize control of the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese Foreign Minister responds positively.

President Roosevelt orders Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. to freeze Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourger assets in the US.

Norway: British troops evacuate Mosjoen by sea to Bodo. The German 2nd Mountain Division continues attacking north toward Narvik.

The Germans at Trondheim commandeer a coaster, the "Nordnorge," and load it with 300 infantry from the 138th Mountain Regiment. They sail to the Ranfjord and land at Hemnesberget about halfway down, accompanied by two Dornier He 115 seaplanes. They put pressure on Allied forces at Mo i Rana at the base of the fjord and deny the use of the port to Norwegian troops, who must march by land instead and thus have to abandon equipment. The British Destroyer Zulu sinks the Nordnorge after the Germans disembark.

Ireland: Reaffirms its neutrality.

China: The Battle of Tsaoyang-Ichang continues, with the Chinese increasingly isolating the Japanese 11th Army.

10 May 1940 German troops Luxembourg
Wehrmacht reconnaissance squads lead the German advance into Luxembourg on May 10, 1940. (AP Photo).

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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