Skip to comments.GERMANS 13 MILES PAST LIEGE IN FLANK DRIVE; CLAIM TO HAVE CROSSED HOLLAND TO NORTH SEA (5/13/40)
Posted on 05/13/2010 4:58:32 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
* This is a quarterly feature. Sorry about the blurry print. I made the print a little larger to help us squinters. See the links below if you wish to compare it to previous listings. I see some familiar names in fiction: How Green Was My Valley, Kings Row, Mr. Skeffington, Kitty Foyle, Native Son. The winner in the General category appears to be How to Read a Book. I guess we should check that one out first.
The list is on image #6.
Germans achieve crossing of the Meuse
Monday, May 13, 1940 www.onwar.com
On the Western Front... The German panzer divisions cross the Meuse River in two places at Sedan and Dinant. The French troops opposing them have not prepared their positions properly and are quickly demoralized and terrorized by heavy dive-bomber attacks. At Sedan Guderian is right at the front, urging his troops on and at Dinant the young commander of the 7th Panzer Division, General Rommel, is also doing well. Farther north the Germans take Liege and in Holland the defense has now been totally disrupted. The advancing German ground troops have linked with the paratroops at Moerdijk. French 7th Army (Giraud) is in full retreat.
In Holland... Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Government are taken to London at different times during the day.
In Norway... The Allied forces start their advance toward Narvik from Harstad. The first landings on the way, at Bjerkvik 10 miles north of Narvik, are successfully carried out by French troops.
From London... Prime Minister Churchill makes the first of a famous series of inspirational speeches in a radio broadcast. He says, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
May 13th, 1940
UNITED KINGDOM: RAF Bomber Command: 4 Group (Whitley). Bombing - road/rail communications - Maastricht and Eindhoven. 58 Sqn. 6 aircraft. One returned early U/S, two bombed, three brought bombs back in accordance with existing regulations as they were unable to locate their targets. Later the regulations were changed to allow aircraft to bomb any other identifiable military targets, which were termed ‘Self Evident Military Objective’ (SEMO) or ‘Military Objective Previously Attacked’ (MOPA).
Westminster: Today Winston Churchill made his first speech in the House of Commons as Prime Minister. He told MPs that he was forming an administration “on the broadest possible basis” in accordance with “the evident wish and will of Parliament and the nation.” He said that he had formed a “war cabinet ... of five members, representing with the Opposition Liberals, the unity of the nation.” Further appointments will be made tomorrow.
The Prime Minister went on to remind the House that: “we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are action in many points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations have to be made here at home ... I would say to the House, as I have said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy?”
“I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give to us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.
Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.
But I take up my task with bouyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
(Full text of the speech, courtesy of Jay Stone)
Attlee assures the Labour Party annual conference that “the whole party is joining the coalition, not just individuals. We go in,” he told them, “as partners and not as hostages,” and he was sure that the war effort needed ‘the application of the Socialist principle of service before private property.’ Their aim would be to win liberty ‘on the sure foundation of social justice.’ (148 p.90 and Harris, Attlee, p.178)
WESTERN FRONT: Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her government are on their way to Britain by RN destroyer HMS Hereward, the government travel on HMS Windsor.
BELGIUM: German Panzer divisions under Guderian, Reinhardt and Rommel cross the Meuse at Sedan.
Guderian’s XIX Panzer Corps crosses the Meuse at Sedan. Reinhardt’s XXXXI PanzerKorps crosses the river to the north, at Montherme. Rommel’s 7. Panzer Division, as part of Hoth’s XV. Panzerkorps, crossed still farther north at Dinant.
The battle on the covering line, along the Tirlemont-Hannut-Huy line begins at 11 am. The French Cavalry Corps was attacked by 16 Panzer Corps, and at 4 pm began falling back by stages, until it reached an intermediate position on some high ground on the Louvain-Ardennes road, some 9 miles or so in front of the main line of resistance, where the First Army was hastily rushing up its last forward units.
The Ninth Army is attacked on the Meuse, near Dinant.
NETHERLANDS: The German 22nd Infantry Division (under Lt. Gen. Count Sponeck) find themselves hard pressed northwest of Rotterdam, where they made an airborne landing on May 10th. Meanwhile the 9th Panzer Division (under General Hubicki) and the 3rd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment (under Lt. Col. von Cholitz) crossed through the city up to the Meuse bridge.
A Dutch destroyer that sailed right up to Rozenburg Island despite a mine barrier, and opened fire on the German aircraft and crews who had landed there. The paratroops were completely wiped out in an hour and a half of artillery fire. All the aircraft were badly damaged by the gunfire and many were aflame. (Dave Shirlaw)
Submarines HNLMS O-23 and O-24 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
FRANCE: German troops through back a French force at Sedan and at Dinant in Belgium.
NORWEGIAN CAMPAIGN: Allied troops advance on Narvik from Harstad.
HMS Glorious and HMS Furious remain at Greenock pending orders to head for Norway. HMS Sparrowhawk remains quiet. Meanwhile, HMS Ark Royal, in position 69.47N, 15.38E, continues to support Operation “OB”. Weather having improved, the day begins at 0215 when two 800 Squadron Skuas led by Lt. K. V. V. Spurway, RN departed for Harjangsfjord and a peaceful patrol. At the same time, a single 810 Squadron Swordfish, with 2x250 lb and 8x20 lb bombs was dispatched on a armed reconnaissance flight for the Army, but was forced to return early due to fog.
At 0425, Lt. J. A. Rooper, RN led two more 800 Squadron Skuas to Bjerkvik to cover the fleet. They were able to perform their defensive patrol, Rooper set 6K:L3001 down at Sandsoy, both he and his observer, Petty Officer Airman W. Crawford, RN quickly reaching friendly forces. Skua 6M:L2938 set down South of Harstat at Tjeldoy, the crew, Petty Officer Airman R. E. Burston, RN (P) and Naval Airman first class G. W. Hallifax, RN eventually getting to HMS Brazen. At the same time another 810 Squadron Swordfish tried to carry out the armed recon flight requested earlier, but weather again cancelled the effort.
Meanwhile, a six plane bombing mission followed at 0430. Led by the OC of 820 Squadron, Lt-Cdr. G. B. Hodgkinson, RN, each Swordfish carried 4x250 lb bombs. They were to bomb the important railway tunnel at Sildvik. Surrounded by fog after takeoff, they climbed to 7,000 feet before breaking into the clear and continued onward. The two sub flights attacked separately, one hitting the target at both ends. Weather made the return flight difficult, and two aircraft, 4A Captain A. C. Newson, RM (P), Lieutenant-Commander Hodgkinson, RN (O), and Leading Airman R. H. McColl, RN (AG)) and 4G, (Lieutenant H. de G. Hunter, RN (P) and Leading Airman D. Smith, RN (AG)) were forced to put down in Norway, again the crews finding friendly forces ashore.
Flying was suspended after the departure of the striking force until the fog cleared at 0700. At 0710 another fighter patrol left (trio from 801 led by Lt. R. L. Strange, RN) to cover the fleet at Bjerkvik, but it was forced to return early due to fog. At the same time, two 810 Squadron Swordfish departed the ship: one for an armed reconnaissance over the high ground near HMS Aurora, the other to attack a surfaced U-Boat reported by the returned 820 Squadron. Both 2L:L2814 (Sub-Lieutenant(A) A. N. Dixon, RN (P), Midshipman(A) H. B. Dangerfield, RN (O), and Naval Airman first class V. Labross, RN (AG)) came down on a frozen lake near Reisen. Eventually the airframe was disassembled and shipped back to England. Meanwhile, 2K (Lieutenant H. E. Corbet-Milward, RN (P), Captain K. L. Ford, RM (O), and Leading Airman J. Black, RN (AG)) safely landed on the swampy Skaanland landing ground. This plane will be heard from again later. By 1200, weather had again shutdown flight operations, this time for the rest of the day.
U.S.A.: The Bell XFL-1 Airabonita naval fighter makes its maiden flight. (Jack McKillop)
Day 256 May 13, 1940
Norway. Allies launch their first amphibious assault of WWII to capture Bjerkvik and Øyjord, for use as staging post for landings at Narvik across the Rombaksfjord. Cruisers HMS Aurora & Effingham and battleship HMS Resolution bombard Bjerkvik at midnight, broad daylight in the latitude of Narvik but dark enough at Trondheim to prevent German aircraft taking off. French Foreign Legion and light tanks come ashore at Bjerkvik in landing craft at 1 AM (36 casualties). Many Norwegian civilian die in the fighting. French motorcycle troops ride along the coast and take Øyjord unopposed. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-NWE-Norway/maps/UK-NWE-Norway-9.jpg
Northern France. In the morning, Rommel sends motorcycle troops across River Meuse over a weir & lock gate at Dinant, while Guderians troops cross in rubber boats at Sedan in the afternoon following intensive bombing of French defensive positions. Despite French artillery bombardment, they both establish bridgeheads and by the evening they have pontoon bridges in place and tanks are rolling over.
Holland. German 9th Panzer Division reaches the outskirts of Rotterdam and 22nd Flieger Division holds onto bridges in the city. Dutch Queen Wilhelmina leaves at noon on HMS Hereward. Her government exiles to London at 5.20 PM on HMS Windsor.
Belgium. Battle of Hannut continues. To cover the Gembloux gap, French tanks line up abreast in a long thin line. Large groups of Panzers easily punch through, causing havoc in the French rear and Prioux retreats to the defensive line at Gembloux. Over 2 days French lost 105 tanks, Germans 160.
Winston Churchill first enters the House of Commons as Prime Minister, accompanied by his predecessor Chamberlain who receives a better reception by far. Churchill gives his Blood, toil, tears and sweat speech (text and MP3 at http://www.fiftiesweb.com/usa/winston-churchill-blood-toil.htm)
Nazi Drive in Low Countries Reported Forseen By Him (Gamelin) and Preparations Made
Mainstein and the German High Command were counting on that.
Japanese are getting testy
Did LA declare a boycott on Britain?
In some places it looks like Grapes of Wrath is still selling too.
How often do you think the House of Commons has such unanimous votes?
That must be where the French got their military reputation
Again, I can't say enough about Shirer’s book. Although Shirer was something of a “lefty” (he admired Blum’s socialist “Front Populaire” but hated the conservative Chautemps), he did a fine job illustrating the fatal weaknesses of the French 3rd Republic.
The real failure was not the troops themselves; I believe it is unfair to label them as "spineless cowards." France's fall was entirely a failure of leadership at virtually every level. At the national level, Daladier and Reynaud only halfheartedly pursued war with Germany. At the national military level, the French had an inept military bureaucrat in Gamelin. Everyone who has ever worked in a sizable organization has known a “Gamelin.” He's the smartest guy in the room who can't properly tie his own shoes, gets bogged down in “procedure” but can't get a job done. Villeume, the French head of the air forces refused to take aggressive action against the air assault against 55th Division. To call him incompetent would be a compliment; I I believe he repeatedly showed cowardice in the face of the enemy by not ordering his air force to engage the Germans. The French finished the Battle of France with more operational first-line fighters than when they started. Finally, it came down to a few regimental command officers who panicked and deserted their posts.
I do not blame the infantrymen of 55th Division at all for the rout at Sedan. Soldiers are never better than their leaders. For the better part of the day, they cowered in their holes under tremendous air assault. They had to wonder “where are our planes?” Even a token appearance by French fighters to contest the skies might have given them the heart to fight back. Instead, as Shirer points out, when their morale was ground down and their officers ran away, you just can't expect the men to stay and fight.
Sounds very good. I can’t imagine seeing those headlines everyday. It was such a huge war involving so many countries it makes our TV anchors standing in front of an Iraqi map look ridiculous.
On this day the Germans are doing handsprings out of happiness. They realized Sichelschnitt was a huge gamble but right now they are fairly convinced it’s working. They know the French 1st and 7th Armies and the BEF are all taking up lines deep in Belgium and have walked into the trap. And as Cougar pointed out yesterday, they can’t believe they haven’t been resisted in the Ardennes.
While the Germans were bottle necked in the Ardennes they must have been looking to the skies with a tremendous amount of apprehension of an air attack that never came. I’ve been thinking today though. How would this had all played out without the battle plan in the First World War?
Everyday of this conflict so far the paper has made mention of the First World War and the tactics the Germans used to sweep into France, being the Schlieffen Plan. Every account on what the press thinks is happening as we are reading it now, and how the actual leaders perceived it we find from historical perspective shows that the Allies are reacting to a second German Schlieffen move. The reaction to this has caused the Allies not only to position the entire BEF in the north, but also to move the French 7th Army, which was supposed to be the French reserves to protect France, up into Holland. Since the Sickle Cut Plan was in essence the Schlieffen in reverse having the collapsible forces feign in the north while the strong forces punched through to the south of them, a Schlieffen reaction played directly into the German’s hands.
So I wonder. What if there had been no Schlieffen Plan in World War I? Where would the Allies have positioned themselves if they were not anticipating a repeat of the World War I plan? Would the 7th Army stayed in France? Would the Dyle Line been extended to Breda? What do you all think?
I can’t say I’m confident in this answer, but I think that it may not have made as much of difference as perceived by the journalist at the time and the historians in many of these books on the subject. I can see that the Allies would likely have reacted the same way. Trying (mind you, trying) to think from terms that this is an entirely new tactic from the Germans by coming at the French through Holland and Belgium and couple that with this seemingly impregnable Maginot Line and equally impassable Ardennes Forest I can see that the concentration of force would have been rushed to try to save Holland, probably including the 7th Army. Again, as long as Villeume is not willing to commit his air forces for what they are intended, then I see no reason for an early discovery much less action against these large Panzer forces popping out of the forest and I believe that the bulk of the Allied forces still would have been cut off. That’s my impression anyway.
The Low Countries were called the "Cockpit of Europe" for all the wars fought there. Traditionally it was the invasion route into northern France (and vice versa); for example Marlborough systemtically conducting sieges working his way into France. The flat terrain and wealth made it an ideal invasion route. This explains why the whole area was marked with fortresses and why the Dutch as part of the treaty to end the War of Spanish Succession demanded the right to fortresses on the Belgium (Spanish then Austrian Netherlands)-French frontier as a first line of defense against a French invasion of the Netherlands. The only reason Prussia did not use this route in 1870 was Belgian neutrality guaranteed by the Great Powers; Bismarck was smart enough not to piss off the English. The Schlieffen plan was an update of what happened in history taking into account modern warfare. Even if there was no World War I I think the Allies would of perceived the main thrust as through the Low Countries given its terrain was much better suited to offensive operations than trying to go through the Ardennes forest.
Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. The maneuver itself is as old as warfare. It is based on the encirclement battle at Cannae in 216 B.C. In that case Hannibal used his infantry as the collapsible force in the center and as the infantry fell back the cavalry made the encircling move on the Roman’s right flank. The same thing happened in the 1870 battle you mentioned when Moltke successfully performed the same maneuver on the French at the Battle of Sedan. So I agree that the significance on the Schlieffen Plan we see in many of these articles and in the Life Magazine as well is only an example that the generals and the press were still fighting the last war. Unfortunately, the Germans were fighting an entirely new one.
Lucius, you'll see that one of the colonels didn't need to get shot. He took care of that. It really is a strange set of events that shows how the fog of war can sometimes have a domino effect of catastrophic proportions.
First here is a report from Bernard Stubs on the BEF moving into Belgium with transcript.
Here standing on the Franco-Belgium frontier, were watching long columns of British troops and transports and supplies and guns coming through from France into Belgium.
Just on this frontier theres a little village which is presumable half French and half Belgium since it stretches on both sides and almost the entire village has turned out and people have been standing in the street all day long and watching these transports coming up. The welcome given by the Belgium people is really tremendous.
But the enthusiasm of the people in this part of Belgium makes a sharp contrast with the sufferings of the refugees from such places as Liège. We saw several lorry loads of these unhappy people and at one point on another road we met a straggling little party of Belgiums, old men and women, and children. Some of them with rogue blankets tied over their shoulders their few pathetic belongings strapped on their back or carried in cheap suitcases in their hands.
And next is the speech that Churchill made today that is also linked in the worldwarIIblogspot post. I have a transcript of that compliments of The Churchill Centre and Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms, London
On Friday evening last I received His Majesty's commission to form a new Administration. It as the evident wish and will of Parliament and the nation that this should be conceived on the broadest possible basis and that it should include all parties, both those who supported the late Government and also the parties of the Opposition. I have completed the most important part of this task. A War Cabinet has been formed of five Members, representing, with the Opposition Liberals, the unity of the nation. The three party Leaders have agreed to serve, either in the War Cabinet or in high executive office. The three Fighting Services have been filled. It was necessary that this should be done in one single day, on account of the extreme urgency and rigor of events. A number of other positions, key positions, were filled yesterday, and I am submitting a further list to His Majesty to-night. I hope to complete the appointment of the principal Ministers during to-morrow. the appointment of the other Ministers usually takes a little longer, but I trust that, when Parliament meets again, this part of my task will be completed, and that the administration will be complete in all respects.
I considered it in the public interest to suggest that the House should be summoned to meet today. Mr. Speaker agreed, and took the necessary steps, in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by the Resolution of the House. At the end of the proceedings today, the Adjournment of the House will be proposed until Tuesday, 21st May, with, of course, provision for earlier meeting, if need be. The business to be considered during that week will be notified to Members at the earliest opportunity. I now invite the House, by the Motion which stands in my name, to record its approval of the steps taken and to declare its confidence in the new Government.
To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many other points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations, such as have been indicated by my hon. Friend below the Gangway, have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."
In fairness to the Allies, part of their belief in the Schlieffen option for the Germans was based on the fact that in the draft of Plan Yellow the Belgians had captured from the Luftwaffe officer who landed in Belgium in late ‘39 or early ‘40, that was the General Stasff’s basic concept.
And as for the weaknesses of French leadership, throw in the Belgians, Dutch and to a degree, the Brits. They were ALL wek to one degree or another. As Foch said at the end of WWI, “Having served in a coalition, I have rather less respect for Napoleon.”.
The key reason for the Germans’ success was superiority of doctrine. They had less troops, less tanks, and just about less everything but AT guns and aircraft. But what they did have was an integrated air-land doctrine, combat experience, better generals, officers, NCOs, and above all initiative. The Allies never did get the hang of AUFSTRAGTAKTIK.
Schlieffen planned a single envelopment of France, via Belgium, in a campaign, not a battle. Cannae was a tactical double envelopment. The Polish campaign was a strategic double envelopment [actually it was a strategic concentric double envelopment].
Keep your eye on 7th Panzer. Rommel’s about to play hob, and generally raise hell with the French to such a degree that Hoth is going to start ‘loaning’ him ever increasing panzer units from 5th Panzer.
I see Hoth's name by a symbol that means an armored corps. Is that the 5th? Beyond that and north of the Ardennes there is a long dotted line shooting past Philippeville. Is that Rommel?
(I'm bucking for arm-chair corporal.)
How much though do you think this document was heeded though? My interpretation of it has been that it was mostly ignored and not even seen by many of those who should have had an interest in it. I do know that there is no mention of it in the British War Cabinet minutes that are on file in the National Archives. I looked there because I was certain that this would be a big deal.
Speaking of which, "technically speaking," there was no "Schlieffen Plan" in World War I.
By 1914 the original Schlieffen Plan had been heavily modified (though not necessarily improved) under von Schlieffen's successor, Moltke the Younger. So some historians refer to it as the "von Moltke Plan."
But this new plan had really been in the direct hands, and responsibility, of a middle level General Staff officer named Eric Ludendorf. Ludendorf had studied it carefully and made the final adjustments which launched the First World War. So, in a sense, it was the "Ludendorf Plan."
In 1914 Ludendorf knew the critical battles which must, must be won in Belgium, and gained great recognition by commanding the units which won them. As a result, he became von Hindenburg's right-hand-man, and eventually his co-leader of wartime Germany.
In 1918, with Germany bled white and reeling from the onslaught of fresh American troops, Ludendorf first recommended accepting President Wilson's 14-Points based armistice.
But soon after, realizing the western allies actually intended a much harsher peace, he reversed himself, recommending the war must continue.
Ludendorf was fired.
After the war Ludendorf teamed up with a radical young firebrand war hero named Adolf Hitler, marching together, standing up to police bullets (while Hitler dove for cover) in the 1923 Munich Putsch, and getting elected to the German parliament in alliance with the National Socialist Workers Party -- the Nazis.
Eventually Hitler's racism proved too much for Ludendorf, and they fell apart.
But my point is: there is a direct connection between the old Schlieffen-von Moltke-Ludendorf Plan and the new Sickle Cut Plan admired and approved by the new leader of war-time Germany, Adolf Hitler.
Thanks for the great post from “The Blitzkrieg Legend.” That sounds like a book I’ll have to read.
As for the “mass psychosis” it’s clear there was a break in morale. I still think the conditions were created by the unremitting aerial assault these men had been subjected to all day and was triggered by the collapse of leadership.
You can draw broader conclusions from this if you wish: That the French didn’t generally have the stomach to fight the Germans this time, that the French 3rd Republic was so riven by political factionalism that they couldn’t put up a coherent defense against a determined defender, whatever....
I think this was more of an isolated incident. Later, after Dunkirk, the French will fight with determination on the Somme. But by then it was too late.
XVth Panzerkorps [Hermann Hoth]. And yep, the arowhead past Phillipville is Rommel [first accross the Meuse, too]