The Fall Of France 1940 Essay Definition


  • April 9, 1940 – Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway.
  • May 10, 1940 – Nazis invaded France and Belgium.
  • May 15, 1940 – Holland surrendered to the Nazis.

What You need to know Beforehand:

  • Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) was economically important to Germany
  • Germany relied on iron ore from Sweden (shipped through Norway) to its industries
  • Britain and France viewed the relationship dangerous because of potential war
  • Britain and France discussed sending troops to occupy Denmark and Norway
  • Hitler viewed it as a direct threat to Germany’s economy and decided to act

Operation Weserübung (Weser Exercise)  April 9, 1940

  • Code name for Nazi Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway


  • Germans wanted to occupy Denmark for these reasons:
  • It would secure communication lines to Norway during operation.
  • Would provide naval bases
  • Would protect supply of iron-ore from Sweden, coming into Germany.
  • German air forces (Luftwaffe) could use land for training.

How Germany went about their plan:

  • The small Danish army was to be overrun by two infantry divisions (the 170th and 198th) and the 11th rifle brigade.
  • A small naval expedition entered Copenhagen (Capital of Denmark) harbor on April 9, and landed troops
  • Land invasion began. There was some fighting, but the defenders of the Danish border were quickly overrun.
  • Any further resistance was pointless, so the Danish government was forced to agree to a German ultimatum to end the fighting.
  • Germany’s plan worked out perfectly
  • Denmark was to be occupied by the Germans until the end of the war.


  • Germans wanted to occupy Norway for these reasons:
  • Control of Norway’s coasts would be beneficial for reign over battles in the North Sea.
  • Would make easier passage for German U-Boats and ships into Atlantic
  • Would ease iron-ore swiftly into Germany so that Germany could obtain the supply of iron they needed for the war effort
  • How Germany went about their plan:
  • Plan was to take major cities, secure them, and then flee from each city so that each force joined up together at the same point
  • Operation depended on enemy to be surprised and quickly surrender, as interference from other allies would destroy the invasion, and lead to the destruction of Krieg marine (German Navy)
  • Norway wasn’t able to fight against Germany, as Germany’s army was too large and superior, leading to Norway’s surrender
  • Operation Weserübung was over, Germany was victorious


  • How Germany went about their plan:
  • The invasion, based on blitzkrieg, was swift and devastating. Holland surrendered six days later as her military had been unable to cope with the speed of blitzkrieg
  • The target was Waalhaven airfield to the south of Rotterdam (largest port in Europe)
  • Holland was an irritation in the great scheme of the attack on France. The sooner the Germans could take out Holland, the sooner they could concentrate all their resources on France. For this reason, they wanted to shock the politicians of Holland into surrendering. Rotterdam was the pay the price for this. The Germans decided to launch a ferocious attack on Rotterdam that would have such an impact, that the government of Holland would call a surrender.
  • Over the next two days, the Germans conquered the rest of Holland. However, the Germans did meet with resistance especially at the Ypenburg and Ockenburg air bases
  • Holland surrendered- Germany was victorious


  • ” Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied…. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored.” Hitler
  • Was a neutral country until Germany decided to invade it
  • Air raids from the German Luftwaffe > bombs in cities
  • Captured fortress Eban Emael
    Belgian army fought but sadly surrendered when it became overwhelming to compete with German tactics
  • Didn’t want French or British troops occupying Belgium and turning armies against Germany
  • Acted quickly and took it as their own
  • British and French had wanted to send troops to Belgium to defend in case of an attack
  • German divisions, paratroopers, air gliders and soldiers overran Belgium

Prior to the war, there was a certain balance in Europe but with the fall of France in 1940 to Hitler and Nazi Germany, this balance shifted…


  • Maginot Line
  • After high causalities of WW1,
    France decided to take the defensive
  • A new defence was built:
    The Maginot Line
  • Concrete forts with machine gun posts, tank and artillery that were set up to protect and defend France from Germany in case of an attack
  • Germany invaded Belgium on May 10
  • Main attack on France happened in the Ardennes (between German-Belgian-French border) on May 13.
  • Attacked at Sedan, which was on the northern end of the Line.
  • trapped French soldiers with no place to run.
  • On June 14, 1940 – Nazis went into Paris
    On June 17, 1940 – France surrendered.


  • ·with countries quickly falling into Nazi hands, neutral countries (Canada, U.S.A) were pulled into war after the fall of France in order to help out Britain
  • ·a wall was built to keep Britain out of Germany (Nazi occupied countries)
  • Britain couldn’t penetrate through the wall
  • Canada became one of Britain’s strongest allies as France fell away from power
  • All of these events proved that Germany was becoming ruthless and would stop at nothing to achieve its goals

May10, 1940Germany begins invasions of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France

May13French and British troops move into Belgium but are trapped between German armies

May14Luftwaffe bombs central Rotterdam; Netherlands surrenders to Germany

May27British troops begin mass evacuation from Dunkirk

June3Luftwaffe initiates air raids on Paris

June12German forces penetrate France’s final lines of defense

June22France signs armistice with Germany

June23Hitler visits Paris

The Western Front

After months of nervous speculation, Germany brought war to western Europe on May 10, 1940, with the primary goal of conquering France. German bombers hit air bases in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands, destroying large numbers of Allied planes on the ground and crippling Allied air defenses. Elite squads of German paratroopers were dropped onto fortified Allied points along the front, neutralizing a key element of France’s defense strategy.

On the ground, German forces advanced in two directions: one through the Netherlands and northern Belgium (where Britain and France had expected) and the other, larger force to the south, through Luxembourg and into the Ardennes Forest on a path that led directly into the French heartland. Unaware of the German advance to the south, Britain and France sent the bulk of their troops to Belgium.

The Fall of the Netherlands

During the first days of the attack, the Germans made slower progress toward Brussels and The Hague than expected, as the Dutch forces fought back formidably. In response, on May 14, the German air force, the Luftwaffe, unleashed a massive bombing attack on central Rotterdam, even while surrender negotiations with the Netherlands were under way. Although efforts were made to call off the attack at the last minute, only some of the German pilots got the message, so part of the attack was carried out. Over 800 civilians were killed, and the Netherlands surrendered that day.


The British and French plan to defend Belgium was to make a stand at a line of forts between the cities of Antwerp and Liege. Unaware that these forts had already been captured by German paratrooper units on the first night of the invasion, the British and French armies found themselves under assault on May 13. At the same time, the second, unexpected German offensive to the south emerged from the Ardennes Forest. Over the next few days, the main Allied armies were trapped between the two German forces, able neither to protect Paris nor to stop the Germans from advancing to the English Channel. Then, when the German troops to the south moved between the French and British forces, the Allies were divided and thus weakened further still. The Allied defense of Belgium was unequivocally a disaster.

The Evacuation from Dunkirk

While the main French army was trapped between the two German armies, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was being pushed to the coast near the French port of Dunkirk. With the BEF cornered with its back to the sea, and with little hope of reuniting with French forces, the British government decided that the BEF had to be evacuated. The evacuation, called Operation Dynamo, began on May 27, 1940. It took a full week to accomplish, using more than 800 civilian and military sea vessels. In all, more than 300,000 men were brought back across the English Channel to British soil. The feat was heroic—it was done under nearly constant bombardment from the Luftwaffe—but it left France completely on its own.

The Fall of France

With the British out of the way, the Germans began their final push against France. By June 12, German tanks had broken through the main fronts along the Somme River and the fortified Maginot Line, moving ever closer to their goal, Paris. During this time, the British vigorously encouraged France to resist at all costs. The new British prime minister, Winston Churchill, even flew to Paris himself to offer his personal encouragement. At the same time, though, the British government denied French requests for military assistance, wanting to conserve strength for Britain’s own defense in the near future.

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