Fall Of France Pt 2

The German assault began on May 10th, 1940. Army Group B launched an offensive into Holland and Belgium. Paratroopers from the 7th Flieger executed surprise landings against Rotterdam and the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael, on the German border. The French reacted swiftly, with their 1st Army Group advancing into Belgium along with the BEF.

The German Army Group B was understrength and would be in danger of stalling immediately, if not for unconventional tactics. Eben Emael in the event was neutralised by the paratroopers in under 20 minutes. Shocked by this breach in what they thought was their most secure sector, the Belgians fell back five days earlier than planned.

At this moment the British and French were not yet entrenched but still on the move, and when the Germans were reported to be advancing towards the Gembloux Gap, a vulnerable wide plain which would be perfect for an armoured spearhead, the French were convinced that this was the point of maximum German effort. Two French armoured divisions were rushed forward, and the huge armoured battle predicted by the generals before the war broke out, with 1500 armoured vehicles involved.

The French and German armies both suffered but the Germans were delayed long enough for the BEF and French behind the French mechanised divisions to dig in. Erich Hoepner, commanding the northern assault, would try to break the French line against orders on the 15th, the only time in the campaign when German armour assaulted a strongly held French position. The attempt failed, costing the Germans another 120 tanks. Unfortunately for the French, this defensive success was irrelevant - as the entire northern assault was a feint.

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