Dunkirk Evacuation World War II!
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France. A German blitzkrieg attack by airborne forces quickly demolished Dutch and Belgian forces, who surrendered within a few days. British, French, and Belgian Troops reinforced the position against the advancing German army into Belgium but were unable to hold their positions. France was falling rapidly, and by the 14th and 15th of May, the main German Force had moved into the River Meuse, advancing in the west direction towards the English Channel. During a visit to Paris on the 17th of May, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was astonished to learn that the French commander-in-chief had no strategic reserves for such an emergency. By this point, without telling the French, British High Command had begun planning Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force by sea. On the 21st of May, commander of the BEF, General Viscount Gort, launched an attack from Arras. However, lacked enough armor. Nevertheless, this counter-attack put some anxiety into the German advance. German tanks, under General Heinz Guderian, moved the Allies closer into a trap until they were forced into a perimeter around the port of Dunkirk, the only port left for an Allied withdrawal. Surprisingly, on the 22nd of May 1940, a halt order was issued by the German High Command with Adolf Hitler’s approval. Whatever the reason was, this order provided the Allies an unexpected and crucial opportunity to evacuate their troops. The Luftwaffe continued to attack the port of Dunkirk when the weather allowed it, while the Allies strengthened their defenses against the German tanks. Now, thousands of British and French troops sat on the beaches waiting for a rescue attempt. Evacuation began on the 29th of May by the Royal Navy, and civilian fishing and lifeboats pressed into service; known as “Little Ships,” their efforts would become known as the “Dunkirk Spirit.” RAF fighters also provided important air cover for the evacuation on the ground from Luftwaffe. By the 4th of June, 338,000 soldiers, including 120,000 French, had been evacuated by the hastily formed fleet of 860 boats. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the campaign and had to leave nearly all of their tanks, vehicles, and equipment behind. Thousands of French troops were also left behind to be taken, prisoner. 6 British and 3 French destroyers, and 200 small craft were sunk by German mines, torpedo boats, u-boats, and aircraft. Both sides lost over 100 aircraft. The success of the evacuation when it could have gone so wrong was a big boost to British morale. And the valuable trained soldiers of the BEF, now rescued, ensured Britain could eventually fight back later in the war. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the outcome a “miracle” in his “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech on the 4th of June to the House of Commons.