Dunkirk: Hitler's "Halt" Order

Discussion in 'Polls' started by Njaco, May 22, 2011.

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Why did Hitler halt his tanks at Dunkirk?

  1. Hitler wanted the BEF to escape.

    15.0%
  2. Let the Luftwaffe finish the BEF.

    35.0%
  3. Let the Panzers rest and refit

    30.0%
  4. Save the tanks for attack south to Paris.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Defeating French Army more important.

    20.0%
  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Finshed reading "Miracle at Dunkirk" by Walter Lord for the umpteenth time and was wondering what everyone thought about Hitler's "Halt" Order of 24 May. As Mr. Lord writes.....

    "That day Guderian's panzers had reached Bourbourg, only 10 miles south-west of Dunkirk. Nothing stood between them and the port. The bulk of the BEF still lay near Lille, 43 miles to the south. By the time the tanks began rolling again in the predawn hours of 27 May, the escape corridor had been established, the BEF was pouring into Dunkirk and Ramsay's rescue fleet was hard at work."

    So what was the reason for the "Halt" order? Whats your opinion?
     
  2. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Germany is not a sea nation. They have little experience in this area, and have never used naval transportation in any larger scale. Therefore, they were unaware of how to deal with such a situation (a German general has once stated, that crossing the channel would just be large-scale river crossing!).
    They saw the ocean as a wall, through which it was impossible to transport an army, as such short notice anyway. They could not imagine that Operation Dynamo could even happen! The British, being an island kingdom, were seing the channel as a highway, with many opportunities.
    When the German Panzers arrived at the river before the Dunkirk area, they were exhausted. They could not continue - they were tired, and running low on fuel and supplies. Furthermore, they had no infantry backup, and they had nearly been cut off at one point from their main force. It was a part of their tactic to keep driving, leaving the infantry behind, and just go on, not stopping at anything - this was their tactic, and it worked for penetration. Therefore, it was a sane military decision to halt them for rest and refit. After all, the Germans didn't think they could go anyway, so they could just prepare to finish off the enemy nice and calmly.
    The Luftwaffe, which could use the publicity (the Panzers had recieved much of the credit so far) asked for permission to destroy the BEF on the beaches. Therefore, they were allowed to attack the BEF.

    So far, the Germans had not used fighter support, simply because the French airforce was not being used. It was actually not practice among the Allies either. The French could easily have destroyed the Ju 87s, that were about as galant in a dogfight as a rock with wings. They were, however, so shocked by the German attack (as well as uncertain who were actually in command of the French aircrafts - they didn't have any real airforce, and the Generals of the individual army departments were unable to get in contact other than through couriers, and hte French high command was in general ignorant of the danger.) that they just had their fighters hidden in parks, etc. - with retrieveing Allied soldiers seing it with disbelief!
    At Dunkirk, the RAF was able to get straight from England, into the attack. They shot the Ju 87s to pieces before they ever reached the beaches (which is why you hear the BEF cursing the RAF for not being there - they were there, but they were taking the enemy out BEFORE they ever reached the lines (if they had attacked after the bombs had been dropped, it wouldn't realy matter...). Therefore, the BEF were relatively left alone. The Germans, who had advanced to the outskirts of the evacuation area by the time the evacuation was more or less over, didn't believe their eyes. They were as amazed as when Moses divided the Red Sea - but they were not stupid enough to attempt to follow them, as the waters - the Royal Navy and the BEF - would have come down on them as on the Pharao.

    One point of view.
    I don't think anyone really knows why the German's halted....least of all themselves.
    I have been on board a Dunkirk small boat veteran in Dartmouth, Odd to think that it did so much.
    Cheers
    John
     
  3. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Not exactly true. At Dunkirk the Luftwaffe was there - in fact their attacks on the shipping caused an order for the destroyers to work only during evening hours and eventually removed because there was concern that too many were being lost. As far as on the beaches, for most of the time, smoke from fires and burning ships covered, from the air, the operations being conducted on the moles in the harbour. When the smoke cleared on one or two days, the Luftwaffe was devastating.
     
  4. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think it was a combination of his troops needing to rest/repair and Goering offering the Luftwaffe to Hitler to finish them off instead.

    In regards to never using navel transportation on a large scale, they did for the invasion of Norway.
     
  5. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Great post Readie. Thanks. :)

    (Ever read "The Snow Goose" ?

    MM
     
  6. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk by the American author Paul Gallico.
    Yes I have, to be honest I found it too sentimental for me but, I can see the appeal as it the whole episode is still very emotional here.
    'The Dunkirk spirit' is a phrase that has entered the English language as a rallying cry.
    Judging from the constant bad news of late we need it...
    Cheers
    John
     
  7. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Operation Weserübung - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    This gives the flavour of the campaign albeit from wiki.The German's certainly had some powerfull battleships available. But,it did not go all the German's way and probably made them wary of a cross channel assault before the RAF in particular were beaten.
    Cheers
    John
     
  8. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    That I will agree with. While the Luftwaffe caused some tremendous problems at Dunkirk, the RAF was still present and gave Goering the first true test of his Air Force.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I thought Von Runstedt ordered the "halt". His grasp of a "Blitzkrieg" did not extend to allowing his armoured spear head to operate without the infantry who Guderian had outpaced. Old soldiers often show themselves to be creatures of habit and Von Runstedt was planning a conventional assault to reduce the allied pocket,which he certainly wasn't expecting to be evacuated across the Channel.
    Was there really "nothing" between Guderian and the port? The BEF wasn't the only army involved.
    Steve
     
  10. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Well, again only gathering what I read by Mr. Lord....

    At the time of the Halt order von Runstedt did indeed want to short stoppage but only slightly for several reasons. One, his panzers had stretched from supply and were tiring. An Allied counterattack near Arras had reduced the panzers by about 50%. The area outside Dunkirk was not tank country and really ideal for panzer operations.

    But von Runstedt did not make the Halt order.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    1940 Allied forces.
    (data from "Strange Victory")
    104 divisions. 3,254 tanks. France.
    10 divisions. 640 tanks. BEF.

    Military logic dictates that you defeat the greatest threat first. Which force was a greater threat to Germany during May 1940?
     
  12. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Not la belle France. Numbers are not everything DaveB.
    You have to look at the global picture.
    Cheers
    John
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I agree.

    France shares a land border with Germany. Which makes the huge French army even more dangerous. Not to mention the French air force which has airfields located only a few minutes flying time from the Ruhr industrial region.
     
  14. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    History shows that The French were defeated by their low morale. I don't think that,as a nation, they had fully recovered from WW1 and the great depression.

    However,there were 117 French divisions in total, of which 104 divisions (including 11 in reserve) were for the defence of the north. The British Army contributed only 13 divisions, three of which had not been organised when the campaign began. Some 22 Belgian, 10 Dutch and 1 Polish division were also a part of the Allied order of battle. British artillery strength amounted to 1,280 guns. Belgium fielded 1,338 and the Dutch, 656. France had 10,700 pieces. This made a total of around 14,000 artillery pieces.Although the Dutch, British and Belgians had barely any armour, the French had a powerful force of 3,254 tanks.
    The French Army was of mixed quality. It had in its order of battle some formidable units, particularly the light and heavy armoured divisions (DCR and DLM), and several professional infantry divisions. However, a lot of divisions were composed of reserve soldiers, above 30 years old, and were ill-equipped. A serious qualitative deficiency was a lack of anti-air artillery, mobile anti-tank artillery and radio communication systems This was despite the efforts of Gamelin to produce mobile artillery units.
    French tactical deployment and the use of mobile units operationally was also inferior to that of the Germans. Tactically, armour was spread thinly along the French line: French infantry divisions were supported by tank battalions of about 100 tanks, which prevented them from being a strong, independent operational force. Making matters worse, only a handful of French tanks in each unit had radios installed, making communication difficult, most of them being unreliable.[76] French tanks were also very slow in speed in comparison to the Panzers (except for the Somua S-35), as they were designed as infantry support, enabling German tanks to offset their disadvantages by outmanoeuvring the French on the battlefield. In 1940, French military theoreticians still considered tanks as infantry support. As a consequence, at various points in the campaign, the French were not able to react as quickly as German armour.

    The German advance up to 21 May 1940
    The Panzer Corps now slowed their advance considerably and put themselves in a very vulnerable position. They were stretched out, exhausted, low on fuel, and many tanks had broken down. There was now a dangerous gap between them and the infantry. A determined attack by a fresh and large enough mechanised force might have cut the Panzers off and wiped them out.
    The French High Command, however, was reeling from the shock of the sudden offensive and was now stung by a sense of defeatism. On the morning of 15 May French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud telephoned the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill and said "We have been defeated. We are beaten; we have lost the battle." Churchill, attempting to offer some comfort to Reynaud, reminded the Prime Minister of all the times the Germans had broken through the Allied lines in World War I only to be stopped. Reynaud was, however, inconsolable.
    Churchill flew to Paris on 16 May. He immediately recognised the gravity of the situation when he observed that the French government was already burning its archives and was preparing for an evacuation of the capital. In a sombre meeting with the French commanders, Churchill asked General Gamelin, "Où est la masse de manoeuvre?" that had saved Paris in the First World War. "Aucune" ["There is none"] Gamelin replied. After the war, Gamelin claimed his response was "There is no longer any." Churchill described hearing this later as the single most shocking moment in his life. Churchill asked Gamelin where and when the general proposed to launch a counterattack against the flanks of the German bulge. Gamelin simply replied "inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of methods".
    The French also lacked radios and orders were passed from mouth to mouth. This gave the German's an advantage with their radio equipment.

    Its interesting to note this about the German army.
    The German Army, contrary to what the blitzkrieg legend suggests, was not fully motorised. Just 10% of the Army was motorised in 1940 and could muster only 120,000 vehicles, compared to the 300,000 of the French Army.Most of the German logistical tail consisted of horse-drawn vehicles.
    Only 50% of the German divisions available in 1940 were combat ready, often being more poorly equipped than their equivalents in the British and French Armies, or even as well as the German Army of 1914. In the spring of 1940, the German army was semi-modern. A small number of the best-equipped and "elite divisions were offset by many second and third rate divisions".
    Mr Hitler played a role too. Halder's plan has often been compared to the Schlieffen Plan, which the Germans attempted to execute in 1914 during the opening phase of the First World War. It was similar in that both plans entailed an advance through the middle of Belgium, but while the intention of the Schlieffen Plan was to gain a decisive victory by executing a surprise encirclement of the French Army, Aufmarschanweisung N°1 was based on an unimaginative frontal attack, sacrificing a projected half a million German soldiers to attain the limited goal of throwing the Allies back to the River Somme. Germany's strength for 1940 would then be spent; only in 1942 could the main attack against France begin.
    Hitler was very disappointed with Halder's plan and reacted first by deciding that the German army should attack early, ready or not, in the hope that Allied unpreparedness might bring about an easy victory. This led to a series of postponements, as time and again commanders convinced Hitler to delay the attack for a few days or weeks to remedy some critical defect in the preparations, or to wait for better weather. Hitler also tried to alter the plan which he found unsatisfactory, without clearly understanding how it could be improved. This mainly resulted in a dispersion of effort, since besides the main axis in central Belgium, secondary attacks were foreseen further south. Hitler made such a suggestion on 11 November. On 29 October, Halder let a second operational plan, Aufmarschanweisung N°2, Fall Gelb, reflect these changes by featuring a secondary attack on the Netherlands.

    Cheers
    John
     
  15. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Plus poor training and leadership. Of course poor training and leadership are a prime cause of poor morale so they are connected.

    However....
    The French army of August 1914 also had poor training and leadership. But given a chance to recover that's exactly what they did.

    If allowed time the French army of May 1940 will also recover. And nobody who remembered the WWI west front wanted to repeat the experience.
     
  16. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    France also had a severe manpower shortage. The real irony is that:

    The French were not ready
    The Germans were not really ready
    The British were also not ready

    Cheers
    John
     
  17. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I don't think that was an issue as France used large numbers of colonial conscripts for cannon fodder during both world wars.
     
  18. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    What a terrible slur against both the French and the bravery and skill of the colonial troops that fought for France.

    French colonial troops accounted for ~5% of total French military deaths in WWI and ~10% of French military deaths in WW2.
     
  19. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    France's manpower shortage in 1939 and the reasons for that are well documented Dave as I think you well know.
    The French fought as bravely as they could in the circumstances they found themselves. The last thing they wanted was to be under the German heel.
    The BEF also fought on but, both armies were overwhelmed and had to live to fight another day.
    Cheers
    John
     
  20. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    :confused:
    France and Britain declared war on Germany. Not the other way around.
     
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