VITE History Channel. Part 5. WW2. Battles for Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium and France
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Prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler and his Generals planned the conquest of France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The Germans laid down a careful plan in which diversionary forces would enter Belgium and draw up British and French units from their prepared positions. A second force would navigate the Ardennes Forest and bypass the Maginot Line, its drive intended to severe the northern Allied forces from the south. Beyond the concrete fortifications and heavy guns of the Maginot Line, the French were relying on the natural obstacle that was the Ardennes Forest, deemed impassable by French authorities. The German goal was simple – taking Holland and Luxembourg before conquering Belgium and France – making for the English Channel, crushing any Allied resistance along the way and capturing Paris. From this, a short crossing of the English Channel was all that was required of the German military to take Britain.
The western European invasion began at 2:30 am on May 10th involving infantry crossing into Holland and Belgium and joined by German paratroopers taking the Belgian fort at Eben-Emael and its 2.000-strong garrison with the loss of just six German paratroopers. During the the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael, a handful of well-trained German glider troopers subdued a seemingly impregnable fortress in mere hours.
The Germans were able to commit 141 total divisions to the fighting, made up of 2.445 tanks, 7.378 artillery and 5.638 aircraft complementing its 3.35 million-strong infantry force. Comparatively, the Allies mustered 144 divisions with 14.000 artillery, 3.383 tanks and 3.000 aircraft to go along with their contingent of 3.3 million troops. The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) was made up of 10 divisions under French command.
Despite valiant attempts by the Allies to hold positions, the Germans prevailed at the cost of 157.600 dead and as many as 1.345 aircraft and 800 tanks lost. The Allies fared much worse with 360.000 dead/wounded, 2.233 aircraft lost and some 1.9 million soldiers taken prisoner. Much to Hitler’s delight, his offensive to take Paris lasted all of 1 month and 12 days leading up to the French surrender.
Upon reaching the coast, German units in the north were halted to allow supplies to catch up and ready the army for the conquest of France. The remaining BEF and French forces holed up along an ever-shrinking defensive perimeter at Dunkirk, left to Hermann Goering‘s vaunted Luftwaffe to ultimately destroy.
With that, the German Army in the north turned its attention south and entered the French frontier. A defensive front was established at the Somme and Aisne rivers but their proved futile. Lest the historical structures of Paris be lost to German bombs and tanks, the capital city was handed over without a fight to the Germans who arrived on June 14th.
On 22 June, the Second Armistice at Compiègne was signed by France and Germany. It was officially ending the German campaign against the Low Countries and France. To add insult to France’s injury, Adolf Hitler ordered the French surrender to be signed in the same railway car that the humiliating German surrender to France was signed at the end World War I decades earlier.
The neutral Vichy French government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain superseded the Third Republic and Germany occupied the north and west coasts of France and their hinterlands. Italy took control of a small occupation zone in the south-east and the Vichy regime retained the unoccupied territory in the south, known as the zone libre. In November 1942, the Germans occupied the zone under Case Anton (Fall Anton), until the Allied liberation in 1944.
In World War II the Chasseurs Ardennais took part in heavy fighting after Belgium was invaded on 10 May 1940; the Germans noted the fierce resistance of the Belgians and the Chasseurs Ardennais were no exception. There were only 40 soldiers. In one engagement a 47mm antitank gun destroyed or disabled five German tanks. They fought so bravely that German general Erwin Rommel said: "They are not men, they are green wolves".
The Chasseurs Ardennais have, since their inception, worn a large green beret in addition to the uniform which the rest of the army wears. The insignia worn on the cap is the head of a Wild Boar which are found in the Ardennes region.
Song «Resist and Bite» is described act of bravery of 40 Chasseurs Ardennais in heavy battles for Belgium.
«Ardenner ground is burning,
And Rommel is at hand
As the Blitzkrieg's pushing harder
The war is all around!»
«Gloria fortis miles
The Wehrmacht closing in
Adversor et admorsus
The Boar against the Eagle!»
/Transcription from Latin language:
Gloria fortis miles - Glory to brave soldiers
Adversor et admorsus – RESIST and bite
Full song with subtitles:
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