Battle of France

Battle of France
Part of the Western Front of the Second World War
Battle of France collage.jpg
Clockwise from top left: German Panzer IV tanks passing through a town in France; German soldiers marching past the Arc de Triomphe after the surrender of Paris, 14 June 1940; column of French Renault R35 tanks at Sedan, Ardennes; British and French prisoners at Veules-les-Roses; French soldiers on review within the Maginot Line fortifications
Date10 May – 25 June 1940 (46 days)
LocationLow Countries, France
ResultGerman victory
Territorial
changes
Parts of France placed under German and Italian military occupation
Belligerents
 Germany
 Italy (from 10 June)
France
 Belgium
 United Kingdom
 Canada
 Netherlands
 Luxembourg
Poland
Czechoslovakia
Commanders and leaders

Nazi Germany Erich Von Manstein

Walther von Brauchitsch
Gerd von Rundstedt
Fedor von Bock
Wilhelm von Leeb
Albert Kesselring
Hugo Sperrle
Heinz Guderian
Kingdom of Italy Umberto di Savoia
Maurice Gamelin (until 17 May)
Alphonse Georges (until 17 May)
Maxime Weygand (from 17 May)
Belgium Leopold III  (POW)
United Kingdom Lord Gort
Netherlands Henri Winkelman  (POW)
Poland Władysław Sikorski
Czech Republic Jan Kratochvíl
Units involved
Strength
Germany: 141 divisions[1]
7,378 guns[1]
2,445 tanks[1]
5,638 aircraft[2][a]
3,350,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
300,000 Italians
Allies: 144 divisions
13,974 guns
3,383–4,071 French tanks[1][3]
<2,935 aircraft[4][b]
3,300,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
~150,000 French
Casualties and losses

Germany:
27,074 dead[c] 111,034 wounded, 18,384 missing,[5][6][7] 1,129 aircrew killed[8] (c. 27,000 dead)
1,236 aircraft lost[5][9]
795–822[10] tanks destroyed[d]
157,621 total casualties
Italy: 6,029–6,040[e]


Total: 163,676 casualties
360,000 dead or wounded,
1,900,000 captured
2,233 aircraft lost[15]
4,071 French tanks[f]
Total: 2,260,000 casualties

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

The German plan for the invasion consisted of two main operations. In Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes and then along the Somme valley, cutting off and surrounding the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium, to meet the expected German invasion. When British, Belgian and French forces were pushed back to the sea by the mobile and well-organised German operation, the British evacuated the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and several French divisions from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.

After the withdrawal of the BEF, the German forces began Fall Rot (Case Red) on 5 June. The sixty remaining French divisions made a determined resistance but were unable to overcome the German air superiority and armoured mobility. German tanks outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France. German forces occupied Paris unopposed on 14 June, after the flight of the French government and the collapse of the French army. German commanders met with French officials on 18 June to negotiate an end to hostilites.

On 22 June, the Second Armistice at Compiègne was signed by France and Germany. The neutral Vichy 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. The Germans occupied the zone under Fall Anton in November 1942, until the Allied liberation in the summer of 1944.

Background

Maginot Line

During the 1930s, the French had built the Maginot Line, fortifications along the border with Germany. The line was intended to deter a German invasion across the Franco-German border and funnel an attack into Belgium, which could then be met by the best divisions of the French Army. A war would take place outside of French territory avoiding a repeat of the First World War.[16][17] The main section of the Maginot Line ran from the Swiss border and ended at Longwy. The area immediately to the north was covered by the heavily wooded Ardennes region.[18] General Philippe Pétain declared the Ardennes to be "impenetrable" as long as "special provisions" were taken. If so, he believed that any enemy force emerging from the forest would be vulnerable to a pincer attack and destroyed. The French commander-in-chief, Maurice Gamelin also believed the area to be safe from attack, noting that it "never favoured large operations". French war games held in 1938, with the scenario of a German armoured attack through the Ardennes, left the military with the impression that the region was still largely impenetrable and that this, along with the obstacle of the Meuse River, would allow the French time to bring up troops into the area to counter an attack.[19]

German invasion of Poland

In 1939, Britain and France offered military support to Poland in the likely case of a German invasion.[20] In the dawn of 1 September 1939, the German Invasion of Poland began. France and the United Kingdom declared war on 3 September, after an ultimatum for German forces to immediately withdraw their forces from Poland was not answered.[21][22] Following this, Australia (3 September), New Zealand (3 September), South Africa (6 September) and Canada (10 September) declared war on Germany. British and French commitments to Poland were met politically but they had adopted a long-war strategy and mobilised for defensive land operations against Germany, while a trade blockade was imposed and the pre-war re-armament was accelerated, ready for an eventual invasion of Germany.[23]

Phoney War

French soldier in the German village of Lauterbach in Saarland

On 7 September, in accordance with their alliance with Poland, France began the Saar Offensive with an advance from the Maginot Line 5 km (3.1 mi) into the Saar. France had mobilised 98 divisions (all but 28 of them reserve or fortress formations) and 2,500 tanks against a German force consisting of 43 divisions (32 of them reserves) and no tanks. The French advanced until they met the then thin and undermanned Siegfried Line. On 17 September, the French supreme commander, Maurice Gamelin gave the order to withdraw French troops to their starting positions; the last of them left Germany on 17 October. Following the Saar Offensive, a period of inaction called the Phoney War (the French Drôle de guerre, joke war or the German Sitzkrieg, sitting war) set in between the belligerents. Adolf Hitler had hoped that France and Britain would acquiesce in the conquest of Poland and quickly make peace. On 6 October, he made a peace offer to both Western powers.[24]

Other Languages
العربية: معركة فرنسا
български: Битка за Франция
čeština: Bitva o Francii
Deutsch: Westfeldzug
Bahasa Indonesia: Pertempuran Perancis
Bahasa Melayu: Pertempuran Perancis
Nederlands: Slag om Frankrijk
português: Batalha de França
Simple English: Battle of France
slovenčina: Bitka o Francúzsko
slovenščina: Bitka za Francijo
српски / srpski: Битка за Француску
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bitka za Francusku
татарча/tatarça: Франция кампаниясе
粵語: 法國戰役
中文: 法國戰役