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Dunkirk - bad luck or mistake?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by KnightMove, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    Was the decision to let Dunkirk be wiped by the Luftwaffe, while stopping the tank forces, a well-reasoned one; and the following escape of 340,000 allied soldiers just very, very bad luck, because there was too bad wheather for the Luftwaffe?

    Or was it simply a mistake to stop the tanks and rely on the whether-dependent Luftwaffe?

    See discussion:

    http://www.ww2forums.com/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000170
     
  2. Greenjacket

    Greenjacket Member

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    I disagree with the question - the failure of the Luftwaffe can't be pinned down to just the weather.
     
  3. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    In fact this is no reason to disagree with the question, it just confirms that it was a mistake, not bad luck. [​IMG]
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    My opinion is that they should have used BOTH the Luftwaffe and the army to attack Dunkerque. Not just put your trust on Luftwaffe OR the Wehrmacht.

    In that way to minimize the possibility of the forces to get away. I am not sure though if the Germans were aware of the "Dynamo" until it was too late or just thought it could never succeed?
     
  5. De Vlaamse Leeuw

    De Vlaamse Leeuw Member

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    I think that Goring shouldn't have told Hitler that "his Luftwaffe" would take care of the Brittish.

    If the army would have gotten its change, they would have captured a lot of them.
     
  6. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    It wasn't a mistake at the time, for Goodness' sake!

    The Army had very important things to do and it couldn't be used to reduce the pocket? One of those things was destroying the French Army... :rolleyes:

    Besides, who can tell you that the Panzers would have worked in the muddy and urban terrain of Dunkirk?

    And Göring was right. The Luftwaffe COULD smash the beachhead, or at least preventing the evacuation and giving the infantry enough time to sweep the pocket. Another thing; in German military tactics of WWII, the tanks were used to encircle, not to reduce enemy forces.

    The only thing I see as a mistake here, and I don't think they didn't consider it; it relaying on the weather. I suposse there were metheorologists who told marshal Göring that good weather over Dunkirk could occur. If not, I don't think he would have insisted in doing the job alone...
     
  7. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Also it must be remembered that to land-lubbers like Hitler and his generals the Channel was an obstacle against which the British were trapped, while to a maritime nation like the British, the Channel was an escape route.
    I don't think it even occured to Hitler that the majority of the British army would be able to escape if given the chance.
     
  8. De Vlaamse Leeuw

    De Vlaamse Leeuw Member

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    Good point Redcoat! This could be true.
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Been reading a bit more on the battles that took place just before Dunkirk. Seems like there was quite alot for the Germans to do like fighting in Calais. I read the 10th Pz division was meant to attack Dunkirk but was sent to Calais.

    " 3,000 British and 800 French troops, assisted by Royal Navy warships, held out from 22-27 May 1940 against two German panzer divisions. The town was flattened by round-the-clock bombing and only 30 of the 3,800-strong defencing force were evacuated before the town fell."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calais

    http://users.pandora.be/dave.depickere/Text/10thpanzerdrive.html

    Found in the net: Calais (Battleground Europe)
    by John Cooksey

    Immortalized in Churchill's speech to the House of Commons, the last stand of the Rifle Brigade and the Royal Tank Regiment at Calais in 1940 was a key factor in making the miracle of Dunkirk a reality.

    :confused:

    Personally not been earlier very interested in the battles like May 1940 Boulogne and Calais but it seems like they were very important in the process that lead to the miracle at Dunkirk.
     
  10. silentmidgetassasin

    silentmidgetassasin Member

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    I don't know too much abou the events surrounding Dunkirk, but in my opinion, it was a mistake to stop the tank forces. Yes, the Germans did have a lot more to do other than that, and yes, they were also fighting the FRench, but the French could wait, they probably could have still wiped out the French if they had taken the time to attack Dunkirk. It would have made a huge difference, especially in the soon-to-follow Battle of Britain. British morale would have been very low, and they would be extremely short handed (not to mention the loss of supplies, which happened anyway). The whole purpose of the Battle of Britain and Operation Eagle was to gain air superiority for the Germans so they could commence Operation Sea Lion. If the Germans had wiped out the forces trapped in Dunkirk, this would have been much more possible.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I´m a bit too much focused on the German side and the panzers so wondering about this one:

    "..according to Peter Wright, author of the famous book Spycatcher, the Germans didn't advance with their troops because they though that the HEAVILY mined British Channel would've wiped out the retreating ships. Unfortunately for the Germans, Mr Wright and his friends in the Royal Navy found out a way to degauss the ships of the RN to repel magnetic mines as to protect them from the mines."

    Comments?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Battle_of_Dunkirk
     
  12. Richard

    Richard Expert

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    Hermann Göring’s first blunder and to name two others Stalingrad & Tunisia.

    I for one am glad of Hitler’s three day halt order.
     
  13. bigiceman

    bigiceman Member

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    Wow, great thread you guys have resurrected.

    I read the other linked thread and the comments about the general's recommendations. I did not see comments yet that mention the internal politics of the German military. I have always had the opinion that Goring's standing with Hitler was one of the reasons that he got preferred treatment. Hitler believed in his grandeous claims of the ability of the Luftwaffe because he was a favored confidant. Would this have played into the scenario?
     
  14. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    There were many rescue operations. Dunkirk the most famous, has earned it's place in the history books. For the Highland division (less the Ark Force) trapped in St.Valery, the escape was near impossible. On the mouth of the harbour spandaus and cannons were hammering on the british men on the beach and rescue parties coming ashore.

    In my opinion you cannot win a land battle without combatants on the land itself. Sending bombers will not 'do it' for you. The Bombers hit both ships and MT, but the MT's would not have been rescued anyways. As for human casualties they would have swelled if attacked by large land forces. The problem was however that only a small part of the Wehrmacht was motorised, and within striking distance of the beachead. Another obstacle was that the armoured spearheads needed maintenance.

    As mentioned by others there was plenty of tasks to do for the Wehrmacht. The attack south and mopping up operations had to be carried out before the French could reorganise. One must remember that when the germans attacked south they did not fight against the french in a line formation. they were now deployed in a hedgehog, making it a tad more difficult to break through. If the Germans had persisted in wasting men and materiel against the Dunkirk beachead they might find the line to the south too strong. The french might have received the moral boost that they needed by a stalwarth defence in Dunkirk. After all the French leaders used the miracle of Dunkirk as a new Dolchenstoss legende: The British betrayed the French by fleeing the battlefield.
     
  15. No.9

    No.9 Ace

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    ”For the [51st] Highland division (less the Ark Force) trapped in St.Valery, the escape was near impossible.”

    The events with the 51st were political to say the lease Jaeger, being those we know about, but more than this there remains the question of who stopped the evacuation fleet sailing when it was ready and wanted to go, and for what reason? Author and former British Intelligence Officer, Richard Lamb, tried to resolve this for his book, Churchill as War Leader, and could not. He could have published his speculation, and possibly/probably faced litigation, but instead he just reported what he found, being that the documents covering orders for that time for that occurrence are completely missing from the National Archives. It’s not the case they are still withheld – they have disappeared. Until a smoking gun turns up, if ever, a cloud - or one of them at least - must hang over Louis Mountbatten.

    Those who know are very likely all dead now, and so far nothing they may have written specifically relating has ever reached the public domain. In terms of ‘maybe’ clues, in Alanbrooke’s diaries when being bullied by Churchill to fight on with the second BEF in France, Alanbrooke remarked to Churchill; ”You’ve already lost one Scottish Division, do you want to lose another?”. :eek: :confused:

    No.9
     
  16. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Saul David's 'Churchills sacrifice of the Highland Division' is much terser in it's critic of Churchill.

    No.9 the point I'm making is this: In St. Valery the Highland division was trapped by the 7th Armd. With the physical encirclement an escape was next to impossible. The lucky few that got away, such as Johnny Rhodes and his party of Gordons, scaled cliffs using belts and rifle straps and attracted the attention of boats OUTSIDE the German perimiter.

    However if the Highlanders were just bombed like at Dunkirk more could have escaped.

    However I am thankful that people are aware of the useless sacrifice of the highland division
     
  17. No.9

    No.9 Ace

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    I’d say a fair assessment Jaeger, in the context you apply. Given the weaponry of the time, it was another significant learning period for the use of air power which continued to be optimistic, and often, over optimistic.

    Previous yardsticks were no doubt Spain and the invasion of Poland. However, the ‘what-if’ capabilities of airpower in respect of its capabilities endured far beyond then for years to come. For example, Harris’s belief he could bomb Germany into submission, then around 25 years later the US belief they could do the same with the North Vietnamese.

    There came about the capability to destroy people en masse in one air act with the advent of the Atom bomb, and in more recent times with such as the Fuel-Air bomb as seen in the Kuwait War. But, and I’d say a big but, neither was about superior or concentrated or technically advanced air power, but about advances in aerial delivered devices. Hiroshima and Nagasaki each entailed one device dropped from a single plane, and the bomb in the Kuwait War was just rolled out of the back of a transport.

    No.9
     
  18. Fortune

    Fortune Member

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    aierial deleverd objects were quite dangerous back in the day...me could be pulled out with them while puching them out of planes...
     
  19. No.9

    No.9 Ace

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    :confused:
    No more than holding onto a grenade and throwing the pin?
    [​IMG]

    No.9
     
  20. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Kai, you say you were not very interested in the battles of 40 for Boulougne and Calais, in my view the action at Calais was a great feat of arms by a recently arrived brigade that were given no option but to fight, there was to be no evacuation, their commander was told no boats would come to take them off as with the Guards at Boulougne. In fact the Navy lost a few ships at Bolougne in a brilliantly described action by small ships tied up in harbour waiting for orders to evacuate or leave or sink....Small shps guns shooting at tanks on the hills surrounding, even so much as shooting at them in the harbour before being given permission nearly too late to leave..HMS Keith has a brilliant after action report included in a few of the Dunkirk evacuation books...

    As for Calais and the rest, you should not forget either the Lille action notwithstanding the old old stories of the French not being up to it...which I dont personally agree with anyway..but no Lille, no Dunkirk, no Dunkirk and change your history books for all time, Halifax takes over.. and God knows what happens then.
    And lets not forget who formed the biggest part of the Dunkirk rearguard...Ah OUI...
     

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