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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: World War II: Blitzkrieg - The Lightning War - Full Documentary

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(horse neighing)

- [Narrator] Early morning, September the 1st 1939.

German troops cross the Polish border

and, without active aggression, they bring to an end

the last hope of peace for Europe.

World War II has begun.

(hooves echoing)

For the previous 10 years, the League of Nations

had been trying to preserve the increasingly fragile peace

through constant calls for world disarmament.

But those calls had fallen on deaf ears

as a number of nations had been invaded

and overrun by Germany, Italy and Japan,

the so-called Axis powers.

Now, it was the turn of Poland.

(fire crackling)

Her allies, France and Britain, gave Germany an ultimatum

to withdraw her troops, but Hitler simply ignored them

and his tanks roared across the Polish countryside.

(engines roaring)

The world was stunned.

There was none of that patriotic fervor

which the outbreak of World War I had witnessed.

Not even in Germany.

The horrors of that first World War were still remembered

and, now, there was the added fear

of the massive destruction of cities from air raids.

Germany had, for years, laid claim

to parts of Poland's territory.

And that was Hitler's excuse for this invasion.

France and Britain alone seemed prepared

to support Poland against him.

Fortunately for them, Hitler's ally, Mussolini,

dictator of Italy was content to stay out on the sidelines.

But France and Britain had hoped for Russia's support.

Instead, Russia had just recently astonished the world

by signing a non-aggression pact with the Nazis

- the old enemies of Stalin and his government.

To make matters worse, the Russians themselves

invaded Poland in the east on the pretext

of historic claims to the territory.

(cannon firing)

In attacking Poland, Hitler thus knew he had nothing

to fear from America or Russia.

But he had to move fast to take Poland

before France and Britain could actively oppose him.

The military answer lay in the technique of Blitzkrieg.

(cannons firing)

(plane engine roaring)

The notion of Blitzkrieg or Lightning War had been conceived

by the Germans during the 1930s

and even put into limited practice during their involvement

three years earlier in the Spanish Civil War.

(explosions booming)

Blitzkrieg was based on surprise attack.

Two main elements were involved.

The weapon on the ground

was the Panzer Division of high speed tanks.

And they attacked in liaison

with the dive bomber from the air.

The most famous of these was the terrifying

Stuka JU87 dive bomber.

(plane engines roaring)

The Stuka's part was to pound away

at the enemy on the ground, carving a path for the tanks

to thrust in and divide the enemy troops.

Those troops, once isolated, could then be quickly mopped up

by the German infantry following the tanks.

But there was a problem.

The infantry on foot could fall

too far behind their speeding tanks.

Through her position at the heart of Europe,

Poland had long and numerous frontiers to defend.

To the east lay Russia.

And, in the west, Germany.

While to the north was East Prussia,

a part of the German Reich.

There were also German forces in Slovakia to the south.

The defense of such a long, multinational frontier

placed large demands upon the Polish army,

an army relatively ill-equipped.

Her air force was less than a fifth the size of Germany's

and her weapons mostly obsolete.

Almost within minutes of the start of the German invasion,

Germany also attacked by sea as her battleship,

the Schleswig-Holstein fired on Poland's fortress

in Danzig harbor, a city which the Germans

regarded historically as theirs.

A main aim of the Blitzkrieg was to destroy

Poland's air force as far as possible on the ground.

When Polish aircraft did manage to get into the air,

they fought with ferocious courage.

But their air force was simply no match for the might

of the Luftwaffe, Germany's air force.

The German bombers pounded railways,

roads and bridges incessantly, cutting off communications,

hindering Polish troop movements everywhere.

Each time the Luftwaffe softened up resistance

through air attack, the German tanks moved in to encircle

the Polish infantry divisions.

(engine roaring)

Then, as the German infantry mopped up the isolated

Polish troops, the German tanks pressed further on.

These tactics rapidly resulted

in large numbers of Polish prisoners of war.

In spite of their courageous stand,

the Poles were unable to stem the enemy advance.

(explosion booming)

The Germans reached the Vistula river

on the outskirts of Warsaw, just 15 days later.

(explosions booming)

Even now, the Poles held out, hoping that Britain and France

would attack Germany itself from the west.

And, indeed, the French did advance a short distance

into actual German territory in the neighboring Saarland.

But the French generals were unwilling to push much further

from the protection of their Maginot Line defenses.

Meanwhile, the Polish people stood their ground

against overwhelming odds.

In fact, the Poles held out so successfully,

that the Germans were unable to take Warsaw on the ground.

So they turned to their air force

to soften up the resistance.

The people of Warsaw now faced the horrors

of aerial bombardment, which had become

so terrifyingly familiar to earlier victims,

such as the citizens of Guernica in Spain and the teeming

populations of Shanghai and Nanking in China.

But the people of Poland's capital still carried on.

So far, the Germans had overrun the Polish corridor,

which used to separate them

from the territory of East Prussia.

Now, southward from East Prussia itself,

encircling German thrusts had isolated Poland's capital.

While southern Poland now also faced attack

from German troops in Slovakia.

But the final blow came with the sudden attack

in the back from Russia as Russian troops

poured across her border from the east.

Poland now faced inevitable defeat.

With most of the Polish forces

concentrated on the other side of the country

to the west against the part of Germany,

the Russians met little resistance and were able

to advance at great speed into Poland.

Meantime, the German army swept

on eastwards almost unopposed.

Within two days of Russia's attack, the two invading armies

met at Brest-Litovsk, the historic site

where they had met before during the previous world war

when Russia had signed a peace treaty with Germany.

Even now, the conquest of Poland was still not final.

The Germans and Russians got down

to what they expected to be a simple mopping up

of the Polish army's last remnants.

But it was proving more difficult than they had expected.

The Poles not only held out, they were fighting back.

(explosions booming)

The Germans had still not been able to take Warsaw

and dropped leaflets over the city demanding surrender.

But the Poles ignored them so the bombing went on.

By now, all public services were destroyed.

No gas, no electricity, no water,

except what they could take from the River Vistula.

As food supplies ran out and the danger

of disease increased, the city was finally

forced to surrender.

And on the 27th of September,

less than one month from the day they crossed the border,

the Germans triumphantly entered Poland's capital.

Some Poles escaped to France and Britain

to form their own fighting units.

In Paris, the Polish General Sikorski

even set up a government in exile.

In Poland, yet another week went by before the nation

finally surrendered on October the 5th 1939

after an unbelievable valiant struggle

against two major and ruthless powers.

In 1919, Poland had become an independent sovereign state.

Now, a mere 20 years on, her freedom came to an end.

She was now partitioned.

The Germans took over in the west.

The Russians occupied the eastern half of Poland.

It didn't take long for the Nazis to impose

their brutal tyranny over western Poland.

It was the same in the east under the Russians.

But the full extent of Soviet brutality wasn't realized

until later after the Germans invaded Russia.

They discovered the bodies of 4,000 Polish soldiers

in a mass grave at Katyn in Western Russia in 1943.

The Poles had been murdered and buried there by the Russians

during their occupation of eastern Poland.

With the defeat of Poland now behind it,

Hitler was able to turn to his main aim,

to attack and occupy the small

neutral states of the Low countries.

And, from there, undertake the invasion

of Germany's age-old enemy, France.

His confidence was increased by the fact that France

and, indeed, Britain had not been ready

to provide military support for the Poles.

In fact, with the fall of Poland,

France had even brought her troops back home

out of Germany's Saarland territory

which they had briefly invaded and occupied earlier on.

With that move, the French had now retreated

to the security of their Maginot Line

with this inherent psychology of defense rather than attack.

Britain, for her part, was even more ill-prepared for war.

She had done little to equip her army

with modern weapons during two decades of peace

and, in no position to send adequate forces

to the continent, apart from a few divisions to France

after declaring war on Germany.

(boat horn blasting)

The problem with the Maginot Line was that it had been built

only along France's border with Germany to defend them

against direct attack from Germany itself.

But what if the Germans should be so unsporting

as to overrun neutral Belgium and attack France

from her undefended northern border?

So, somewhat late in the day, work actually started

on extending the Maginot Line westward

along the Franco-Belgium border

from Luxembourg towards the Channel.

Fortunately for the Allies, the winter of 1939/40

was unusually bitter and both the Allied and German armies

could do little more than sit it out.

In fact, the Blitzkrieg was then being called the Sitzkrieg,

the period more generally known as the Phoney War.

However, it provided a vital breathing space

for Britain and France to hastily improve their defenses.

In Britain, the great evacuation of schoolchildren

from the cities had been successfully carried out

and the children were well-established in the countryside.

Gas masks had been issued to everyone

and it was now compulsory

to carry them personally everywhere.

Both the Luftwaffe and Allied air forces had so far

held back from bombing each other's civilian population,

aware that that could be a double-edged sword.

The RAF had confined its aerial sorties

to attacks on military targets only

such as warships of the German fleet.

And those attacks had not been very productive.

As for civilian targets, the main RAF activity

was the dropping of propaganda leaflets.

By the end of the winter, the bitter weather had frozen

practically all military activity except, perhaps, at sea.

The German submarines, the Untersee or U-boats,

were unaffected by winter weather and were starting

to take their toll on allied shipping.

In fact, in one of the first incidents of the war,

on September the 3rd, a German U-boat

sank the passenger liner, the Athenia, in mid-Atlantic

killing over 100 people on board, including 26 Americans.

Britain immediately set up the convoy system

and declared a total blockade of Germany,

but it all took time to organize and the Royal Navy

was seriously short of escort vessels.

As a result, the U-boats sank more than a hundred ships

before the end of the year, though, these were mostly ships

that were sailing outside of the convoy system on their own.

(explosion booming)

The U-boats sank not only merchant vessels,

but also British naval ships including the aircraft carrier

Courageous and the battleship Royal Oak

in home waters at Scapa Flow near the Orkneys.

The U-boat skipper, Gunther Prien,

became an overnight hero in Germany.

Because of Hitler's relatively small U-boat force,

he had to use his modern surface fleet as well

to attack British shipping.

One of the most dramatic of the war's naval encounters

took place within the first month of the war.

The battleship Graf Spee was sinking British shipping

in the south Atlantic and Indian oceans.

She was eventually located by three British cruisers

operating from the Falkland islands.

On the 13th of December, they fought her

off the Argentine coast near the mouth of the River Plate.

Although outgunned, the British ships forced her

to seek refuge in neutral Montevideo harbor.

(waves crashing)

Captain Langsdorff, believing that a larger British force

had now arrived and was waiting for them

at the estuary of the Plate, scuttled his ship

rather than allow her to be sunk by his enemies.

A few days later, he committed suicide.

(waves crashing)

This was about the only positive success

that French and British arms enjoyed in 1939.

The crews of two of the British ships, Exeter and Ajax,

were feted as heroes on the return to Britain.

(crowd cheering)

Anglo-French attention also turned

to Scandinavia before the year was out.

Stalin feared that his small northern neighbor, Finland,

which had thrown off the yoke of Russian rule in 1919,

would allow German forces in.

This posed a threat to Leningrad, Russia's second city.

It also endangered the vital Arctic port of Murmansk.

He, therefore, demanded of the Finns

an exchange of territory

offering them a desolate Russian region in return

for Finnish areas which would secure Murmansk and Leningrad.

The Finns refused.

And, on the 30th of November 1939,

Stalin's forces attacked them.

Given Finland's massive numerical inferiority and manpower

and her lack of modern weapons,

it should have been an easy Russian victory.

(explosions booming)

Yet the Finns held out inflicting

very heavy casualties on the Russians.

The fact was that Stalin's brutal purges of the 1930s

had so depleted the senior ranks of the Soviet armed forces

that they were now commanded by inexperienced officers.

Semyon Timoshenko, one of the few senior officers

to survive the purges, now took charge

and attacked again in February 1940.

His land offensive and Russian air attacks

soon began to tell.

(explosions booming)

(fire crackling)

In early March, the Finns sued for peace.

They were forced to surrender the territory

that the Russians had originally demanded.

The result was a mass exodus of Finns from those regions.

The western Allies had wanted to help the Finns

by passing troops through the port of Narvik

in neutral Norway, but Narvik was vital for Germany too

since Swedish iron ore bound for Germany

also passed through this port.

The German navy was also attracted by Norway's fjords

as bases for its operations against Britain.

Hitler, therefore, ordered invasion plans to be drawn up.

Before his plans were completed,

the British destroyer Cossack entered a Norwegian fjord

in February 1940 and rescued British prisoners of war

from the German prison ship Altmark

which had taken refuge there.

This incident accelerated Hitler's invasion plans

and his invasion fleet set sail on April the 6th

to occupy Norwegian ports before the Allies.

The German fleet was spotted by an RAF aircraft the next day

and the British home fleet left port to intercept.

But a sudden gale blew up and prevented the British

from intercepting the German invasion fleet.

On the 8th of April, the Germans began their audacious

attacks on Norway as well as Denmark further south.

They landed at a number of points on the Norwegian coast.

Other forces landed in the Oslofjord and parachutes

were used to secure Stavanger airfield.

(plane engines roaring)

The unprepared and weak Norwegian forces could do little

in the face of all these simultaneous attacks.

(plane engines roaring)

By the afternoon of April 9th, the Germans were in complete

control of all seven Norwegian ports

where they had landed that morning.

(footsteps echoing)

For the first time in more than 200 years,

the people of Norway saw an invading army

parading through their capital city of Oslo.

The Germans began to advance north

to link up with their other landing forces.

They quickly spread through the country.

Small patrols occupied every strategic village.

Parachute troops landed high in the mountains.

Air raids on towns sent defenseless civilians

fleeing in total confusion.

(explosions booming)

Women and children, even able-bodied men,

poured onto any available cart to get out of the city.

Since the outbreak of the war,

Norway had insisted on staying neutral.

Now, that neutrality had left them without allies,

isolated and defenseless.

Before the British navy or ground troops

could come to Norway's aid, the Germans has gained control

of all her principal ports.

But British, French and free Polish units plunged in

and made several landings on the coast.

On the 10th and 12th of April, British destroyers

entered Narvik fjord to attack the German warships there.

During their engagement, they sank nine German destroyers

at a cost of two of their own.

They also attacked from the air.

The attack succeeded in isolating

the German ground force at Narvik.

(explosions booming)

The Allies landed and took the town

holding it for almost two months.

(explosions booming)

They also took their first prisoners since the war began.

But, in the end, the German overwhelming superiority

in the air proved to be the deciding factor.

It isolated the Allied landing from further support

and forced them to withdraw from their beachhead positions

under terrific aerial bombardment.

(explosions booming)

Against all odds, the Allies recaptured the port of Narvik,

but by June 1940 they were forced to finally abandon it.

Once more, German arms had proved triumphant.

Back home, the German people were jubilant

at the constant news of endless victories

by their armed forces.

But even more spectacular news was soon to greet them.

So far, the struggle for Norway had in some respects

been a distraction for Hitler from more important

strategic aims against Britain and France.

But he needed to secure his vital supplies

of precious iron ore from Sweden

which would have been threatened if the Allies

had controlled the Norwegian ports.

His primary aim was the conquest of the Low countries

and northern France as bases for its planned

onslaught against Britain.

Earlier that year, the Allies had been wondering

whether Hitler was turning away from the idea

of invading France and, possibly, Britain.

It seemed now that Hitler had lost the opportunity.

In the words of the British Prime Minister,

Neville Chamberlain, Hitler had missed the bus.

In fact, there had been a major debate in the German camp

over how the attack should be carried out.

The German army in the west was organized

into three army groups.

The original plan called for Field Marshall

von Bock's Army Group B in the north,

with the bulk of the tanks, to make the main effort

into Holland and Belgium and then sweep down the coast.

Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A

would support him on the southern flank.

Wilhelm von Leeb's smaller Army Group C

would remain on the defensive in front of the Maginot Line .

(dramatic music)

Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group A,

and more especially his Chief of Staff, Erich von Manstein,

objected to this plan.

It was too obvious and would leave a large French army

intact at the end of the operation.

Rather, the main thrust should be made by the army group

in the center with the aim of cutting off

the northern Allied armies.

Army Group B would overrun Holland

and hold the Allied attention in the north.

While Army Group C retained its defensive role

in front of the Maginot Line.

Hitler eventually agreed to this plan in mid March,

but the Norway campaign delayed its execution.

The Allied decision to establish their defense

in the north on an advance to the River Dyle

in neutral Belgium, the moment the Germans attacked,

played into the hands of the von Manstein plan.

The hilly and wooded Ardennes region of southeast Belgium,

through which the main German thrust would later come,

was mistakenly regarded by the Allies

as impassable to tanks.

The Allies labored under other disadvantages.

(guns firing)

For a start, there was the matter of Belgium's neutrality.

Belgium refusal to allow British and French troops

across the frontier, meant that the Allies

could not carry out practice maneuvers in the area

where they intended to fight.

The Allies, especially the British,

had reinforced their armies to a higher level

during the winter, but many British divisions

were still ill-equipped.

Communications at the top were poor

and Allied Commander, Maurice Gamelin, was an academic

rather than a fighting general.

While the Allies actually had more tanks than the Germans,

some 3,300 as against almost 2,600,

many, like these British Matildas, were dedicated

to supporting British infantry

and were relatively slow moving.

The massive French Char Bis suffered

from having a one-man turret which meant that the occupant

had to both command the tank

and operate its gun at the same time.

The most serious Ally weakness was that Maginot mentality

which produced a rigidity of thought ill-suited

to coping with the highly fluid German Blitzkrieg.

The German attack was finally mounted

before dawn on the 10th of May.

German aircraft attacked Belgium, Dutch and French air bases

in order to destroy as much as possible

of the Allied air forces on the ground.

(guns firing)

Shortly afterwards, the German ground forces

crossed the frontiers of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

(dramatic music)

(fires roaring)

In the north, paratroops were used to secure vital bridges

needed for the advance of von Bock's tanks.

A complete division was landed on Dutch airfields

and roads in order to seize other vital points.

The Dutch, taking note of what happened in Norway,

put obstacles on runways and this caused heavy casualties.

(fires roaring)

Nevertheless, the Dutch army with its obsolete weapons

was no match for the highly tuned German war machine.

And much of their country had been overrun

in just five days.

On 14th of May, the Germans demanded the surrender

of the large port of Rotterdam.

The Dutch hesitated and, immediately, a large force

of German bombers took off to attack the city.

While the bombers were airborne,

the Dutch surrendered Rotterdam.

Unfortunately, the German bombers could not be contacted

or stopped and much of Rotterdam was needlessly destroyed.

Once again, those who foresaw the results

of aerial bombardment were proved right.

Next day the Dutch government capitulated.

As with Holland, the Germans had to face the problem

in northeast Belgium of initially tackling

waterways covered by guns.

(explosions booming)

The key to these defenses was the fort of Eben-Emael

which was attacked by glider-borne paratroop engineers.

(explosions booming)

Using hollow charge explosives and flamethrowers,

they forced a surrender much to the surprise of the Belgium

high command who believed Eben-Emael to be impregnable.

(guns firing)

(explosions booming)

The main advance into Belgium could now get properly

underway and the Germans were soon thrusting westwards.

(explosions booming)

The Belgian forces, their exhaustion growing,

withdrew back towards the River Dyle.

(hooves pounding)

Meanwhile, the best of the French and British armies

had crossed into Belgium on the 10th of May

to take up the positions on the River Dyle.

They ran into swarms of refugees coming the other way

which, in fact, often hindered the Allied armies' progress.

The Allied commander thought that the lightning tactics

of Blitzkrieg could operate only over flat open country.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

The Allies had believed that the well-wooded

and hilly country of the Ardennes forest,

with its numerous small rivers, would severely slow down

the westward thrust of the speeding German tanks and troops.

So they hadn't defended the area thoroughly

and the Germans met little opposition.

The German tanks advanced almost unimpeded

through the Ardennes preceded by well-trained

battalions of engineers.

They cleared pathways for the tanks to follow.

In fact, the Ardennes forests proved to be no barrier

at all to the techniques of Blitzkrieg.

(engines roaring)

In a mere three days, the Germans reached the banks

of the River Meuse infinitely faster

than the French could ever have believed.

Strategically, the Germans should have paused here

to bring up heavy artillery before attempting

to cross the river.

But, instead, they again relied

on the now well-tried weapon, the dive bomber.

They blasted the French positions across the Meuse.

With feverish haste, the Germans laid a barrage

across the river with anything

and everything they could shoot.

(explosions booming)

This tremendous concentration of firepower

continued all through the night.

(explosions booming)

By the following day, elite shock troops

were able to get across the river.

(guns firing)

These shock troops held the bridgehead

until the engineers arrived and built their own bridges.

(explosions booming)

Then, without losing a minute,

the main armored force poured across these bridges

for the all important breakthrough into France

and onto the first main French town of Sedan.

(engines roaring)

The French now tried to use their four-armored divisions.

One only just formed and commanded by Charles De Gaulle.

These attempted to strike at the ever more exposed

flanks of the Panzer thrust.

But their cumbersome commander control system

and poor planning meant that they were sent

into battle piecemeal.

And the Germans had little problem warding them off

inflicting heavy casualties.

By the 15th of May, the Allied armies were holding firm

against pressure from von Bock's army group in the north.

But General Gamelin now became aware of the growing threat

from von Rundstedt's Panzers to the south.

He, therefore, ordered his forces to begin withdrawal

from the River Dyle defense position.

This sudden order to withdraw dismayed the Allied troops

who felt that they had been giving

a good account of themselves.

It was also bewildering for the local population.

The growing flood of refugees clogged roads

and made the withdrawal that much more difficult.

Von Rundstedt's Panzer Divisions

continued to sweep westwards creating more

and more confusion the deeper they penetrated.

Gamelin himself was now incapable of making any decisions.

And, on the 19th of May, was replaced by Maxime Weygand.

At the same time, Marshal Henri Petain, hero of Verdun

in the first world war, was made deputy Prime Minister.

Weygand tried to coordinate British and French tank attacks

into the flanks of the Panzer thrust.

Although the British temporarily halted some German attacks,

the Allied attacks were repulsed once more.

The German drive continued.

But the Allied tank attacks had made

the German high command nervous.

This was especially because the main body

of the German infantry was falling

further and further behind.

The exhaustion of the German tank crews was increasing

and a temporary halt was ordered.

But General Heinz Guderian, one of the prime architects

of Blitzkrieg, was determined to allow the Allies

no respite and pressed on once more.

On the 20th of May, his tanks reached the channel coast

at the mouth of the Somme.

The northern Allied armies fighting their way back

were now cut off.

Guderian advanced north and seized the port of Boulogne

before going on to attack Calais.

Here, a hastily organized British brigade, had just arrived

from England to reinforce the French defenders.

(explosions booming)

The reinforced garrison put up stiff resistance

and there was fierce fighting for two days.

(explosions booming)

Eventually, German superior strength toll

and the defenders were forced to surrender.

This left the northern Allied armies with the German noose

even tighter around their necks.

They were totally cut off from the French armies

in the Maginot Line and south of the River Somme.

The Belgians, their country almost totally overrun,

considered that further resistance was useless

and they now sought an armistice.

On the 27th of May, they surrendered.

The vacuum created by the surrender forced

the British and French into an even smaller perimeter.

Meanwhile, Lord Gott the British commander, had decided

that the evacuation of his force to England was the only

option other than surrender especially since German pressure

was intense on the Allied pocket which was based on Dunkirk.

The British troops, therefore, began to assemble

on the beaches here for what was to become known

as the miracle of Dunkirk.

Back in England, a large fleet of vessels

ranging from destroyers to cross-channel ferries,

down to small pleasure craft, had been hastily assembled.

They began to make their way across the channel

in order to take off the troops from the beaches.

The evacuation began on the 27th of May.

But the Germans made one mistake which brought

vital additional time to the evacuation.

Hitler halted the German tanks because Herman Goring

had persuaded him to allow the Luftwaffe

to finish off the Allied forces.

Several vessels were sunk.

RAF fighters based in southern England

made it possible for the evacuation to continue.

Eventually, though, with the French beaches

themselves now under direct artillery fire

and the sinking of ships increasing,

the evacuation had to be halted on the 3rd of June.

No less than 220,000 British and 120,000 French and Belgians

had been rescued to enable them to fight another day.

But they had to leave all their vehicles

and heavy weapons behind as well as many men who now faced

a long period as prisoners of war.

It had been a devastating defeat.

But the battle of France was not yet over.

And there was more work to be done before the German troops

could enjoy the fruits of victory.

On the 5th of June, while Army Group C continued to tie down

the Maginot defenses, the Germans struck south

across the River Somme and Aigne.

As usual, the Luftwaffe prepared the ground.

(explosions booming)

Initially, French resistance was fierce and the Germans

had to fight hard to break out of the bridgeheads.

(explosions booming)

But soon they began to make progress.

A trickle of surrendering French soon turned into a flood.

The Panzer columns raced onwards

with Paris now under threat.

The French government declared it an open city

on the 11th of June in order to avoid the devastation

which had befallen Warsaw and Rotterdam.

Four days later, the Germans secured the prize

which had alluded them in 1914.

Parisians could only watch stunned.

On the 16th of June, the French sought an armistice.

By this time, the Germans had finally begun to attack

the Maginot Line which had been encircled

by the offensive from the north.

The French defenders could do no more

than offer token resistance.

(guns firing)

The Germans soon reduced the force.

They then occupied the Maginot Line.

France's impregnable bastion had fallen.

The French situation had been aggravated

on the 10th of June when Mussolini, who had stayed out

of the conflict in spite of pressure from Hitler,

declared war on Britain and France.

10 days later, expecting little or no opposition,

his troops invaded southern France,

but were surprised by the firm resistance they met

and made little headway.

(guns firing)

Even though the British had had to evacuate

their forces from France, they did try

to send out another expeditionary force.

This time to Cherbourg, but by the time this was organized

and began to arrive at Cherbourg, it was too late

and it had to return to England.

Even if it had been landed, the force was most unlikely

to make any difference to the outcome.

The German forces had overrun and occupied

seven European nations over a period of less than 10 months.

In actual battle time, the period was less than 10 weeks.

The concept of Blitzkrieg or Lightning War,

had proved its effectiveness beyond question.

Winston Churchill had taken over

as Prime Minister on the 10th of May,

the day the German invasion of the west began.

He realized that Britain would be Hitler's next target

and began to prepare accordingly.

Across the English channel, on the 22nd of June 1940,

the French were brought to the armistices table

which was in the very same railway carriage

where the Germans had been made

to sign the November 1918 armistice.

It was the final indignity for the French,

but a moment of supreme triumph for Hitler.

(dramatic music)

The Description of World War II: Blitzkrieg - The Lightning War - Full Documentary