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Lecture 4

388 - Week 4 – Lecture 1 - the Battle of Britain .docx

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HIST 388
Peter Hoffmann

Week 4 – Lecture 1 History 388 – the Second World War The Battle of Britain Dortmund, Essen,Aachen, Hannover, Mers-el-Kebir, Ribbentrop 10 May 1940 – GermanArmy Group B in the North andAin the South attacked through Belgium and Holland into France 11 May – Cabinet authorised the bombing of the German hinterland – the first result of this were night attacks on 16 and 17 th th Maythy the RAF on Aachen, Essen and Dortmund, Hannover 13 May – Churchill made his famous speech – ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ ‘we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history… we have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind…many, many long months of struggle and suffering… the aim is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be because without victory there is no survival’ - no France because they had dropped out – no Russia and no America (though there were tendencies esp. FDR, there were also neutrality acts etc.) o mood in the Congress and the mood in the US population was not for war, intervention or sending soldiers overseas 15 May – Netherlands capitulated 18 May – Belgium surrendered unconditionally 18 June – France asked for an armistice – signed in the ferrier de l’armistice nd th 22 June – armistice signed and went into effect on the 25 defeat of France = the British were in a desperate position: the BEF had escaped as it had not been able to stay on the continent and fight to stop Germany; Britain had abandoned France = militarily sound decision given the situation, but not entirely unquestionable German armoured operations were a strategic masterstroke as the British and French were beaten – and knew it 14 and 15 June- Churchill to FDR – ‘events are moving downwards at a pace where they will pass beyond the control of the American public, when at last it has ripened have you considered what offers Hitler will choose to make to France’ might offer attractive options for France in exchange for their fleet i.e.Alsace-Lorraine - only a declaration that the USAmight enter the war has the potential to save France (asked 3 days pre-armistice) - ‘although the present government and I would never feel to send the fleet across theAtlantic… a point may be reached in the struggle where the present ministers no longer have control of affairs… vassal state of the British empire’ o starving population = entire submission to the German will o fate of the British fleet = could be decisive to the future of the USA– if joined to Japan, Italy and Germany, overwhelming seapower would be in Hitler’s hands which he might not use in moderation  this revolution in sea power might happen very quickly and long before the USAcould prepare against it  if we go down, there may be a United States of Europe under Hitler’s command  if we have to keep the bulk of our destroyers on he East Coast, how can we cope with an Italian attack on the food trade by which we live  please send 35 destroyers to aid us until the end of the year 2 real threats = Hitler was preparing for invasion whilst executing attack on the food and trade w. supply war against Britain - since the repeal of the corn laws Britain had to rely on the control of the sea lanes for her food supply = she needed a superior navy dated back to 1846 as the population of Britain no longer relied solely on British agriculture o imported at high prices w. high tariffs that blocked cheap imports nd 2 July – Hitler organised plans for the invasion of Great Britain w. Operation Sealion  was planning, at the same time, for his main war against the Soviet Union  although he referred to the war against Britain as the ‘chief enterprise in progress’as late as Autumn 1941 = ‘the two main belligerents cannot defeat each other’ the war against Belgium, Holland, France, Denmark, Norway and GB were subsidiary and secondary wars insofar as his main interest was to build a large landmass and base for the future rule of the world th st th 5 and 31 July – ordered preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union – the CiC of theArmy suggested to Hitler on the 30 July 1940 that it would be better to maintain friendship with Russia – as presumed in August 1939 – in order to avoid a war on two fronts - Hitler didn’t want a war on two fronts and had often spoke of avoiding it -> method was to be instead ‘taking care of any interfering powers such as France and Britain before the attack on the Soviet Union’ - Hitler’s preparations against Britain were somewhat halfhearted as he knew the Germany did not have the resources for a protracted war against Britain 31 July – he spoke with the CiC of the Navy,Admiral _____, whom said preparations for landing would be ready by 13 th th th September unless circumstances occurred i.e. weather (had made an earlier invasion of the British Isles, inadvisable – 20 -28 August; end of September was also a period of stormy weather also; beginning of October – better conditions) - decision that the morning was not favourable because reconnaissance would be needed = 2 hours after high tide was best - attack at dawn required travel by night so at least a half moon was required = limited the opportunities to a few days per month - the best time of year was May and June o Hitler said he was taking note of the possible weather conditions and that there was nothing he could do about it  as far as enemy action was concerned (from of CoGS war diary; deemed the army to be in a poor condition w. limited combat experience and it hadn’t been analysed by themselves; in 8 to 10 months they were probably able to organise new formations and could have 30-35 divisions ready by spring which was an argument in favour of early invasion  Didn’t see much chance of successful propaganda because against that stood British hopes for aid from Russia and America  unsuccessful to tell the British they were alone and beaten The air war began inAugust  if the result of the air war was unsatisfactory for Germany then the preparations for invasion would be halted - in the 8 to 10 days, a decision about whether or not to go ahead will be taken - army was prepared for the 15 September - Hitler then emphasised his scepticism re. the technical difficulties of the landing situation  happy with the performance of the navy, but there might be problems o Navy was 15% of that of the adversary and he has 8% of destroyers compared to those of Britain o In terms of naval defence, Germany had nothing  coastal defence was also fairly limited  Assuming that the invasion of Britain will not take place, we must eliminate the hope of Britain for support from others…. We have really won the war – France is eliminated, Italy was tying up British forces in the Mediterranean, submarine and air war can decide the war but that may take 1 to 2 years, Britain’s only hope is Russia andAmerica – when British hope for Russia disappears, America will also drop away as the elimination of Russia means upgrading of Japan to such an extent that the USA cannot afford to engage in both sides of conflict When theAmericans had been pushed back by the Japanese in 1941, it turns out Hitler wasn’t wholly wrong  Russia was the East Asian source of attack against the Japanese whilst the Japanese had their programme, like the Russians, that was to be completed by the end of the war - Russia did not have to say to Britain that it did not want Germany great, large or powerful ▯ if they did then Britain would hope for Russian aid o If Russian was defeated then England’s last hope was eliminated  all of Europe and the Balkans belongs to Germany o Decision therefore that Russia would be eliminated in Spring 1941  Hitler built up the conclusion that Russia was the principle object of the battle  Russia must be smashed – the more quickly, the better, but the operation makes sense only if it can be done in one go  gaining some space is not enough and standing still in the winter is dangerous • Accurate evaluation but it did turn against themselves It didn’t really make sense however to engage in a 2 front war, in order to avoid a 2 front war  the argument that superseded this point was that if it was done quickly enough, the British would lose their hope and give in - Hitler hoped to get the British out of the war and earlier in July he told his Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, that he was going to make the British a most generous offer ▯ speech was made but it had no offer in it! ▯few sentences that boiled down to give it up there’s no way you can win o If he had made attractive offers – who knows?!  ministers may have lost control of the public and the Commons but instead this did not occur o Instead, the siege of the British Isles began Attack on the food and trade and the preparation of the other rival threat to Britain of invasion  also sought to seize Gibraltar and initiate German participation in North and East Africa as well as forming a power bloc that extended from Madrid to Tokyo From Mid-July, Sealion was still being prepared  would have stretched the German navy which had suffered heavy losses in Norway and was unable to control the English Channel, enough to protect the crossing - 31 July – Sealion was made contingent upon the success of the air war; Gibraltar and the Egyptian project failed as Franco did not want to become a Nazi puppet and Mussolini wanted to build an Italian empire himself in the E Mediterranean - German supply war against Britain WAS dangerous – until 1942: the Germans were sinking more shipping tonnage than the British and US were building o September 1940 – Britain received 50 old American destroyers in exchange for access to British bases in Jamaica, Trinidad, British Guyana, Bermuda and theAbalon peninsula  British andAmericans soon used the convoy system and blockade to counter German naval operations  MID-TERM: HOW WAS THE BATTLE OF THEAtlantic WON? Convoy system, shipbuilding, aerial supremacy and decoding • Battle of theAtlantic = easy and clear that decoded intelligence was a decisive factor  The British were already able to decode the Luftwaffe signals as early as May 1940  they were beginning to be able to decode German Naval signals from May 1941  TheAmericans read the Japanese dispatches from May 1940 but it involved a bit of a delay – not real- time Air War: two aspects to air war that should be kept in mind = that of a general strategic air war inc. all sorts of
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