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Blitzkrieg

Blitzkrieg The First Phase: Dominance of the Axis Man for man, the German and Polish forces were an even match. Hitler committed about 1.5 million troops, and the Polish commander, Marshal Edward Smig?y-Rydz, expected to muster 1.8 million. That was not the whole picture, however. The Germans had six panzer (armored) and four motorized divisions; the Poles had one armored and one motorized brigade and a few tank battalions. The Germans’ 1600 aircraft were mostly of the latest types. Half of the Poles’ 935 planes were obsolete. Result of German Blitzkrieg on Poland On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland.

The Polish army expected the attack to come along the Polish frontiers. But Hitler introduced a new kind of war called a blitzkrieg, which means lightning war. Waves of German bombers targeted railroads in Tczew, shown here, which crippled Polish military mobilization. Hundreds of tanks smashed through Polish defenses and rolled deep into the country. The Poles fought hard, but on September 17, the Soviet Union invaded their country from the east. By the end of the month, Poland had fallen. The Blitzkrieg in Poland Polish strategic doctrine called for a rigid defense of the whole frontier and anticipated several weeks of preliminary skirmishing.

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It was wrong on both counts. On the morning of September 1, waves of German bombers hit the railroads and hopelessly snarled the Polish mobilization. In four more days, two army groupsone on the north out of East Prussia, the other on the south out of Silesiahad broken through on relatively narrow fronts and were sending armored spearheads on fast drives toward Warsaw and Br?st. This was blitzkrieg (lightning war): the use of armor, air power, and mobile infantry in a pincers movement to encircle the enemy. Between September 8 and 10, the Germans closed in on Warsaw from the north and south, trapping the Polish forces west of the capital.

On September 17, a second, deeper encirclement closed 160 km (100 mi) east, near Br?st. On that day, too, the Soviet Red Army lunged across the border. By September 20, practically the whole country was in German or Soviet hands, and only isolated pockets continued to resist. The last to surrender was the fortress at Kock, on October The Blitzkrieg in Poland Polish strategic doctrine called for a rigid defense of the whole frontier and anticipated several weeks of preliminary skirmishing. It was wrong on both counts.

On the morning of September 1, waves of German bombers hit the railroads and hopelessly snarled the Polish mobilization. In four more days, two army groupsone on the north out of East Prussia, the other on the south out of Silesiahad broken through on relatively narrow fronts and were sending armored spearheads on fast drives toward Warsaw and Br?st. This was blitzkrieg (lightning war): the use of armor, air power, and mobile infantry in a pincers movement to encircle the enemy. Between September 8 and 10, the Germans closed in on Warsaw from the north and south, trapping the Polish forces west of the capital. On September 17, a second, deeper encirclement closed 160 km (100 mi) east, near Br?st.

On that day, too, the Soviet Red Army lunged across the border. By September 20, practically the whole country was in German or Soviet hands, and only isolated pockets continued to resist. The last to surrender was the fortress at Kock, on October 6. Course of the War In a few weeks of blitzkrieg (lightning war), mechanized German divisions overwhelmed the ill-equipped Poles, taking western Poland. The Soviets, not to be outdone, seized the eastern part. Encouraged by success, in 1940 Germany swallowed Denmark, Norway, and the Low Countries and invaded France, which rapidly collapsed.

British and French forces were hastily evacuated from Dunkerque to England. Hitler then blockaded Britain with submarines and bombed the country with his new air force. He made a ten-year military pact with the other Axis powersItaly and Japan. In 1941, to aid faltering Italian forces, he sent troops to North Africa, Greece, and Yugoslavia. To block Soviet ambitions in agricultural eastern Europe, which industrial Germany needed, he suddenly invaded the USSR.

As the Soviets retreated eastward, German armies engulfed the rich Ukraine. At this point, Hitler was master of continental Europe. In 1942, however, Britain was still resisting, and the United States, which had entered the war after an attack by Japan, was sending supplies to Britain and the USSR. Hitler then ordered total mobilization of men and resources. Throughout Europe, conquered peoples, especially Slavs and Jews, were executed or enslaved in German war factories, while their countries were drained of food and raw materials.

In 1943 the tide began to turn. Supply lines in the USSR were overextended, and the Germans were gradually driven west. Axis forces in North Africa were defeated, and Italy was invaded. Germany itself, from 1942 on, was being systematically bombed. Although defeat was inevitable, a deranged Hitler refused to surrender.

The war dragged on as British and U.S. forces invaded Normandy in 1944 and swept inexorably east while the Soviets marched west. Hitler committed suicide just before Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin in April 1945. German Invasion Hitler began planning an attack on the Soviet Union in mid-1940 and signed the directive for Operation Barbarossa in December. Stalin, refusing to believe the worst, disregarded copious messages from his intelligence services about an impending aggression. When Germany finally invaded, on June 22, 1941, it came as a tactical surprise and caught the Red Army, already weakened by Stalins purges, at a terrible disadvantage. The German assault changed the military and political alignment of the entire war, which now assumed global proportions.

Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland, and other Axis countries declared war on the USSR. The United States extended lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union; it ultimately provided some $12 billion worth of equipment and food. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, it, Britain, and the Soviet Union became military allies. In January 1942, four months after it accepted the principles of the Atlantic Charter, the USSR and 25 other Allied countries signed the United Nations Declaration, formally subscribing to the program and purposes of the Atlantic Charter and pledging their cooperation in the defeat of the Axis powers. In May 1943 the USSR dissolved Comintern. The USSRs war with Germany and its alliesthe Great Patriotic War, as Stalins government called itwas a savage fight to the finish.

The Axis assault was launched from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, striking for Leningrad, Moscow, and Ukraine. As the Red Army reeled back in disarray, Stalin began frantic efforts to remove industrial plants and workers from the path of the invaders and relocated them in and behind the Ural Mountains. Much of what could not be removed was intentionally laid waste. For a time the German blitzkrieg (offensive) appeared successful, as millions of Soviet soldiers were encircled and annihilated or captured. In the Baltic States, Belorussia, and Ukraine, the invaders met a friendly reception from those who had suffered most under the Stalinist yoke. German atrocities, however, stiffened Soviet resistance.

The advance on Leningrad was checked in September 1941, although the city was besieged until January 1944; casualties there exceeded 1.25 million. The drive on Moscow was stopped in December 1941 with German tanks about 30 km (20 mi) from the city center. The Battle of Britain In the summer of 1940, Hitler dominated Europe from the North Cape to the Pyrenees. His one remaining active enemyBritain, under a new prime minister, Winston Churchillvowed to continue fighting. Whether it could was questionable. The British army had left most of its weapons on the beaches at Dunkerque.

Stalin was in no mood to challenge Hitler. The U.S., shocked by the fall of France, began the first peacetime conscription in its history and greatly increased its military budget, but public opinion, although sympathetic to Britain, was against getting into the war. The Germans hoped to subdue the British by starving them out. In June 1940 they undertook the Battle of the Atlantic, using submarine warfare to cut the British overseas lifelines. The Germans now had submarine bases in Norway and France.

At the outset the Germans had only 28 submarines, but more were being builtenough to keep Britain in danger until the spring of 1943 and to carry on the battle for months thereafter. Invasion was the expeditious way to finish off Britain, but that meant crossing the English Channel; Hitler would not risk it unless the British air force could be neutralized first. As a result, the Battle of Britain was fought in the air, not on the beaches. In August 1940 the Germans launched daylight raids against ports and airfields and in September against inland cities. The objective was to draw out the British fighters and destroy them.

The Germans failed to reckon with a new device, radar, which greatly increased the British fighters’ effectiveness. B …

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