Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hitler Delays the Invasion of France, 1939

Hitler Delays the Invasion of France, 1939

By 5 November 1939 Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander in Chief of the German army at OKH, was convinced the army could not possibly be ready for a major offensive in time to meet Hitler’s wishes for an immediate invasion of France. At that afternoon’s regular meeting with the Führer, Brauchitsch outlined the army’s concerns. The autumn rains in Flanders would bog down the tanks, he said, the mechanical problems with the Mark IV Panzer which had caused difficulty in Poland had not yet been solved, there was not enough ammunition stockpiled to take on France, some of the newly raised units had not fought as well as expected. All this meant, he told Hitler, that more time was needed to prepare for the attack.

Hitler was furious and let rip one of his terrible outbursts of temper. He accused the army in general and Brauchitsch in particular of cowardice, incompetence and much more. It was an early example of the way Hitler was increasingly to treat opposition to his plans from the military professionals. In Hitler’s eyes the generals were there to ensure the army was ready to carry out his plans and ideas. If they failed they were subjected to storms of rage and fury to cow them into submission. As yet, Hitler was not totally inflexible, but this interview was a disturbing sign of what was to come. When Brauchitsch returned to his offices he was grey-faced and his hands trembled.

Two days later heavy rains broke over the Western Front. Göring reported the Luftwaffe could not fly, robbing the panzers of close bomber support. Hitler postponed the attack on France. The bad flying weather had settled in, however, and the attack was repeatedly postponed until mid-December when Hitler granted the armed forces extensive Christmas leave and set a new date for his offensive: 17 January 1940.

from "Hitler, Military Commander" by Rupert Matthews

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