Fall of France. May 1940

French soldiers examine the remains of a German light bomber Heinkel He 111, after it was shot down. France had not fallen yet.

There are thousands of pictures that show the fall of France in May, 1940. But given below are some (I think are) rare images of that moment in history.

French POWs. Two of them seem to want something. The German soldier seems quite attentive.

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, leading Winston Churchill to remark, shortly afterwards, 'Thank God for the French Army'. To Churchill at that time, France's army seemed a powerful bulwark against possible Nazi aggression towards other European nations.
The defeat of this powerful army in a mere six weeks in 1940 stands as one of the most remarkable military campaigns in history.
A German machine-gunner with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

In 1939, as World War Two loomed, the British and French planned to fight an updated version of what happened in 1914-18 during World War One, but with some essential differences. The French had suffered massive casualties in frontal attacks in 1914. This time they were going to remain on the defensive in western Europe, while mobilising their military forces and industrial base to fight a total war. They planned to take the offensive some two to three years after the start of hostilities.
The 'Maginot Line' replaced the crude trenches in which so much of the 1914-18 war was fought. It consisted of a sophisticated series of fortifications, which were confidently expected to protect France's frontier with Germany, although crucially the line did not cover the Franco-Belgian frontier. In general, the slow-tempo, attritional fighting of World War One heavily influenced French military doctrine at the outbreak of World War Two.

 British cartoonist Illingworth portrayed the fall of France thus.

For these French soldiers the war is over.

Hitler was eager to follow up his victory over Poland in 1939 by attacking in the west, but bad weather forced the planned offensive to be postponed. Then, in January 1940, a German plane crashed in neutral Belgium, with a copy of the attack orders on board.
Hitler was forced to rethink, believing the plan compromised he turned for advice to General Erich von Manstein, who argued for a daring campaign. In effect, Manstein recognised that the Maginot Line was too formidable for a direct attack from Germany. Instead, he proposed a subsidiary attack through neutral Holland and Belgium, with the main blow against France to be launched a little later through the Ardennes. This was a hilly and heavily forested area on the German-Belgian-French border, where the Allies would be unlikely to expect an attack. The plan was to rely heavily on surprise blitzkrieg ('lightning war') techniques.
German soldiers march through a French town

German legendary and 'gentleman' general, Erwin Rommel is seen with captured British soldiers

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Points To Ponder


It is difficult to distinguish between the quality of both the German and Russian soldiers. Both were motivated by their love for their motherland. But there were others factors that drove the two sides to such desperate fighting.

One, both sides knew that this was a no-holds bar war. Not fighting was thus not an option.

Second, both Hitler and Stalin had squads that killed any deserter. Turning away from fighting was just not possible.

Thus was seen some of the most bitter, brutal and desperate fighting on the WW2 eastern (Russian) Front.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana


"Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.'
--Mao Zedong


"The main thing is to make history, not to write it."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite."
--Winston Churchill


"In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers."
--August Bebel

"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."

Quotes about War....

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
---Otto von Bismarck


"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering


"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy."
--Tzu Sun

"All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; So why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?"
--Emperor Hirohito