BBC History Magazine

Planning the invasion of western Europe in November 1939

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The autumn of 1939 saw the only instance where the German dictator and the great majority of his senior army commanders were truly at loggerhead­s and with no obvious way out of the impasse. The issue was not the war as such, but the fact that Hitler wanted to turn the army around as quickly as possible after victory in Poland and fling it against the western powers. The generals were horrified by this; the Polish campaign had revealed shortfalls of equipment, and suggested that the German army and air force still had lessons to learn.

The invasion plan also lacked imaginatio­n and would have led to an engagement between the bulk of both forces in central Belgium, with the Luftwaffe reduced to a marginal role by the winter weather. Allied firepower superiorit­y alone would have virtually guaranteed a stalemate.

The stand-off got to a point where even the notoriousl­y pro-Nazi general Walter von Reichenau was prepared to leak informatio­n in the hope of compromisi­ng the offensive. Others plotted a coup against the regime. In the end, only the brutally cold winter of 1939/40 forced a postponeme­nt of the operation.

 ?? ?? Despite the success of its invasion of Poland (shown, left, in September 1939), the operation suggested that the Wehrmacht still had lessons to learn
Despite the success of its invasion of Poland (shown, left, in September 1939), the operation suggested that the Wehrmacht still had lessons to learn

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