The Battle of France

The Battle of France,

also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. Beginning on 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces in a series of mobile operations, eventually leading to the conquest of France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 1944.

The German plan for the invasion of France consisted of two main operations. In Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes and then along the Somme valley to cut off and surround the Allied units, that had advanced into Belgium to meet the expected German threat. When British, Belgian and adjacent French forces were pushed back to the sea by the mobile and well-organized German operation, the British government decided to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as well as several French divisions at Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.

After the withdrawal of the BEF, the German forces launched a second operation, Fall Rot (Case Red) on 5 June 1940. While the depleted French forces put up stiff initial resistance, German air superiority and armoured mobility overwhelmed the remaining French forces. German armour outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France, with German forces arriving in Paris unopposed on 14 June. This caused a chaotic period of flight for the French government and ended organised French military resistance. German commanders met with French officials on 18 June with the goal of forcing the new French government to accept all of the agreements in an armistice offered by Germany. Chief among the government leaders was Marshal Philippe Pétain, the newly appointed prime minister and one of the supporters of an armistice.

On 22 June, the Second Armistice at Compiègne was signed by France and Germany, which resulted in a division of France, whereby Germany would occupy the north and west, Italy would control a small occupation zone in the south-east and an unoccupied zone, the zone libre, would be governed by the Vichy government led by Marshal Pétain. France remained under Axis occupation until the re-conquest of France by the Allies after the Allied landings in June 1944.

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