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Miracle Of Dunkirk Essay

910 words - 4 pages

From May 27 to June 4, 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s characterization of the state of affairs at Dunkirk went from “a colossal military disaster” to “a miracle of deliverance.” Truly something remarkable had happened, namely, the successful evacuation of 340 000 Allied troops from the French port of Dunkirk, codenamed Operation Dynamo.

On May 10, 1940, the Wehrmacht (German army) rapidly conquered Belgium and the Netherlands with their lightning-speed blitzkrieg tactics while three Panzer corps invaded France through the Ardennes Forest rather than their heavily fortified Maginot Line. German forces swept through France in days and confined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), three French armies, and the remainder of the Belgian army along the English Channel at northern France. In the wake of this military disaster, a plan was immediately drawn up - Operation Dynamo - with the lofty objective of withdrawing all Allied forces from Dunkirk across the English Channel lest they be captured or killed.

Operation Dynamo involved the Allied powers of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium against Nazi Germany. The German advance into France was led by Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt and under his command the Allies were quickly pushed back to northern France. The Wehrmacht was in striking distance for only one British battalion had lain in their way of Dunkirk. However, on May 24, Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler authorized a controversial Halt Order which stopped the German tank progression. Although the entire reasoning behind this remains unclear, it can be said that the tanks could be at risk of damage on the unsuitable marshy terrain surrounding Dunkirk. Instead of a tank advance, Luftwaffe Commander-in-chief Hermann Goering would coordinate an attack on the Allies from the skies. The Halt Order would prove to be a fatal mistake as it allowed vital time for the Allies to fortify the town and commence the evacuation.

The Allies employed many strategies when retreating to Dunkirk and defending the town from German attack. Under the cooperative leadership of the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF Lord Gort , British Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, Major-General Harold Alexander and Senior Naval Officer Captain William Tennant, the Allies were successful in their operation. The Royal Air Force (RAF) supported the operation in the air against the Luftwaffe and across the Channel. A total of 3500 sorties were launched with much of the dogfighting taking place away from the evacuation sites. However, British destroyers and warships were incapable of navigating near the shallow waters off Dunkirk so soldiers had to wade out and wait for hours in the water. Instead, 700 civilian ships, such as pleasure crafts, fishing boats, and ferries (the little ships of Dunkirk) were seized by the British navy to help with...

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