Within six weeks of the German attacks on the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, all the countries had been defeated and the evacuation of British and French armies at Dunkirk had begun. The German success was as a result of Blitzkrieg, meaning ‘surprise war’, a military strategy based on speed and surprise that aimed for quick victory. Tanks massed in organized formations (Panzer Divisions) to penetrate weak points in enemy lines, meaning segments of the overwhelmed armies became isolated, then surrounded and captured by infantry divisions. The ground offensive was supported by heavy aerial attack from the Luftwaffe, creating chaos and preventing organized counterattack. Blitzkrieg came into full effect in May 1940, when the Germans attacked through the ‘impassable’ Ardennes while the Allies were distracted by their defensive strategy in Belgium. The successful crossing of the River Meuse allowed the Germans to move across France towards the Channel, pushing Allied forces back to the coast.
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