Erwin von Witzleben
Job Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben was a German officer, by 1940 in the rank of Generalfeldmarschall, army commander in the Second World War. A leading conspirator in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was designated to become Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht in a post-Nazi regime had the plot succeeded. Erwin von Witzleben was born in Breslau in the Prussian province of Silesia, the son of Georg von Witzleben, a Hauptmann in the Prussian Army, his wife Therese née Brandenburg; the Witzleben dynasty was an Uradel family of old nobility and many officers, descending from Witzleben in Thuringia. He completed the Prussian Cadet Corps program in Wahlstatt, Silesia and in Lichterfelde near Berlin, on 22 June 1901 joined the Grenadier Regiment König Wilhelm I No. 7 in Liegnitz, Silesia as a Leutnant. In 1910, he was promoted to Oberleutnant, he was married to Else Kleeberg from Saxony. The couple had a daughter. At the beginning of the First World War, Witzleben served as brigade adjutant in the 19th Reserve Infantry Brigade before being promoted to Hauptmann and company chief in the Reserve Infantry Regiment No.6 in October 1914.
In the same regiment, he became battalion commander. His unit fought among other places, he was wounded and was awarded the Iron Cross, both first and second classes. Afterwards, he was sent to General Staff training and witnessed the war end as First General Staff Officer of the 121st Division. In the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, Witzleben was promoted to company commander. In 1923, he found himself on the Fourth Division staff in Dresden as a Major. In 1928, he became battalion commander in Infantry Regiment No. 6 and retained that position as Oberstleutnant the following year. After being promoted to full Oberst in 1931, he took over as commanding officer of the Infantry Regiment No. 8 in Frankfurt on the Oder. Early in 1933, shortly before Adolf Hitler seized autocratic control of the German state via a paramilitary backed revolution with the passage in the Reichstag of the Enabling Act of 1933, Witzleben was transferred to the post of Infantry Leader VI in Hanover, he was promoted to Generalmajor on 1 February 1934 and moved to Potsdam as the new commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.
He succeeded General Werner von Fritsch as commander of Military District III - Berlin. In this position, he was promoted to Generalleutnant and in the newly established Wehrmacht forces became commanding general of Army Corps III in Berlin in September 1935. In 1936, he was promoted to a General of the Infantry; as early as 1934, Witzleben indicated opposition against the Nazi regime when he and Manstein and Rundstedt demanded an inquiry into Schleicher's and Bredow's deaths in the Night of the Long Knives. As a result of this and his criticism of Hitler's persecution of Fritsch in the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair, Witzleben was temporarily forced into early retirement, his "retirement" did not last, however, as Hitler would soon need him in the preparations for the Second World War. By 1938, Witzleben was a member of the Oster Conspiracy, a group of plotters including Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, Generals Erich Hoepner and Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel and Chief of the Abwehr Wilhelm Canaris and Abwehr Oberstleutnant Hans Oster.
These men planned to overthrow Hitler in a military coup d'état which seemed feasible at the time of the 1938 Sudeten Crisis — until the Munich Agreement defused the crisis, temporarily averting war. Although the Agreement was seen internationally as a victory for Hitler, the Nazi Führer resented this interference of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his plans for war. Witzleben's command, including the key Berlin Defense District, was to have played a decisive role in the planned coup. In November 1938, Witzleben had been installed as commander-in-chief of Army Group 2 in Frankfurt, he was involved in Generaloberst Hammerstein-Equord's conspiracy plans of 1939. The latter planned to seize Hitler outright in a kind of frontal assault while the former would shut down Nazi party headquarters, but this plan fell through. In September 1939, now a Generaloberst, took command of the 1st Army, stationed at the Western Front; when Germany attacked France on 10 May 1940, the First Army was part of Army Group C.
On 14 June it broke through the Maginot line, within three days had forced several French divisions to surrender. For this, Witzleben was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. In 1941 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief OB West, succeeding Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, but only a year he took leave from this position for health reasons; some sources, claim he was again forcibly retired at this time after criticizing the regime for its invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 in Operation Barbarossa. In 1944, the conspirators around Stauffenberg saw Witzleben as the key man in their plans. Whereas Generaloberst Beck was seen as a prospective provisional head of state, Generaloberst Hoepner was in line to command the inner Ersatzheer forces, Witzleben was to take over supreme command of the whole Wehrmacht as the highest-ranking German officer. However, on 20 July 1944, the day of Stauffenberg's at
Operation Jubilee, more referred to as the Dieppe Raid, was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France on 19 August 1942, during the Second World War. The main assault lasted less than six hours until strong German defences and mounting Allied losses forced its commanders to call a retreat. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by The Calgary Regiment of the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade and a strong force of Royal Navy and smaller Royal Air Force landing contingents, it involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, 50 United States Army Rangers. Objectives included seizing and holding a major port for a short period, both to prove that it was possible and to gather intelligence. Upon retreat, the Allies wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings; the raid had the added objectives of boosting morale and demonstrating the firm commitment of the United Kingdom to open a western front in Europe. None of these objectives were met.
Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire. Less than 10 hours after the first landings, the last Allied troops had all been either killed, evacuated, or left behind to be captured by the Germans. Instead of a demonstration of resolve, the bloody fiasco showed the world that the Allies could not hope to invade France for a long time; some intelligence successes were achieved, including electronic intelligence. Of the 6,086 men who made it ashore, 3,623 were either wounded or captured; the Royal Air Force failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, lost 106 aircraft, compared to 48 lost by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy lost one destroyer; the events at Dieppe influenced preparations for the North Normandy landings. In the immediate aftermath of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces from Dunkirk in May 1940, the British started on the development of a substantial raiding force under the umbrella of Combined Operations Headquarters.
This was accompanied by development of techniques and equipment for amphibious warfare. In late 1941, a scheme was put forward for the landing of 12 divisions around Le Havre based on a withdrawal of German troops to counter Soviet success in the east. From this came a proposed test of the scheme in the form of Operation Rutter. Rutter was to test the feasibility of capturing a port in the face of opposition, the investigation of the problems of operating the invasion fleet, testing equipment and techniques of the assault. After its victory in the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Luftwaffe having switched to night bombing in the fall of 1940, the day fighters of the Royal Air Force's Fighter Command were "a force without a mission". Without anything else to do, the day fighters of RAF Fighter Command were in the spring of 1941 deployed on a series of search-and-destroy missions of flying over France to engage the Luftwaffe in combat; when these missions involved two or three fighters, they were known as rhubarbs, rodeos if they involved more than three aircraft.
In the second half of 1941, the aerial offensive over France was stepped up, leading to the losses of 411 British and Canadian aircraft in the rhubarb and rodeo attacks. In response, in the spring of 1942, the Luftwaffe deployed the new Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter to its airfields in France; the Fw 190 fighters were superior to the Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes used by the British and Canadian pilots, Allied losses over France climbed rapidly. However, the RAF was convinced it was winning the air war, believing their losses of 259 Spitfires over France in the first six months of 1942, were justified by the reported destruction of 197 German aircraft in the same period. A major problem for the RAF was that the Luftwaffe fighters declined to engage in combat over the French coast and instead operated inland, forcing the Spitfires to fly deep into France to engage in combat and thereby using up their fuel, placing the British aircraft at a distinct disadvantage when they encountered the Luftwaffe.
Thanks to intelligence provided by Ultra, the British knew that if any Allied force attempted to seize a port in France, the Germans would assume it to be the beginning of an invasion and that the Luftwaffe was to mount an all-out effort against the Allied forces in the port, whenever it might be. Armed with this knowledge, Fighter Command pressed strongly in the spring and summer of 1942, for a raid to temporarily seize a French port in order to provoke the Luftwaffe into committing most of its fighters in France to a battle along the French coast that would favour the RAF, it was because of pressure from the RAF to fight the "greatest air battle" over the French coast that Operation Rutter/Jubilee went ahead. Dieppe, a coastal town in the Seine-Inférieure department of France, is built along a long cliff that overlooks the English Channel; the River Scie is on the western end of the town and the River Arques flows through the town and into a medium-sized harbour. In 1942, the Germans had demolished some seafront buildings to aid in coastal defence and had set up two large artillery batteries at Berneval-le-Grand and Varengeville-sur-Mer.
One important consideration for the planners was that Dieppe was within range of the Royal Air Force's fighter aircraft. There was intense pressure from the Soviet government to open up a second front in Western Europe. By early 1942, the Wehrmacht's Operation Barbarossa had failed to destroy the Soviet Union. However, the Germans in a much less ambitious summer offensive launched in June, were
Battle of Britain Day
Battle of Britain Day is the name given to the day of the large-scale aerial battle that took place on 15 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain. On this day the Luftwaffe embarked on an all-out attack against London. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk; the action was the climax of the Battle of Britain. In the aftermath of the raid, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Having been defeated in daylight, the Luftwaffe turned its attention to The Blitz night campaign which lasted until May 1941. Battle of Britain Day is now an annual commemoration of the battle in the United Kingdom. In Canada, the commemoration takes place on the third Sunday of September. In June 1940, the Wehrmacht had conquered most of Western Scandinavia. At that time, the only major power standing in the way of a German-dominated Europe was the British Empire and the Commonwealth. After having several peace offers rejected by the UK, Adolf Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to destroy the RAF in order to gain air superiority or air supremacy as a prelude to launching Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious assault by the Wehrmacht onto the British mainland.
The Battle of Britain began on 10 July 1940, when the first Luftwaffe bomber fleets began attacking convoys and Royal Navy forces in English ports and the Channel. The results were positive and the Germans succeeded in forcing the British to abandon the channel convoy route and to redirect shipping to ports in north-eastern Britain. With this achieved the Luftwaffe began the second phase of its air offensive, attacking RAF airfields and supporting structures on the British mainland; the codename of the offensive was Unternehmen Adlerangriff. On 12 August, it flew its first missions in this regard. On 13 August, the Luftwaffe carried out its largest attack to date on the mainland. Christened Adlertag, the attack was a failure; the raids continued, at great cost to both sides. The impact of the German offensive on RAF airfields and Fighter Command is disputed; some historians believe that the attacks were not having much effect and that the Germans were losing the attrition battle, while others believe the RAF was faltering.
Either way, Hitler was dissatisfied with the lack of progress being made. Prompted by an RAF raid on Berlin in late August 1940, he ordered the Luftwaffe to concentrate its attacks upon London, it was thought the move would draw RAF Fighter Command up into a decisive battle. The change in strategy caught the British off-guard; the first daylight attack of this type occurred on 7 September and caused extensive damage and civilian casualties. Some 107,400 long tons of shipping was damaged in the Thames Estuary and 1,600 civilians were killed or injured. Still, Hitler was critical of its failure to destroy Fighter Command quickly, he dismissed over-optimistic reports from the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe the Chief of the Luftwaffe general staff Hans Jeschonnek, who asserted the RAF was on its last legs. Confident the RAF was nearly defeated, Jeschonnek requested terror bombing to be enacted as a final blow. Hitler refused, only allowed attacks on industry and public utility targets. Over the next few days, bad weather prevented more large attacks.
On 9 and 11 September, only smaller raids were carried out. The respite gave the chance to prepare and reinforce his forces; the British through the use of Ultra intelligence, recognised the German change in strategy and duly prepared for further attacks on the capital. Ultra's contribution to the preparations for 15 September is disputed; the intelligence from Ultra at this stage in the war tended to be fragmented. With the Germans launching attacks whenever there was clear weather, it would not have been difficult for RAF Fighter Command to have predicted an attack on 15 September, to be a clear day. On the afternoon of 14 September and his command held a conference at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin to discuss the future direction of the war. Göring was not present. Erhard Milch replaced him. Hitler praised the attacks which had caused heavy damage to the London, he blamed the failure to achieve more decisive results on the weather. It was clear to Hitler that victory had still not been attained by the Luftwaffe.
Under those circumstances, Operation Sea Lion could not take place. Großadmiral Erich Raeder, commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine, agreed, he argued that Sea Lion should only be carried out as a last resort regardless of gaining air superiority. Hitler wanted to maintain the threat of invasion by continuing air attacks on military targets in the British capital. Hans Jeschonnek still pushed for attacks on civilian morale, he argued that military and civilian industries were located too far apart to achieve a collapse of morale by attacking the former. Instead, he pressed for attacks against residential areas. Hitler refused, he ordered. The Luftwaffe intimated that a period of good weather was now due over France and southern Britain, they prepared for an attack along the lines set by Hitler. Staff officers of Luftflotte 2 based in Brussels began planning for a two-pronged offensive on 15 September; the targets were purely military. The first target selected was the Battersea railway station on the West London Extension Railway in Battersea district.
The tracks were 12 abreast in some places and linked London to the heavy industries of the West Midlands and other industrial cities on the north and south-east of Britain. The conglomeration
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944, planned and predominantly led by the British Army. Its objective was a series of nine bridges that could have provided an Allied invasion route into Germany. Airborne and land forces succeeded in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but at the Battle of Arnhem were defeated in their attempt to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine. Market Garden included two subsidiary operations: an airborne assault to seize the key bridges and a ground attack; the attack was the largest airborne operation up to that point in World War II. Field Marshal Montgomery's strategic goal was to encircle the heart of German industry, the Ruhr Area, in a pincer movement; the northern end of the pincer would circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line, giving easier access into Germany. The aim of Operation Market Garden was to establish the northern end of a pincer ready to project deeper into Germany.
Allied forces would project north from Belgium, 60 miles through the Netherlands, across the Rhine and consolidate north of Arnhem on the Dutch/German border, ready to close the pincer. The operation made massive use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and to allow a rapid advance by armored ground units to consolidate north of Arnhem; the operation required the seizure of the bridges across the Meuse River, two arms of the Rhine, together with crossings over several smaller canals and tributaries. The Allies captured several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen at the beginning of the operation. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks' XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the initial failure of the airborne units to secure bridges at Son en Breugel and Nijmegen. German forces demolished the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son before it could be secured by the US 101st Airborne Division; the US 82nd Airborne Division's failure to capture the main highway bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen before 20 September delayed the advance of XXX Corps.
At the furthest point of the airborne operation, at the Battle of Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered initial strong resistance. The delays in capturing the bridges at Son and Nijmegen gave time for German forces—including the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer Divisions, which were present at that time—to organize and counterattack. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to capture the north end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, the paratroopers were overrun on 21 September; the remainder of the British 1st Airborne Division was trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, having to be evacuated on the 25th of September, after sustaining heavy casualties. The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine; the river remained a barrier to their advance into Germany until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Operation Market Garden to form a foothold over the Rhine ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.
After major defeats in Normandy in the summer of 1944, remnants of German forces withdrew across France and the Low Countries towards the German border by the end of August. In the north, in the first week of September, the British 21st Army Group, under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, sent its British Second Army commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey advancing on a line running from Antwerp to the northern border of Belgium while its First Canadian Army, under Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar, was pursuing its task of recapturing the ports of Dieppe, Le Havre, Boulogne-sur-Mer. To the south, the U. S. 12th Army Group under Lt. General Omar Bradley was nearing the German border and had been ordered to line up within the Aachen gap with Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges' U. S. First Army, in support of Montgomery's advance on the Ruhr. Meanwhile, the group's U. S. Third Army, under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, moved eastward towards the Saarland. At the same time, the U. S. 6th Army Group under Lt. General Jacob L. Devers was advancing towards Germany after their landings in southern France.
Before D-Day, to disrupt German logistics efforts, the Allies spent considerable effort in bombing the French rail network, although aware this would affect their own operations in the event of a breakout. The plan of Overlord had foreseen this, it called for the exploitation of the ports in Brittany to move the supply points forward as the armies moved. By August, supply sources for the armies were still limited to the original invasion beaches, the nearby deep water port of Cherbourg at the tip of the Cotentin peninsula, some minor ports in Normandy. Although over-the-beach supply operations outperformed expectations, September saw deteriorating weather and rising seas, the end of their usefulness was in sight. Additional deepwater ports were therefore required; the Brittany ports, still occupied by stiff German resistance, were unsuitable as they were situated along the western coast of France and were overcome by the rapid Allied advance toward the east. On 4 September, Montgomery's troops captured the massive port of Antwerp intact, but the Scheldt Estuary leading to it was still under German control.
Some argued that the capture of Le Havre and Antwerp made the original plan of clearing French ports further south unnecessary. Antwerp could have been opened sooner by the Canadian Army if Montgomery had given priority to clearing the approaches, but Eisenhower and Montgomery persisted with the original plans to capture many of the French ports; the failure to open the ports i
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
St Nazaire Raid
The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a British amphibious attack on the defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy and British Commandos under the auspices of Combined Operations Headquarters on 28 March 1942. St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as Tirpitz, sister ship of Bismarck, to return to home waters by running the gauntlet of the Home Fleet of the Royal Navy and other British forces, via the English Channel or the GIUK gap; the obsolete destroyer HMS Campbeltown, accompanied by 18 smaller craft, crossed the English Channel to the Atlantic coast of France and was rammed into the Normandie dock gates. The ship had been packed with delayed-action explosives, well-hidden within a steel and concrete case, that detonated that day, putting the dock out of service for the remainder of the war and up to five years afterwards.
A force of commandos landed to destroy machinery and other structures. German gunfire sank, set ablaze or immobilised all the small craft intended to transport the commandos back to England; the commandos fought their way through the town to escape overland but many surrendered when they ran out of ammunition or were surrounded by the Wehrmacht defending Saint-Nazaire. Of the 611 men who undertook the raid, 228 returned to Britain, 169 were killed and 215 became prisoners of war. German casualties were over 360 dead, some of whom were killed after the raid when Campbeltown exploded. To recognise their bravery, 89 members of the raiding party were awarded decorations, including five Victoria Crosses. After the war, St Nazaire was one of 38 battle honours awarded to the Commandos; the operation has been called The Greatest Raid of All within British military circles. St Nazaire is on the north bank of 400 km from the nearest British port. In 1942, it had a population of 50,000; the St Nazaire port has an outer harbour known as the Avant Port, formed by two piers jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.
This leads to two lock gates before the Bassin de St Nazaire. These gates control the water level in the basin. Beyond the basin is the larger inner dock called the Bassin de Penhoët, which can accommodate ships up to 10,000 tons. There is an old entrance to the Bassin de St Nazaire located southwest of the Normandie dry dock. Built to house the ocean liner SS Normandie, this dock was the largest dry dock in the world when it was completed in 1932; the "Old Mole" jetty juts into the Loire halfway between the southern pier of the Avant Port and the old entrance into the basin. On 24 May 1941, the Battle of the Denmark Strait was fought between the German ships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen and the British ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood. Hood was sunk and the damaged Prince of Wales was forced to retire. Bismarck damaged, ordered her consort to proceed independently while she headed for the French port of St Nazaire, the only port on the Atlantic coast with a dry dock able to accommodate a ship of her size.
She was sunk en route. Britain's Naval Intelligence Division first proposed a commando raid on the dock in late 1941; when the German battleship Tirpitz was declared operational in January 1942, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were drawing up plans to attack her. Planners from Combined Operations Headquarters were looking at potential scenarios if Tirpitz escaped the naval blockade and reached the Atlantic, they decided the only port able to accommodate her was St Nazaire if, like Bismarck, she was damaged en route and needed repairs. They came to the conclusion that if the dock at St Nazaire were unavailable, the Germans were unlikely to risk sending Tirpitz into the Atlantic. Combined Operations examined several options while planning the destruction of the dock. At this stage of the war the British government still tried to avoid civilian casualties; this ruled out a bombing attack by the RAF, which at the time did not possess the accuracy needed to destroy the dock without serious loss of civilian life.
The Special Operations Executive were approached to see. They decided that the mission was beyond their capabilities because the weight of explosives required would have needed too many agents to carry them; the Royal Navy was unable to mount an operation, as St Nazaire is 8 km up the Loire estuary. Any naval ships large enough to cause sufficient damage would be detected well before they were within range; the planners examined whether a commando force could accomplish the task. An unusually high spring tide was due in March 1942 which would allow a light ship to pass over the sand banks in the estuary and approach the docks, bypassing the defended dredged channel; the approach was too shallow for an infantry landing ship, but the planners believed if a destroyer could be lightened it might have a draft shallow enough to enable it to get through. The purpose of the raid was to destroy the Normandie dock, the old gates into the Bassin de St Nazaire with the water pumping machinery and other installations and any U-boats or other shipping in the area.
The initial Combined Operations plan required one specially lightened destroyer to carry out the raid. It rammed into the dock gates. Commandos on board would disembark and use demolition charges to destroy nearby dock installations and gun emplacements; the destroyer would be blown up. At the same time the RAF would undertake diversionary air raids in the area; when the plan was presented to the Admiralty they refused to support it. The certain
Operation Sea Lion
Operation Sea Lion written as Operation Sealion, was Nazi Germany's code name for the plan for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Following the Fall of France, Adolf Hitler, the German Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, hoped the British government would seek a peace agreement and he reluctantly considered invasion only as a last resort if all other options failed; as a precondition, he specified the achievement of both air and naval superiority over the English Channel and the proposed landing sites, but the German forces did not achieve either at any point during the war, both the German High Command and Hitler himself had serious doubts about the prospects for success. A large number of barges were gathered together on the Channel coast, with air losses increasing, Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely on 17 September 1940 and it was never put into action. Adolf Hitler hoped for a negotiated peace with the UK and made no preparations for amphibious assault on Britain until the Fall of France.
At the time, the only forces with experience of, or modern equipment for, such landings were the Japanese, at the Battle of Wuhan in 1938. In September 1939, the German invasion of Poland was a success, but this infringed on both a French and a British alliance with Poland and both countries declared war on Germany. On 9 October, Hitler's "Directive No. 6 for the Conduct of the War" planned an offensive to defeat these allies and "win as much territory as possible in Holland and northern France to serve as a base for the successful prosecution of the air and sea war against Britain". With the prospect of the Channel ports falling under Kriegsmarine control, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder attempted to anticipate the obvious next step that might entail and instructed his operations officer, Kapitän Hansjürgen Reinicke, to draw up a document examining "the possibility of troop landings in England should the future progress of the war make the problem arise". Reinicke spent five days on this study and set forth the following prerequisites: Eliminating or sealing off Royal Navy forces from the landing and approach areas.
Eliminating the Royal Air Force. Destroying all Royal Navy units in the coastal zone. Preventing British submarine action against the landing fleet. On 22 November 1939, the Head of Luftwaffe intelligence Joseph "Beppo" Schmid presented his "Proposal for the Conduct of Air Warfare", which argued for a counter to the British blockade and said "Key is to paralyse the British trade" by blocking imports to Britain and attacking seaports; the OKW considered the options and Hitler's 29 November "Directive No. 9 – Instructions For Warfare Against The Economy of the Enemy" stated that once the coast had been secured, the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine were to blockade UK ports with sea mines, attack shipping and warships, make air attacks on shore installations and industrial production. This directive remained in force in the first phase of the Battle of Britain. In December 1939, the German Army issued its own study paper and solicited opinions and input from both Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe; the paper outlined an assault on England's eastern coast between The Wash and the River Thames by troops crossing the North Sea from ports in the Low Countries.
It suggested airborne troops as well as seaborne landings of 100,000 infantry in East Anglia, transported by the Kriegsmarine, to prevent Royal Navy ships from getting through the Channel, while the Luftwaffe had to control airspace over the landings. The Kriegsmarine response was focused on pointing out the many difficulties to be surmounted if invading England was to be a viable option, it could not envisage taking on the Royal Navy Home Fleet and said it would take a year to organise shipping for the troops. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, responded with a single-page letter in which he stated, " combined operation having the objective of landing in England must be rejected, it could only be the final act of an victorious war against Britain as otherwise the preconditions for success of a combined operation would not be met". Germany's swift and successful occupation of France and the Low Countries gained control of the Channel coast, facing what Schmid's 1939 report called their "most dangerous enemy".
Raeder met Hitler on 21 May 1940 and raised the topic of invasion, but warned of the risks and expressed a preference for blockade by air and raiders. By the end of May, the Kriegsmarine had become more opposed to invading Britain following its Pyrrhic victory in Norway: after Operation Weserübung, the Kriegsmarine had only one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, four destroyers available for operations. Raeder was opposed to Sea Lion, for the entire Kriegsmarine surface fleet had been either sunk or badly damaged in Weserübung, his service was hopelessly outnumbered by the ships of the Royal Navy. British parliamentarians still arguing for peace negotiations were defeated in the May 1940 War Cabinet Crisis, but throughout July the Germans continued with attempts to find a diplomatic solution. In a report presented on 30 June, OKW Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl reviewed options to increase pressure on Britain to agree to a negotiated peace; the first priority was to eliminate the Royal Air Force and gain air supremacy.
Intensified air attacks against shipping and the economy could affect food supplies and civilian morale in the long term. Reprisal attacks of terror bombing had the potential to cause quicker capitulation but the effect on morale was uncertain. Once the Luftwaffe had cont