Dutch Empire/German Invasion of the Netherlands
The Invasion[edit | edit source]
On the morning of May 10, 1940 the Dutch awoke to the sound of aircraft engines roaring in the sky. Nazi Germany had commenced operation Fall Gelb and attacked the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Luxembourg: in the case of the Low Countries without a declaration of war given before hostilities.
The Luftwaffe was guaranteed air superiority over the Netherlands. The Dutch Air Force, the Militaire Luchtvaartafdeling (ML), had a strength of 144 combat aircraft, half of which were destroyed within the first day of operations. The remainder was dispersed and accounted for only a handful of Luftwaffe aircraft shot down. In total the ML flew a mere 332 sorties losing 110 of its aircraft.
The German 18th Army secured all the strategically vital bridges in and toward Rotterdam, which penetrated Fortress Holland(The main area of Dutch defence) and bypassed the New Water Line from the south. However, an operation organised separately by the Luftwaffe to seize the Dutch seat of government, Battle for The Hague, ended in complete failure. The airfields surrounding the city (Ypenburg, Ockenburg, and Valkenburg) were taken with heavy casualties and transport aircraft losses, only to be lost that same day to counterattacks by the two Dutch reserve infantry divisions. The Dutch captured or killed 1,745 Fallschirmjäger, shipping 1,200 prisoners to England. The Luftwaffe's Transportgruppen also suffered heavily. Transporting the German paratroops had cost it 125 Ju 52 destroyed and 47 damaged, representing 50 percent of the fleet's strength. Most of these transports were destroyed on the ground, and some whilst trying to land under fire, as German forces had not properly secured the airfields and landing zones.
The French 7th Army failed to block German armoured reinforcements of the 9th Panzer Division; they reached Rotterdam on 13 May. That same day in the east the Dutch retreated from the Grebbe Line to the New Water Line, when a counter-offensive to contain a German breach had failed.
An attempt by the Germans to cross the Afsluitdijk in the North, a thin dike that stretches from Friesland to North-Holland, failed. The German troops were unable to pass the Dutch fortifications and had to withdraw to their original positions.
The Dutch Army, still largely intact, surrendered in the evening of 15 May after the Bombing of Rotterdam by Heinkel He 111s of Kampfgeschwader 54 on the 14th killing about 900 civilians, and threats to do the same to other major Dutch Cities. They considered their strategic situation to have become hopeless and feared a further destruction of the major Dutch cities. However, the Dutch troops in Zealand and the colonies continued the fight while Queen Wilhelmina established a government-in-exile in Britain.