Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line

Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line

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Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line

Here we see a Churchill VI, armed with a 75mm gun (identified from this angle largely by the type of muzzle break), and with the Churchill IV hull with square escape hatches. This column of vehicles is approaching the Siegfried Line on the western borders of Germany.

Operation Undertone

Operation Undertone, also known as the Saar-Palatinate Offensive, was a large assault by the U.S. Seventh, Third, and French First Armies of the U.S. Sixth and Twelfth Army Groups as part of the Allied invasion of Germany in March 1945 during World War II.

A force of three corps was to attack abreast from Saarbrücken, Germany, along a 75-kilometre (47 mi) sector to a point southeast of Hagenau, France. A narrow strip along the Rhine leading to the extreme northeastern corner of Alsace at Lauterbourg was to be cleared by a division of the French First Army under operational control of the Seventh Army. The Seventh Army's main effort was to be made in the center up the Kaiserslautern corridor.

In approving the plan, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower asserted that the objective was not only to clear the Saar-Palatinate but to establish bridgeheads with forces of the Sixth Army Group over the Rhine between Mainz and Mannheim. The U.S. Third Army of the 12th Army Group was to be limited to diversionary attacks across the Moselle to protect the Sixth Army Group's left flank.

Opposing commanders were U.S. General Jacob L. Devers, commanding U.S. Sixth Army Group and German SS General Paul Hausser, commanding German Army Group G.

Significantly assisted by operations of the Third Army that overran German lines of communication, Operation Undertone cleared Wehrmacht defenses and pushed to the Rhine in the area of Karlsruhe within 10 days. [3] General Devers′ victory—along with a rapid advance by the U.S. Third Army—completed the advance of Allied armies to the west bank of the Rhine along its entire length within Germany.

The bulk of the text in this article is taken directly from The Last Offensive, a work of the U.S. Army that is in the public domain. The material was extracted from Chapter XII, The Saar-Palatinate, pp. 236–265.

The 1 Reason Why People Thought Nazi Germany Might Win Early in World War II

Key point: The Germans were more unified in their command and control (but Hitler's micromanagement would eventually doom Nazi Germany).

In May and June of 1940 the attacking Germans had a supreme authority, Hitler, and an army that—if skeptical, even in places traitorous—was subdued and followed orders with astonishing competence. The Allied leadership who faced this tested and, in Poland, victorious combination of political leader and masterful military could not muster a winning one of their own.

Military Hopes Placed In Gamelin

They had, of course, four languages and four governments to deal with. They placed their military hopes in General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin (1872-1958), about whom his former subordinate, Charles de Gaulle, said, “This man, in whom intelligence, subtlety and self-control reached a very high level, had absolutely no doubt that, in the approaching battle, he was bound eventually to win.”

Gamelin served as Joffre’s Chief of Staff during the First Battle of the Marne. He then successively commanded in combat a brigade, a division, and a corps. In the 1920s he pacified the Druze tribes of the Middle East. In 1931 he was named Chief of Staff of the French Army, and four years later was appointed Commander-in-Chief-Designate (in the event of war) upon the retirement of General Maxime Weygand from that post.

During 1939-1940 Gamelin’s title was Chief of Staff of National Defense and C-in-C Land Forces. Under him was his C-in-C Northeast Front, General Joseph Georges (1875-1951), with whom Gamelin didn’t get along particularly well. In effect, Gamelin was the Generalissimo of an unwieldy structure that included neither the Air Force of General Joseph Vuillemin nor the Navy of Admiral Jean Darlan.

Allies Faced Muddy Political Structure

Politically, the structure was also muddied. Premier Paul Reynaud—who headed the civilian government from March 21 to June 16, 1940—had as a Minister of War a political rival, Edouard Daladier (1884-1970), whom he had succeeded as premier. It did not augur well for harmonious work once the German attack began.

The same was true of the British political situation in London’s War Cabinet. Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) had been British Prime Minister for three years beginning in May 1937, and left office on the day of the German offensive in the West, May 10, 1940. The monarch and head of state—King George VI—wanted to appoint as his successor Lord Halifax (the former Edward Wood, 1881-1959), with Chamberlain’s approval.

“But,” according to author M.R.D. Foot, “[Halifax] refused the post: he was no military strategist and probably calculated he could restrain the impulsive Winston Churchill better by serving under him [and] was a self-confessed anti-Semite.” Thus it came to pass that the man whom both Chamberlain and Halifax had opposed politically for a decade left his post as First Lord of the Admiralty in the War Cabinet to become Prime Minister.

“Tiny” Ironside Named Chief Of The Imperial General Staff

Churchill inherited a murky military command. The reigning Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) was “Tiny”: General Sir William Edmund Ironside (1880-1959), who was also anti-Semitic, 60, a Scot, and a gifted linguist (he taught himself Arabic while recovering from an airplane accident).

Commissioned an artillery officer, Ironside was in the South African War and later served as a spy in German Southwest Africa before World War I. During the war he was a staff officer with the Canadians until, in 1916, he became commanding officer of the British Army’s Machine Gun Corps, then commanded the 99th Infantry Brigade in September 1918. He led the Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) at Archangel, Russia, during 1918-1919, and then served on the Sea of Marmara and in Persia.

Despite feeling that he was incompetent as CIGS, Ironside had foresight. He toured Poland in July 1939 and predicted that Poland would quickly be overrun by Germany, that accordingly there would be no Eastern Front there, and that France would not attack the German West Wall (called the “Siegfried Line” by the Allies). He also urged a military alliance with the very Russian Communists whom he hated.

Ironside wanted an eventual BEF of 20 divisions, twice what was actually in place on May 10, 1940. He correctly guessed that Hitler wanted to attack in the autumn of 1939 (bad weather and stubborn generals putting him off). Ironside’s fatal miscalculation as CIGS was that he took for granted that France was secure.

Ironside’s boss, Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha (whom Ironside called “The Jew”) thought the coming struggle would be fought not in France at all, but in war-torn Spain, where the rival factions of both left and right, Communist and Fascist, were even then engaged.

Predecessor Named BEF Leader

When the formation of the BEF was announced on September 3—the day the Allies declared war—the French wanted as its leader Sir John Dill (1881-1944). Much to everyone’s surprise, they got John Vereck, Lord Gort (1886-1946), the man whom Ironside had succeeded as CIGS and whom both he (and virtually everyone else) thought was out of his depth in the top spot in London.

Gort had been commissioned from Sandhurst in the prestigious Grenadier Guards, and in World War I had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order as well as having been mentioned in dispatches eight times. Between the wars he served in China and India. Although promoted to lieutenant general by Hore-Belisha, he fell afoul of his boss, who sent him to France to run the BEF out of spite.

Gort Not Concerned Enough With Big Picture

Nicknamed “Jack” and “Fat Boy,” Gort nonetheless held the coveted Victoria Cross, but was too obsessed with detail and not concerned enough with the big picture. Considered ideal to command a division-sized unit in combat, Gort failed to prepare the British Army for modern, mechanized, armored warfare, didn’t believe in air-ground coordination, and—though a faithful ally to the French—for these reasons was the least likely choice to command the BEF.

Once the shooting started, Gort’s chief accomplishment was to briefly stop the Waffen SS and Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division on May 21 at Arras, and then effect the “Miracle of Dunkirk” that saved the British Army. He later commanded the Home Guard, Gibraltar, and Malta. He, Ironside, and Dill were all eventually promoted to Field Marshal.

Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line - History

By Michael Hull

Within hours of the entry of Great Britain and France into World War II on September 3, 1939, the British liner SS Athenia was sunk by a German U-boat off the northwestern coast of Ireland, with the loss of 112 dead, including 28 American citizens.

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was torpedoed by a U-boat off the southwestern English coast on September 17 with the loss of 515 lives the venerable, 29,150-ton battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk at anchor in the British Home Fleet base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, early on October 14, and the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled just outside the harbor of Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 17, after the Battle of the River Plate. As German auxiliary cruisers and U-boats made their presence known, hostilities started on the high seas from the war’s beginning.

In Britain, after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had quietly and sadly announced the declaration of war at 11:15 on that sunny Sunday morning, it seemed to his listeners that peril was upon them already. Half an hour after the BBC broadcast, air raid sirens wailed across London and the southeastern counties. “There was not the slightest sign of panic,” reported one London newspaper. “The air-raid wardens repeated the warning on their whistles, and the people proceeded at once in the most orderly fashion to their shelters. Auxiliary firemen put on their uniforms in readiness for any emergency.”

After a few minutes, the “all-clear” sirens sounded, and several hours later the Air Ministry announced that the warning had been given because an unidentified aircraft was observed approaching the south coast.

Allied Inaction

The British people found themselves at war again only two decades after the end of the bloody 1914-1918 conflict. Chamberlain’s brief announcement stunned them, but did not come as a shock. What did surprise them was the period of relative calm that followed. Except for the naval actions, the brutal German invasion of Poland, and the Finnish people’s epic struggle against Soviet invaders, World War II got off to a slow start. Elsewhere in Western Europe there came an uncanny seven months of military inactivity that lasted until the Nazi invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940.

This bizarre period was dubbed the “Phony War” by American correspondents, referring to the lack of any offensive action by the British and French. Within weeks, the phrase had become commonplace in Britain and around the world. To some Britons, it was the “Bore War” to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, it was the “Twilight War” to the French it was “La Drole de Guerre” (joke war) and to the Germans it was “Sitzkrieg” (sit-down war).

Great Britain and France had honored their August 25, 1939, treaty with Poland by declaring war against Germany, but the two nations were not sufficiently prepared to fulfill their obligation and lend military support to the Poles. In fact, they did little to distract Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler during the five weeks his forces took to complete their Polish campaign. Meanwhile, 800,000 Red Army troops had invaded Poland from the east in flagrant disregard for supposed Moscow-Warsaw peace treaties.

Inevitably, after a heroic but futile struggle, Poland was defeated by September 29. And still the Western Allies made no move against Germany.

The Strategy Behind the Phony War

The reason for the relative lack of action was strategic. For the military planners on both sides, the key problem was the fact that the Franco-German border was the most heavily fortified strip of land in the world. On the French side, running northward from the Swiss border to Montmedy, stretched the Maginot Line, a string of concrete and steel underground forts and artillery emplacements impervious to both shells and bombs. Behind this line, the French and British began lethargic mobilization. Along Germany’s western border, the Siegfried Line (West Wall) was a complex mesh of concrete obstacles and interlocking zones of fire several miles deep. Supporting mobile troops had been stripped to a minimum to the benefit of the Polish front. Both opposing lines of defense were impregnable, and both sides knew it.

Along the Allied and enemy defense lines, soldiers stood tensely by their big guns and waited while observers peered through binoculars and telescopes for any sign of activity. All were ready for action, but there was none.

The formidable French Army under General Maurice Gamelin was locked into a defensive posture, and no attempt was made to shell Germany’s industrialized Saar region, which was well within range of French artillery. While the German Army was preoccupied with vanquishing the hapless Poles, a strong Allied thrust could have broken through and conceivably ended Hitler’s grandiose scheme of global conquest. Instead, the only overt move was a tentative probe by Gamelin toward the German defenses around Saarbrucken. There, it was reported that captured enemy soldiers did not know that France and Britain were at war with their country. The inactivity undermined the morale of the French Army, which worsened when the fighting started in earnest in the spring of 1940.

In the early months of the Phony War, French government officials considered invading Germany by way of Belgium, striking a knockout blow at the Ruhr Valley, the industrial heartland of the enemy war machine. But the British vetoed the idea when Belgium announced its neutrality. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government ruled out any move that would violate a nation’s neutrality. The French also proposed fanciful schemes for fighting in southeastern Europe and bombing Russian oil wells in the Caucasus, but reason prevailed.

So, the Allies relied on a policy of naval blockade (instituted by Britain just after the outbreak of war), economic strangulation, and defensive fortification to exhaust German strength.

Maintaining watch toward German positions, a French soldier occupies an underground position on the Maginot Line during the Phony War. The line was built at great expense to France but was of little value against mobile German divisions when the shooting war began. Note the cache of hand grenades at center.

Cautious Chamberlain’s Cross-Channel Corps

The British leaders were as hesitant as those in France. In the first month of the war, 160,000 men and 24,000 tanks and assorted transport of General Sir John V. Gort’s British Expeditionary Force had crossed the English Channel to support the French. But the BEF found its offensive operations confined to patrolling in the Arras-Lille area during the Phony War.

The small but professional BEF went to France with confidence and cheery songs, but it was not trained, supplied, or equipped for full-scale combat. Like the French Army, it was not ready for the kind of lightning onslaught the Poles had faced. The British Matilda infantry tanks, thick-skinned but under-gunned, would prove no match for panzers. The Royal Tank Corps crews were half-trained, and their tanks lacked radios and even armor-piercing ammunition.

Air raids on British cities were feared, but many politicians in Whitehall were still dominated by peacetime attitudes. When it was suggested to Sir Kingsley Wood, the secretary of state for air, on September 5, 1939, that British bombers set Germany’s Black Forest alight, he vetoed the idea on the grounds that it would conflict with the spirit of the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions governing the conduct of war.

“There was no question,” said Wood, “of our bombing even the munitions works at Essen, which were private property.” Royal Air Force planes were dispatched to attack German shipping at Wilhelmshaven, but no bombs were dropped on German territory while Chamberlain was prime minister. Initially, RAF air crews were ordered not to bomb German-held airfields, but only to machine-gun them.

Winston Churchill’s War

At the Admiralty, Churchill was frustrated by the lack of offensive activity. He suggested floating air-dropped fluvial mines down the River Rhine (Operation Royal Marine), but the French Supreme War Council adamantly opposed it. Prime Minister Edouard Daladier told Churchill that the “president of the republic himself had intervened, and that no aggressive action must be taken which might only draw reprisals upon France.”

It was generally believed that Hitler would have no scruples about breaching a neutral country, and a German assault through Belgium—as had happened in 1914—was expected sooner or later. But the Western Allies were confident that they could block such a threat on a line running from the port of Antwerp to Dinant in the Ardennes Forest region. It was predicted, therefore, that the new conflict would settle down to a grim attritional stalemate, as in the early months of World War I.

Germany’s Phony Front

The Phony War was not created by the Allies alone it was also encouraged by the Germans. The first bombs dropped on Britain fell on the remote Shetland Islands on November 13, 1939, but it was not until the following month that the British suffered their first service fatality in France (while leading a patrol, Corporal Thomas W. Priday was killed on December 9). In contrast, 50,000 British servicemen had been lost during the first three months of World War I. It was not until March 16, 1940, that the first British civilian was killed, during an air raid on Scapa Flow.

Initially, the Phony War gave Hitler time to finish the Polish campaign undisturbed. Although he then wanted to attack westward before the end of 1939, the German High Command, which included several conspirators against him, lacked such enthusiasm. Some high-ranking German officers did not think the Wehrmacht was ready for such an offensive, and General Alfred Jodl, the chief of operations, believed that the war would die a natural death if the Germans kept quiet in the West. It was mainly bad weather, rather than Hitler’s opponents, that allowed the Phony War to continue through the winter of 1939-1940, one of the coldest and most severe on record.

Wavering by the erratic Nazi leader also contributed to the Phony War’s inactivity. In a major speech to the Reichstag on October 6, Hitler spoke of his desire for peace with France and Britain and claimed that up until then he had done nothing more than try to correct the unjust 1919 Versailles peace treaty. He said he had no war aims against France or Britain and blamed the present state of affairs on “warmongers” like Churchill. The Führer’s dream had been for Germany to rule Europe and for the British Empire to rule the rest of the world.

Hitler suggested calling a conference to resolve remaining differences, but Prime Ministers Daladier and Chamberlain swiftly rejected the offer. The latter said that to consider such terms would be to forgive Germany for its aggressions. On October 9, the Führer issued a directive with a simple message: “Should it become evident in the near future that England, and, under her influence, France also, are not disposed to bring the war to an end, I have decided, without further loss of time, to go over to the offensive.”

Preparing For War

Meanwhile, the defense-minded British and French converted their factories to war production and waited for something to happen. The September 3, 1939, declaration of war had not come as a complete surprise, but the period of relative calm that followed did. The French, for the most part, carried on with their normal lives and entrusted their fate to their army, almost the equal of the Wehrmacht, and the Maginot Line. The British put their faith in the RAF and the Royal Navy, which ruled the seas.

In Britain, where several steps had been taken in the event of air attacks, the initial determination of the civilian population changed to boredom, bewilderment, and resentment at disruptions in daily life. Blackout regulations were enforced, children were evacuated to the countryside from cities threatened with air raids, and food, clothing, gasoline, and other necessities were severely rationed. Queues outside grocery stores soon became a regular sight on the streets of cities, towns, and villages. More emergency laws were enacted in the first two weeks of World War II than had been passed during the first year of World War I.

After drifting through the unfortunate appeasement era, British leaders had awakened in the late 1930s to the increasing threat of militant fascism, particularly the powerful German war machine. Some retaliatory plans were put in place before the outbreak of war. In July 1939, Parliament introduced the conscription of young men into the reserves. As soon as war was declared, the scope of conscription was expanded dramatically, with all men aged 19 to 40 made liable for full-time war service.

Within weeks, it was announced that women would also be conscripted—not for the firing line, but to free men for uniformed service. As they had done in World War I, the nation’s eligible females would work on farms, drive trucks, ambulances, buses, and even trains, and toil on assembly lines in aircraft and munitions plants. A government poster of the time exhorted, “Women of Britain, come into the factories.”

French border guards inspect a sign from inside Germany. Hostile gunfire was a rare occurrence as both sides went about their business until Hitler launched his assault on France and the Low Countries on May 10, 1940.

Fear from the Air

As far as the war threat was concerned, most Britons were sure that the first German attacks would come from the air. They knew only too well what had happened in 1937, when German planes devastated the Spanish town of Guernica inflicting massive casualties in less than an hour of concentrated bombing. Since then, Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring had been proudly showing off his air force at shows and displays.

By 1939, Göring’s air force was widely regarded as the finest in the world. But Britain, which had created the world’s first independent air force in 1918, was proud of the RAF and considered it a match for the Luftwaffe. So, in 1939 a flag-waving film, The Lion Has Wings, starring Ralph Richardson and Merle Oberon, was released in a bid to encourage the British public. It was well received, but most citizens still feared that within hours of a declaration of war the skies would be darkened by German bombers.

Reflecting a measure of official foresight, community air raid shelters had already been constructed in many British cities and towns, and families with gardens were encouraged to build their own shelters, using plans and equipment supplied by local councils. People without backyards were advised to take shelter in cellars, under sturdy tables, or beneath stairways in the event of air raids.

Daily life was affected by the rounding up of foreign nationals to sift out Germans and potential spies, and a billeting system whereby families with spare rooms were required to accommodate factory workers, officials, or servicemen who needed to stay away from home. The most famous example of billeting was the evacuation of three and a half million women and children to safe rural areas, away from major cities likely to be targeted by the Luftwaffe.

The evacuations started from London in August 1939. Many children whose parents were in the services or engaged in war work had to set forth on their own, shepherded by social workers or volunteers. Poignant scenes were played out on the platforms of urban railway stations as crowds of small boys and girls, nervously clutching bundles of possessions, boarded trains that would take them to new lives in Devon, Yorkshire, or Scotland.

But the expected bombing raids did not materialize in the early weeks of the war the Luftwaffe was kept busy bombing Poland and preparing for a coming ground support role.

Although German planes did not fly over Britain in large numbers during the Phony War, the blackout was strictly enforced. It was expected that the enemy bombers would come at night, so street lights were switched off and thick curtains went up in British homes to deprive enemy air crews of beacons. A light showing from a window could be seen clearly from 20,000 feet up. Nothing short of complete blackness could frustrate the bombers.

Helmeted air raid wardens patrolled the streets by foot or bicycle nightly to make sure that no lights were visible. Anyone guilty of allowing a chink of light to escape received a stern reprimand. Railway stations, trains, and buses were unlit, and the headlights on cars, trucks, and other vehicles painted black until only a slit of light showed.

The blackout caused petty irritations among the British public and also dangers. The London Daily Telegraph reported on September 18, 1939, “Sir Philip Game, Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, takes a grave view of the accident figures for the first 10 days of the blackout. During that period, 38 people were killed and 975 injured in road accidents in the London area, compared with eight killed and 316 injured in the preceding 10 days.” On January 15, 1940, the government announced that twice as many people had been accidentally killed in accidents during the blackout as by German bombs.

Bolstering British Defense

While the country was not yet fully engaged in hostilities, many defensive measures were taken in the early weeks of the Phony War. Royal Navy battleships and cruisers patrolled the sea lanes, RAF fighters and bombers stood ready, the Army intensified recruiting and training, and the Territorial Army (militia) was brought up to full strength and then doubled. Long columns of tanks, field guns, trucks, personnel carriers, and Bren gun carriers became common sights on highways and country lanes as maneuvers were staged across the rolling heathlands of southern and southwestern England.

Soldiers guarded installations and key junctions, concrete pillboxes sprouted on hills and roadsides, antiaircraft guns were emplaced in parks and on golf courses, barrage balloons were hoisted to foil enemy planes, fire watchers kept nightly vigil on city rooftops, sandbags were piled around public buildings, and Army gun crews and volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps stood watch along the coastlines.

The shooting war was still far off, yet there were many reminders for Britons that harder times were coming, sooner or later. Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented his first war budget, and the rationing of meat, bacon, butter, and sugar followed. In France, the government announced that Friday would be a “meatless day” and that no beef, veal or mutton would be sold on Mondays or Tuesdays. The need for rationing was a result of the naval actions in the Atlantic, where German U-boats and surface raiders preyed increasingly on Allied merchant shipping. In October 1939, the shipping losses were 196,000 tons in November, 51,600 tons, and in December, 189,900 tons. The British had begun the convoy system on September 7, but the losses would continue to mount until halfway through the war.

Despite rationing hardships, blackout irritations, and the fear of air raids and possible invasion, the British generally tried to stay cheerful and optimistic with newspaper cartoons, music hall songs, and jokes poking fun at “Herr Schickelgruber” (Hitler). The people’s morale was lifted as growing numbers of fighting men from the far-flung dominions rallied to help defend the motherland. Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa sent contingents, Indian troops joined the BEF in France, and 7,500 men—all volunteers—of the 1st Canadian Division arrived in England just before Christmas 1939. They would be followed by soldiers, airmen, and sailors from France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, and Poland.

A Christmas Blackout and a Looming New Year

As their first wartime Christmas neared, Britons prepared for a merry respite, realizing that worse times lay ahead. They cheerily hung up stockings, decorated trees, sang carols, and made ready to feast on traditional roast turkey or goose, heavy fruit puddings, and mince pies. But outside, the holiday was muted. Blackout regulations meant that store window displays were unlit by night and obscured with anti-blast tape by day. Because of the defense budget, money was tight, taxes were up, and prices had increased on sugar, beer, whiskey, tobacco, and cigarettes.

Most of Britain and much of Western Europe was carpeted in deep snow, and that December was cold. An eight-mile stretch of the River Thames froze, and London’s Serpentine Swimming Club was forced to postpone its Christmas morning handicap.

British leaders had agreed that a radioed yuletide message from the monarch would boost the people’s morale, so, at 3 pm on Christmas Day, the shy, gentle King George VI spoke hesitantly into two large microphones at his estate in the village of Sandringham, Norfolk.

“A new year is at hand,” he declared. “We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted…. May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”

The speech stirred all who heard it. Listeners huddling around living room radio sets applauded, and many veterans stood to attention while the king spoke.

Across the English Channel, men of the BEF sang Christmas carols, played soccer, sipped wine with French families, enjoyed chocolates and cigarettes sent by the royal family, and cheered visiting Prime Minister Chamberlain. In front of the Maginot Line between the Rhine and the River Moselle, soldiers numbly fingered their Bren guns in chilly dugouts, waiting. And the Phony War continued.

The Phony War Ends, Norway Falls

Meanwhile, shipping losses mounted in the Atlantic, and Field Marshal Carl Mannerheim’s Finnish Army—outnumbered and outgunned—battled on against the Soviet armies. Mounted on skis and sweeping out of the snow-clad forests, the hardy Finns ambushed and outmaneuvered Soviet armor and infantry columns and repeatedly turned back enemy offensives. But promised French and British support did not arrive, and the defenders were eventually overwhelmed and forced to sign a treaty with Russia in mid-March 1940. The Finns had lost 25,000 dead and 45,000 wounded.

Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass on March 18, and the latter said he was ready to join Germany and its allies in the war against France and Britain. Ten days later, the Anglo-French Supreme War Council decided to make a formal agreement that neither would seek a separate peace. It was decided to mine Norwegian coastal waters and, if necessary, to send a military expedition there. Hitler had decided in February to occupy neutral Norway and use its North Sea ports.

So, early on the morning of April 9, the Phony War came to an abrupt end when five German divisions led by Col. Gen. Niklaus von Falkenhorst landed at Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Trondheim, and Narvik. Airborne troops and a powerful naval armada supported the invasion. Simultaneously, two German divisions invaded neutral Denmark and captured the capital, Copenhagen, within 12 hours.

The Germans succeeded brilliantly in getting their forces ashore in Norway and in seizing and holding the strategic Stavanger airport. As more ports fell quickly to the invaders, King Haakon VII and his government managed to escape while British battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and cruiser transports rushed reinforcements to Norway. Contingents of British and French troops 13,000 strong— including British Commandos and French mountain infantry—landed at Namsos and Andalsnes to support the Norwegian Army, a largely militia force.

The Allied units fought gallantly against superior odds, but they were poorly equipped and led, uncoordinated, and had little or no air support. They tried to recapture Trondheim but were defeated, and by May 3 central Norway was in German hands. The focus of the fighting then shifted to Narvik, where the German Navy had suffered severe defeats at the hands of the British. The Allies managed to recapture the northern port but were withdrawn on June 7 as a result of the German successes in France. The staunch Norwegians continued to resist the Nazi invaders until June 9.

When the British and French pulled out, they took King Haakon, his ministers, and many Norwegian troops with them. Sailing from Tromso to England aboard the cruiser HMS Devonshire, the monarch set up a Free Norwegian government in London while his soldiers joined the growing legion of exiled patriots there.

The ill-fated Norwegian campaign had resulted in a stormy debate in the British House of Commons on May 7-8, the resignation of the principled but broken Chamberlain, and the appointment of Churchill as prime minister on May 10. That same day, powerful German army groups under Generals Gerd von Rundstedt, Fedor von Bock, and Ritter von Leeb started their lightning “blitzkrieg” offensive into Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France.

Western Europe found itself engulfed in a shooting war, and the Phony War was now just a curious memory.

A Lingering Controversy: Eisenhower’s ‘Broad Front’ Strategy

The war of words over the choices by which the war might have been won was, in the end, all but irrelevant. Not only was it politically impossible to have permitted the British to win the war by means of the narrow front, there is ample evidence to question if such a drive, if mounted, could have been logistically sustained beyond the Ruhr.

It has been sixty-five years since Dwight Eisenhower articulated his broad front strategy for ending the war in Europe and the consequences of that decision still linger on to this day. At the time the Allied generals quarreled over Ike&rsquos decision, and from the time the war ended historians have taken sides to praise or condemn it. Some of the war&rsquos most contentious debates have sprung from this decision. For his part, Eisenhower stubbornly never wavered in his belief that he had chosen the correct strategy. This is what it was all about.

The Normandy campaign ended in late August 1944 in a rout and with the German army in complete disarray. As the Allied armies crossed the Seine and began sweeping into Belgium and Lorraine it seemed to many that the Germans were finished and the war would surely be over by Christmas.

In mid-August, Eisenhower announced his intention to assume command of the Allied land forces on September 1. In the spring of 1944, while most were concentrating on the D-day invasion, a small group of SHAEF planners had for many weeks been busy analyzing Eisenhower&rsquos mandate &ldquoto undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces.&rdquo On May 3 they presented Eisenhower with alternative courses of action after Normandy to attain that goal. These included the capture of the Ruhr in order to cripple Germany&rsquos war-making capability, and the capture of Berlin. The four options presented for an advance to the Ruhr were all variations of a broad Allied advance both north and south of the rugged Ardennes Forest. Eisenhower rejected Berlin as a military objective and began to study his two options for seizing the Ruhr by either a frontal assault or through an envelopment. On May 27 Eisenhower affirmed the broad front strategy recommended by his planners. This is the only known document that spelled out SHAEF&rsquos post-Normandy strategy.

For Eisenhower, the student of history, the solution was self-evident. Military commanders dream of the double envelopment, of surrounding an objective on two sides by pincer movements and crushing it behind their combined weight as had been intended at Falaise. When he studied the map of Europe in 1944, Eisenhower was drawn by his knowledge of history to one of his boyhood heroes, Hannibal, the Carthaginian general whose masterful defeat of the Romans at Cannae in 216 B.C. is considered one of the classic battles of history. With the Ardennes as an impediment that of necessity had to be bypassed, Eisenhower envisioned a Hannibal-like Cannae by means of a double envelopment of the Ruhr. A force under Montgomery 21st Army Group would advance north of the Ardennes to strike the Ruhr while a second force consisting of Bradley&rsquos 12th Army Group advanced south of the Ardennes through Lorraine, and swung north to Cologne to complete the double envelopment. Moreover, the scheme bore more than a passing likeness to the plan of another general Eisenhower had studied at length: Ulysses S. Grant and his 1864 strategy for defeating the Confederacy.

Both Montgomery and Bradley began to weigh in with plans of their own that would guarantee them a key role in the post-Normandy battles. Each lobbied hard to win Eisenhower&rsquos approval. Although aware that his days as the acting Allied ground commander were numbered, Montgomery not only argued against changing the command set-up at this late date but pressed ahead to influence future Allied strategy. The sudden collapse of German resistance in mid-August gave rise to a proposal for what he called a single &ldquofull-blooded&rdquo thrust towards the Ruhr with his and Bradley&rsquos army group marching abreast. This force of some forty divisions &ldquowould be so strong that it need fear nothing.&rdquo

Montgomery was also convinced, not without justification, that Eisenhower and SHAEF were ill-prepared for the task of running the ground war. &ldquoThe whole command set up was fundamentally wrong. There was no one who could give his complete and undivided attention to the day to day direction of the land battle as a whole,&rdquo he told Australian journalist and military historian Chester Wilmot after the war. Eisenhower &ldquohad not the experience, the knowledge, the organization, or the time. He should have been devoting himself to questions of overall strategy, to political problems, and to problems of inter-Allied relations and military government . . . Instead he insisted on trying the run the land battle himself. Here he was out of his depth and in trying to do this he neglected his real job on the highest level.&rdquo

As the Normandy campaign had progressed, Montgomery found Eisenhower&rsquos presence more distraction than help. Montgomery conducted meetings in a brisk and businesslike manner, but when Eisenhower was present he was critical of what he believed tended to be too much conversation and too little substance. Montgomery also realized that he stood little chance of winning over Eisenhower at any meeting involving members of the SHAEF staff and arranged to have Eisenhower visit his field headquarters on August 23. Either he or Bradley, he said, should control the ground war, and with the growing insufficiency of supplies, the war could not be won in 1944 unless priority were given his proposed offensive which, he argued, must also include the First U.S. Army on his right flank. Eisenhower agreed to give priority of resupply to Lt. Gen. Miles Dempsey&rsquos Second British Army and, &ldquono matter what the command arrangements,&rdquo he &ldquowould see to it that Montgomery retained &ldquooperational coordination&rdquo over the northern flank of the Allied advance.&rdquo

On September 5 Eisenhower cabled Montgomery to reaffirm his intention to advance on a broad front, pointing out that with the destruction of the bulk of the German Army in the west, &ldquoWe must immediately exploit our success by promptly breaching the Siegfried Line, crossing the Rhine on a wide front and seizing the Saar and the Ruhr. This I intend to do with all possible speed … [which] will give us a stranglehold on two of Germany&rsquos main industrial areas and likely destroy her capacity to wage war.&rdquo He would give priority to the Ruhr to include the allocation of the precious logistical resources.

In a private office memorandum written that same day, Eisenhower summarized his position. &ldquoFor some days it has been obvious that our military forces can advance almost at will, subject only to the requirement for maintenance . . . The defeat of the German armies is complete, and the only thing now needed to realize the whole conception is speed. Our rapidity of movement will depend upon maintenance, in which we are now stretched to the limit . . . I now deem it important, while supporting the advance eastward through Belgium, to get Patton moving once again so that we may be fully prepared to carry out the original conception for the final stage of the campaign,&rdquo i.e., the broad front.

Montgomery was horrified by Eisenhower&rsquos intended strategy believing he was fully capable of ending the war by thrusting clear to Berlin, provided he was allocated the necessary resources. Nor was Montgomery a victim of the &ldquovictory disease&rdquo sweeping through Allied ranks. His official biographer notes: &ldquoIf he bombarded Eisenhower with signals daily more urgent in their appeal for a meeting, for concentrated strategy, for priority to be given to one thrust and for all resources to be thrown behind it, it was because he did not consider the war all but won.&rdquo

From mid-August until the end of the war disagreements would proliferate over precisely what Eisenhower&rsquos armies ought to be doing and where. In September 1944 they revolved around a single issue: &ldquowhich way to Germany?&rdquo Eisenhower believed that both strategically and logistically Montgomery&rsquos narrow front strategy was impractical and would shut down all other transportation and virtually immobilize the preponderance of American forces east of Paris simply to support Montgomery&rsquos 21st Army Group.

Eisenhower&rsquos penchant for compromise and consensus led him to approve some of Montgomery&rsquos recommendations. &ldquoWhat Eisenhower was unconsciously counting on was a repetition of November 1918, when the Germans signed the armistice while their armies were still well west of the border. Eisenhower had chosen the safe, cautious route,&rdquo notes his official biographer, Stephen Ambrose. Priority of resupply was allocated to 21st Army Group, primarily to enable the British and Canadian armies to capture Antwerp and, equally important, the deadly Crossbow V weapon sites which were now launching the more sophisticated V-2 rocket which struck throughout England without warning. Eisenhower also approved the temporary attachment of Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges&rsquo First Army, to the fury of Bradley who failed to change his friend&rsquos mind.

Their distinctive and disparate personalities and philosophical dissimilarities, and differing styles of leadership separated Eisenhower and Montgomery from one another soon escalated to far more serious proportions. To make his point that a single ground commander was vital, Montgomery even offered to serve under Bradley, never really perceiving Bradley&rsquos total disdain for him. Another misconception is that Montgomery&rsquos sole motivation was to retain the power and prestige of being the Allied ground force commander. Some historians have charged that his offer to serve under Bradley was specious it was not. Montgomery lacked the guile to make false promises. For all his vanity and at times insufferable insistence on pursuing his own ideas, Montgomery, like Eisenhower, was heartily sick of war and eager to end it quickly. Given the precedent of the independence of the army group commanders, little would have changed with Bradley in command. Eisenhower thus rejected the offer for the same reason he had earlier rebuffed keeping Montgomery: public opinion. The British public, he believed, would not stand for a junior American general in command of a British field marshal and his army group.

Eisenhower&rsquos decision to assume command of the ground war unleashed a tide of emotion. It was greeted by the British press as a national slap in the face that was only partly assuaged when Churchill announced Montgomery&rsquos promotion to field marshal on September 1, the official date Eisenhower assumed command of Allied ground forces. Although the decision had been plainly scripted months in advance, it nevertheless came as &ldquoan appalling shock&rdquo to Montgomery whose promotion seemed to mollify the British public, but did little to mitigate the disappointment over what he regarded as nothing less than a demotion.

Eisenhower was in a classic no-win quandary. The American press also criticized him but for not taking command and restoring American prestige, which they maintained was being stolen by Montgomery and the British. If Eisenhower was indecisive over the command issue during and after Cobra (July 1944), a telegram from Army chief of staff, Gen. George Marshall on August 19 settled matters. American correspondents were filing increasingly critical stories of Eisenhower that were receiving prominent space in The New York Times and other high profile newspapers across the United States. Through a censor&rsquos mistake, it had been made public that Bradley was now co-equal with Montgomery. Why were British commanders still running the war in Europe? And, why hadn&rsquot Eisenhower assumed control of the ground war? Marshall&rsquos implication was obvious and, not for the first time a prompting from Marshall stiffened his resolve.

Many American officers somewhat cynically viewed Montgomery&rsquos promotion as an unmerited concession by Churchill. Ever the diplomat, Eisenhower smoothed troubled waters at a Whitehall press conference in which he described Montgomery as a &ldquogreat and personal friend . . . anyone who misinterpreted the transition of command as a demotion for General Montgomery simply did not look the facts in the face . . . Montgomery is one of the great leaders of this or any other war.&rdquo Montgomery&rsquos promotion was both a reward for his past successes and also an attempt to keep British prestige from falling any further into the backwash of American supremacy.

With Eisenhower&rsquos assumption of command on September 1, Montgomery&rsquos relationship with him took a downward turn. With the change of command the former honeymoon-like atmosphere between the two men completely unraveled. To the point of obsession, Montgomery suffered from an inability to see the points of view of others or to accept that his beliefs were not always shared. He became overwrought in his refusal to accept the reality that Eisenhower intended to take his job. Instead of accepting what Eisenhower constantly preached, that he and everyone else were members of an allied team, Montgomery could not find it in himself to accept Eisenhower&rsquos way of warfare or his authority. The times had changed, but Montgomery had not changed with them, hence his insistence that the present lines of command remain intact. What made the changeover so bitter was Montgomery&rsquos conviction that Eisenhower was too inexperienced and organizationally ill-prepared to assume the mantle of land force commander.

Eisenhower&rsquos problems were not limited to Montgomery. With Third Army soon crippled by a lack of fuel and ammunition, Bradley and Patton aligned themselves against both Montgomery and Eisenhower whom they believed had sold out the U.S. Army to the British. Once, when a convoy of rations arrived, Patton raged to a sympathetic Bradley that he would &ldquoshoot the next man who brings me food. Give us gasoline we can eat our belts.&rdquo To correspondent Cornelius Ryan, Patton declared that there were only 5,000-10,000 &ldquoNazi bastards&rdquo blocking the advance of Third Army. &ldquoNow, if Ike stops holding Monty&rsquos hand and gives me the supplies, I’ll go through the Siegfried Line like shit through a goose.&rdquo

Eisenhower was not unresponsive and had there been sufficient supplies forward to increase Third Army&rsquos allocations, he would undoubtedly have turned Patton loose in Lorraine. As it was, before the fuel tap was all but shut off, Eisenhower gave Bradley and Patton fresh hope by allocating 250,000 gallons of fuel to Third Army on September 5 and an additional 1.4 million gallons over the three-day period that followed, before it ground to a halt along the Moselle River, a tantalizing seventy-odd miles from the then unmanned Siegfried Line. Like children squabbling over who gets the last piece of pie, Eisenhower could please no one. His latest generosity on behalf of Patton brought bitter criticism from Montgomery.

Still, Eisenhower’s broad-front decision sent a discernible chill through Patton and his Third Army staff and seemed confirmation of his pro-British bias. Convinced the winning of the war was being squandered on the altar of Allied cooperation, Patton frequently lamented that they were fighting two enemies, the Germans and SHAEF, writing to his wife, Bea, &ldquoGod deliver us from our friends. We can handle the enemy.&rdquo

The decisions made at this critical moment of the war were, as Patton called it, the &ldquounforgiving minute&rdquo of history, which, once taken, could not be easily reversed. &ldquoNo one realizes the terrible value of the ‘unforgiving minute’ except me,&rdquo he seethed in frustration.

During the second half of August Bradley and Montgomery took turns lobbying Eisenhower to accept their plan. Eisenhower&rsquos personal relationship with Bradley did not prevent the latter from aggressively entering the fray. His partisan views and his hostility toward Montgomery would at times overwhelm Bradley&rsquos common sense and help fuel Eisenhower&rsquos feelings against the British general. With his increased stature came what he believed should be commensurate clout as an army group commander. Bradley, by his own definition, was &ldquoflying high&rdquo and in no mood to be relegated to the second string at the expense of his nemesis, Montgomery.

Bradley proposed his own plan, a thrust across central and southern France through the Frankfurt gap, and into the heart of the Third Reich by both the First and Third Armies. Third Army would advance into Lorraine and breach the Maginot and Siegfried Lines in the Saar while First Army advanced on an axis to the north, both routes Bradley argued were the most direct ones into the Reich.

Eisenhower was beset from all sides by unhappy commanders scrapping for an equal share of the logistical pie. Montgomery&rsquos seemingly endless demands for priority were mirrored by Bradley and Patton who conspired to milk the supply system for all its worth. Caught in the middle was Eisenhower whose authority was challenged repeatedly. For once Bradley set aside his dislike of Patton and willingly supported his efforts to keep Third Army on the move.

Ike&rsquos grandson, David, argues &ldquothe thrust of Eisenhower&rsquos position was military,&rdquo and that he believed the Germans, while disorganized, were far from beaten. Moreover, Montgomery&rsquos single-thrust plan would actually have made the German defense of the homeland easier by permitting them to concentrate their opposition to the single-thrust advance. &ldquoThus, Montgomery&rsquos talk of defeating the German army and driving to Berlin with forty Allied divisions was &lsquofantastic&rsquo – Eisenhower would not ever consider it.&rdquo

Eisenhower&rsquos assertion that his decisions were made solely for military reasons was not completely valid. Stephen Ambrose notes that, &ldquoNo matter how brilliant or logical Montgomery&rsquos plan for an advance to the Ruhr was (and a good case can be made that it was both), and no matter what Montgomery&rsquos personality was, under no circumstances would Eisenhower agree to give all the glory to the British, any more than he would agree to give it to American forces. But as things stood Eisenhower could not make his decisions solely on military grounds. He could not halt Patton in his tracks, relegate Bradley to a minor administrative role, and in effect tell Marshall that the great army he had raised in the United States was not needed in Europe.&rdquo Although Eisenhower may well have convinced himself his broad front decision was primarily military, the political aspects simply could not have been ignored. 1944 was a presidential election year in a war being fought by allies. From the time he took command of Torch in North Africa his role, indeed the very basis of his success, had been unity in a war, which would be won by allies, not by British or Americans, acting singularly. Thus, from Eisenhower&rsquos perspective, the controversy was a tempest in a teapot.

Yet, Montgomery&rsquos single most compelling argument was one which left Eisenhower in a quandary that defied resolution: &ldquoIf we attempt a compromise solution,&rdquo he wrote to the supreme commander on September 4, &ldquoand split our maintenance resources so that neither thrust is full-blooded, we will prolong the war.&rdquo

His memories still bitter after the war, Montgomery said that Eisenhower&rsquos method &ldquowas to talk to everyone and then try to work out a compromise solution which would please everyone. He had no plan of his own . . . Eisenhower held conferences to collect ideas I held conferences to issue orders.&rdquo Patton likewise later labeled Eisenhower&rsquos attempts to satisfy everyone by compromise the &ldquomomentous error of the war.&rdquo Another major point that further muddied the waters was Montgomery&rsquos contention that his offensive encompass forty divisions, a figure wildly beyond the capacity of the logisticians to have supported without the port of Antwerp, which was then still in German hands. The most reasonable figure was a mere twelve divisions. The great argument has focused on whether or not the war would have been shortened had Montgomery&rsquos single thrust strategy prevailed. On this point historians still disagree, as did the logisticians in 1944. Eisenhower questioned, even if given the necessary resources, if Montgomery could have carried out a systematic, aggressive offensive into the Ruhr. He concluded Montgomery could not.

The storm brewing between Eisenhower and Montgomery came to a head on September 10 during a tense face-off between the two men. Montgomery had insisted on a meeting and in keeping with his custom that the senior officer should visit his subordinates, Eisenhower readily agreed. The two met aboard Eisenhower&rsquos aircraft parked on the tarmac at Brussels airport. The meeting began innocently enough until Montgomery pulled from his pocket the signals exchanged between them for the past week. The new field marshal wasted no time launching into perhaps the most intemperate and foolish outburst of his career. In language fit for a drill instructor addressing recruits, Montgomery testily condemned everything about Eisenhower&rsquos plan, and why it would not work. Pulling Eisenhower&rsquos recent signals from his pocket, he exclaimed, &ldquoThey&rsquore balls, sheer balls, rubbish!&rdquo Perhaps only Eisenhower would have the forbearance to sit in stony silence while a subordinate verbally assaulted him. When Montgomery at last paused for breath, Eisenhower put his hand on Montgomery&rsquos knee and gently said, &ldquoSteady, Monty! You can&rsquot speak to me like that. I&rsquom your boss.&rdquo For one of the few times in his career, Montgomery muttered, &ldquoI&rsquom sorry, Ike,&rdquo and the meeting concluded in less acrimonious fashion, but with neither general giving in to the other. The broad front advance to the Rhine would continue, declared Eisenhower.

Eisenhower&rsquos refusal to back Montgomery&rsquos single-thrust plan was not only based on philosophical differences, but on intelligence estimates that the Germans were simply too weak to hold the Siegfried Line or to stop an Allied advance on both the Ruhr and the Saar. Privately, Ike was deeply troubled by the rancorous September 10 meeting. Montgomery&rsquos repeated challenges left him openly questioning his loyalty, and he derided Monty&rsquos plan as a &ldquomere pencil-like thrust&rdquo inconsistent with his concept that the war would be fought and won by Allies advancing on a &ldquobroad front.&rdquo

Montgomery&rsquos lack of tact, his frequent letters exhorting Eisenhower to change his mind, and now their face-off in Brussels drove an even deeper wedge in their relations. Montgomery had failed to discern that to attempt to run roughshod over Eisenhower was a waste of time that did more harm than good. Or that behind the calm exterior that permitted free rein to the British field marshal was the unforgiving side of Eisenhower who never forgot the slights and the criticism of his decisions. Montgomery&rsquos pride and his belief in the correctness of his plan left him equally unapologetic. &ldquoI&rsquom trying to fight a war, and I can&rsquot help it,&rdquo he told his aide.

Two proud men that believed in the validity of their cause was a prescription for an impasse. Eisenhower&rsquos great instinct for compromise influenced his decisions during the most critical weeks of the war. Had the logistical support existed without utterly crippling everyone else, there was a strong case to be made for Montgomery&rsquos bold, single-thrust, the ultimate prize being an end to the war in 1944.

The great void between their differing beliefs was never more evident than when, in rejecting Montgomery, Eisenhower said, &ldquoThe American public would never stand for it and public opinion wins wars.&rdquo To which Montgomery asserted, &ldquoVictories win wars. Give people victory and they won&rsquot care who won it.&rdquo Both were right but, in the end, the scheme stood no chance in the climate of coalition warfare nurtured by Eisenhower. Not only the months of controversy but also the intrusion of nationalism and outside pressures into the equation brought a certain inevitability to Eisenhower&rsquos decisions.

Chester Wilmot has made the case for the British point of view and it is as compelling as it was politically impossible. As supreme commander, Eisenhower &ldquohad shown himself to be the military statesman rather than the generalissimo. . . except for one brief period early in the Tunisian Campaign, he had never attempted to exercise direct operational control over his armies.&rdquo Instead, Eisenhower had done what he did best, establishing the conditions under which his field commanders carried out his strategic guidance. Eisenhower commanded by consensus and compromise and made the Allied teamwork by dint of his ability to accommodate multi-national interests. &ldquoWhen he could gather his commanders and advisors around a conference table, he had a remarkable capacity for distilling the counsel of many minds into a single solution, but when his commanders were scattered over France he was open to persuasion by the last strong man to whom he talked.&rdquo

Eisenhower&rsquos voluminous responsibilities were an equally effective argument for retaining a ground commander. The demands on his time and the myriad of problems dumped on his desk for resolution on any given day was staggering. The problems and challenges were endless, but with only a finite number of hours available to Eisenhower to address them. Although civil affairs, administrative matters, and stroking visiting political and military egos all possessed varying degrees of necessity, they often had no direct bearing on the day-to-day problems and responsibilities of a ground force commander. Moreover, without a small operational field headquarters of the sort Marshall would have established, the cumbersome organization of SHAEF simply did not lend itself to managing the battlefield or making decisions in a timely manner.

The war of words over the choices by which the war might have been won was, in the end, all but irrelevant. Not only was it politically impossible to have permitted the British to win the war by means of the narrow front, there is ample evidence to question if such a drive, if mounted, could have been logistically sustained beyond the Ruhr. Thus, as a British historian has noted, &ldquoThere was, therefore, no real alternative to Eisenhower&rsquos broad front advance.&rdquo The final word on the matter belonged to Eisenhower. In rejecting Montgomery&rsquos narrow front strategy, he said, &ldquoSuch an attempt would have played into the hands of the enemy,&rdquo and would have resulted in an &ldquoinescapable defeat&rdquo for the Allies. Equally telling is David Eisenhower&rsquos blunt assessment. &ldquoOften overlooked is the fact that Eisenhower never considered the single-thrust idea – only ways to derail it.&rdquo

What was evident but unappreciated by Eisenhower and other key players in the Allied high command in the aftermath of Normandy was the example of earlier campaigns. The German Army was repeatedly shown to be at its most dangerous whenever its back was to the wall or the odds against survival the highest. North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Cassino, and now Normandy were all examples of tenaciously fought battles and campaigns that were soon to be repeated in Holland, Lorraine, and in the forests of the Ardennes and the Hürtgen. Place names that would shortly become prominent on the Allied battle maps: Arnhem, Aachen, Metz, the Reichswald, Elsenborn ridge, Bastogne, and Saint-Vith would prove startling illustrations that the war was far from over.


In this parody, the British court and war government consist mainly of idiots and traitors. Adolf Hitler moves into Buckingham Palace and plans to marry into the Windsors. A U.S. Army officer claims the iconic cigar-smoking PM was an actor named Roy Bubbles however, he was actually USMC lieutenant Winston Churchill who had stolen an enigma code machine and then almost single-handedly won a very alternative battle for Britain.

It was filmed between 24 March and 12 May 2003. Mainly filmed at the Royal William Yard, Stonehouse, Plymouth

  • The scene between Charoo and the waitress in a station tearoom, and Elizabeth's response on Churchill's arrival there, are parodies of scenes from Brief Encounter, between Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey, and Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, respectively
  • The taxi driver and the King mistake Adolf Hitler for Charlie Chaplin, who played a spoof of Hitler in the satirical film The Great Dictator
  • The "Siegfried Line" rap takes its title and (loosely) some of its lyrics from the British wartime song "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line". The introduction to the song is a reference to Top Gun.
  • The song "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" is frequently referenced, including once where it is delivered by Tommy Trinder
  • The presence of "Irish Cockneys" is a reference to the steerage passengers in Titanic
  • Churchill's final exit in a Spitfire references the portrayal of the American contribution to the Battle of Britain early in the film Pearl Harbor ' commentary on Hitler and Elizabeth's wedding is a parody of Richard Dimbleby's hushed radio commentaries of royal events is shown listening to the end of an episode of The Archers, even though it did not start until six years after the war ended
  • Jim Jim Charoo takes his name from a song Dick van Dyke sings in Mary Poppins (he also lives on "Ye Olde Dick Van Dyke Street")

Historical characters Edit

Other Edit

    as Baxter as Potter as Bendle as Bette as Waitress as Chester as Captain Davies (present-day) as Lord W'ruff as Jim Charoo as Radio Presenter as Mr. Teasy-Weasy

Philip French writing in The Observer called the film "a hit and miss affair". [1] Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian gave it three stars and said "It's wildly uneven and very broad, but there are some laughs in Peter Richardson's Comic Strip fantasy of Churchill's real life as a kickass action hero". [2] However, Nev Peirce on the BBC's website panned the film, saying "Sadly, Peter Richardson suffers the fate of many satirists in trying to mock bad movies, he's simply made a bad movie". [3] The film holds a score of 40% on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. [4]

The film grossed $288,292 on its opening weekend across 170 screens in the UK. It grossed a total of $478,981 in the United Kingdom. [5]

Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line - History

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The Churchill Society

But in the long run - believe me,
for I know -
the action of the United States will be dictated,
not by methodical calculations of profit and loss,
but by moral sentiment,
and by that gleaming flash of resolve
which lifts the hearts of men and nations,
and springs from the spiritual foundations of human life itself.

Winston Churchill.


Illustrated Monthly Calendars of WWII.

Monthly calendar of events between September and December 1944.

The purpose of these pages is to tell the story of Churchill's life - not to give a detailed account of the wars he was involved in, for that is a vast subject.




Allies capture Dieppe and Arras and reach Belgium border.


Allies capture Brussels and Antwerp and cross into Holland.


First V2 Rocket drops on London - huge damage but only three people killed.


Himmler orders the entire families of deserters to be killed.

Canadians capture Zeebrugge.


Churchill meets Roosevelt.

US First Army under General Omar Bradley crosses German border.

Seven more German Generals hanged for Hitler bomb plot.


Relaxation of blackout restrictions in UK.



Troops capture Caen in Normandy

Invasion Gliders

Arnhem disaster begins.

Allies capture Boulogne.

Blackout restrictions lifted in the UK.

Germans Troops on the run on all fronts


USAF make first raid on Manilla.

US Marines capture Manilla.

Red Army captures Tallinn in Estonia.


Dr Mengele selects 1000 children to send to the gas chambers.

7,000 allied troops lost at Arnhem in attempting to seize three vital bridges.


German civilians made to bury the Dead of Concentration camps.

200 Gypsies are gassed at Auschwitz.


British and Polish troops surrender at Arnhem after a 9 day heroic siege.


Canadians turn Germans out of Calais.

October 1944

British forces land on Crete.


7 homosexual prisoners are castrated in the name of medical research at Buchenwald.

Hitler orders the evacuation of Greece.


Allies decide to form the United Nations (Washington)

Churchill arrives in Moscow for talks.

US Navy Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific.

Allies surround Germans at Aachen and order them to surrender. Gestapo loot German homes.

Red Army enters Riga in Latvia.


Rommel visited by Hitler's senior staff at his home and then commits suicide (to save his family) because he had been linked to the July plot. Official explanation of his death was killed by enemy action and given a state Funeral on the 17th October.


Huge volume of personal and medical experiment records burned in the gas ovens at Auschwitz to conceal evidence.

Terrible food shortages in Germany.

Rival partisans fight for power in Greece.

October 1944


US Navy crushes Japan in great sea battle in the Philippines.

Japanese War Lord Yamaoto

US Navy crushes Japan in great sea battle in the Philippines.

US Forces land on Leyte in the central Philippines.

200 Dutch people herded into the Town Hall in Heusden by the Germans and then they blow it up.

Red Army and Marshall Tito capture Belgrade.

November 1944

Europe is in ruins with winter approaching with starving refugees and homeless people wandering all over it.


Red Army capture Belgrade.


De Gaulle demands a French Zone of occupation of Germany.


Paris bestows the Freedom of the City upon Churchill. Receives stupendous reception.

RAF sink Tirpitz.


Germans reported to have blown up Town Hall of Heusden with 200 people inside it.


Red Cross visit Auschwitz but not able to inspect it properly.

Churchill inspects V2 Damage

Over a 100 V2 have land on London since the first arrived with huge damage and many deaths.


A single V2 Rocket kills 160 in South London.

American bombers raid Tokyo.

Churchill meets commandos.

General Patton's tanks enter Saar Basin.


Churchill 70 years of age.



Gen Patton crosses the Saar and reaches the Siegfried Line.

Iwo Jima in the Pacific heavily bombed by USAAF.


Germans in large retreat over the Rhein.

9 members of the Gestapo sentenced to death in Paris.

"German troops are lost"

During the Watch am Rhein offensive. The officer on the left of the photograph may be Joachim Peiper, who commanded the I Panzer Corps task-force.

(Our thanks to Jonathan Wilde for this attribution).

20 million people homeless in Germany.

Kamikaze attack on US Warship.

US forces land in Mindoro in Philippines.


Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne. Set back to US Forces in Europe in very bad weather.

Red Army fights in Budapest and Hungary declares war on Germany.


Churchill arrives in Athens to try and end the civil war.

To obtain an idea of the cause and magnitude of the war, examine the monthly calendar for each year - they include many photographs.

It is important to remember that heavy censorship of news took place throughout them, and therefore knowledge of many of these events was not available until long after they happened - or until after the wars had ended.

Illustrated Monthly Calendars of WWII.























































































Explanatory notes are given against some of these dates, but to read about particular battles or political events please go to Bibliography

CHURCHILL'S SPEECHES The Full Texts from 1936 to 1946.

Short biography of President Roosevelt
Short biography of General Eisenhower
Short biography of President Truman
Short biography of Hitler
Short biography of Stalin
Short biography of Mussolini
Short biography of The Japanese War Lords

List of all the Ranks in the British Armed Forces

British Prime Ministers

History of No 10 Downing Street

Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line - History

A short pocket history of the 102nd Infantry Division printed by the division in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

A large, golden "O" on a field of blue. Within the "O" is the letter "Z," from which is suspended an arc, both the letter and the arc being in gold. The patch thus represents the word "Ozark," original plans having been intended for personnel to be drawn from the Ozark Mountain area of the United States.


The 102d Infantry Division was created shortly after the close of World War I, but did not achieve real stature until World War II when it carved on the battlefields of Hitler's Germany a brilliant record as a fighting force.

When Japanese bombers delivered their surprise blow against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the men who would man the 102d Division's machine guns, rifles, tanks and artillery were for the most part merely names and numbers on selective service rolls throughout the country.

The division itself existed only on sheets of paper which had been gathering dust for about 20 years. On 21 June 1921 the division which had been authorized in the waning months of the First World War was constituted as an organized reserve division on paper, and then all but forgotten.

Not until a national crisis arose was the division activated, molded around a small, experienced cadre of men from the Second Infantry Division and swelled to combat strength with carpenters, clerks, lumberjacks and lawyers from the four points of the compass.

The division's name and patch have a history dating back to the days when French explorers came upon skillful Indian bowmen in what is now Missouri and Arkansas and called the region "Terre aux Arcs" or "Land of the Bows."

Early American settlers later modified the name to "Ozarks," the region from which the men of the 102d were originally slated to come.

On 15 September 1942 the 102d was ordered to active duty to begin forming and training at Camp Maxey, a new post in northeast Texas.

The progress of the war had not yet showed signs of turning. Nazi troopers were moving forward through Stalingrad in door-to-door fighting. Rommel's African corps was hammering at El Alamein. Our mighty aircraft carrier Wasp was sinking in the waters of the Solomon Islands. America's first major offensive operation was encountering bitter resistance from newly reinforced Japanese on Guadalcanal.

With this as a somber backdrop and a spur, training was begun in earnest. Fifteen thousand raw recruits streamed into Camp Maxey during October, November and December.

Their arms were sore from shots soon their feet were sore from the tough soldiering that was immediately demanded of them.

Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson assumed command. Under his direction the draftees and enlistees were welded into a modern military force.

The men were taught to drill, to hike, to shoot, to dig in, to obey orders and to think in terms of an objective as having overall, life-or-death importance.

The men responded. A new division with great potential came to life. Its test would be a severe one. But it would score well.


Early in the life of the division it was decided to point the training toward breaching the dreaded Siegfried Line.

The Ozarks, as they were commonly called, took part in Third Army maneuvers in Louisiana in the fall of 1943 and then shifted to Camp Swift, Texas, for more specialized training.

In December of 1943 General Anderson left the division to assume command of the XVIth Corps. He was succeeded the following month by Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) Frank A. Keating.

In June of 1944 the 102d was moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, on its first leg of the journey overseas.

But before the big move, two regiments were ordered to Philadelphia briefly to cope with a transportation strike which had crippled the city.


In August the division went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, for final processing and then traveled by troop transports to Cherbourg. Thence by train, truck and foot they moved through France, Belgium and Holland destination: the Siegfried Line.

By November of 1944 the Allied armies had driven the Nazis from France, had penetrated Germany at several points and were developing a full scale attack against the Siegfried Line. This vaunted defense position had already been pierced by the First Army at Aachen but the front had subsequently stabilized.


Plans called for attack through the line at Geilenkirchen. Ninth Army was selected for the job and the Ozark Division was assigned to this sector.

This portion of the line consisted of pillboxes with walls 8 to 10 feet thick, some even disguised as out-houses, barns and haystacks. These strong points were protected by belts of mines and barbed wire, trenches, foxholes and anti-tank ditches. Tanks, self-propelled guns and assault guns were dug in on the reverse sides of slopes and behind pillboxes.

The division's initial mission was one of defense sending out patrols to keep pressure on the enemy, shelling the enemy's rear areas, acting as a screen behind which preparations for the attack could be made.

On 18 November the attack jumped off with the 84th Division moving through front line positions under support fire from a 102d regiment.

In the operation one of the great tank battles of the war ensued, during which one company of a tank destroyer battalion (attached to 102d Division Artillery) destroyed 16 German tanks.

The unit was cited for the "audacity and brilliant tactical skill" of its operation.

Meanwhile an infantry regiment was attached to the 2d Armored Division for the attack and seized Apweiler and Gereonsweiler after storming through curtains of fire from pillboxes, machine guns, tanks and German 88's manned by crack Panzer and SS troops.

Praising the regiment for its action Maj. Gen. E. N. Harmon said: "The fighting quality displayed . . . is in the best traditions of the service and has won the respect and commendation of the 2d Armored Division."

For troops whose previous offensive experience had been gained in mock battles in the swamps of Louisiana, who only a few short weeks before had enjoyed cold beer in New York, it was a proud accomplishment.

Over 1,000 prisoners had been taken. Another 204 had been killed. The push to the Roer was well under way.

The division was consolidated and its headquarters moved from Robroek, Holland, to Ubach, Germany.

The Ozarks smashed through several towns in a drive toward Linnich on the west bank of the Roer River. In Roerdorf, a regiment turned the fight into a rout. The enemy suffered high casualties and a severe blow to its prestige as troops of crack German outfits jumped into the river and tried to swim to safety.


During this operation the division encountered the worst enemy artillery fire it was to face. Roads and towns throughout the area were continuously pounded by guns of all calibers. The enemy didn't hesitate to place murderous artillery and mortar fire on towns which their own infantry was still defending.

But before the attack could be pushed across the river, von Rundstedt unleashed an all-out counter-offensive through the Ardennes in Belgium starting on 16 December.

The 84th, 2d and 7th divisions were shifted south to help halt the German drive in this, the Battle of the Bulge. This left the 102d defending the entire XIIIth Corps sector with a front of almost 8 miles. Service and supply units, even company cooks, were to get the feel of front-line defense before the winter snows disappeared.


Operations during this period included efforts to convince the Germans that a sizeable force was building across from their positions. Tanks moved back and forth to give an impression of great armored strength. Dummy tanks and artillery pieces were erected. Mines were laid, barbed wire strung, foxholes chopped in the ice-hard earth.

By the end of December the Germans were convinced that something was brewing. At dawn on the 30th of the month they sent a raiding party of 150 men toward Ozark positions.

The Jerries ran into wire defenses thrown up only a few hours earlier. Division artillery, guided by accurate fire commands from our forward observers, plastered the raiders. Sixty-seven were killed, 34 captured the enemy spent the rest of the day evacuating the wounded.

The big job in January was to eliminate a German strongpoint in the Roer-Wurm confluence, defended by a portion of the old Siegfried Line. Extensive plans included the issuance of white snow suits to camouflage the men against the snow. But the Germans melted away in front of the Ozarks.

This description was reported in the New York Times in an Associated press dispatch:

"BRACHELEN, Germany, Jan. 26 This badly battered old city, ten miles inside Germany, and six surrounding villages, were in American hands tonight without an artillery shell being fired.

"The last plug was knocked from the Siegfried Line in this sector at a cost up to noon, of nine casualties. A hundred Germans are prisoners and the rest have fled into the blue, tree-topped hills to the east along with the civilians.

"Most of the casualties were wounded by the mine fields, as Brig. Gen. Frank A. Keating's 102d Infantry Division, white-cloaked against the snow, surged forward early this morning and overran 97 pillboxes.

"The division struck three regiments abreast against such light opposition that plans for an elaborate artillery barrage were cancelled. "


Toward the end of February, it was decided to send the Ninth Army in a plunge across the Roer toward the Rhine. The 102d Division was chosen to spearhead the attack.

The Ozarks poised their strength on a narrow front between Linnich and Roerdorf. Every weapon, organic and attached, had been emplaced and sighted. Everything was closed up against the Roer, like a tightly coiled spring about to snap loose in fury.

Artillery batteries were practically against the banks of the river. Service elements and dumps were within striking distance of enemy artillery. The division command post was barely 300 yards from the water's edge.

The 23d of February was a crucial day. It opened for the Ozarks on a thunderous note: a 45-minute Div/Arty barrage.

The 102d was the first division to get all of its units across the swollen, churning river. The bridgehead was established and the road to the Rhine had been opened.


In less than a week the Ozarks cleaned up the major western defensive belt protecting Munchen - Bladbach and proceeded north, continuing to spearhead Ninth Army's deep thrust.

In three days of bitter fighting, the division captured Krefeld, a city of 170,000, key railroad and communications center and site of a large rocket factory built in caves. The date was 3 March.

The Stars and Stripes paid tribute to the division with a story headlined: "Ozark Doughs Capture 4,000, 86 Localities." There followed an account of how the 102d "paced Ninth Army's whirlwind push to the Rhine." In the 33 hard miles from Linnich to Krefeld the division overran 86 towns and cities and earned a reputation as one of the best combat divisions in the European theater of operations.

The sagging Germans expended considerable effort to prepare strong defenses on the east bank of the Rhine.

As late as 15 March, however, before these defensive positions were complete, a patrol from the 102d reconnoitered a point 4 miles east of the river the deepest penetration yet made into Germany.

The Nazis shifted their crack 2d Paratroop Division to a position across from the Ozarks. The fact that this division was committed to defend the southwest approach to the Ruhr industrial district, and the Uerdingen - Duisberg sector in particular, was interpreted as indicating the great consternation with which the menacing position and the reputation of the Ozark Division was viewed by the German high command.

On 30 March the 102d extended north and south, thus occupying an 18-mile front from Romberg nearly to Dusseldorf.

In the fight for the Ruhr the 102d was initially slated for a role of deception, holding the 2d Paratroop Division south near Uerdingen while Ninth Army made an end-run further north.

Patrols were intensified. Artillery thundered around the clock. A great store of captured German rockets was turned against the enemy. In rear areas our troops rushed to and fro in confusing movements.

The deception worked. By the time the Germans realized the Ozarks' tactics were merely a ruse, Ninth Army had secured the Wesel crossing and the Ruhr was well on the way toward capture.

The 102d crossed the Rhine early in April and hurried across the rolling fields of Munster Bay. During the move they combed 3,000 enemy soldiers from wooded ridges in the Teutogebirge area.

In three days of bloody fighting for the Wesergebirge area, about 1,600 prisoners were taken another 600 were killed.

On 13 April in fighting near Breitenfeld, an I & R Platoon fought its way out of an ambush to win a presidential citation. It read in part:

". the platoon was given the mission of screening the advance of the infantry. As it proceeded two miles ahead of the regiment it was ambushed and cut off from the main body . Although taken under intense fire from a stubborn enemy firing from the distance of 75 yards, the officers and men, with sheer valor and aggressiveness, fought off numerically superior forces. Because of the persistence and rapidity of the assault the enemy forces were compelled to give ground, but nevertheless continued to resist stubbornly until members of the I & R Platoon rushed their positions and eliminated them individually in their foxholes. During this action they killed and wounded a large number of enemy and captured the remainder, thereby annihilating a strong enemy force which would have constituted a serious threat to the advancing regiment. The fearless determination, daring and intrepidity of all members of the (platoon) reflect great credit upon themselves and is in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service."

An example of the kind of individual courage shown that day was when Sgt. Paul J. Padgett of Detroit, although having had one arm pierced by a bullet, rushed a foxhole, wrestled a rifle away from the German occupant, then killed him with his own weapon.

The capture of Gardelegen, an ancient town surrounded by a moat, and containing a large air field and air force replacement center, is an event that will never be forgotten by those involved, for two reasons: the German commander was tricked into complete surrender inside the town were found the remains of a grisly crime.

Lt. Emerson Hunt, liaison officer between Ozark Headquarters and his tank battalion, was not aware that the town was still in enemy hands when he was captured by its outguards.

During questioning he demanded to be taken to the highest ranking German officer. He then succeeded in convincing this man, a colonel in the Luftwaffe, that American tanks were ready to blast Gardelegen from the face of the fatherland.

He said that since he wasn't certain where his own battalion headquarters were located at the moment, it might be wise for the Germans to surrender to the nearest American commander who, judging by the noise, was only then approaching from Estedt.

No sooner said than done. Lt. Hunt was sent back to notify his tanks that complete surrender would be arranged. A Nazi major accompanied him through the German outposts to American lines.

It might be noted here that except for two platoons of tanks at Estedt, our armor was far, far away.

Terms were quickly agreed to and the German colonel accompanied Colonel Williams, CO of an infantry regiment, into town where the entire garrison, its arms already stacked, stood neatly drawn up for surrender. On this note the "Battle for Gardelegen" ended.

In a barn on the outskirts of town were found the charred and smoking bodies of over 300 slave laborers, deliberately burned to death by their captors.

Investigation disclosed that 1,016 political and military prisoners had perished here. Part of a larger group, they were being driven west to escape the Russians when their guards suddenly learned that the fall of Gardelegen was imminent. The prisoners were slaughtered to prevent the possibility of their turning on their captors in the event of sudden liberation.

Freshly dug common graves mutely testified to the haste with which all evidence of the atrocity was being concealed. Another day and no trace would have remained.

Toward the end of April all organized resistance had just about vanished. For the German soldiers the war with the Americans was over, and they surrendered in droves.


Two news accounts quickly outline the picture.

Lowell Thomas said in his nightly NBC broadcast on May 4:

"General Eisenhower's announcement here at Supreme Allied Headquarters tonight seems to have put the quietus on any hope that anyone may have had for a VE-day proclamation this week. But (his) is a thrilling statement, VE-day or no VE-day. 'German forces on the Western Front have disintegrated' those are his first words. 'Today what is left of two German armies surrendered to a single American division the 102d, commanded by Maj. Gen. Frank A. Keating.'"

And on the same day Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press put it this way:

"Germany's once proud Wehrmacht is dying a shameful death on the banks of the Elbe.

"SS Panzer troops once Germany's elite paddle across the river on makeshift rafts. Sometimes they swim, leaving their medal-bedecked tunics behind.

"The swarm of soldiers clogging the east banks by the tens of thousands is more than a beaten Army. It is a fear-stricken horde afraid of the Russians with a fear that only a guilty conscience can inspire.

"Anyone standing on the Elbe could not help but feel the war is over, VE declaration or no.

"That generals are standing in line is no figure of speech.

"At one regimental command post of the 102d Division there were two generals, one a Panzer Army commander, and half a dozen colonels, all trying to surrender their units. "

The two enemy armies which surrendered to the 102d were the German 9th and 12th Panzer Armies.

On 7 May 1945 Russian troops made contact with American forces at the Elbe and for the men of the Ozark Division the shooting war was over, after 181 days of combat.

During its valorous campaigns the 102d captured 147,000 and killed more than 4,000 enemy troops. In addition, the Ozarks captured or destroyed 345 enemy planes, 24 tanks, 14 railroad guns, 67 hated 88's, and carloads of ammunition and military equipment.

Occupation duty followed until March of 1946 when the division sailed for home.

With the end of hostilities the 102d was deactivated. But not for long.

On 15 September 1947 the division was activated as part of the Organized Reserve, under the command of Maj. Gen. Leif J. Sverdrup.

During World War II General Sverdrup had served as General Douglas MacArthur's chief engineer, and was in large part responsible for the building of a vast system of air bases throughout the southwest Pacific.

Under his command the 102d was developed from small beginnings into one of the largest and best reserve divisions in the country. The division area encompasses all of Missouri and southern Illinois.

On 31 January 1958 General Sverdrup retired and was succeeded by Brig. Gen. (now Maj. Gen.) William H. Harrison, who had previously served as division artillery executive officer, chief of staff, and division artillery commander with the 102d.

During the war General Harrison was a top staff officer of General George S. Patton.

Award-winning streaming service of full-length docs for the likes of history buffs, royal watchers, cinema aficionados & train enthusiasts. Visit British Pathé now represents the Reuters historical collection, which includes more than 136,000 items from 1910 to 1984. Start exploring!
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Churchill VI approaching the Siegfried Line - History

In 2005, as near as I can tell, a Finish author, Erkki Hautamäki, published a book titled “Finland i stormens öga” (Finland in the eye of the storm). The book was published first in Swedish, a second volume is pending and a German edition is being prepared. Here is a little write-up about the book:

Chapter 10 deals with a pact between Churchill and Stalin, the French are also part of the plan. I was able to obtain a German translation of this chapter and translated it into English. I would like to thank Veronica Clark for her assistance.

Some of what Hautamäki writes I do not agree with, but my opinion is not the issue here. Hopefully the German edition will be available soon, allowing for a more contextual approach. The second volume should also help, but until that happens, here then Chapter 10.

10. Churchill and Stalin’s war operation agreements of October 15, 1939 in Moscow.

Translated by Wilfried Heink

The Great Powers, which had for years conducted clandestine politics, were about to make their last move on the chessboard of political agreements. Now soldiers and armies were entered onto the stage in decisive fashion. The “iron roller” of war could no longer be stopped by any reason.

In the minds of the leaders of the Western Powers, Hitler was unstoppable when it came to the Polish issue. He had tried to avoid a war on two fronts by signing an agreement with Stalin, but the pact was violated when Poland was attacked. Thus, Hitler became a sort of “Siamese twin” of Stalin’s. In the ensuing situation Hitler had to act in a way that respected Stalin’s interests as to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. However, Stalin’s real intentions were discussed more and more in German circles. But the promise of Russian supplies of raw materials to Germany forced Hitler to be patient. To avoid the catastrophe of a two-front war, Hitler planned to attack the west first, since his peace proposals of 1939 had been rejected. According to his own account, he delayed action because of the rainy fall weather. It was a matter of survival for Stalin, the “Siamese twin”, to keep Hitler content and to fulfill his obligations arising out of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact without interruption. The Red Army was not yet strong enough to withstand a Wehrmacht onslaught. For Stalin this was indeed a nightmare.

Similarly, England, France and the USA, which entered the war later on, were not yet ready for war they had all three only began to allocate the necessary resources needed to wage a war, thus actions against Germany were out of the question. Stalin, the dictator, was aware of the shortcomings of democracies. If Hitler could concentrate his military might early on against the Soviet Union—i.e., before the Western Powers were able to organize and force Hitler to station troops in the West instead—this would be a deadly danger for Stalin.

Stalin was above all a realist! Assessments undertaken by the Kremlin concerning material resources indicated that fortunes would favor the Western allies—England, France and the USA—if the war could be expanded enough to last a long time. Stalin decided to smash this Gordian knot that had turned into a matter of life or death for the Soviet Union (see Stalin’s speech of August 19, 1939), and to enter into the most secret agreement of WWII with the Western Powers. The military [Red Army?] had already, in the late summer of 1939, worked on joint operations in case of a German attack.

According to the plans worked out after August 23, the aim was to create new fronts to disperse and tie down German troops. Later, a concentrated attack from different directions against Germany was planned: after all the resources that were needed had been assembled. In light of Churchill’s extremely close contact earlier (after September 3, channeled into Chamberlain’s cabinet) Stalin was now willing to sign an agreement with the Western Powers. Disinformation was needed to keep this a secret.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is seen as the most important agreement of WWII. For Hitler this pact was vital, and he was gullible enough to take the signatures of Molotov and Stalin at face value, forgetting what Lenin had said about the importance of “papers”. But according to the information in Document S-32, the most important agreement of WWII was signed in Moscow on October 15, 1939—between the Soviet Union, England and France.

Mannerheim kept the content of that agreement secret in his S-32 document, copies of which have become known. Fifty-plus years later we find it prudent to make this agreement public, so as to gain an understanding of the truth of the most difficult time in the history of Finland.

Given the unique situation Finland was in following the war, the Marshall was not able to write about the political background of issues in his memoirs, and concentrated instead on military operations. We have depositions by the Marshall made to his agent VT on January 20, 1950 in which he stated:

“My military dos and don’ts are not the issue in this record (Doc. S-32), nor are my memories of them. I will leave this up to others. I cannot make these political background actions known to my generals, because that information would not be treated correctly and honestly by them”. The operational plans for this war were apparently signed by the minister of the Admiralty, Churchill, on February 8, 1940 in London. He handed them, in any case, to Stalin’s courier on February 9, to be forwarded by air mail to Moscow. German intelligence knew about this and intercepted the plane carrying the documents over the Baltic Sea. The plane was searched, the documents found, copied and the plane allowed, after a delay of 4 hours (Groesmann), to continue on as if nothing had happened. A detailed account of this will be provided in chapter 12.

On March 9, 1940, Mannerheim received, from Ribbentrop per courier, copies of portions of those plans, as they concerned Finland and Scandinavia, including maps and statements about the allied operations planned in Europe. Translated copies of those documents will be added below. The courier also handed a personal letter from Ribbentrop to Mannerheim in which he outlined the expected actions taken by Germany (more about this in chapter 12).

Declaration of intent of Churchill and Stalin (February 8, 1940, translated from Finish to Swedish).

The Admiralty is hereby making a declaration of readiness regarding the reached agreements on October 15, 1939 for waging war, signed and delivered by Mr. Stalin on January 28, 1940, the agreement to read as follows:

1. As soon as the Soviet Union publicizes its occupation of Finland in its entirety, including its bays, coastline and islands, the maritime ministry is prepared to send marines and other forces no later than the night of May 14-15, 1940 to occupy important objects in Norway. In addition, England will occupy Denmark. In cooperation with French troops, England will occupy Swedish Göteborg as well as southern Sweden. At the same time British naval forces will control the North Sea and block access to it from the Baltic Sea for German ships and submarines.

2. Agreement was reached during negotiations between France and England concerning Finland’s ‘often asked for’ assistance in its fight against the Soviet Union, which our governments had promised. This promised assistance, which Finland had asked for, will be redirected to Sweden and Norway where it will be placed on hold, even if those countries proved willing to allow the transit of troops. France promised 50,000 to 100,000 troops, to be stationed in Sweden to tie up the Swedish forces, to allow the Soviet Union to occupy Finland and intern its forces. English forces will be stationed in Norway, about 5,000 to 8,000 troops will land in Göteborg, Sweden.

3. Following the occupation of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, agreement can be reached between English and Soviet forces as to the distribution of troops and their targets, as well as the timing of the attack against Germany that according to already established plans, so that:

Troops of the English and French expedition force will jointly initiate an attack along the Cherbourg-Rotterdam line with the Siegfried-Line as their target, while at the same time Poland and Czechoslovakia are attacked by Soviet forces.

The defense forces of Holland and Belgium have agreed to join British/French troops.

French and English naval forces will close the North Sea, as well as the English Channel, to any naval traffic of German ships until Germany’s forces are defeated and Germany is forced into a peace agreement.

4. For the main attack from the Baltics and the Scandinavian Peninsula, the plan for the supply of the troops will be worked out in a joint effort in Paris, at the time of your choosing, according to your suggestions.

5. The joint committee of the French-English air force agreed to immediately invite a representative of the Soviet air force for the purpose of cooperation in an effort to once and for all eliminate the German air force, even before an attack by sea and land begins [emphasis added].

6. The assurance of assistance of military support to Finland, mentioned in Art. 2, is based on the Crimea negotiations between the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and England’s Winston Churchill, to obtain a troop transit agreement from Sweden, Norway and Denmark to help Finland militarily. If those Nordic countries agree to this transit of troops, English and French troops can be moved onto the Scandinavian Peninsula without encountering any resistance. The occupation of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and the interment of its forces, could thus be achieved by making it appear as a bloodless coup. The Soviet Union would thus be relieved of concern about the English/French troops posing a danger to it. The occupation of the Scandinavian Peninsula will take place even if said transit agreement for the support troops is not granted. The Soviet Union will be invited to send a military expert to observe operations for occupying Scandinavia, as well as the preparations of those operations. It would be beneficial if this expert could arrive as soon as possible.

7. As to the request to set up mine fields along the coast of Norway by the Soviet Union, a map five (5) is attached showing the mine field as agreed to. English naval forces will expand this mine field and extend it starting April 5-6, according to attachment six (6). The unmined areas will be shown in attachment 6.

Attachments 5 and 6 were not found when this document was copied on January 19 and 21, 1950 (author’s note).

Significance and implications of this agreement

With this agreement Churchill and the Western Powers allowed the Soviet Union to bring all of the small adjoining countries under its control. This went far beyond what was agreed to under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact concerning “regions of interest”. At the same time Churchill granted himself the right to interfere with the sovereignty of many neutral countries (Island, Faeroe Islands, Norway, Sweden, Greece, etc.).

The only concession Stalin was asked to make in the supplementary agreement concerned the situation of the small states following the war. According to that agreement those small states were to be given their freedom and sovereignty (Groesmann).

The date for the Moscow agreement was set for October 15, 1939 (Groesmann). An interesting detail was why this agreement was signed just then. In 1972 an elderly railway official in Lwow (formerly Lemberg) divulged that the railway station, including the surrounding areas, was cordoned off—because an important visitor was expected. Additional research has revealed that this had to have been around the time of October 16. Edvard Radztnsky, a Russian researcher who checked this, has evidence that Stalin was not at the Kremlin from October 18 to the 19 nobody knew where he was.

A letter of July 19, 1940, found in the Washington National Archives, brought this matter to the fore. The letter, from FBI-Chief J. Edgar Hoover, was addressed to Adolf A. Berte Jr.—a secretary in the US foreign office. The letter states that Hoover had information that Hitler and Stalin had met on October 17, according to a certain source! Because this could not have been so, the question was asked: “Who did Stalin meet at that time? Who sent this uninformative news to Hoover?”

At the same time, Britain’s “ready leader” waged a campaign without equal with the aim to establish a Tri-Part agreement to defeat Germany. Given the Swedish-based ore transports to Germany by ship, Scandinavia—though mostly Norway—was allotted the most important role regarding Churchill’s ongoing war plans in the North—since November/December 1939. Those plans included the so-called “Baltic Sea Operation”. The clandestine operations aimed at Scandinavia, which began on October 15, 1939, provided for (the Moscow Agreement): those operations far exceeded what was necessary to interrupt the ore transports from Narvik (“Front N”).

Among the documents found and copied by the Germans—the ones confiscated from the Soviet courier plane on February 9, 1940—was a map of those operations, with an explanation for the realization of those plans, approved by the British Admiralty (Churchill).

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