Nazi Germany invented a completely new style of warfare during the late-1930s. Hitler’s regime proudly coined this as blitzkrieg, German for lightning war. The blitzkrieg philosophy encompassed all aspects of German war tactics. Blitzkrieg methodically dictated each step of the Germans’ process for domination.
Poland was where Germany first tested out the power of blitzkrieg. On 1 September 1939, Germany began it’s conquest of Poland. First, paratroopers swooped in, armed, and took control of vital infrastructure, like bridges. The Germans quickly snatched airports, so that the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) had domination over Polish skies. Then, gliders (which were non-powered aircraft during this era) brought in more troops from the air. The troops from the air tried to do as much as they could to paralyze any hope of Poland posing serious opposition. Once the ground troops arrived to any given point, the game was over and Germany had complete control of the area. On 5 September 1939, the Germans reached Warsaw, ending the campaign. The next day, Poland was officially annexed to Germany.
Nazi-controlled Germany continued its blitzkrieg on its next set of victims: the rest of Europe, minus a few countries. Direct exceptions to Germany’s poisonous touch included: Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal. The City of Prague, Czechoslovakia, also remained relatively unscathed, by the Nazis at least. It is said that Prague tugged on Hitler’s heart strings.
Hitler’s hunt for more land continued nonetheless. In April 1940, the Norwegians put up a respectable fight, fending off the Nazis for nearly two months, longer than any other country invaded by Nazis, beside the Soviet Union. Oslo, Norway was captured in just one day. Holland was taken down in four days, in May 1940. At the same time, the Belgians held off the Germans for a more sizable 18 days.
The French are interesting. After the First World War, the French set up a fortified line near the German frontier, and further armed their half-baked potpourri of a wall during the rise of Nazism, during the 1930s. This was the Maginot Line (French pronunciation: LEAN-ya magi-NO). Maginot was a tribute to French ingenuity. In June 1940, the Germans marched right up and over the Maginot Line, en route à Paris. France promptly surrendered a week and a half later.
Axis powers had control of the majority of the countries in continental Europe by mid-1940. The next site Hitler had his eyes on was Great Britain. Britain’s geography presented a new challenge to the German Military; it’s an island. As previously mentioned, a key aspect of blitzkrieg is logistics. The English Channel provided a buffer zone for the British to fend off the German Navy; thus, the Germans could not send in ground troops after an air assault. The sky was the Germans’ only avenue. The Battle of England was unique, since it existed primarily in the air. For months on end, during mid-1940, the Luftwaffe persistently bombed and air-raided Britain, particularly around London. Many London parents their children to the countryside for safe keeping.
The V2 Rocket
The V-2 Rocket was a quintessential piece of the German arsenal. V-2 stands for Vergeltungswaffe 2 (pronunciation: fa-GAILT-ung-svaffa), which means vengeance weapon. The V-2 was part of an even larger category of prized German weaponry called Wunderwaffen (pronounciation: VUNDA-vaffen), which means wonder weapons. The V-2 was single-handedly responsible for much of the London bombings. Weighing 13 tons, the V-2 was a force to be reckoned with. The rocket could be fired from the German stronghold of continental Europe, and traveled at 3,000 mph through the upper atmosphere, the stratosphere. The rocket was so fast that the Royal Observer Corp had no time to turn on air-raid sirens. Since the V-2 traveled faster than the speed of sound, one could hear the V-2’s eerie hum after its explosion, then people would hear a sonic boom that traveled throughout the London.