The Downfall of France [Excerpt]
ON May 10 Hitler sent his troops into Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. He chose the moment well. For although there had been repeated alarms of just such a German invasion, the British and French Governments were neither of them in a condition to react to the actual event instantly and in unison. In both countries there was a cabinet crisis.
On April 9 Hitler had occupied Denmark and invaded Norway. In the month that had intervened since then the German invaders had not secured complete success. The British expeditionary force hung on in Narvik. But the larger bodies of British troops landed at several points on the Norwegian coast, and the French and Polish troops that had accompanied or followed them, had been forced to retire. The British people, press and Parliament were busy on May 7, 8 and 9 debating the responsibilities for what seemed more and more clearly to have been a great Allied failure. So intense was the domestic political dispute that on May 10, despite the dangers of the military situation created overnight by Germany's invasion of the Low Countries, Neville Chamberlain felt obliged to resign as Prime Minister and the King asked Winston Churchill to form a new Government.
In France there also was a cabinet crisis over Norway, though it had not come openly to a head. Premier Paul Reynaud had become worried by the conduct of French operations there, and had decided that General Gamelin, the French Commander-in-Chief, ought to be replaced. This added new intensity to M. Reynaud's long-standing feud with M. Daladier, for General Gamelin was Daladier's man. The row had come to such a pitch by May 9 that when M. Reynaud brought the matter up in a Cabinet meeting that afternoon M. Daladier threatened to resign if General Gamelin were replaced; and M. Reynaud was ready to resign if General Gamelin were not replaced. After their sharp discussion, the Cabinet members separated for the night feeling that there would have to be a show-down and probably aRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com