Wikimedia Commons Barrage balloons over London during World War II.

The Blitzkrieg in the Low Countries

"THE Germans are bound to attack in the late spring or early summer. They simply cannot wait until we and the British attain superiority in manpower and materials." It is the French Minister at the Hague speaking, the clever and charming Baron de Vitrolles, and the date of my conversation with him is January 1940. He continues: "Where will the battle be fought out? There are two traditional battlefields in Europe -- Lombardy and Flanders. The second will be the scene of the big battle of the present war, just as it was of another great war -- Waterloo. The Germans will attack via the Netherlands and Belgium and the decisive battle of this war will develop somewhere within a radius of fifty miles from Waterloo. It will be a war of movement. And in this kind of warfare we always have been superior to the Teutons." The Minister's words, except the last sentence, were almost prophetic. They showed that responsible French quarters knew that the attack on their country was bound to come and that it would come via the Low Countries.

Why did France and the Low Countries not do everything in their power to forestall the German move? The answer is a sad one. It is a tragic story of lack of statesmanship in Belgium and the Netherlands, where King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina refused to conclude an alliance with the Western Powers or to make military arrangements between the respective general staffs. It is a story, moreover, of incompetence, inefficiency and fifth column activities both in the Low Countries and in France.

For two years the Low Countries had been living in constant fear that their mighty neighbor, Nazi Germany, might launch a sudden attack against them and would start its advertised Blitzkrieg against France across their territories. Though this fear had existed for a long time, both Belgium and the Netherlands refused to make alliances or initiate staff talks with the Western Powers. And though they refused

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