THE last war taught military leaders an important lesson about the nature and scope of resistance movements in occupied countries. Up to that time, countries threatened by aggression had prepared to defend their territories by offering frontal resistance along their national borders. Taking advantage of superior strength, the aggressor smashed this kind of resistance in one country after another. Motorized columns quickly penetrated the frontiers, drove wedges deep into the interior, cut off whole regions and encircled parts of the defending forces. Thereupon isolated commanders surrendered and whole units threw down their arms or were annihilated. When the army had fallen to pieces, the enemy completed the occupation of the country with relative ease, often aided by an official policy of surrender brought about by fifth columns, treachery in government circles, defeatism among military leaders and personal and political antagonisms of various kinds. Thus it was that Poland, Denmark and Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, Jugoslavia and Greece, were taken over one after another. Only a few units succeeded in withdrawing behind the Allied lines, to continue the struggle outside the national territories. Most of the occupied nations, depressed and demoralized, accepted conquest as inescapable.
As the war continued on a world-wide scale, however, the occupied nations emerged from their bewilderment. Gradually they became aware that defeat at their frontiers had not ended the war; slowly they resumed active resistance. In many countries, however, this movement did not gather momentum until the very end of the war, and was restricted mainly to economic sabotage. Since these resistance movements avoided open clashes with the enemy's armed forces and did not utilize their large reserves of manpower, they had little strategic significance.
The political reasons noted above which made resistance ineffective were compounded by an almost inconceivable lack of understanding by Allied military leaders of the military value of continued combat in the enemy-occupied nations. The initial mistake was the voluntary surrender of the trained armies, with their commanders, weapons and equipment.
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