The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

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Von Bock
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The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Von Bock » 31 Jul 2023 11:32

After all these years, the debate on the infamous halt order on May 24, still doesn't seem to be settled. On the Dutch Wiki, I found the following (remarkable) observations about this:

"However, on the evening of May 24, Hitler ordered a halt at Gravelines a few miles southwest of Dunkirk along the river Aa. This decision would come to be known as, in the words of Winston Churchill, the Miracle of Dunkirk. Hermann Göring had assured Hitler that the Luftwaffe could foil any attempted evacuation; Gerd von Rundstedt had warned that after so many days of deployment, the panzer divisions were very vulnerable due to fatigue, breakdowns and shortages of fuel and ammunition. In fact, it had also been Von Rundstedt who had stopped the advance the day before, when he was informed that Gravelines had been set up for defense by a strong French unit. Thus, Hitler merely confirmed this earlier order. Deploying tanks in urban areas was actually forbidden according to official German doctrine and taking risks in a won situation seemed completely unnecessary. Boulogne and Calais were hardly fortified, but could only be taken after fierce fighting and it was not known exactly how many British troops were already present in Dunkirk. The armored troops had to quickly regain their strength for the execution of Fall Rot, the attack on France itself."

Some very interesting observations and questions here:

[*]Did Hitler indeed (contrary to Rundstedts own claim after the war) just confirm Rundstedts order on May 24?
[*]Was deploying tanks in urban areas actually forbidden to official German doctrine?
[*] On the 26th, when the Germans realized what was going on, the Panzerdivisionen were allowed to attack again, only this time they ran into an artillery belt, which they could not break through. From May 26 to June 4, the German attacks were repelled. Since the these artillery barges had been organized only by the rearguard of the Allied army, wouldn't it have made more sense from the Allied side to focus the army entirely on a defensive operation? Could this have prevented Fall Rot?
In the entirety of WWII, Germany never lost a major battle they should have won and they won many battles they should have lost.

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Aida1
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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Aida1 » 31 Jul 2023 15:01

As usual on wiki, this is the pure personal opinion of the author. There is not much doubt that Hitler agreed with Rundstedt as he was sometimes risk averse too. Pz div should normally not operate in an urban area but there was no need for that as what you needed to do was cut off retreating enemy troops from the harbors. The advance should not not have been halted.

Aber
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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Aber » 01 Aug 2023 07:44

The problem at Gravelines is not that it is urban, but a large number of waterways and a Vauban fort; not good territory for German tanks.

https://www.google.com/maps/@50.9745367 ... ?entry=ttu

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Aug 2023 00:00

The back story here is Hitler had repeatedly and progressively become concerned about the risk in the 'Sickle Cut plan. Each conference with Halder in the winter and spring he waffled on which plan to use, questioned the results of field and map exercises testing components of the plans, and swung between enthusiasm and pessimism. Mays in 'Storage Victory' examines the development of the Sickle Cut plan from November 1939 to its execution in May 1940, and referred to these incidents of Hilters fears.

Once the operation was started assorted English language historians of the campaign are in general agreement that Hilter:

12 May asked Halder if it was not better to halt the Panzer corps on the Meuse River and await the Infantry/artillery.

14 May again questioned Halder about the risk and exposure of the Panzer Corps.

16 May argued for a halt. Halder allowed a weak halt order with permission to the corps commanders to continue reconnaissance in force.

18 May a temporary maintenance halt was made. Some historians attribute this to Kliest, Rundsteadt, Halder, or Hitler. Theres evidence Hitler argued yet again for a halt sufficient for the infantry to catch up, but there are claims in other directions. In any case the members the panzer divisions saw it as godsend, accomplishing some critically needed maintenance and getting a few extra hours rest. For nine or ten days, from the 8th & 9th they had been either fighting or rushing their way west, or pulling maintenance & local security when they did stop. I have a bit of sympathy with them having been in multi week training exercises with 3-4 hours sleep in every 24 hours.

Theres also the effect of the battle at Arras. That had been a surprise. Tho it was dealt with in a day the Germans deem Rommel to hilter did not know for certain where and when other counter attacks would occur.

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Aug 2023 13:57

Addressing these specifically
Von Bock wrote:
31 Jul 2023 11:32

Some very interesting observations and questions here:

[*]Did Hitler indeed (contrary to Rundstedts own claim after the war) just confirm Rundstedts order on May 24?
My German is not good enough to have sorted out the nuances of the order from Hitler, and I don't have a copy of it. My take is the Order as copied by his staff did not have a clear reference to Rundsteadts previous order.
[*]Was deploying tanks in urban areas actually forbidden to official German doctrine?
Again there are the details in translation. Something that translates from German as '..are not to be used in cities..' may have a slightly different meaning in 1940. Guderian in his writing in the 1930s discouraged the use of this "strategic weapon" in the tactical environment of cities. There was also the lessons from Poland. Among other incidents the 4th Panzer Division had its advance guard stopped cold by a Polish scratch force with a few MG and a hand full of AT guns in a Warsaw suburb.


[*] On the 26th, when the Germans realized what was going on, the Panzerdivisionen were allowed to attack again, only this time they ran into an artillery belt, which they could not break through. From May 26 to June 4, the German attacks were repelled. Since the these artillery barges had been organized only by the rearguard of the Allied army, wouldn't it have made more sense from the Allied side to focus the army entirely on a defensive operation? Could this have prevented Fall Rot?

Not sure i understand that question. The Allied defense performance varied widely from one formation to another. ie: The French X Corps failed completely in its defense at Sedan. The failure of the defense at several other points were key in the overall failure of the French strategy.

James A Pratt III
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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by James A Pratt III » 01 Sep 2023 20:43

ww2tv has a presentation Dunkirken 1940 the german View of Dunkirk by Robert kershaw which looks at this action from the German point of view which I would recommend everyone interested in it to watch.

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Max Sinister » 16 Sep 2023 22:28

Aber wrote:
01 Aug 2023 07:44
The problem at Gravelines is not that it is urban, but a large number of waterways and a Vauban fort; not good territory for German tanks.
And it wouldn't have been possible to cross the Aa canal elsewhere? Or build improvised bridges to cross it? Just checking.

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Aber » 17 Sep 2023 09:11

Max Sinister wrote:
16 Sep 2023 22:28
And it wouldn't have been possible to cross the Aa canal elsewhere? Or build improvised bridges to cross it? Just checking.
Yes it might be possible but requires infantry, bridging equipment and fire support in the right places, as the Allies have light forces covering the canal eg on the 24th May
In Usherforce sector, in the north, the 6th Green Howards and detachments of the 3rd Searchlight Regiment, who guarded the bridges at Gravelines and for three miles to the south, held off all attempts by the German 1st Armoured Division to seize the bridges, till they were relieved during the day by French infantry and artillery. At St Pierre Brouck a detachment of the 1st Super-Heavy Battery, fighting as infantry, held off for several hours other troops of the German 1st Armoured Division which began their attacks on the bridge at dawn; but the gunners were forced back late in the morning. Another party of gunners—of the 3rd Super-Heavy Battery—held the crossing at Watten against a German armoured reconnaissance battalion till they were relived late in the day by French infantry.
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/U ... ers-9.html

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Max Sinister » 21 Sep 2023 01:21

24th May already? Many history books claim that on that day, only weak forces stood between the Wehrmacht and Dunkirk. After all, this point of divergence is quite popular in alternate history for a reason...

But I'll have to read through this site. It really has a lot of material...

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Sep 2023 15:28

Max Sinister wrote:
16 Sep 2023 22:28
Aber wrote:
01 Aug 2023 07:44
The problem at Gravelines is not that it is urban, but a large number of waterways and a Vauban fort; not good territory for German tanks.
And it wouldn't have been possible to cross the Aa canal elsewhere? Or build improvised bridges to cross it? Just checking.
One of the questions I've not seen answered anywhere is what bridge/engeneering capability these forward elements of the armored corps had. I recall a analysis of the battle at Sedan ten days earlier, stating the bridge material used there represented the last in the hands of Guderians 19th Crops. More was far to the rear in the army support trains still on the roads in Germany and Luxembourg. I recall Montifiore in his book 'Dunkirk' mentions some bridge construction by the Germans after the 24th, but provides no details.

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Re: The halt order at Dunkirk: The debate settled?

Post by Max Sinister » 24 Sep 2023 00:16

Certainly they should have been able to improvise *something*. Boats, bridges built by pioneers, anything. (That'd be the job of Rudolf Veiel's troops, if I'm not mistaken.) We aren't asking them to cross huge rivers after all.

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