Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

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Knouterer
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Knouterer » 28 Jan 2017 09:25

I don't think it's fair to say that the Dutch army performed "so badly". According to German accounts, they put up a tough fight in many places, and they inflicted about 6,000 casualties IIRC. The government and the commander in chief decided to capitulate mainly because of the bombardment of Rotterdam and the fear that the Luftwaffe would raze other Dutch cities to the ground.

Certainly the Dutch were not well prepared for the new German style of warfare. While three of the four airfields attacked by airborne troops on the morning of the 10th were back in Dutch hands by nightfall, a small handful of Fallschirmjäger managed to hold on to both ends of the vital Moerdijk bridges for days, allowing the 9th Panzer Division to cross into Fortress Holland. With hindsight, that shouldn't have happened.
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Henri Winkelman
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Henri Winkelman » 28 Jan 2017 21:14

Juha wrote:Hello Henri.
More to the topic
IMHO the trump card for Germans was the LW. Netherland was good country for attacking planes. Not very good for tanks, at least the southern part of the country as Brits found out in 1944. Too much rivers, brooks, channels and wet ground. But not much cover for defenders against powerful attacking air force or artillery. It is often forgotten that Germans had effective artillery arm. Air attacks had powerful shock effect at first, after a while men learned that they were not as deadly against dug-in men as they appeared to be at the first time.

How you see the combat at the southern end of the Grebbe Line, around was that Grebbeberg?
The Netherlands was indeed a good place for attacks from the air, but the Dutch had great anti-aircraft guns which shot down a lot of German planes.

Image

Dutch performance around the Grebbeberg wasn’t bad, but they were forced to a tactical retreat to the Hollandse Waterlinie. This was the main defensive line of the Netherlands, which was never attacked because of the early surrender. So basically the Dutch ‘Vesting Holland’ (Fortress Holland) was still completely intact on the 14th of May 1940. Which begs the question again, was it really not possible to hold much longer and wait for Allied supplies and a more organized defense?
Knouterer wrote:I don't think it's fair to say that the Dutch army performed "so badly". According to German accounts, they put up a tough fight in many places, and they inflicted about 6,000 casualties IIRC. The government and the commander in chief decided to capitulate mainly because of the bombardment of Rotterdam and the fear that the Luftwaffe would raze other Dutch cities to the ground.
‘So badly’ was not the right expression maybe, I wanted to focus more on Dutch strategy and Dutch command. On the Afsluitdijk, the Grebbeberg and in Rotterdam Dutch infantry fought well. The bombardment of Rotterdam was a justifiable reason to surrender, although Poland didn’t surrender after the bombardment on Warsaw. (and the Dutch had better anti-air guns than the Polish) From a human point of view it was better to surrender than to fight till the last man, but a longer Dutch persistence could have changed the outcome of Fall Blau totally. Maybe it would have been possible to get English supplies by sea, the Northern Sea was still dominated by the allies. An allied bridgehead in Holland could even change the outcome of Fall Blau.
Certainly the Dutch were not well prepared for the new German style of warfare. While three of the four airfields attacked by airborne troops on the morning of the 10th were back in Dutch hands by nightfall, a small handful of Fallschirmjäger managed to hold on to both ends of the vital Moerdijk bridges for days, allowing the 9th Panzer Division to cross into Fortress Holland. With hindsight, that shouldn't have happened.
Well, that last event is the strangest thing about the episode. The Germans came through the Dutch province of Northern-Brabant without any Dutch or French resistance. Dutch and French communications were terrible (there were enough troops in the region) and allied generals were apparently not able to organize any defensive line at all. I don’t know if you know any more about this?

theendisnear
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by theendisnear » 14 Aug 2017 09:09

The dutch didn't do so well at the grebbeberg. A good defensive position lost quickly against light, but determined opposition.

Ypenburg
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Ypenburg » 13 Sep 2017 19:17

I would advice Henri Winkelman to do some reading here: http://www.zuidfront-holland1940.nl/

jony663
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by jony663 » 21 Jan 2019 17:13

I also have an interest in the Holland 40 campaign. Was the surrender of the Dutch so fast as they so no reason to continue a war that offered few allies. While the British could land and set up a bridgehead in the Neatherlands, did they have the troops and aircraft to do that?

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Hoover
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Hoover » 24 Feb 2019 11:28

Hi,

is it only me who thinks that the Dutch Army didn´t perform so badly in 1940? Regarding their equipment, strenght and tatctis they did perform quite well.

And it has been a very good way to fight until there is no chance anymore, then surrender. Like Denmark for example. I don´t think that the Dutch Army ever had any chance to win without massive help from the UK or France.

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jwsleser
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by jwsleser » 20 Mar 2019 16:18

I agree that the Dutch generally fought well during the campaign. That doesn’t mean that mistakes weren’t made.

Operationally, the Netherlands was indefensible. Without entering into military agreements with Belgium and France, the southern flank was exposed and could be flanked. The Dutch strict adherence to neutrality prevent such agreements. The informal military talks indicated disconnects between Belgium and Dutch defensive plans that were never resolved. Once Reynders was replaced by Winkelman, Van Voorst tot Voorst got his way with the main defense on the Grebbelinie that left the southern flank open.

The small size of the country made any deep penetration dangerous. The Dutch recognized that with Vesting Holland intact, the Dutch could only hold out for a few weeks at best.

The initial defense on 10 May was good, only the German crossing at Mill causing problems. The main mistake was not alerting the I Corps in Vesting Holland. This likely contributed to the loss of the Dordrecht bridges. As previously stated, all the airfields were recaptured. The German force in the south dashed forward. The decision to pull the Light Division back to deal with the FJs also weakened the south.

The Grebbelinie was a good position but the area forward of Rhenen had not been fully cleared for fires. This allowed the Germans to penetrate and clear the covering force. Rhenen itself was a salient in the Grebbelinie, allowing the Germans to concentrate on this small part of the line. The attack north of Rhenen was stopped, but the Dutch forces didn’t react fast enough to stop the Germans attack on Rhenen itself.

The failure of the Light Division to recapture the bridges was the low point IMHO. Both this and the counter attacks launched from the Grebbelinie demonstrated that the Dutch Army was unable of conducting large scale offensive actions. This was mainly due to a lack of communication and training of the Dutch senior leaders. The lower level units (companies and battalions) proved themselves capable of attacking, but synchronizing the combined arms support of such attacks eluded the Dutch leadership. This was similar to what other armies experienced against the German army early in the war: they weren’t ready for the optempo set by German operations. Given time and space, the Dutch likely would have leaned quickly as their airfield defense demonstrated, but both were in short supply.

In the end, it came down to what would be gained by prolonging the defense vice what would be lost. As the fate of the Netherlands would be decided by the major powers, there was little the Dutch could contribute after the 15th. The Dutch still had an army that could offer a stout defense, what they didn’t have was space to prolong such a defense. The German forces still in the Netherlands weren’t needed against France and the airfields were unusable as they were well under German air coverage. Allowing the major cities to be bombed without gaining some sort of military advantage was senseless.

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rcocean
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by rcocean » 22 Mar 2019 00:43

Why did they perform so badly? Actually they didn't. When they weren't overwhelmed by the Luftwaffe, tanks, artillery and could fight the Germans infantry on equal terms, they did quite well.

But its hard to "perform well", when you have - no air force, no tanks, no decent anti-tank weapons, no decent anti-aircraft guns, no modern artillery, no "Siegfried Line", No mountains, deep forests, or rivers. Oh yeah, and no large country that will allow you to retreat 500 miles and still survive.

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Juha » 22 Mar 2019 03:17

No rivers? I would say the Netherlands have several big rivers and plenty of wetlands. The whole defensive strategy of the Netherlands was based on rivers and floodings and of course IJsselmeer.
Air Force was weak but still had IIRC appr. 30 Fokker D.XXI and appr. 30 Fokker G1 fighters plus some 12 Douglas A-8 attack planes used as fighters. 10 medium bombers and some 50 light bombers/army co-op planes and some 15 recon planes and some sundry collection of older planes. Some 80 heavy AA guns, some 45 40 mm Bofors guns and 155 20 mm AA-guns.
380 47 mm A/T guns and 36 A/T rifles, some 500 modern or WWI era field and medium guns and howitzers.
And Dutch had a couple defensive lines and one modern fortress, Fort Kornwerderzand.

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by rcocean » 22 Mar 2019 05:08

Juha wrote:
22 Mar 2019 03:17
No rivers? I would say the Netherlands have several big rivers and plenty of wetlands. The whole defensive strategy of the Netherlands was based on rivers and floodings and of course IJsselmeer.
Air Force was weak but still had IIRC appr. 30 Fokker D.XXI and appr. 30 Fokker G1 fighters plus some 12 Douglas A-8 attack planes used as fighters. 10 medium bombers and some 50 light bombers/army co-op planes and some 15 recon planes and some sundry collection of older planes. Some 80 heavy AA guns, some 45 40 mm Bofors guns and 155 20 mm AA-guns.
380 47 mm A/T guns and 36 A/T rifles, some 500 modern or WWI era field and medium guns and howitzers.
And Dutch had a couple defensive lines and one modern fortress, Fort Kornwerderzand.
Yes, your absolutely correct. My mistake, I'm a bad typist and often leave off words. What I meant to say is Holland has no "Massive Rivers" - like the Volga, Mississippi or the Rhine that form a great barrier. BTW, Holland has a 350 mile border with Germany, and the distance from the German Border to "The Hague" is only 90 miles. And your statements about the Dutch Air Force and Army equipment just prove my point. 125 AAA guns over 40mm. Where were they? Protecting the airfields and cities or the Army? 150 Obsolete air planes. How long before those were destroyed on the ground or shot down? 10 Divisions with no tanks and 38 AT guns per Division. The Dutch army was badly equipped compared to the French or even the Belgium Army

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Juha » 22 Mar 2019 12:37

Hello, in fact they had a "Massive River", the Rhine flow through the southern Netherlands as Waal and Nederrijn. You are right in that the Netherlands is a small country and while open and full of canals and in many places vehicles could move only on roads, at least during the autumn of 1944, which made attacking difficult as the Allies found out in September 1944, the openness of terrain made troop movements difficult if the enemy had air superiority. But Germans stopped the Allies in Sept 44 so the conditions were not altogether bad for a defender. While IMHO the amount of A/T guns was not so bad for a neutral country in 1940 one must take into account the effect of surprise and shock of the Germany's surprise attack. All neutral countries had problems with the initial response of their armed forces when they faced a massive surprise attack during the WWII. And the collapse of France would have made the defence of Netherlands hopeless anyway a month later.
AA were protecting all three.
Many of the Dutch fighters got into air and so there were numerous air combats IIRC. None of the plane types I mentioned were absolete, one might call D.XXI as obsolescent but G.1 was a modern twin-engine fighter , Douglas Model 8 was used by the USAAC as A-17, not obsolete but not a fighter either.

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by jwsleser » 22 Mar 2019 16:02

Several points to comment upon.

River defenses. Yes there were many rivers in the Netherlands, but all could be turned by an advance in the south. While Reynders defended the Peel-Raamline with a corps plus the Light Division, Winkelman ordered the line to be abandon on the first night. The Yssellinie and Maaslinie were delaying lines as forces that far forward would be trapped by any rapid advance in the south. The Grebbe was a small river reinforced by flooding. Once past the border, the rivers were more channeling than blocking. Note that it took the Germans three days to launch their main attack against the Grebbelinie, demonstrating that the Yssellinie and Maaslinie were effective with their limited forces.

Dutch air force. The problem here is that all the air fields were well within LW coverage. The planes could take off, but might not be able to return to that air field as it could be under attack. If they returned, they could be easily caught on the ground. There wasn’t any place that was safe from where the air force could operate.

Surprise. The Dutch weren’t strategically surprised. All the Dutch forces except the I Corps were alert the evening of the 9th. Not including I Corps was a major error. There was a degree of tactical surprise as a peacetime army had to transition to a wartime mindset in a very short period for time. Approximately half the G-1s were caught on the ground because of soggy field conditions. The planes were warming up and starting to take off when the Germans attacked their airfields. 5 additional minutes would have made a big difference.

I will note once again that where 90 miles was a long distance in WW1, it was nothing in WW2. German aerial superiority was so overwhelming that the month long defense planned on in the 30s was reduced to one-two weeks in 1940. To put the problem in simplest terms, where do you send the children of Rotterdam/Amsterdam to get them away from any bombing? There isn’t any such place in the Netherlands.

The Germans attacked France on 10 May and were on the channel by 24 May. They crossed severely restricted terrain, made a combat river crossing, withstood an armored counterattack, and covered significantly greater distances than that in the Netherlands. All this was achieved against the two best armies at the time in western Europe.

To what standard do we hold the Dutch Army?

IMHO, the Dutch made several errors. In other situations, these errors would not have been fatal. In the operational setting of May 1940, they were enough. The Dutch were not in the position to dictate success; they could only hope to hold long enough until success was gained somewhere else. That didn’t happened in 1940.
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rcocean
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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by rcocean » 22 Mar 2019 23:07

Dutch air force. The problem here is that all the air fields were well within LW coverage. The planes could take off, but might not be able to return to that air field as it could be under attack. If they returned, they could be easily caught on the ground. There wasn’t any place that was safe from where the air force could operate.
Thank you. This is a point people - and Generals at the time - often ignore about WW 2. Its not enough to have airplanes. You need AIRFIELDS. And these Airfields need to have bomb protection, AAA protection, and some sort of Radar or Aircraft early warning system. OR they need to be out of the range of enemy attack. Otherwise, your planes just get destroyed on the ground - along with your hangers, repair and fueling facilities.

For example, during the late stages of the Battle of France, the French aircraft industry was churning out airplanes, but the few operating airfields were often unprotected - making the the large number of French Planes no more targets for the Luftwaffe bombers.

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by Juha » 23 Mar 2019 15:37

jwsleser wrote:
22 Mar 2019 16:02
... the rivers were more channeling than blocking. Note that it took the Germans three days to launch their main attack against the Grebbelinie, demonstrating that the Yssellinie and Maaslinie were effective with their limited forces.


Even channelling is a great help for the defender, makes preliminary planning, positioning of the defensive works and the initial positioning of troops much easier.
jwsleser wrote:
22 Mar 2019 16:02
Dutch air force. The problem here is that all the air fields were well within LW coverage. The planes could take off, but might not be able to return to that air field as it could be under attack. If they returned, they could be easily caught on the ground. There wasn’t any place that was safe from where the air force could operate.
The smallness of the Netherlands was a problem but e.g. Poles and Finns succeeded to protect their a/c simply by dispersing their planes to secret auxiliary airfields. For the Finns the solution worked almost through the Winter War, only a couple days before the end of the Winter War fighters were withdrew to some 80 - 120 km (50 - 75 mls) behind the frontline. In Poland the plan worked until the fast retreats of the army forced continuous movement of the bases which meant severe disruption of communications and logistics. Of course the timing of the dispersing was critical, too early dispersion might well reveal the auxiliary sites to the enemy but too late was a disaster. But especially in pre-radar times withdrawing fighters out of easy range of enemy air force meant leaving field army and much of the country without air cover, so IMHO not a solution to the problem.
jwsleser wrote:
22 Mar 2019 16:02
. To put the problem in simplest terms, where do you send the children of Rotterdam/Amsterdam to get them away from any bombing? There isn’t any such place in the Netherlands.
That was of course a major problem but it could be partly solved by a good civil defence. While Finns evacuated many children from big cities those living in smaller towns stayed even if Soviet Air forces sometimes bombed even small villages . E.g. my mother stayed as a 10 years old girl the whole Winter War in a small heavily bomber town only 95 km/60 mls behind the frontline.

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Re: Why did the Dutch perform so badly in 1940?

Post by jwsleser » 23 Mar 2019 16:17

Even channelling is a great help for the defender, makes preliminary planning, positioning of the defensive works and the initial positioning of troops much easier.
It also limits the defender's ability to react as they are cross compartmentalized as well. With the initiative, the attacker chooses time and place. Air power and better mobility makes this better for the Germans.
The smallness of the Netherlands was a problem but e.g. Poles and Finns succeeded to protect their a/c simply by dispersing their planes to secret auxiliary airfields. For the Finns the solution worked almost through the Winter War, only a couple days before the end of the Winter War fighters were withdrew to some 80 - 120 km (50 - 75 mls) behind the frontline.
It was 'The Problem'. 80km behind the Grebbelinie places the Dutch air force in the North Sea.

41,500 square kilometres (16,000 sq mi) Netherlands
312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi) Poland
338,145 square kilometres, (130,666 sq mi) Finland
All sizes current, but close enough to demonstrate the difference.

Where does one place a secret airfield in a country that has little land available for such an air field? The Dutch had learned from the Norwegian example and decommissioned several air fields because they couldn't be protected. The fact that the Dutch retook all captured air fields in short order demonstrated they had the right idea.

Read Haarr's books on the campaign in Norway (The German Invasion of Norway and The Battle for Norway). Having air fields without planes doesn't do one any good. Having planes without safe air fields doesn't do one any good. Read Boer's The Lost of Java to see how the dispersal/secret air field game was played by the Dutch when facing an enemy with near total air superiority.
That was of course a major problem but it could be partly solved by a good civil defence. While Finns evacuated many children from big cities those living in smaller towns stayed even if Soviet Air forces sometimes bombed even small villages . E.g. my mother stayed as a 10 years old girl the whole Winter War in a small heavily bomber town only 95 km/60 mls behind the frontline.
My statement was meant to rhetorical to show there wasn't any place safe from bombing in the Netherlands. :)

But note that 90km behind the front line is still in the North Sea. :cry:

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