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Nazi Germany Conquers France: April 1940-December 1940


World War II Timeline: June 15, 1940-June 19, 1940

In mid-June 1940 Paris fell to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The World War II timeline below summarizes this and other important World War II events from mid-June, 1940.

World War II Timeline: June 15-June 19

June 15: Despite pleas from both France and Britain, the U.S. Congress continues to refuse to intervene in Europe, with some legislators going so far as to suggest that England and France surrender to Hitler.

June 16: In an 11th hour rescue attempt, Britain offers to unite its empire with that of France. The following day, France will ask Germany for an armistice, requesting "peace with honor."

Italy sinks the British submarines Grampus and Orpheus in the first Mediterranean naval conflict of the war.

Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera mobilizes the Irish military in preparation for an Axis invasion of nearby England.

June 17: About 2,500 British troops perish when five Luftwaffe bombers attack the Lancastria, a Cunard luxury liner being used to transport troops.

With most naval forces focused on the Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Navy asks Congress for $4 billion to build an equally strong Atlantic fleet.

June 18: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) pulls out of France, and the French military hastily retreats from the Wehrmacht. French general Charles de Gaulle, speaking from London, pleads with his countrymen to continue to resist Germany, claiming "France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war."

In a meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich, Benito Mussolini is bitterly disappointed to find that he will not be granted large tracts of French territory. Hitler hopes that by offering France easy surrender terms, the French will be less likely to continue fighting from North Africa.

June 19: With the German conquest of France complete, the exiled governments of Poland and Belgium move to London.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and the German invasion of France in 1940.

Hundreds killed, wounded in Paris by German attacks: A Parisian victim of German bombing raids lies in a hospital bed. The German bombardment of Paris inflicted some 900 casualties, including 254 dead. Most of the victims were civilians and many were schoolchildren. Designed to produce terror, the air attack had the desired effect. Fleeing civilians clogged all roads around Paris, where some were strafed by German planes.

Luftwaffe attacks leave Dunkirk in flames: French civilians flee danger and destruction during the aerial bombardment of Dunkirk, France. Heavy Luftwaffe attacks left the dead and wounded scattered among the burning wreckage of homes, vehicles, and military equipment. British Expeditionary Forces Captain Richard Austin wrote: "The whole front was one long continuous line of blazing buildings, a high wall of fire, roaring and darting in tongues of flame, with the smoke pouring upwards and disappearing in the blackness of the sky above the rooftops." Dunkirk was reduced to rubble.

Allies evacuate 220,000 from Cherbourg, France: British and French soldiers leave Cherbourg, France, on British ships bound for Southampton, England. After the successful evacuation at Dunkirk, the British rescued an additional 220,000 Allied troops that had been stranded in France. On June 10, Operation Cycle picked up evacuees at Le Havre. Beginning on June 15 at Cherbourg, in Operation Ariel, Allies spirited soldiers away from Saint-Malo, Brest, Saint-Nazaire, and other ports all the way down the French coast to the border with Spain. When the evacuations were complete on June 25, a total of 558,000 Allied troops had escaped the German invasion.

Vichy's minister of defense balances opposing interests: French General Maxime Weygand served as Vichy defense minister from June to September 1940. In that burdensome role, he juggled Japanese demands for freedom of movement in northern Indochina against strong U.S. opposition to the idea. Then as Vichy delegate to the French North African colonies, Weygand alternately protested and collaborated with Nazi policies. Heeding U.S. warnings, Weygand opposed German bases in Africa, though he had equipment delivered to Rommel's Afrika Korps. Weygand's semi-collaboration was insufficient for Hitler. Under Nazi pressure, Weygand was recalled in November 1941, arrested in 1942, and held by Germany for the duration of the war.

The Nazi invasion of France: On May 10, 1940, German General Fedor von Bock's Army Group B struck into Belgium and the Low Countries. This was only a diversionary attack, as the main assault by General Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A was launched from the Ardennes forests, while General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb's Army Group C secured the southern flank and pinned down some 30 French divisions. By June 25, France had fallen.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline detailing events of late June and early July 1940.

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