May 10 1940 must have been one of the busiest and chaotic days in WWII.I won’t go to deep into the details because most of the events are well documented, however not everyone might know that these events happened on the same day.
The invasion of the Benelux(Belgium,Netherlands, Luxembourg)
On the 10th May, 1940, the German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. On the same day the German Ambassadors handed to the Netherlands and Belgian Governments a memorandum alleging that the British and French armies, with the consent of Belgium and the Netherlands, were planning to march through those countries to attack the Ruhr, and justifying the invasion on these grounds. Germany, however, assured the Netherlands and Belgium that their integrity and their possessions would be respected. A similar memorandum was delivered to Luxembourg on the same date.
There were however no plans for any British and French troops to march through the low countries in order to attack Germany.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom upon the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.
Chamberlain who formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons, resigned as Prime Minister Churchill, known for his military leadership ability, was appointed to replace Chamberlain as Prime Minister of Great Britain.. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support in the UK.
Operation Fork-the Invasion of Iceland
The invasion of the Benelux wasn’t the only invasion that day. The British invaded Iceland on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.
In the evening of 10 May, the Icelandic government formally issued a statement noting that their neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”. The British government appeased the protest by promising compensation, trade agreement, non-interference in domestic Icelandic affairs, and the promise that troops would be withdrawn at war’s end.
The Bombing of Freiburg
You may be forgiven to think that Freiburg was bombed by the RAF on May 10th 1940, because that would make sense. However that wasn’t the case.
Freiburg was bombed that day but not by the Brits or French but by the German Luftwaffe.The 3 aircrafts involved, commanded by Lieutenant Paul Seidel , from 8. Staffel, Kampfgeschwader 51 “Edelweiss” ( 8th Season of Fighter Squadron 51)flying the Heinkel He 111 medium bomber. They had taken off at 14:27 from Landsberg-Lech Air Base, to bomb the French city of Dijon, or the alternative target Dole–Jura Airport, as part of the Battle of France.
Due to navigation errors, lost among the clouds hovering over the German city of Freiburg, they were 100% positive they had their target in sight. At 3:59 PM, the Heinkel He 111 planes started dropping the total of 69 bombs.The city’s anti-aircraft defenses were caught totally unprepared. They had clearly seen the German planes flying over their heads and probably assumed they were en route to France. The load fell near a train station, killing a total of 57 people. Once the damage was done, the air raid alarm absorbed the horror in the streets.
The German command tried to cover up the mistake and passed the bombing off as enemy action. The German media accepted that version without any hesitation.Die Deutsche Wochenschau News reel(German Weekly Review) for example, reported in its issue no. 506 on 15 May 1940 at the end of a longer contribution of the “brutal and ruthless air raid on an unfortified German city”.
The following day, the Freiburger Zeitung reported a “sneaky, cowardly air raid against all laws of humanity and international law.” Seven months later, the Fuhrer himself accused Winston Churchill of terrorist attacks against civilians in Freiburg.
Even though top German military officials maintained that the raid on Freiburg must have been an Allied mission, the truth eventually surfaced. Important work carried out by several historians finally broke through the officers’ denialism. Thus in August 1980, even the famous Colonel Josef Kammhuber stated that it was “evident” that “the attack on Freiburg was conducted mistakenly by a chain of III/KG51.”
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