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11-08-2015, 18:47

The Phoney War

The eight months' lull in fighting which followed was called the 'phoney war'. It was no part of a German plan. Hitler ordered a westward attack several times, but each time it had to be postponed because of bad weather. The Allied armies remained poised for action. They had organized a huge joint operation. Great Britain used the extra time to equip a powerful expeditionary force, to arrange delivery of aeroplanes ordered from the United States, and to complete the field defences between the end of the Maginot Line and the sea. The long period of inactivity, howeyer, undermined the Allied troops' morale. It encouraged the hope that Germany would not attack on the west but would rather turn against Soviet Russia. During the winter of 1939-1940, a Soyiet attack on Finland provoked a wave of anti- Soviet feeling in France, and the Allies discussed plans to rescue Finland. There was even a suggestion to send planes from Syria on a bombing raid against the oil wells in the Caucasus. The inactivity troubled the most resolute leaders in England and France, including Churchill and Paul Reynaud, who had replaced Daladier as French prime minister in March 1940; but they could not find a way of attacking Germany. Aside from a frontal attack on the Siegfried line, the most direct route lay across Belgium. Belgium was neutral, however, and had declared her intention of remaining so. Although the Belgians counted on Allied support against a German invasion, King Leopold rebuffed every suggestion of landing Allied troops. As the Allies were democratic countries who had declared war in order to preserve human rights, they could not violate Belgium's neutrahty. Their only alternative was to make peripheral attacks. They projected a Balkan expedition on the model of the Salonika expedition of the First World War, but the Balkan states refused to be drawn into the war, being certain that they would not be supported il they were. The Allies' only success was Turkey's half-hearted undertaking to oppose Italy. Allied strategy therefore turned to Norway. Swedish iron, which was vital to the German war industry, was shipped out of Narvik during the winter when the Baltic Sea was iced over. If (his iron supply line could be cut, German war potential would be permanently debilitated. The British and French prepared a joint expedition under British command, expecting the traditionally pro- British Norwegian government to acquiesce after going through the motions of a formal protest. But the plan leaked out, and the Germans, who had earmarked Norway as a base for air and submarine attacks on Britain, pre-empted the Allies' move. They invaded Denmark and Norway on g April. In Denmark they were completely successful; the Danish army surrendered and the government submitted. In Norway military resistance was more lively. What is more, despite the warm welcome shown by Quisling and his supporters, King Haakon could not be persuaded to yield to a German invasion. He fought on for as long as he could and then retired to England. The Allies were driven back from every landing point and only managed to capture Narvik.