After Poland was invaded, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Poland was split between the Soviets and Germans. Even though Hitler felt he was home free with the non-aggression pact he made with Russia, there was still a bitter rivalry felt.
Russia was in need for new territory to protect him from a possible German attack if Hitler was to backstab Russia. Stalin(head of the Russians) decided he would need to take the Baltic States(Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland). Starting on September 29, 1939, Stalin forced Estonia into signing a treaty allowing them to install military operations throughout the country. Latvia and Lithuania were also forced into such treaties on the 5th and 10th of October. For the Russians, the next step was Finland.
Finland was a strategic point for the Russians. They wanted it before someone else had it. For the Russians, it would provide an easy access to invading countries. The Finnish people weren't going to give up easy though. The Finns built the Mannerheim Line, which was named after Field Marshall Karl von Mannerheim. Forts and other protective devices were included in this strong line.
Russia urged the Finns to surrender part of the Karelian Isthmus. Also, Russia wanted to demilitarize any Finnish army. Finland was also to give the Soviet Union a 30 year lease to have a military base on their soil. The people of Finland said no way. Russia was shocked because they couldn't believe that Finland was actually asking to be clobbered. Soviet newspapers blasted headlines that Finnish troops were invading, or firing on our troops. The Finnish people weren't doing anything except trying to protect their country.
Finally on November 28, 1939, Kremlin threw out the nonaggression pact and went for the attack. The Russian Air Force bombed Helsinki and Viipuri. The Soviets then set up a plan to march on Petsamo in the north, capture a railroad connecting Kemijärvi and Tornia, to strike at Suomussalmi, strike at the shores of Lake Ladoga and finally to attack the Mannerheim Line. According to this plan, Finland was supposed be an easy takeover.
Over 100,000 Soviet Troops entered Finland only to be thrown out by the unexpectedly successful Finnish defense. The Finns were very skilled at their defense, and destroyed entire divisions. They drove the Russians back to the border.
Why the Russians lost in their invading conquest of Finland in their first wave was obvious. The Russians were over ambitious. They marched into Finland as though they would welcome them there. The Russians weren't trained, and were marching with bands. In no other battle was there such embarrassment to an enemy of large scale. There was no coordination, and the supply routes weren't secure. Overall, the Russians just underestimated Finland's defenses.
Finland ski patrols, shown in the picture, snuck behind enemy lines. They surprised the enemy, built booby traps, destroyed supplies, ammo, tanks, and most of all, the enemy. The Russian's plan was a disaster. Stalin needed to come up with something real clever to stop the Finnish defense.
Stalin needed to get rid of the Finnish army without revealing their new top secret weapons. He decided he had no choice. General Grigori Stern was placed in charge of the Battle for Finland. He decided that different attack routes weren't reliable, so he decided to send his best troops and equipment directly at the Mannerheim Line. In another words, everything Russia had was concentrated on Finland. The World stood in awe.
Everybody was feeling sorry for Finland. Many countries helped aid their cause, but the United States could just feel sympathy since they were a neutral country. Britain and France almost declared war on Russia in February of 1940, but Norway and Sweden would not allow the 100,000 British & French troops into their countries. They were being threatened by Russia as well.
During February of 1940, hundreds of thousands of artillery shells were being pounded onto the Mannerheim line. Finally on March 12, 1940, a Finnish leader went to Moscow to study a peace agreement. The next week a peace treaty was signed.
The Soviets had won the Karelian Isthmus and Viipuri(2nd largest city in Finland), Lake Ladoga and the cities surrounding, the islands in the Gulf of Finland, the Salla Region, and most of the Rybachi peninsula. The Hangö peninsula was also being leased from Russia for the next 30 years. Russia was also to construct a railroad from Finland to Sweden.
The Finnish people had lost 25,000 of their people, while the Russians lost 200,000. The Russians were now protected from a possible attack.
After a few hours, Copenhagen was being breached by the Nazis. In the Palace, King Christian X accepted Hitler and surrendered his country. Hitler had taken Denmark before they knew what hit them.
On April 9, 1940, the Germans sent a fake message to Dr. Koht, the foreign minister of Norway. The message indicated that he not fire on oncoming German warships. He obeyed them. Then the Germans requested the surrender of Norway. He refused. The result: A German attack on Norway.
The German Luftwaffe attacked Fornebo Field. The German transport planes dropped entire divisions onto the country side and German war, transport and supply ships acquired every Norwegian port and unleashed the men and firepower. Norway couldn't handle the Luftwaffe. Every major harbor, all air bases and 5/6 of the Norwegian divisional headquarters had been taken by the Germans. In Oslo, German forces were conquering the streets and taking over buildings. Norway was conquered.
German opposition came at sea, however. At 3:30 a.m., Oscarsborg lookouts saw the German cruiser Blucher. Norwegians quickly opened fire on the cruiser. Two torpedoes then crashed into the cruiser moments later from torpedo defenses. The cruiser was sank including 1,500 men and 800 crew members. Another ship Brummer was sank by the guns of Norway, and Deutschland and Emden were damaged. Oslo was then further protected from the Germany navy.
The important city of Oslo was heavily threatened. The Oslo Government and most of the citizens escaped north. King Haakon VII fled to England. Later, on April 9, 1940, the German news agency(D.N.B.) Announced that the Nygaarsvold regime had given up to Major Vidkun Quisling. Later Quisling announced that all Norwegian citizens not resist the new government or else. Quisling was now the chief executive of Norway.
The British were there to oppose, however. At Narvik, a northern port, the battleship Warspite sank seven German destroyers. The British took Narvik, but withdrew due to the threat of Hitler taking over England. On June 8, 1940, the British prepared to evacuate. Unfortunately, every ship sent to "smoke screen" the evacuation were attacked heavily. British ships Glorious and two other destroyers were now at the bottom of enemy waters. Many other ships were damaged in the evacuation.
With Norway in his hands, Hitler could take Scandinavia, strike at Great Britain, and not worry about a possible incoming attack. The Allies were now without crucial supplies. However, most Norwegian ships escaped to friendly territories where they would later pound Hitler's navy to bits. The Battle for Norway was over, but Hitler wasn't done yet.
The takeover of Holland was somewhat a masterpiece. Hitler needed Holland to help with the invasion of France. With Holland, he could send a group of men on France unexpectedly. The Germans had 89 divisions, and 47 reserved divisions. Holland only had 4 army corps, 24 brigades, 14 regiments, and hardly enough planes to help put up a weak fight.
Germans snuck into Holland addressing themselves as students and tourists. They stole public uniforms, such as police, postmen, and railroad conductors. They transported these back to Germany. The Dutch braced for an attack and hoped that somebody would come to their aid. The Dutch army mined dams, set up pillboxes, and made road blocks. On May 10, 1940, the attack came. They were doomed.
Starting at 4 in the morning, Germans parachuted into the country using the stolen uniforms as cover. They were armed to the teeth, and were supplied with boats to cross any flooding caused by an exploded dam.
The Luftwaffe dive bombers destroyed the Dutch Air Force, major bridges, forts, and railroads. Nazi tanks roared into the country side while German men who had parachuted in were forming into a thick film of resistance. The worst wasn't over though. Now German divisions invaded the country smashing any opposition. Dutch opposition was great however. Even housewives attacked the Germans with anything they had(eating utensils, etc.). The Dutch people fought ferociously even though they didn't have a chance. The only main resistance came at the basin of Eem and the Grift. This area could be flooded by exploding the dams. There was no threat, however, because the parachuted troops had taken The Hague and Rotterdam.
The Germans then sent bombers to attack Stukas. Between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were killed in the attack. Statendam, a passenger ship, was burning with innocent civilians on board as German bombers pounded it into scrap metal. The Royal Family in Holland was evacuated out of the country in a British destroyer. They finally made it to England.
On May 15, 1940, the Battle for Holland was over. The Dutch suffered over 100,000 casualties. Hitler was a few steps closer to his invasion of France.
Hitler's next stop was Belgium. He also needed this country to aid in his France invasion. On May 10, 1940, German soldiers marched into Belgium disguised as citizens just as they had in Holland. Then the real attack came. The Luftwaffe pounded Belgium with a tremendous amount of fire power as 2800 tanks rolled into the country along with infantry support. Half of Belgium's Air Force was destroyed in the attack, and Maastricht Bridge and Fort Even Emael was taken.
The second wave of the attack came from the Ardennes mountains(later to be used in the invasion of France and the counteroffensive Battle of the Bulge.). They came through the mountains in the southeast in between Meuse and Moselle. Also the supposed "most powerful fort in the world" Eben Emael was taken within 36 hours of the attack. The Germans were making it look easy.
Finally, on May 28 of 1940, the Belgium army surrendered unconditionally. Leopold caught the French and British supporters by surprise. French and British troops were rushed to aid the Belgium situation, but were now trapped due to King Leopold's actions. This came to be one of the most successful evacuations of the war as boats of all kinds assisted the troops. This would later come to haunt Leopold after the war as he was tossed from his thrown by his son. The Battle for Belgium was over in 18 days.
The last and final step for Hitler was Luxemburg for his invasion of France. Hitler didn't want to take any chances. The country was an easy takeover for Hitler. If the Battle for Holland and Belgium was short, then Hitler made the conquest of Luxemburg look like a faint scream in the wind that was quickly cut off. The Grand Duchess Charlotte escaped to the United States out of Luxemburg.
Luxemburg was important to Hitler because it would put him in perfect position to take France. Luxemburg was surrounded by Germany on the east, and Belgium on the north and west. France was in the south of the country. This meant almost a circular assault on the country of France. Luxemburg was won with little resistance on May 10, 1940. Hitler was now ready for his assault on France.