Battle for The Hague


Battle for The Hague

Infobox Military Conflict
|conflict=Battle for The Hague
|

|caption=
|combatant1=
flagicon|Netherlands|size=44px
Royal Netherlands Army
Dutch Airforce
|combatant2=
flagicon|Nazi Germany|size=50px
22nd Luftlande-Division
Luftwaffe
|date=May 10, 1940
|place=The Hague, The Netherlands, and the surrounding area
|Territorial Changes=Germans forced to retreat
|result=Dutch victory
|commander1=flagicon|Netherlands Henri Winkelman
|commander2=flagicon|Nazi Germany Hans Graf von Sponeck
|strength1=1,100 soldiers
Two squads of Armored Cars
|strength2=3,000 paratroopers
|casualties1=515 killed
1,000 Wounded~
|casualties2=400 killed
700 wounded
1,745 captured
125 Transport aircraft lost
47 transport aircraft damagedE.R Hooton 2007 Vol. 2, p. 50.]
The Battle for the Hague was a battle that took place on May 10, 1940 as part of the Battle of the Netherlands between the Royal Netherlands Army and German paratroopers. German paratroopers dropped in and around The Hague and were given orders to capture Dutch airfields and the city. After taking the city, the plan was to force the Dutch queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to surrender and to thus defeat the Dutch within a single day. It was the first major air-landing operation in history, and due to the failure, had negative effects on the Wehrmacht for the rest of the war.

Plan

The Germans planned to surprise the Dutch and so catch them off guard, allowing them to isolate the head of the Dutch Army.Section source, except where otherwise noted: War over Holland.nl: [http://www.waroverholland.nl/index.php?url=/battle_for_the_hague.html The Battle for The Hague, 1940] ] It was their intention to fly over the Netherlands in order to lull the Dutch into thinking that England was their target. They intended to approach the country from the direction of the North Sea, attacking the airfields Ypenburg, Ockenburg and Valkenburg to weaken potential Dutch defense before taking The Hague. It was expected that the queen and the commander in chief of the Dutch forces, Henri Winkelman, might agree at this point to surrender, but if they did not the Germans believed that by cutting off all roads to the Hague, they might quell any subsequent Dutch threat.

The German attack

According to plan, the Germans flew over The Netherlands in the early hours of the morning on May 10th, but rather than lulling the denizens of The Hague, their passage alarmed them.Section source, except where otherwise noted: War over Holland.nl: [http://www.waroverholland.nl/index.php?url=/home_uk.html May, 1940: The Dutch Struggle] ] The Germans circled back and, at 6:00 AM, bombed the airfield at Ypenburg. Immediately thereafter, their transport planes dropped paratroopers in several waves into the field and its surroundings, though Dutch machine gun fire inflicted heavy casualties on these arrivals and kept them scattered. Encountering unexpectedly strong Dutch resistance, Germans paratroopers used Dutch prisoners of war as human shields, against the rules of the Geneva Convention. Dutch resistance was weakened, and the paratroopers were able to occupy the base's main building and to display there the swastika flag. In spite of this slight victory, the Dutch managed to prevent the Germans from advancing beyond Ypenburg to enter The Hague.

At around the same time, German paratroopers were dropped at the airstrip in Ockenburg, which was more weakly defended. The defenders of Ockenburg were unable to prevent the Germans taking the airfield, but they were able to delay them long enough that the Dutch infantry arrived to prevent the paratroopers from advancing into The Hague. As the Germans were using the Ockenburg airfield to strengthen their numbers, the Dutch bombed it themselves, preventing the landing strip being further used.

The Valkenburg airfield was not fully built. As with Ypenburg, the Germans troops bombed the airfield prior to dropping paratroopers, causing heavy casualties among the defenders. Though the subsequent waves of paratroopers also sustained heavy losses, the defenders were unable to prevent the Germans taking the field. However, as the airfield remained under construction, the Germans could not fly their transport aircraft from it and further transports were unable to land. Following several ground skirmishes, the German ground troops occupied the village of Valkenburg as well as some of the bridges and buildings at Katwijk, on the Rhine.

The Dutch counter-attack

The Germans achieved partial success, but failed in their primary objective of taking the city and forcing the Dutch to surrender. Accordingly, the Dutch Army counter-attacked several hours later. They began at Ypenburg. Though undermanned and relying on ammunition that they had captured from the Germans, the Dutch fought their way into position to launch artillery against their own field. The Germans were forced to evacuate its burning buildings, losing their strong defensive position. In the subsequent skirmishes, as the Dutch were able to advance into the airfield, many of the Germans were forced to surrender. Those who did not were eventually defeated.

Dutch forces followed up their own bombing of Ockenburg by storming the field. The Germans were forced into retreat, and many were captured. However, some of the German troops withdrew to the woods near the field and successfully defended themselves from the Dutch. When the Dutch were ordered to disengage and turn instead to Loosduinen, the Germans simultaneously headed towards Rotterdam.

Having sealed off Leiden, the Dutch retook a strategic bridge near Valkenburg, using only three men. When reinforcements arrived, the Dutch began addressing Germans on the ground at the same time that Dutch bombers arrived to destroy the grounded transport planes. While the Germans attempted to put up a defense at the outskirt of the airfield, they were forced to evacuate. Battles to liberate occupied village positions nearby continued for hours, but eventually the Dutch defeated the occupiers.

By the end of May 10th, the first day of the battle, Dutch forces had already retaken all the captured airfields.

Casualties

The Dutch suffered 515 killed; the number of wounded is unknown, but estimated to be around 1000. The Germans are not known with certainty, but it is estimated that 400 were killed, 700 wounded, and a surprisingly high total of 1,745 captured. They also lost 182 (47 damaged) transport aircraft, mostly of the Ju-52 model.

Aftermath

According to historian E.H. Brongers, the failure of the operation had several effects on the German military, including:
*Loss of confidence in airborne assaults among senior commanders,
*Reduction of airborne troops which caused manpower shortages for Operation Sea Lion
*Reduction in transport aircraft which could be used for future operations.Specifically, Brongers mentions the impact on the loss of transport aircraft during the Invasion of Crete. Because the Germans did not have sufficient craft to land troopers in force, they had instead to drop them in groups, resulting in heavy casualties.

The biggest problem for the Dutch was the remaining German forces who had managed to escape from the airfields. Von Sponeck was ordered to go and aid the attack on Rotterdam. On his way there, his isolated group twice avoided Dutch traps but eventually had to dig in for all-around defense with as many as 1100 men, holding out against attacks until the end of hostilities. Additionally, German defends managed to hold out at the village of Valkenburg until the 14th.

Hitler intentionally had this battle downplayed to keep up the morale of German troops and maintain the illusion that the German Army was invincible. It was one of few German defeats throughout the entire Western Front Campaign in 1940.

References

General sources

* Hooton, E.R (2007). "Luftwaffe at War; Blitzkrieg in the West: Volume 2". London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6.

Further reading

* Brongers, E.H. (2004). "The Battle for the Hague 1940". Uitgeverij Aspekt BV. ISBN 90-5911-307-1.


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