Title page for ETD etd-01262004-193945

Type of Document Major Paper
Author Cooley, Leonard Spencer
Author's Email Address lcoole3@lsu.edu, leonardcooley@msn.com
URN etd-01262004-193945
Title What Next? The German Strategy Crisis during the Summer of 1940
Degree Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (M.A.L.A.)
Department Liberal Arts (Interdepartmental Program)
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stanley E. Hilton Committee Chair
Karl A. Roider Committee Member
William A. Clark Committee Member
  • german
  • world war ii
  • sea lion
  • felix
Date of Defense 2003-12-08
Availability unrestricted
The German blitzkrieg across France during May 1940 was the culmination of three years of daring political and military moves that had brought most of Europe under German control. It was the German dictator Adolf Hitler who had outguessed his advisors. Yet, Hitler's bold moves in Western Europe ended with his army's dash across France, and the failure to strike Great Britain that summer when the British were at one of the weakest points in their entire history.

After Germany defeated France, Hitler began a fruitless period of waiting for Great Britain to sue for peace. Unlike Hitler, some in the German High Command believed that Great Britain would fight and that a coherent strategy was needed to defeat that island nation. During late June 1940, two strategies emerged for defeating Great Britain. The first, code-named Operation SEA LION, called for an invasion of southern England. This plan was the surest way to bring about a decisive outcome, but also the riskiest. Hitler nonetheless ordered that planning and training for the operation go forward, a process halted by the Luftwaffe's inability to defeat the RAF as the necessary prelude to the invasion.

The strategic option less risky than an invasion of the British Isles called for an attack on the important colony of Gibraltar. German planners believed that seizure of "the Rock" would place immense stress on the British Empire and possibly force a negotiated peace. In November, German military units were task-organized and trained for the operation, now code-named Operation FELIX. Hitler understood the importance of Gibraltar, but wanted the approval of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, before ordering an attack. Hitler waited.

By the spring of 1941, Hitler had failed to act and had lost his opportunity to strike Great Britain when it was most vulnerable. He did not have the will to make the difficult decision and implement either strategy. After December 1940, Great Britain would never again be in danger of an invasion of either the island home or of its valuable colony.

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