Halt Order to panzer divisions between 24 May-26 May 1940

As for famous Halt Order to panzer divisions on 24th-26th May which became a non sensical myth. There are several factors about issue of this order: (this will be a little long)

  1. Hitler did not orders panzers to stop. Halt Order on 24 May came from directly from Army Group A HQ and its commanders General Gerd Von Rundstedt and General Von Kleist without Hitler’s involvement. Reason was simple , panzer units vanguard of German advance had exhausted , suffered heavy losses till so far for two weeks of constant advance and combat and they needed replacements and their supply trains which they neeeded desperately left behind needed to catch them

  2. When Hitler arrived to Army Group A HQ , he just confirmed the order same day on afternoon , his reason was simple. As Halder wrote on his diary on 17 May he was afraid of his own sucess , he and his close circle and his generals just couldn’t believe their sucess so far and how easy it had been. This was the same ground (Benelux Low Countries and Northern France) Germans and Entante died en masse to advance a few miles just 25 years ago and now they captured it just like that. They became wary of their own triumph and suspicous that Allied High Command had something at its sleeve (they had no idea about confusion among their French countertparts) For all his talk of being military genius , Hitler had been , as commander in chief actually, indecisive and hesistant , weak as hell , agreeing with last person leaving his presence. He as well as Army Group A commanders were still afraid of a French counter attack from South (which was launched on 26th May but too late)

  3. Luftwaffe Commander in Chief Reichsmarshall Goering insisted and get permission to destroy cornered British and French forces on his own due to political reasons of his own (gain prestige over army) not realising this is a mission beyond means of Luftwaffe
    . When senior Luftwaffe commanders heard this plan they mentioned that Fatty (Goering because he was well fat and that was a proper nickname) was over his head.

  4. German ground offensive constantly to reduce pocket after Halt Order lifted on 26th May and constant Luftwaffe raids on Dunkirk defies any “Hitler let them go” arguement. German army assumed with Victory disaese over optimism , it would be walkover into Dunk. in any case (they were much more wary of a French counter attack from south over Somme front) but after 48 hour halt passed British and esp French did a very good rearguard defense at Dunkirk perimeter to stall German advance. During that 48 hours several Channel ports like Boulogne and Calais were also defended fiercely , kept Germans busy. Germans continued to miss chances like this in Eastern Front at Smolensk pocket in 1941 when half of besieged Russians broke away

  5. Germans did not realise start of evacuation and extent of evacuation until it was too late on 29th May when Halder wrote on his diary “Brautisch is angry. Lutwaffe is grounded due to bad weather and we can just watch as tens of thousands of enemy troops are evacuated…” Germans had no naval tradition to realise that British with vast naval embark deambark experience could extract any army cornered in coast. Even British did not expect to save that many thanks to temporary ineffectiveness of Luftwaffe over Dunkirk and excellent rearguard defence.

  6. Hitler who had been in constant friction in a battle of wills and authority with OKW generals since militarisation of Rhineland in 1936 , wanted to rein them in so that also played a huge role confirming Halt order. Not only that since beginning of campaign there were severe frictions between different group and individuals of German High Command and field commanders as well. Army Group A HQ (Von Rundstedt and Von Kleist who were classic staff officers probably felt that panzer generals in field were let loose a little too long at this time and should be reined in)

  7. Panzer divisions indeed needed a rest , refit according to Hitler too as well as Army Group A generals because they needed them to be full operational as soon as possible without delay since they needed to act swiftly to turn south according to Plan Red (Fall Rot) , breakthough French defences on Somme , invade France and conclude the war in a short term victorious campign. Real threat against German strategic position and political economical targets to knock French out of war were South at Paris not at Dunkirk at North which had been considered besieged and finished , can be swept away by Luftwaffe raids in German over optimism. While French defences were weak at Somme , before reinforcements from French colonies and Italian Alps arrive to fortfy Somme front and cause another trench warfare stamalate like what happenned in 1914 at Marne at Western Front (last thing Hitler and Germans wanted since their economy couldn’t handle another Western Front trench warfare of WWI , they needed a quick decisive tiumph over France to knock her out of war) they felt they needed to break through newly formed and fragile (due to entrapment of 1st French Army group) French defence front along Somme , capture Paris and invade Paris and knock the France out of war. Driving panzer divisions on canal and river filled lowland Flemish (another Aryan race Hitler like to keep content) frontiers at Dunkirk to sweep (according to German ovcer optimism) already defeated remants of enemy trapped would erode panzer divisions there
    , stall them there and waste precious time. Capturing Dunkirk would not give them that decisive political victory according to Hitler and OKW. Only capturing Paris and invading France without delay when French defences were still weak at Somme front would do that. And panzer divisions could not be at two places in same time.

It is hard to believe that Germans can cock up at the height of their invincible status but just like everyone else they were capable of screwing things up even if in appearence they were all triumphant.


The German war effort was basically riddled with mistakes, screw ups, bad decisions, bad military intelligence. They only got as far as they did through a combination of luck, the failure of the French commanders and the incompetence of Russian commanders (which was largely because of their fear of Stalin, who didn’t like commanders who showed initiative).

In the east, the Soviet North, Northwest and West fronts were basically overrun. The only competent front commander that gave the Germans a lot of trouble was Mikhail Kirponos of the Southwestern front. This is the reason German Army Group south didn’t advance as fast as North and Center did.

Kirponos also wanted to withdraw from Kiev with the armies that were there, but Stalin forbade it. Imagine that the Soviet Union in 1942 could have waged battle with a million soldiers more than they ended up having. Draw back behind the river defense line, blow up the bridges and invite the Germans over. You can even withdraw to another river defense line and then another. This would have saved the lives of millions of Soviet troops.