It had been a disaster from the first shot. “Complete debacle” was probably a better term. From the moment the German vanguard passed through the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes Forest in May of 1940, the collapse had begun. The Netherlands were the first to surrender, buried under the weight and power of German bombs.
The Belgians were the next. The loss of their massive fort at Eben Emael (which we will discuss next May) was a huge blow to the collective confidence of the military and the populace, though they would hold out until the end of the month.
The British were next to feel the pain. Their evacuation at Dunkirk, though a miracle of logistics and survival for the troops, was accompanied by a devastating loss in equipment, fuel, and pride.
And then focus was turned to the French, who fared no better. Poorly trained to fight Germany’s style of war and poorly supported by a nation with no real desire to sacrifice another generation to the bullets of an enemy, their fall was just as inevitable as those who had fallen before. After Dunkirk, the German forces turned south and a little west and rolled toward Paris, which they captured without a shot.
And then came the final humiliation on June 22, 1940. The signing of the Armistice…and Adolf Hitler had spared no detail in his attempt to recreate the armistice that Germany had been forced to sign (by the French) when World War I ended. The disgrace had to be complete. So Hitler chose the Compiègne Forest as his location, where the Armistice had been signed in 1918. He chose the very same railroad carriage and, in fact, sat in the exact same chair that Ferdinand Foch had used. And Hitler didn’t even remain for the signing. In a diplomatic “slap in the face”, he walked out of the railcar and left the final signing to General Keitel.
And then the site of these two signings was obliterated. All traces were removed (except Ferdinand Foch’s statue, which Hitler wanted that left in place to disgrace Foch). The railcar was taken to Berlin and, shortly before the war ended, it was destroyed and its remains buried.
Recommended Reading: Lightning War