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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Blitz Begins, September 7, 1940

Today in 1940, the first group of German bombers to raid London took off from bases in France. This marked the beginning of the bombing “blitzkrieg” of England that would last until May of 1941. 337 tons bombs fell on the London docks that day, killing 448 civilians.

Hitler’s plan in bombing England was twofold. First, there was the possibility of an invasion of the island nation. This would have required naval resources, such as landing craft, that the Germans did not possess. However, plans were drawn up utilizing river barges to carry soldiers to the beaches. This plan, called Operation Sea Lion, was never carried out mainly due to the stiff defense presented by the Royal Air Force during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain earlier in the year. Churchill’s promise that the British people would fight the Germans on the beaches and in the streets would most likely have been carried out.

Second, Hitler desperately wanted to neutralize England so that he could turn his attention to the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that Germany and the Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, Hitler only used the agreement to buy time until western Europe could be conquered. A free and fight-capable England would be a dagger in the back of a Germany offensive in the East.

Before the Blitz was over, more than 30,000 Londoners would die. This did not include the fatalities from cities like Coventry, where almost every structure was destroyed. The raids would slow down during the winter, only to continue with a fervor during March, April and May of 1941. The blitz ended on May 16th when most of the Luftwaffe units were sent east for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union.

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