Dunkirk Triumph Or Disaster Essay Notre Dame Essay Questions
Earlier that summer, Churchill had declared that "Hitler knows he will have to break us in this island or lose the war." But Churchill was only half right.Right in the sense that, without breaking the British, Hitler was indeed going to lose eventually. By September 1940, facing a reconstituted British army (thanks to Dunkirk), British control over its own skies (thanks to the Battle of Britain), and mastery of the seas (thanks to the Royal Navy), Hitler realized that he could not launch what would have been the first successful invasion of England since 1066. Hitler's third strategic mistake was rooted in his deep loathing of both Communism and the "Slavic races" that formed the USSR.Within days, a "colossal military disaster" (in the words of Lord Gort, Commander of that army) had somehow been turned by the British into a glorious symbol of resistance and their indomitable island nation.Indeed, the term "Dunkirk spirit" is still used to describe a collective pulling together in the face of adversity.As it was, the troops returned home to a rapturous reception."Wars are not won by evacuation; but there was victory inside this deliverance." So declared Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Parliament, before uttering his most phrases about defending our island, fighting on the beaches, and never surrendering.The Dunkirk evacuees formed the core of the British army that went on to defeat the Germans in North Africa and later – with American and other allies – returned to the European continent on D-Day in 1944.
So at this pivotal moment, RAF Fighter Command was granted time to recover and regroup, allowing its pilots to continue their heroic defence, and the Battle of Britain was won.Churchill was surely right to declare that 1940 was the British people's "finest hour", as they resisted the Nazis alone.But key to British success and survival were the four unforced errors committed by the Fuehrer.The second two mistakes, even more significant in global terms, took place in 1941 and ensured Hitler's eventual defeat as he brought first the USSR and then the USA into the war on Britain's side.As their French, Dutch and Belgian allies collapsed before the German onslaught, the survivors of the British Expeditionary Force retreated to the channel port of Dunkirk.On hearing the news, Churchill said he "went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful". After all, the Japanese attack indeed ensured that the US would go to war – but only against Japan.Without Hitler's wholly gratuitous declaration, the Roosevelt Administration would never have persuaded Congress to go to war in Europe instead of focusing on the Pacific.But for all the heroism on display in the Channel that week, equally important was a bizarre decision by Hitler to halt his Panzer divisions for 36 hours, instead of letting them finish off the exhausted and outnumbered British.He explained to his generals why he had held them back: "it's always good to let a broken army return home to show the civilian population what a beating they've had".Despite warnings from Churchill and others that the Germans intended to invade the USSR, Stalin continued to believe Hitler was a sincere ally.Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, there was little desire to join the European war.