During World War II, one of the largest campaigns was an evacuation from May 26 to June 4, 1940. Around 338,000 Allied troops were rescued from Dunkirk, England.
German Blitzkriegs pushed the British, Belgian, and French forces back through France. Finally, they made a push from the Ardennes, and the Allied force was reduced by half.
The British needed to get their forces through the channel and were trying to find the best way through. France attempted a counterattack on May 21, but it failed, and the Germans kept moving forward.
They crossed over canals by Dunkirk by the 24th of May and looked like they were near capturing the port. However, Dunkirk was the last port that the British were able to use.
Hitler stopped his forces from moving forward. There are two theories as to why he stopped his force’s advance. One theory is that Hermann Goering tried to convince Hitler to use the Luftwaffe to take out the troops that were on the beaches.
Hilter was also convinced that Britain would surrender. But, neither of those theories panned out for the fuhrer. Instead, the British deployed the Royal Air Force almost in its entirety.
In the group were planes from the Metropolitan Air Force, which were used to provide cover to Operation Dynamo. In addition, the Royal Navy paired with the British and French Navy covering the channel and beaches. This move stopped any potential Luftwaffe attacks.
May 26th was the beginning of Operation Dynamo, with around 400,000 British, French, and Belgian troops waiting to be evacuated from the beaches. At best, the senior commanders thought they would rescue around 25 percent.
Near Dunkirk, the British and French had units prepared to hold off the Germans while the rest escaped. The troop’s resilience was put to the test.
The Belgian troops were cornered and surrendered, and the Panzers attacked Dunkirk. The Royal Air Force valiantly attempted to keep the Germans at bay and away from the ships.
The Royal Navy was evacuating as fast as possible but was having difficulty meeting the demand. The British made a public announcement about the grave nature of the mission, and the public jumped at the chance to help.
Privately-owned vessels banned together, and 338,000 troops were saved. The “Dunkirk Spirit” became a symbol of what the British could achieve by working together.