Germany Tracking British Naval Forces was Critical
On 9 April the German people were surprised by the information that “German troops have undertaken the protection of Denmark and Norway.” The National Socialist Government tried, naturally, to throw all blame on the English and Norwegians.
Of course no mention was made of the fact that the invasion might not have been successful, if the intercept service of the German Navy had not ascertained the position of the British naval forces and calculated the time so that no surprises need be feared from that quarter. Despite heroic resistance, all Norway was occupied within four weeks during which the German intercept service played a notable role against both land and naval forces. At Narvik, both the British and Norwegians used radio very incautiously. The course of British ships could be followed perfectly at all times. Several Norwegian units were encircled and captured because of their incautious use of radio, and the capture of Bergen with its war stores was possible only because of frivolous use of radio.
A British Crime
Of course the Germans sometimes made mistakes, too, and the British followed German ship movements. Simultaneous with increase in military radio traffic at the beginning of these operations was the enormous increase in diplomatic and press traffic. It was interesting to see how the German advance against the two northern countries affected neutral lands. While the German press tried to characterize the whole action as a “British Crime” against which the entire press of the world was clamoring indignantly and while German papers were printing quotations from foreign papers, which had been paid for with German money, intercepts from foreign countries gave a very different picture. British action against Norway had been started only after Germany’s intention had become known to England at the last moment. Consequently it was not England but Germany that had attacked, and this unjustified attack in defiance of all international law lost Germany the respect of the world and laid the groundwork for her defeat.
Stupid British Diversionary Maneuver
On 9 May one of the leading German newspapers carried the headline: “Stupid British Diversionary Maneuver.” The content was to the effect that the discovery by Germany of ostensible British plans had produced such an impression in England that they were resorting to diversionary maneuvers; news was being spread abroad that Holland was sorely threatened by Germany. There was a false report that two German armies were moving toward Holland, but of course that was nonsense, an old wives’ tale of the Ministry of Lies in London. But the next day at nine o’clock Doctor Goebbels delivered a long talk on the German invasion of Holland, Belgium, and Luxenbourg. The war in the West had begun.
The attempt to attribute the blame for the outbreak of hostilities to the Dutch and Belgians was ridiculous. From everything that could be observed by monitoring their traffic, it was clear that both countries did everything possible to maintain neutrality. On 14 May the Dutch army gave up the hopeless struggle and a break was made in the extended Maginot Line at Sedan. On 16 May came a break through the Maginot Line on a front of 100 kilometers. On 17 May German troops entered Brussels. Soon Hitler’s threat: “We will put them in a panic which will spread!” was made good.
German Information Operations
This creation of panic was carried on by all modern technical means. Leaflets were dropped by the hundreds of thousands and served to spread the wildest rumors. Agents deposited by parachute behind the enemy front cut in on the telephone wires, called up all sorts of government offices, gave false instructions to civilian offices and troop units, and by reports of panic caused a chaotic flight on the part of the civilian population, which resulted in a hopeless blocking of the highways. Captured radio stations were likewise put into operation and issued alarming reports. With events moving so rapidly, the French command had no possibility of effectively counteracting these activities; moreover, the French did not catch on to these methods until too late. In several cases, whole divisions were forced in this fashion to surrender. A number of German agents equipped with small shortwave radio had been deposited behind the French front and were working from there with excellent success. These people watched everything that went on and reported each of their observations immediately to one of the three control stations by which their work was directed. For the first time in history a combat instrumentality was employed here which in the later years of this war was to give it its special character and which was to be turned in catastrophic fashion against Germany.