Belgium WW2 - Introduction
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Introduction 


Introduction

6 LAA Battery

Yvonne Fassotte's Story

Annie Stockman's Story

Etienne Vanhaeren's Story

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All the material on this site, "Belgium - WWII" is  copyright (c) 2006 property. 

If you have any material, photos or information on Belgium - WWII and would like to see it reproduced on this site, please contact me. 

This is the social history of  Belgium under Nazi occupation from 1939 - 1945. The material used in this project has many sources. The majority of this work is based on the testimonies of the citizens of Belgium.

The photographs and documents used on this site have three main sources. 

First, I am indebted to Evelyn McCullough who started my interest in Belgium's WWII story. She has supplied me with many up to date photos of Belgium as well as Etienne's story. 

Second, many WWII photos were supplied by  6 LAA Battery veterans who took part in the liberation of Belgium. 

Third, other photos have been supplied by the citizens of  Belgium.

 

 

Introduction   

 

The name Belgium can be traced back to the first century BC. That was when the Romans invaded the area of the present day Belgium. One of the Celtic tribes in that area was known as the Belgae.

The modern State of Belgium was founded in 1830.  One year later, at the London Conference on 20 January 1831, the five great powers of Austria, Great Britain, France, Prussia and Russia guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium.

Belgium comprises two social, cultural and linguistic regions, generally called Flanders and Wallonia. The dividing line between these two regions runs approximately east-west to the south of Brussels. The Dutch-speaking Flanders is in the north and the French-speaking Wallonia is in the south.

Belgium is now one of the most densely populated nations in Europe. The present population numbers approximately 10,300,000.

 

 

 

Belgium WW2  

 

French Fortifications   The Belgian defence started with the French fortification called the Maginot Line. This was built in the 1930's. It extended from Switzerland to Longuyon along the French border facing Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

 

The Ardennes  The hills and forests of the Ardennes presented a natural obstacle to the German invader, or so the allied military leadership thought.

 

Belgian Fortifications  The final obstacle facing the German invaders was the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael  on the Dutch-Belgian border. This fort  became operational in 1935. The task of the fort was to either defend or destroy the three main bridges over the Albert Canal.

 

The German Invasion  On  10 May 1940, Germany invaded Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. As a direct result of this attack, both the British Expeditionary Force and the French army invaded Belgium in order to contain the German army on Belgian soil.

 

The British Defeat  The initial German attack was a rouse to draw the French and British armies into Belgium. As the Allied armies advanced to meet the Germans  the second German army group broke through the Ardennes, moved west across northern France and then north. This action not only split the Allied armies but also encircled the northern group on 21 May,  forcing them to retreat to Dunkirk.

 

The Dutch Defeat  While the French and British troops were cornered in Dunkirk, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium had also been under attack.  The Dutch army of 400,000 troops surrendered on 14 May.

 

The Belgian Defeat  When the German invasion started, German glider troops landed within the grounds of Eben-Emael and began a well-rehearsed operation to capture the fort.  They used specially shaped charges to penetrate the reinforced concrete and flamethrowers to disable the machine gun posts.  Despite the suddenness of the attack, the Belgian defenders managed to destroy one of the bridges.

The garrison finally surrendered around noon on the second day, May 11. Over 400 defenders were killed and 1200 were captured. With the line of the River Meuse and the Albert Canal now under German control, the Belgian troops started to retreat. King Leopold III of Belgium surrendered unconditionally on May 28. The Belgian cabinet were in exile in London and opposed the German invaders.

The Germans did not attack the Maginot Line until 14 June.  

 

 

  Etienne and Irene Vanhaeren at  Fort Eben-Emael  2006  

 

The Occupation   Belgium then suffered 4.5 years of German occupation. The atrocities endured by the Belgian people included the disappearance of over 22,000 Belgian Jews into Nazi Death Camps

 

Liberation   The liberation of Europe started at the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944. Belgium was liberated by British and American troops in early September 1944. 

 

6 LAA Battery Tournai Belgium 1944

 

The German Counteroffensive (The Battle of the Bulge)

On 16 December 1944, the Germans mounted their last major counteroffensive with the intention of separating the Allied armies. Again they used the Ardennes as the starting point in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. All the main roads in the eastern Ardennes converged on Bastogne. It was there that the 101st Airborne Division made a stand and held up the advance of the German troops until they were relieved by Patton's Third Army on 26 December 1944. The Germans failed to achieve their objectives. Their defeat was also due to a combination of the dogged resistance of the Americans in St Vith as well as the weather and the terrain. 

 

American Memorial Images from Bastogne  

 

  Trenches near Foy /US Jeep /Bastogne Museum /Bastogne's Mardasson (US) Memorial/ Provided by  Randi Williams (c) 2006