Operation Moltke had saw our forces advance across northern France, fail to capture Paris, but start to envelop the city. The initial goal now was to seize the northern bank of the River Oise, as a prelude to a strike south to capture Jouarre. Meanwhile the troops based in Étampes would capture Melun, thus completing the encirclement of the city. With the city encircled, the besieged garrison would be attacked on all sides.
Nine days of heavy fighting saw the river line secured, creating a straight front from Vernon to Lille. However, the attack from Étampes had brought down upon it a massive French counterattack. It was now clear that the French had moved their main force to defend the Paris region. Further afield the French also launched an attack aimed at retaking Lille. This two pronged assault caused a diversion of our troops, men were rapidly moved towards Lille and Étampes to halt French breakthroughs, leaving only a small force to attempt the attack towards Jouarre.
In Belgium, Dutch forces captured the fortresses near Liège, and our own attacks produced excellent results capturing territory on each flank of Brussels. For a short few hours it looked like the Belgium army had finally cracked. Twenty-four hours later however, the Belgians had rushed troops in to halt further advances and managed to push back our recent gains on the west flank of the capital.
The Battle for Paris, and the fighting raging along much of the front.
The French were now attacking Étampes from several directions, and the fighting there took on a back and forth pattern. The French pushed back our garrison several times, but were then unable to hold the ground from our own counterattacks. In an effort to relieve the pressure on our frontline forces, several diversionary attacks were made on positions around our penetration. It was soon discovered that this massed French army, attacking Étampes, was in fact the very same French force that had only recently defended Paris, thus leaving the city weakly defended.
HE-111 bombers over Paris, during one of the numerous sorties launched in support of our attacks.
An attack from three sides was rapidly put in against Paris, and as many available troops were ordered to Étampes to keep the main French army away from their capital and distracted. HE-111 bombers were ordered into the fray, striking French positions in the capital on a daily basis for more than a week in support of the attack. As bombs rained down, infantry pushed forward house to house aiming for the centre of the city. Fighting was sporadic, with the small French garrison holding off our attacks. delaying the fall of the city as long as they could. Eventually, with their cohesion rapidly collasping along with their morale, the French garrison was ordered to abandon the city. On 29 November 1940, after only skirmishes resulting in low casualties and no climatic battle, Paris fell to our forces.
The loss of the city was a major blow to the prestige and morale of the French nation. The French government had long abandoned the city, and even with Paris now in our hands the French politicians refused to surrender and stop the, now, needless fighting. In an effort to end the war by Christmas, the panzer divisions and excess infantry – not needed to hold the front – started to move towards Le Havre. A strike would be made into Normandy to capture additional Channel ports to remove any prospect of further British reinforcements arriving to help the French, and thus remove the last strands of their support for the war along with any hope of reversing their current predicament.