Holland 1940

The Luftwaffe's first setback in the West

Holland 1940 cover


The history of how the Luftwaffe planned to knock out Holland in a surgical, lightning campaign, but instead suffered wounds against the outnumbered but effective Dutch that would come to haunt them in the Battle of Britain.

From the perspective of the German High Command, its invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940 was supposed to be a lightning fast surgical strike, aimed at shoring up the right flank of the Wehrmacht's massive assault on France and Belgium. In a bold manoeuvre, the German Luftwaffe would launch what was at the time the largest airborne operation in history, calculating that surprise and speed would negate the need for a lengthy ground campaign or large numbers of ground troops, using paratroops and air-landing troops to capture key strategic point that would clear the path for the subsequent capitulation of main Dutch city and the government itself. The entire operation was expected to take only 24 hours. The actual campaign proved to be much less efficient and had devastating results for the Luftwaffe.

The Netherlands possessed Europe's first fully integrated antiaircraft network, coordinated from a central command as well as modern and competitive aircraft. Furthermore, the Dutch were not taken by surprise on May 10, 1940, as is often assumed in most histories, thanks to the efforts of Dutch intelligence services and an early radar system. By the end of May 10, only some of the German objectives had been achieved and the battle in Dutch skies and for Dutch airfields stalemated for a further four days. Finally on the fifth day of the invasion with its pre-campaign strategy having largely failed, the Luftwaffe resorted to the terror bombing of Rotterdam in a desperate and successful attempt to force the Dutch government to capitulate. While the Battle of the Netherlands can be seen as a tactical victory for Germany, strategically it has to be seen as the first major defeat for the Luftwaffe.

Explaining the technical capabilities and campaign plans of the two sides, and charting how the battles were fought, this fascinating book re-examines and reassesses this little-known part of World War II. Dutch-speaking aviation analyst Ryan Noppen argues that while the air campaign against Holland was a tactical victory for Germany, the ability of the well-prepared but outnumbered Dutch to inflict heavy losses was a warning of what would come when the Luftwaffe launched the Battle of Britain.

Table of Contents

The Dutch defences
Fallschirmjäger and Luftlande troops
Luftflotte 2 in the Holland operation
Fighter cover for airborne operations
Strike capabilities
The transports
The Dutch defences
Dutch military aircraft in the 1930s
War looms
Unternehmen F
Five costly days
Operations on 10 May 1940
Operations from 11 to 14 May 1940

Product details

Published Sep 14 2021
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 96
ISBN 9781472846686
Imprint Osprey Publishing
Illustrations Illustrated throughout with around 60 photos and at least 14pp of colour illustrations
Dimensions 248 x 184 mm
Series Air Campaign
Short code ACM 23
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing

About the contributors


Ryan K. Noppen

Ryan K. Noppen is a military author and consultant…


Adam Tooby

Adam Tooby is an internationally renowned digital…


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