Dunkerque Operation of 1940

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dunkerque Operation of 1940


(code name—Dynamo), the evacuation of the Allied troops (British and some French and Belgian units) from the Dunkerque region in France to Britain carried out between May 26 and June 4, 1940, during World War II. As a result of the breakthrough of large fascist German panzer units on May 20, 1940, to Abbeville, the troops of the Allied No. 1 Army Group (ten British, 18 French, and 12 Belgian divisions) were cut off and pressed to the sea in the vicinity of Gravelines, Arras, and Bruges. The troops of Colonel General G. von Rundstedt’s Army Group A (the panzer groups of General E. von Kleist and H. Hoth and the Fourth Army) advanced against Allied troops from the west and southwest and Colonel General W. von Leeb’s Army Group B (the Eighteenth and Sixth armies), from the east and southeast. The British command had decided as early as May 20 to evacuate its troops, without informing the Allies of this decision. The evacuation was facilitated by Hitler’s approval on May 24 of Rundstedt’s order of May 23 to halt the panzer groups on the Béthune-St.-Omer-Gravelines line. The reasons for this “stop order” have not been sufficiently clarified and historians offer varying interpretations. It is not excluded that Hitler hoped that the return of the demoralized British soldiers to Britain would cause fear and confusion among the British people and prompt the government of Great Britain to capitulate. Moreover, the fascist German command strove to avoid tank losses in order to use the tanks against the main forces of the French Army and counted on using its air force to destroy a large number of the British troops during the evacuation. However, the offensive of the German infantry met with stubborn Allied resistance and was unsuccessful. Then, on May 27, the fascist German command again threw the panzer groups into combat, but their tanks were unable to overcome the reinforced British defense. Owing to the enormous miscalculation of the fascist German command, the bulk of the Allied troops, more than 338,000 men, was evacuated. Before the start of operation Dynamo, 59,300 British were evacuated; 278,800 men, including 139,800 British and 139,000 French and Belgian troops, were evacuated between May 26 and June 4. A total of 860 ships of the British and French navies as well as fishing, transport, and sports vessels participated in the evacuation; 224 of these were sunk and about as many damaged. British fighters provided air cover. From May 27 to June 4 the British Air Force made 2,739 sorties, shot down 130 German aircraft, and lost 302 of its own aircraft. The British lost over 68,000 men and their entire combat materiel and armament. On May 28 the Belgian Army surrendered, and on June 4, about 40,000 French soldiers, who had covered the evacuation and were left without ammunition, surrendered.


Divine, D. Deviat’ dnei Diunkerka. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Groehler, O. “Meneteken-Dünkirchen.”Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 1961, no. 6.
Jacobsen, H.-A. Dünkirchen. Neckargemünd, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.