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Operation Sealion

   
 

Operation Sealion


Operation Sealion (German: Unternehmen Seelöwe) was the name of the German plan to invade Great Britain in 1940. An attempt at such an invasion became a realistic possibility following the defeat of France, and the British withdrawal from the continent at Dunkirk.

The first German studies for a possible invasion of England across the English Channel, had actually been begun in November 1939, at which point it was already realized that the major obstacles to German success included the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy (the latter of which was much stronger than the German Kriegsmarine).

On July 16th 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered the German military to prepare for the invasion: "Since England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, shows no signs of being ready to come to a compromise, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England, and if necessary to carry it out". Hitler identified four conditions that needed to be fufilled before the invasion could go ahead:
  1. Defeating the RAF

  2. Clearing the English Channel of British mines, and using German mines to seal the Straits of Dover.

  3. Dominating the coastal zone of (now occupied) France with heavy artillery.

  4. Preventing the Royal Navy from intervening in the invasion, by engaging the British fleet in the North Sea and Mediterranean, and by attacking the home squadrons.
The Germans Air Force (Luftwaffe) soon began Operation Eagle (German: Unternehmen Adler), which latter became known as the "Battle of Britain": the attempt to defeat and neutralize the RAF. As is well known, the Luftwaffe ultimately failed to reach this objective, and in September of 1940, switched to bombing London and other British cities instead.

On September 17th 1940, Hitler cancelled (officially postponed - he hoped to revive the plans, but never did) Operation Sealion. In 1941, Hitler instead turned to the East, and invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) which meant Britain never again faced a serious threat of German invasion.

Military historians who have written about the subject, differ about what might have happened had the Germans attempted the invasion, even if they had managed to first obtain air superiority. One view is that they did in fact have a reasonable chance of success, but the other view is that there were so many problems with the German plan, that defeat, possibly even disaster, was inevitable.

Map of German plan for Operation Sealion

Another widespread view is that the Germans were never likely to have attempted the invasion, that the plans were not serious, and that they simply hoped to intimidate the British into negotiation or surrender. This idea would certainly be consistent with Hitler's personality - it should be remembered that prior to the outbreak of war (which in July of 1940 had been going on for less than a year), Germany had made a whole series of territorial gains simply by using a combination of threats, bluster and intimidation. One piece of evidence in support of this theory is that Adolf Galland, who commanded the Luftwaffe's fighter arm at the time, did in fact state after the war that the German invasion plans were never serious.

In any case, one thing is for sure, if the Germans successfully carried out Sealion and conquered Britain, the consequences would have been terrible both for Britain and the wider world. Indeed, it is quite possible that German victory over Britain would have ultimately resulted in a German victory in World War II as a whole.

   



 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
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