In the German invasion of the Low Countries more than 10,000 men, parachutists and air-landing infantry,1 and from 350 to 400 planes are estimated to have been used in this first great German employment of air-borne troops. The principal objectives were The Hague, capital of the country; the port facilities and bridges of Rotterdam, Holland's chief commercial center; the bridges of Dordrecht and Moerdijk; and the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael, the supposedly impregnable key to the Albert Canal, Belgium's main line of defense.
Transport planes carrying the troops easily infiltrated over Dutch territory at dawn on the morning of May 10, 1940, while several bombing squadrons attacked such Dutch aviation bases as Texel, Bergen, and Schipol.
After 0500, parachutists began dropping near the assigned objectives. At Rotterdam and elsewhere they seized air terminals for later use by German air-landing troops. Key points, such as bridges and bridgeheads, were seized with success at Dordrecht and Moerdijk. At Eben Emael heavy dive bombing was followed by the arrival of parachutists and glider-borne infantry who advanced from bomb crater to crater and held their own until the arrival of motorized units, notably a reinforced battalion of engineer assault troops. The garrison was forced into surrender at noon on the day after the invasion began.
Such German successes had a direct bearing on the speed with which German arms came triumphantly to the Channel. Nevertheless, at The Hague and at such adjacent bases as Ypenburg, Valkenburg, and Ockenburg, the German air-borne forces were decisively repulsed. In other scattered places, too, most of the German parachutists who landed to accomplish specific missions were either killed or captured. Also, Dutch pursuit planes and antiaircraft guns took a slight toll of German aircraft. At some places the Dutch attacked transport planes with field pieces and machine guns; and elsewhere, mines or trenches caused the landing aircraft to crash before air infantry could be unloaded.
The German operations in Holland taught the lesson that complete air-borne success can be attained only with complete surprise. This was a lesson that was later to be emphasized at Crete.