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Battle of France
Part of the Western Front of World War II
Date 3 June, 1940
Location France, Paris
Result Strategic German failure[1]
France Armée de l'Air Nazi Germany Luftwaffe
France Joseph Vuillemin Nazi Germany Hermann Göring
Nazi Germany Hugo Sperrle
Nazi Germany Otto Hoffmann von Waldau
120 fighters[2] II. Fliegerkorps and V. Fliegerkorps:
640 bombers 460 fighters.[2][3]
Casualties and losses
20 aircraft destroyed on the ground (16 fighters)
15 fighters in the air
906 casualties and 254 dead (166 were servicemen)[2]
10 aircraft (four bombers)[2]

Unternehmen Paula (Undertaking Paula)[4][5] is the name given to a strategic Luftwaffe offensive operation to destroy the remaining units of the Armée de l'Air (ALA), or French Air Force during the Battle of France. The operation failed to achieve the strategic results desired by the Luftwaffe. The operation was mishandled by both sides, the Germans offensively and the French defensively. British Enigma codebreakers had deciphered the Luftwaffe codes, and gave the French warning of the attack, enabling them to avoid destruction on the ground.[2]


German plans

On 23 May 1940, the French intercepted a signal that Unternehmen . The objectives were to destroy the airfields and aircraft factories around Paris, and also, in Otto Hoffmann von Waldau's words, to 'achieve a desirable influence on the morale of the capital'.[6] German reconnaissance reported 1,150 aircraft on airfields in and around Paris. This force was to be destroyed along with the aviation factories in the area.[7] Units from both Luftflotte 2 and 3 were made available for the operation, with bombers from LG 1, KG 1, KG 2, KG 3, KG 4, KG 30 and KG 54, escorted by fighters from JG 2, JG 26, JG 27, JG 53, ZG 2 and ZG 76.[8 ]

The mission was compromised by poor staff work and excessive confidence in the "invulnerable" Enigma machine. The British intelligence, who had been reading the German codes, forewarned the French. Adding to this leak, the units involved received incomplete orders for the assault.[2]

The battle

The French had picked up similar messages which led them to double the fighter strength around Paris, to 120 aircraft.[8 ] On 3 June, the French units were warned an hour before the German bombers took off. But owing to equally poor staff work, few French Squadrons heard the scramble and some were caught on the ground. In the end, only 80 took off.[2] French observed sighted some 640 bombers and 460 fighters - German progess was monitored by shadowing Potez 631s, one of which were shot down.[8 ]


The French shot down 10 German aircraft, including four bombers (they claimed 16) for the loss of 15, a loss rate of 19 percent.[2] The Germans claimed to have destroyed 75 French aircraft in the air and 400 on the ground.[2] 20 French aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and 15 in the air. Six of the 16 airfieds hit reported serious damage, while 15 factories reported slight damage.[2] French casulties on the ground were heavy - 254 dead and 652 injured.[9] Although Luftwaffe losses were light, amongst the aircrew shot down and captured were Jafü 3 Massow and Kammhuber, Kommodore of KG 51.[9]




  • Chant, Christopher. (1987) The encyclopedia of codenames of World War II. Routledge & Kegan Paul Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0710207180
  • Hooton, E.R. (2007). Luftwaffe at War; Blitzkrieg in the West. London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6.
  • Mackay, Ron. Heinkel He 111. Crowood Aviation Series. 2003. ISBN 1-86126-576-X


  1. ^ Chant 1987, p. 80.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hooton 2007, p. 84.
  3. ^ Mackay 2003, pp. 62-63.
  4. ^ Mackay 2003, p. 62.
  5. ^ Chant 1987, p. 10.
  6. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 263.
  7. ^ Hooton 2007, pp. 82-83.
  8. ^ a b c Hooton 1994, pp. 263-264.
  9. ^ a b Hooton 1994, p. 264.


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