Battle of Fort Eben-Emael Begins
he Battle of Fort Eben-Emael was a battle between Belgian and German forces that took place between 10 May and 11 May, 1940, and was part of the Battle of the Netherlands, Battle of Belgium and Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries and France. An assault force of German Fallschirmjäger were tasked with assaulting and capturing Fort Eben-Emael, a Belgian fortress whose artillery pieces dominated several important bridges over the Albert Canal which German forces intended to use to advance into Belgium. As some of the German airborne troops assaulted the fortress and disabled the garrison and the artillery pieces inside it, others simultaneously captured three bridges over the Canal. Having disabled the fortress, the airborne troops were then ordered to protect the bridges against Belgian counter-attacks until they linked up with ground forces from the German 18th Army.
The battle was a decisive victory for the German forces, with the airborne troops landing on top of the fortress via the use of gliders and using explosives and flamethrowers to disable the outer defences of the fortress. The Fallschirmjäger then entered the fortress, killing a number of defenders and containing the rest in the lower sections of the fortress. Simultaneously, the rest of the German assault force had landed near the three bridges over the Canal, destroyed a number of pillboxes and defensive positions and defeated the Belgian forces guarding the bridges, capturing them and bringing them under German control. The airborne troops suffered heavy casualties during the operation, but succeeded in holding the bridges until the arrival of German ground forces, who then aided the airborne troops in assaulting the fortress a second time and forcing the surrender of the remaining members of the garrison. German forces were then able to utilize the three bridges over the Canal to bypass a number of Belgian defensive positions and advance into Belgium to aid in the invasion of the country.
The attack on Fort Eben-Emael shows how blitzkrieg worked within a small environment as opposed to an attack on a whole country. The element of surprise was key, as was the use of a method of attack not really considered possible by other Western European armies. The use of troops specifically trained to become experts in explosives, parachuting etc were also vital. The defensive mentality of the Belgium army was exposed by the success of the attack on Fort Eben-Emael.
The Fall of France Fact File at BBC