Dunkirk Evacuation

Allied troops on the beach at Dunkirk waiting for evacuation

Allied troops on the beach at Dunkirk waiting for evacuation

Code-named Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk Evacuation took place May 26 to June 4, 1940, during World War II as part of the Battle of France. During the operation, more than 338,000 Allied troops were successfully evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk (Dunkerque) following the German invasion of France

Background

When Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands in a blitzkrieg attack in May 1940, its troops also unexpectedly pushed into France through the lightly defended Ardennes forest region, which the French had believed to be impenetrable. 

Under the onslaught, Allied troops fell back toward the English Channel, where they became trapped in an increasingly smaller pocket on the northern French coast.

Dunkirk Evacuation

The British decided to evacuate their expeditionary force (the BEF) from the harbor at Dunkirk, though they initially expected only about 45,000 troops could be saved.

But Hitler and the German high command unintentionally gave the Allies more time to evacuate by ordering Germany’s armored units to pause their advance. Air support from the Royal Air Force also facilitated the evacuation, as did the defense of the Dunkirk perimeter, particularly by French troops.   

Despite deadly attacks on Dunkirk by the Luftwaffe, Britain evacuated more than 338,000 troops across the English Channel, including some 140,000 French and Belgian soldiers. Navy ships were aided by hundreds of civilian watercraft that afterward became known as the “Little Ships of Dunkirk.” 

Aftermath & Legacy

The evacuation ended June 4, when the Germans occupied Dunkirk. That same day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous “We Shall Fight on the Beachesspeech.

The evacuation came to be known in Britain as the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” and the term “the Spirit of Dunkirk” became a symbol to the nation of resilience and resolve. Although Dunkirk was a victory for Germany, Hitler’s halting of his armored troops is viewed today as one of Germany’s major mistakes of the war. 

Learn more about the Dunkirk Evacuation through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Dunkirk Evacuation

Germany reports it strengthened the Germany reports it strengthened the "ring" around Allied forces in days before Dunkirk Evacuation Mon, May 27, 1940 – 7 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comNews, reports, maps & opinions about the Allied situation in France from 29 May 1940News, reports, maps & opinions about the Allied situation in France from 29 May 1940 Wed, May 29, 1940 – 5 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comPrime Minister Winston Churchill's statement on the Prime Minister Winston Churchill's statement on the "extremely grave" situation of the Allies Wed, May 29, 1940 – 6 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 30 May 1940British newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 30 May 1940 Thu, May 30, 1940 – 5 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comAmerican newspaper front page coverage of the Allied retreat during the Dunkirk EvacuationAmerican newspaper front page coverage of the Allied retreat during the Dunkirk Evacuation Thu, May 30, 1940 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 31 May 1940British newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 31 May 1940 Fri, May 31, 1940 – 5 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 1 June 1940British newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 1 June 1940 Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – 7 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comMap of the German advance through Belgium and Northern France in May 1940Map of the German advance through Belgium and Northern France in May 1940 Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – 8 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comReport from French military during Dunkirk EvacuationReport from French military during Dunkirk Evacuation Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – 9 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comEditorial published during the Dunkirk Evacuation about factors leading to a successful withdrawalEditorial published during the Dunkirk Evacuation about factors leading to a successful withdrawal Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – 6 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comAccount of British Royal Air Force Account of British Royal Air Force "air battle over Dunkirk" Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – 4 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comAustralian newspaper headlines from the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940Australian newspaper headlines from the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – Page 15 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.comArticle reports that French regiments volunteer to form rearguard of Dunkirk EvacuationArticle reports that French regiments volunteer to form rearguard of Dunkirk Evacuation Sat, Jun 1, 1940 – Page 15 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.comBritish op-ed calling the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation British op-ed calling the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation "the Great Deliverance" Sun, Jun 2, 1940 – 6 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 3 June 1940British newspaper coverage of Dunkirk Evacuation from 3 June 1940 Mon, Jun 3, 1940 – 5 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comDescription of the Description of the "Little Ships of Dunkirk" during the 1940 evacuation Mon, Jun 3, 1940 – Page 9 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.comVarious firsthand and eye-witness accounts of the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940Various firsthand and eye-witness accounts of the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 Mon, Jun 3, 1940 – Page 9 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.comArticle gives account of Red Cross nurses during Dunkirk EvacuationArticle gives account of Red Cross nurses during Dunkirk Evacuation Mon, Jun 3, 1940 – 20 · The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper article about the British newspaper article about the "Navy's part at Dunkirk" in 1940 Tue, Jun 4, 1940 – 5 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comFrench female telephonists and British nurses are part of the forces evacuated from DunkirkFrench female telephonists and British nurses are part of the forces evacuated from Dunkirk Tue, Jun 4, 1940 – 9 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comAccount of Canadian civilian who took part in the Account of Canadian civilian who took part in the "Little Ships" evacuation of Dunkirk Tue, Jun 4, 1940 – 1 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.comGermany captures city of Dunkirk, ending the evacuation of Allied forcesGermany captures city of Dunkirk, ending the evacuation of Allied forces Tue, Jun 4, 1940 – Page 1 · Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.comPrime Minister Winston Churchill gives his Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech after Dunkirk Wed, Jun 5, 1940 – 2 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comPhoto of Allied troops wading to rescue ships at DunkirkPhoto of Allied troops wading to rescue ships at Dunkirk Wed, Jun 5, 1940 – 1 · The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.comImages of Dunkirk before and after the evacuation and German attackImages of Dunkirk before and after the evacuation and German attack Wed, Jun 5, 1940 – Page 2 · The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) · Newspapers.comOpinion piece about the Opinion piece about the "Spirit of Dunkirk" written for the 25th anniversary of the evacuation Sat, Jun 5, 1965 – 8 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com
"Dunkirk Evacuation," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/world-war2/dunkirk-evacuation/ : accessed June 6, 2020)