Germany's war machine drove relentlessly forward in Northern France and Belgium Saturday night, and military headquarters in Berlin said the long-promised blitzkrieg against Great Britain would be launched in the "very near future" with an "absolutely secret weapon."
As the battle raged it was announced in Paris that 15 French generals had been removed from their commands as Generalissimo Maxime Weygand bolstered his army for a showdown battle.
The Nazis claimed to be consolidating bases on the English Channel for their thrusts at Great Britain and to be engaged in the final stages of a series of operations designed to destroy, bit by bit, some 1,000,000 French, British and Belgian troops cut off from the main French army south of the German corridor to the Channel. Vimy Ridge, famous World War battlefield, was occupied by the Germans, the French admitted.
The French, however, claimed that the Allies were steadily shrinking the corridor with a view to cutting the Germans on the coast off from their supplies and then driving them into the sea.
The Germans, having won notable successes in the early stages of the blitzkrieg which started May 10 with their dive bombers, 80-ton tanks and flame throwers, warned that they had still another unprecedented engine of destruction for use against the British, one from which the "greatest surprise can be expected."
The Germans said they had captured Boulogne on the Channel and, in Belgium, Ghent and Courtrai and encircled ancient Calais across from Dover.
They claimed to have driven great wedges in the Allies' northern lines preparatory to piecemeal destruction of the British Expeditionary Force, the First, Seventh and Ninth French Armies and two Belgian divisions.
The Allied outlets to the sea-Dunkirk, Ostend, Zeebrugge-have been terrifically bombed, Nazis said, and the German advance through Ghent and Courtrai threatens to leave Dunkirk the only port from which the retreating northern army could escape.
Already, the Germans claimed, thousands of British are concentrated at Calais where they are destroying their own munitions and abandoning equipment in their flight.
The French told a different story. They admitted German mechanized units were still driving through the corridor but one source said they had squeezed that avenue to the Channel to a width of only 12 miles at a point where once it was more than 30 miles wide. A juncture between the northern and southern Allied armies would make the position of Germans on the coast perilous.
The British were fighting southward at Arras and Bapaume and the French were driving north from Armiens and Peronne to close the corridor.
The French claimed they still held Calais and Boulogne and that heavy fighting was in progress at both cities and at Abbeville, first Channel port reached by the Germans. British naval units were shelling German communications between Calais and Boulogne and Royal air Force bombers were reported blasting away at mechanized units there and at supply lines elsewhere on the German rear.
The German advance in the vicinity of St. Omer, southeast of Calais, has been halted, according to the French.
German warplanes, which yesterday ranged along 250 miles of the English coast dropping bombs, struck again early today at East Kent but were driven off before they could do any damage. One was reported shot down in flames.
In yesterday's raid, which ranged from York south to Essex, scores of bombs were dropped and 11 persons were wounded but little damage was done.
The raids in the industrial York area were seen as an attempt to damage vital factories, but the southern raids were considered merely an attempt to break British morale.
The British, preparing for a more serious assault on their own little island, were the gloomiest of any of the belligerents. Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for a "supreme effort" to save Britain and said the "gravity of the situation deepens hour by hour."
He spoke at a time when the smoke of battle was drifting across the Channel, when the sound of gunfire in France was reverberating against the cliffs of Dover, when the Royal Air Force was fighting air combats within sight of the English coast.
But the British were fighting back, at home and on the battlefronts. They organized more that 400,000 "parashoots" to deal with the Germans if they come by air. They arrested 60 suspected "fifth columnists" and expected to arrest more. Three arrests were made at Croydon, site of the big airport.
The Royal Air Force bombed German fuel supplies at Rotterdam, hit and possibly sank a German torpedo boat, shot down or damaged 12 enemy planes, attacked German motorized columns and on the French coast and co-operated with the British Expeditionary Force in bombing and strafing operations.
Italy, as usual, remained an enigma, although there were signs that her promised entry into the war on Germany's side may not be far off.
The Italian Line suspended trans-Atlantic ship sailings but said they would resume June 10 and a decree was promulgated providing civil mobilization and extension of government powers.
Luigi Maglione, Papal Secretary of State, asked foreign representatives to the Holy See if they would want refuge in the Vatican in the event their countries became involved in war with Italy.