- Published: 22 April 2008
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Omar Grover, age 11, of Providence, R.I., for his question:
WHERE IS DUNKERQUE?
Dunkerque is a seaport on the northern coast of France. It is also spelled Dunkirk or Dunquerque. Dunkerque means "church among the dunes."
The harbor and town were greatly damaged early in World War II when German forces attacked retreating Allied troops. The British Expeditionary Force and other Allied soldiers withdrew into Dunkerque when the Belgian army surrendered.
The beaches at Dunkerque are wide and sandy. It was a natural spot for defense because it was cut off from the country by canals at the sides and back of the town, and by the sea at its front.
German forces surrounded Dunkerque and German ships lay out in the English Channel. But a fleet of almost 1,000 British and French ships successfully carried nearly 350,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkerque to England. All kinds of vessels took part including destroyers, gunboats, minesweepers, yachts, cruisers and even rowboats.
The withdrawal started late in May and ended on June 4, 1940. It was one of the best ordered military movements in history.