German Invasion May 1940.
The Dutch armed forces mobilised in September 1939. It was hoped this would help deter invasion, as it did in 1914. If an attack did come, it was accepted that Dutch forces could not stop the inevitably stronger Germans. They could however slow any advance and, if the larger French and British forces were successful further south, there was a chance that any invasion would stall. This did not, of course, happen.
The Wehrmacht were aware that Dutch engineers had mined all key bridges within easy reach of the border, including the road and rail bridges at Nijmegen. As the River Waal was a formidable natural defence, a decision was made to capture these bridges intact by taking the sentries by surprise. A plan to use a civilian barge to tow a 100 man raiding party downstream the night before the invasion was abandoned due to the presence of a Dutch Navy gunboat upstream close to the border. Instead, a Waffen-SS motor-bike reconnaissance unit, reinforced with armoured cars, were assigned the task of passing through Dutch defences south of the Waal as soon as hostilities commenced, drive the 6 km to Nijmegen at top speed and seize both bridges.
At dawn on 10 May 1940 German forces invaded the Netherlands at the same time as their attacks on France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The SS reconnaissance unit advanced to Nijmegen as planned, only to witness both bridges being blown as they arrived. Dutch forces south of the Waal soon withdrew westward to prepared positions along the Maas-Waal canal. Nijmegen was the first Netherlands city to fall and saw no more substantive fighting during the 1940 campaign.
By destroying the Nijmegen bridges, the Dutch Army not only prevented German forces south of the Waal from joining up with others further north, but also effectively blocked the river, denying this route to the invaders.