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The Netherlands gained its current borders by the treaty of London (1839). This treaty released Belgium as an independent country having only been added in 1815. The Netherlands subsequent to this found itself in the longest period without being involved in a European war. It managed to stay neutral in 1914. Despite initial German drafts of the Schlieffen Plan that included the Netherlands. German planners eventually saw that trying to break through Dutch defences while simultaneously trying to encircle and destroy the French army would be asking too much from the German army. Thus the Netherlands was spared the horrors of combat of the first world war. The economic damage to the country was scarcely less than that done to the fighting nations.
Just like every country in the world the Netherlands was hit hard by the great depression. Limited means combined with a virulent peace movement meant that Dutch armed forces were in a deplorable state when Hitler came to power. Equipment was outdated. Some artillery pieces dated from the 1880s as was the standard Dutch infantry rifle (Mannlicher M.95). The design for all Dutch machine guns dated from the great war. The Netherlands was slow to react to the growing threat, preferring to believe that it could escape a coming war by remaining neutral. Defence purchases when they happened were in such low quantities that their impact would always be minimal. The government only realized that the German threat was real in 1938 but by then it was too late rearm. Orders were placed both in the Netherlands and other countries but since those other countries had been rearming for longer their orders were already placed and the Dutch had to wait their turn. Most of the orders would not be delivered before 1941. Worse than the equipment shortfall was the army training however. There was almost no room for local initiative in Dutch army doctrine. A strict hierarchy was in place meaning all relevant decisions had to made at the highest level. When the Netherlands was invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940 this lethargic attitude to army operations showed itself disastrously in Rotterdam where after the landing of airborne troops on the river that runs through the city it took hours to mount a defence by which time the Germans had organized themselves and seized the southern bank of the river. This loss combined with the successful seizure of bridges to the south of the city doomed the Netherlands to a quick defeat. Germany did not have everything its way however. An airborne landing around The Hague failed with the loss of over 200 expensive and difficult to replace transports as did an attempt to attack Amsterdam from the North. Still after only five days of fighting and the terror bombing of Rotterdam the Netherlands was forced to surrender.
The fight went on for the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia). When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour the Dutch were the first country to declare war even before US did. A combined Allied fleet was defeated at the battle of the Java Sea after which the Japanese had no difficulty invading and securing the reason for the invasion, the Borneo Oil fields.
Dutch Forces continued to play a role in World War 2, especially the Navy going on to have the fourth largest number of ships sunk to its name. However the country itself would not be liberated fully until the end of world war 2.
As any medium power the starting situation of the Netherlands is not good. In fact it is abysmal. You have a base IC of 36 but because of your high Neutrality (of 100) your available IC is only 21.
You don't have enough commanders to staff your entire army and those you do are poor with few specials and mostly 0 or 1 experience level. The fleet is both small and devoid of all capital ships. 3 light cruisers and 2 destroyers of level 2 are the entire surface force. 3 submarines one each of level 1, 2 and 3 round out the offensive arm. You also have 4 transports that you will need to transfer units between the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands. National Unity is fairly high at 90%. Your starting forces in the Netherlands are 8 mobilizable Infantry Divisions of 3 Infantry Brigades each. There are no aircraft of any kind. In the Dutch East Indies you have 3 standing Infantry divisions although they only comprise 2 Infantry Brigades each.
Your resource income is fairly generous save for a small deficit in energy. You only have 3 leadership and almost no manpower either available or in monthly gain.
Strategy for survival
The situation for the Netherlands is probably the most difficult of any nation. It will be dragged into two major wars on two fronts neither of which it has the resources to combat. Your decisions will depend on the goal you set yourself and the role you want to play in war. Do you want to defend the home country against Germany or the colonies against the Japanese? To be honest the question is somewhat theoretical at the moment as the Japanese AI is too bogged down in China to invade that far South even though it does declare war. This article will only cover defence of the Netherlands itself for now. Should the AI be more capable of posing a threat in 1.3 or beyond this article will be rewritten. In any case whatever you want to do there are a few things that need doing anyway. First make sure you get 10 domestic spies and make sure you start lowering your neutrality, hunting for spies is fruitless at this point (you wont catch a single one) so don’t bother . Neutrality needs to be lowered to 70 for the first new decisions to present itself so you have some ways to go. Not that you have a choice at first but keep your Silent Lawyer in cabinet, combined with the spies you get a 0.04 decrease of your neutrality a day meaning it will take more than 2 years for this to show results. The second thing you need to do flows from the first. Keep out of all wars for as long as possible. Don’t accept any offers of alliance and don’t seek entry into the allies. It will not net you anything as allies don’t actually support each other in the game but it will provoke invasion.
If you want to try to keep the home country you will soon realize that defending all of it is impossible and luckily also useless. There is only single IC in the North of the country and you can surely miss that if it means keeping the rest of the country from falling to Nazi Germany. Even if you decide to defend only part of the Netherlands you’re going to have a tough time. You only have 8 starting divisions and not enough manpower to expand the army meaningfully. In short you are in trouble. The shortest front line you could present while still encompassing your most valuable provinces is 6. Den Helder, Amersfoort, Utrecht, Gouda, Rotterdam and Den Haag. All but two of these are behind rivers and therefore more easily defended. Your starting forces are not enough to defend those as though and therefore you need to start building fortifications. These won’t be cheap and require all your available IC but since you don’t have an option just keep building. Level 4 is enough to stop an attack even with only a single division defending. With only six provinces needing defending and eight starting divisions you don’t need to build more but you do need to build a fourth brigade for all of them. Artillery is your best bet as it is a good all-round boost. Anti Tank is also an option but try to avoid a mix as you have limited ability to increase the effectiveness through research. Place the two remaining divisions in the two provinces not behind rivers to shore up their defence. Once Germany invades it will advance up to your line and possibly try a few probing attacks. After those fail the AI should take a more static stance. At which time you can start diverting IC to the Navy or build some more expensive divisions, it’s your game do with it as you please.
An alternative that is not as safe but lets you keep more of your starting IC is to divert your line south. This is actually shorter by one province but it has a risk that I will explain later. You still guard Den Helder and Amersfoort but after that you place your Divisions in Ede, Eindhoven and Maastricht. This last one is crucial even though there is no immediate benefit. The gain from this strategy is keeping Eindhoven with 3 IC. You still lose Nijmegen with 4 IC but it is hard defend with land-access to a number of German provinces making an assault fairly easy. As I said this strategy is more risky as a successful invasion of Belgium leaves your southern flank wide open. You won’t have time to build fortification in both lines and don’t have the manpower to defend an unfortified fall back line. therefore this is the more risky strategy and may not be worth the 3 IC you gain. As I said defending Maastricht is crucial as this province provides access to Belgium and it is imperative for your survival that this not happen.
What research you can do, use it to bolster your forces on the ground, not forgetting about the doctrines. If you have the spare research time you can pursue other interest wherever you might have them.
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