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Subject: France 1940 rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Wargames have a funny way of making me learn about campaigns that I was relatively ignorant about. Such was the case when I played and enjoyed Kevin Zucker's Napoleonic games and most recently The Game of France, 1940: German Blitzkrieg in the West. The article with the game was interesting, particularly the part where it tells you that France could not win in 1940, an assessment shared by few before the actual campaign. After some reading, I’m finding myself asking why did France fall and how is it simulated in gaming. Admittedly it is a riddle of sorts, for their quick demise stands in stark contrast to World War I and hellish fight for Verdun. Before 1940 they had an enviable military reputation. A parallel can be drawn to the 1806, when the vaunted Prussian army was crushed by Napoleon. Indeed, Prussia's fall could be dubbed "blitzkrieg in the age of horse and musket." Yet the Prussian disaster Jena is not nearly as debated and to me not nearly as, for lack of a better word, mysterious.

The most obvious answer is the defects in the French military. The commanders were elderly and held fast to out-dated military ideas. Yet there is a hole in this thesis, for when well led the French fought hard. From May 15-17 Stonne changed hands 17 times. At Hannut the French arguably beat the Germans in the first straight armored battle of the campaign. In the opening days of Case Red, the French held up the German offensive and inflicted heavy losses. German losses in France, while not crippling, were certainly considerable. This comes as no surprise. The French had an excellent artillery doctrine. The core infantry were as well trained as their British and German counterparts. They had a multitude of tanks. Although armored divisions were few, the French believed in the power of the tank. Trouble was they wanted to apply it with out-dated tactics.

French will is often proclaimed as a culprit and with more credibility. France had suffered greatly in the First World War and the 1930s had been a contentious time. Hitler even thought France was on the brink of civil war, which is why he discounted French threats from 1936-39. France lacked a man like Clemenceau, whose speeches in 1918 were later re-fried by Winston Churchil in 1940. Paul Reynaud might have been that man. He was among the first to see the danger of Hitler’s policies and he opposed Vichy France and supported continuing the war long after Paris fell. Yet he lacked charisma and was unpopular with French workers due to his radical pro-business policies. This point cannot be overstated: the political turmoil of the 1930s meant that every faction in France was dissatisfied with the nation’s political leadership. Many Frenchmen, most infamously Petain, were sympathetic to Fascist ideas. Indeed, the reason Maurice Gamelin was made the commander of the French army (and why he was imprisoned by both Vichy France and Germany) was his unequivocal support for the republic. Much of the high command had little faith the republic. They saw communism as the true threat. Many of Reynaud’s closest advisers and friends wanted him to make peace with Germany before the invasion and form a coalition to destroy the Soviet Union. Reynaud's attempts to keep France in the war were undermined, thereby forcing his resignation.

Another obvious reason is the superiority of the German military. There is much truth in this, particularly in terms of tactics and among the frontline officers. However, much of the army was ready for a repeat of 1918. The famed Manstein plan was denounced and a far more conservative operation was widely supported. In all truth while the panzer commanders included several brilliant men, the German army high command was perhaps only marginally superior to its opponents. As events would show during the war, their grasp of strategy was quite poor. At any rate, the fall of France also showed the weakness both in German logistics and much of their field vehicles, which broke down rather easily. These weaknesses carried over to Barbarossa, where logistics, strategy, and a lack of robust equipment spoiled their stunning success battlefield victories.

A few things do seem certain. The Germans had the lethal combination of tanks with radios and air superiority. While the French airforce was in the midst of modernization (and would have put up a better fight if the Germans attacked weeks later) the Nazis held the skies. This combination seems to decide most campaigns in Europe in World War II and France was no fluke. Poland fell faster than expected, although it was hardly a blitzkrieg proper. The massive Russian border army was destroyed in the opening weeks of Barbarossa. If anyone thinks this due merely to German superiority, then they have to consider Operation Compass, perhaps the most one-sided campaign in the war. At a loss of no more than 2,000 troops the British and commonwealth forces inflicted 120,000 casualties, destroying the Italian 10th Army. The Italians lost as much aircraft as the French and Germans lost in France. The top Italian commander was no fool either. Rodolfo Graziani had a solid record before and after Compass. He also was a hard-core Fascist until his death in 1955, so one cannot accuse him of not having the stomach for the struggle. Graziani saw the truth of the matter when he wrote that “In this theatre of operations a single armored division is more important than an entire army.” When the French 6th Army moved to confront Guderian’s panzers and was scattered, you can see this same reality sinking in.

Lastly, the Dyle Plan was not inherently bad, particularly if the conservative German plan had been used. Yet, with Manstein’s plan, it was perfectly set up to create disaster. By lunging forward the French exposed their rear and committed their best forces. By the time they knew where the panzers were, the French were chewed up, under constant air attack, and far out of position. A better communication structure and younger men could have perhaps saved the day. You know your screwed when Maxime Weygand, after declaring that the fate of France hung in the balance, went to bed, cancelled Gamelin’s planned attack, then ordered the same attack when it was too late. Weygand himself is representative of French defects. He was a brilliant World War I officer, but he only halfheartedly supported the creation of armored divisions. He had no love for the republic and avidly supported the Vichy regime. By comparison, my respect for Gamelin has marginally increased. He clearly was not brilliant, but his strategic ideas were sound. I used to think he was utterly incompetent. Now he just strikes me as unlucky and rigid.

The above is just reasoned speculation. If I’m wrong, let me know. I am by no means that well read on the campaign. It has only just gained my interest, in part because I’m not sure if France was destined to fall and more importantly, I’m wondering if a good game can be made on the subject. The Game of France, 1940: German Blitzkrieg in the West is fun for its variables but a bit dry. I have high hopes for No Retreat 3. I’m also wondering if France should always automatically fall in 1940 in strategic World War II games.

So here are my questions. Why did France fall in 1940 and so rapidly? Was the French army any better or worse than that of Britain, Russia, and Italy?
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Wendell
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gittes wrote:

So here are my questions. Why did France fall in 1940 and so rapidly?


All of the above. Plus, they were unlucky/Germany was lucky.

As for France '40 in strategic games, well if you want to have a "normal" WW2 game which goes Poland-France-East Front, you kinda want France to be defeated reasonably regularly in 1940.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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wifwendell wrote:
As for France '40 in strategic games, well if you want to have a "normal" WW2 game which goes Poland-France-East Front, you kinda want France to be defeated reasonably regularly in 1940.


Makes me wonder then why start a game in 1939 or 1940. If a strategic WWII game is meant to go east, just start with Barbarossa.

As a Flames of War player, how does that usually go Wendell?
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Seth Owen
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Sean, I think your summary is spot on. About the only thing I would add is that the importance of the combination of air superiority and armor was reinforced by the 1944 campaign as well.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that the 1940 Allies were doomed to defeat. They had the combat power to be competitive and I do think that the overall defeat was attributable to a failure of strategy. Dunnigan's The Game of France, 1940: German Blitzkrieg in the West definitely takes the position that a French defeat was inevitable and subtly "teaches" that by the interaction of the 6-factor French Corps with the 7-factor Germans so that even without tanks the Germans will win. I think that's very debatable. I think the French clearly had more of chance than the Poles did.

I think most World War II grand strategic games are forced to make the French somewhat more fragile than might be justified because otherwise the grand course of the war can't be maintained. France must fall, barring a botched German effort, whereas in reality they may actually have had a 25-33% chance of surviving the initial offensive at least. But I'm not sure gamers would accept a World War II game where a quarter of the time the French hold on despite competent German play. This preconceived notion may affect how wargamers assess the relative chances of the two sides. Certainly those game that deal with the tactical fight between the 1940 French and Germans are much more even affairs.
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gittes wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
As for France '40 in strategic games, well if you want to have a "normal" WW2 game which goes Poland-France-East Front, you kinda want France to be defeated reasonably regularly in 1940.


Makes me wonder then why start a game in 1939 or 1940. If a strategic WWII game is meant to go east, just start with Barbarossa.


Pretty much why Ted Raicer designed Barbarossa to Berlin. Much as I enjoy BtB I'd like to see someone do a more traditional hex based game on the subject.
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Wendell
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gittes wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
As for France '40 in strategic games, well if you want to have a "normal" WW2 game which goes Poland-France-East Front, you kinda want France to be defeated reasonably regularly in 1940.


Makes me wonder then why start a game in 1939 or 1940. If a strategic WWII game is meant to go east, just start with Barbarossa.


Well it does give players scope to try different strategies. That said, I think it's good for strategic WW2 games to have scenarios that start in say May '41, or even June '40 (post-French surrender).

gittes wrote:
As a Flames of War player, how does that usually go Wendell?


You mean World in Flames? A competent and not unlucky German player should be able to take out France in 1940, though perhaps not quite as quickly as historically. As the German if I've "vichified" France by the end of Sept/Oct '40, I'm satisfied.
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gittes wrote:
. . . So here are my questions. Why did France fall in 1940 and so rapidly? Was the French army any better or worse than that of Britain, Russia, and Italy?


Like most failures, there's no solitary reason, but rather a number of mutually-impacting/cascading reasons for France's collapse. The causes begin immediately after WW1 and continued to compound right up to May 1940.

But the Germans were a bit fortunate, too. The Germans had more success overcoming their deficiencies than the French did theirs.

For an excellent analysis of the events and decisions that culminated in the German victory/French defeat, I highly recommend Ernest May's Strange Victory.
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My opinion is, French Military Leadership never got over the Mutinies of the French troops in 1917. It never came to light for the Germans, but had a devastating- IMO- effect on the French Officer Corps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Army_Mutinies_(1917)
 
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wargamer55 wrote:
But I'm not sure gamers would accept a World War II game where a quarter of the time the French hold on despite competent German play. This preconceived notion may affect how wargamers assess the relative chances of the two sides. Certainly those game that deal with the tactical fight between the 1940 French and Germans are much more even affairs.


One of the things that I think Dunnigan got right in France 1940 was the airpower. At first glance, it would seem that the Allied air forces - who had more tactical aircraft than Germany -- are grossly underrepresented in the historical OB. But in an abstract way, the OB is closer to actual effect in that the French air force and army had virtually no campaign or operational cooperation, and once the frontline started retreating rapidly, French airpower couldn't cope.

Alternative Allied "what if' OB's assume greater army-air force cooperation and doctrine.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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wifwendell wrote:
You mean World in Flames? A competent and not unlucky German player should be able to take out France in 1940, though perhaps not quite as quickly as historically. As the German if I've "vichified" France by the end of Sept/Oct '40, I'm satisfied.


Doh! Sorry, we are trying to settle on a WWII miniatures game in my group, so that has been on my mind.
 
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My impression is that the sequence of events looks a bit like this.

(1) The French botched the initial dispositions, not merely leaving the Ardennes weak but ordering the troops there to withdraw and leave things open for the advancing Germans, while leaving their reserves in the wrong place. That put them on the back foot.

(2) The French army reacted too slowly to the breakthrough; more initiative at the lower levels or a quicker response by the high command would have seen the breakthrough ploughing into French reserves. That meant that a problem started turning into a disaster.

(3) Finally, the French high command then panicked and dithered when really the battle could still have been won. That gave the Germans time to lock down the victory.

If the French had got any of these right, they'd have turned the war into a war of attrition, which they would quite possibly have won.

The Soviet army was no better at the lower levels, but the high command never lost their nerve; they were happy to just kept throwing armies together for counter offensives until there was nobody left inside the Soviet Union, and the Germans simply ran out of army first. In fact, (and this may be contentious) the problem with the Soviet army high command was over-aggression, rather than inactivity. They'd have kicked the Germans back to the Rhine before Normandy if they had just held back from over-eager counter offensives and stopped to reorganise when attacks started to run out of steam, instead of which they always pressed on until they had pushed their casualty rates to insane levels.

Two games struck me when I was writing this.
The Fall of France is a battle of dull attrition, where the breakthroughs are impossible because the French player simply throws forces in front of the Germans. Arguably a more likely outcome, though Europa isn't always realistic, to say the least.

Baltic Gap is the one that gives you the feel of the Soviet army. You have a schedule, and never mind the long term, never mind the casualties, just get the army into the position you are supposed to get to. It's a nail-biting race against the clock for the Soviets, even though the Soviet army on paper is far stronger and would pulp the Germans if it took its time. Fall behind schedule and Stalin shoots you...
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plwhite wrote:
If the French had got any of these right, they'd have turned the war into a war of attrition, which they would quite possibly have won. . .


Perhaps. But I think the asymmetrical doctrines of the opposing forces doomed France as much as its weak command and control structure.

In the 1920s, both sides studied WW1 to examine what worked and what didn't work.

The French understood that their pre-WW1 focus on the attack didn't properly prepare them for WW1, in no small part because it relied on the political will of whomever was in power when war clouds gathered.

The safer bet was to focus on defense, stopping the Germans at the frontier and inflicting heavy casualities on them until they quit. This would also spare France the devastation of French towns and infrastructure as had been inflicted in the Great War. Additionally, the lower births during the war due to men serving (and dying) at the front, meant that the French Army could not rely on ample manpower numbers in the Thirties to field a WW1 type army.

So, French strategists looked at that war and determined that the increasd lethality of firepower had been the key factor. Heavy artillery and machine guns dominated the battlefield. In order to capitalize on this military development, they conceived the Maginot Line (ML). The ML would consist of a line of well-defended and mutually-supporting fortifications along the frontier, immune from heavy bombardment and chemical attack, and armed with a mixture of guns to influct that punishment. As the ML slowed down the invaders, a small, mobile reserve would counterattack and repel the invasion.

The defensive nature of this strategy also suited the socialist government that came to power in the '30s.

But the ML got too expensive to build from Sedan to the Channel because of the engineering (the border with the Low Countries was flatter with a higher watertable), and that, combined with the global depression, prevented the ML from being completed. The French then had to come up with a hybrid plan as Belgian neutrality cast doubt on their reliability.

In 1940, they executed that hybrid plan, with French armies rushing into Belgium only to be cut off by the German blitzkrieg through the Ardennes.

That blitzkrieg was the result of Germany's lessons learned from the Great War. They, too, appreciated the dominance of firepower on the static battlefield. In their perspective, they lost when they coould no longer effectively manuever on the battlefield, and trench warfare set in. The solution, they concluded, was to restore mobility to avoid deadly bombardments. Building on the Hutier tactics of the stosstruppen in the First World War, they integrated tanks, trucks, and aircraft -- connected by wireless communications -- to the mix, thus creating deeper penetrations in less time to envelop the enemy from the rear. There was still skepticism on the General Staff, but Guderian had a sponsor of sorts in Hitler, and thus was able to create and exercise the organization to execute that new doctrine.

There were still a lot of aspects of mechanized warfare that the Germans had to work out, and some they never did resolve. But in 1940, it was enough to deliver a rapid knockout of the French army..
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Sorry for the delay in getting back to this. Things came up and there were wargames to play too.

wargamer55 wrote:
Sean, I think your summary is spot on. About the only thing I would add is that the importance of the combination of air superiority and armor was reinforced by the 1944 campaign as well.


As always, a good and thought out comment Seth. The above point struck me as well. It seems that in World War II he who rules the skies and has a least a decent tank doctrine, wins the day. Would I be wrong to make such an observation?

 
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plwhite wrote:
(1) The French botched the initial dispositions, not merely leaving the Ardennes weak but ordering the troops there to withdraw and leave things open for the advancing Germans, while leaving their reserves in the wrong place. That put them on the back foot.


Petain made this point: if contested the Ardennes is impenetrable to tanks. Arguably we proved this in 1944, when the Germans tried to reenact 1940.

Quote:
(2) The French army reacted too slowly to the breakthrough; more initiative at the lower levels or a quicker response by the high command would have seen the breakthrough ploughing into French reserves. That meant that a problem started turning into a disaster.

(3) Finally, the French high command then panicked and dithered when really the battle could still have been won. That gave the Germans time to lock down the victory.


I noticed this as well, but I have to wonder why did they panic? In Weygand's case it was not panic but lethargy, born out of old age and his apathy for the Third Republic.

Quote:
The Soviet army was no better at the lower levels, but the high command never lost their nerve; they were happy to just kept throwing armies together for counter offensives until there was nobody left inside the Soviet Union, and the Germans simply ran out of army first. In fact, (and this may be contentious) the problem with the Soviet army high command was over-aggression, rather than inactivity. They'd have kicked the Germans back to the Rhine before Normandy if they had just held back from over-eager counter offensives and stopped to reorganise when attacks started to run out of steam, instead of which they always pressed on until they had pushed their casualty rates to insane levels.


This goes to the nature of each war. The German invasion of France, at least initially, lacked a Rape of Belgium moment. Many in France, particularly in the military, welcomed Fascism. In the Soviet Union it was obvious early on that it was a war of annihilation. This can be ascribed to distance. The Germans could not conquer Russia quickly enough before resistance started to harden. Early pictures of the invasion show many happy Ukrainians welcoming the Nazis. Runstedt noted this to Hitler, but Hitler was unimpressed. The war of annihilation commenced before even Kiev was captured.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Eldard wrote:
The safer bet was to focus on defense, stopping the Germans at the frontier and inflicting heavy casualities on them until they quit. This would also spare France the devastation of French towns and infrastructure as had been inflicted in the Great War. Additionally, the lower births during the war due to men serving (and dying) at the front, meant that the French Army could not rely on ample manpower numbers in the Thirties to field a WW1 type army.


This defensive mentality was at its worst in 1939, when a French offensive might have ended the war. I say might because we can't know for certain.

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The defensive nature of this strategy also suited the socialist government that came to power in the '30s.


Was there a change when that government fell from power?

Quote:
That blitzkrieg was the result of Germany's lessons learned from the Great War. They, too, appreciated the dominance of firepower on the static battlefield. In their perspective, they lost when they coould no longer effectively manuever on the battlefield, and trench warfare set in. The solution, they concluded, was to restore mobility to avoid deadly bombardments. Building on the Hutier tactics of the stosstruppen in the First World War, they integrated tanks, trucks, and aircraft -- connected by wireless communications -- to the mix, thus creating deeper penetrations in less time to envelop the enemy from the rear. There was still skepticism on the General Staff, but Guderian had a sponsor of sorts in Hitler, and thus was able to create and exercise the organization to execute that new doctrine.

There were still a lot of aspects of mechanized warfare that the Germans had to work out, and some they never did resolve. But in 1940, it was enough to deliver a rapid knockout of the French army..


Very good summation, but I will add that the General Staff was generally wary of panzer divisions and not so much mobile operations. I believe Ludwig Beck thought the future lay with mobile infantry, such as what the Poles used against the Soviets. It was not as if the more conservative elements of the French, British, German, and even Soviet militaries denied the use of tanks and mobile warfare. Rather they doubted if tank divisions, ripping into the enemy's rear, were the best means to win the next war. As it was the Germans and Soviets went furthest with their pre-war tank doctrine and unsurprisingly achieved the most dramatic results.
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gittes wrote:
Eldard wrote:
The safer bet was to focus on defense, stopping the Germans at the frontier and inflicting heavy casualities on them until they quit. This would also spare France the devastation of French towns and infrastructure as had been inflicted in the Great War. Additionally, the lower births during the war due to men serving (and dying) at the front, meant that the French Army could not rely on ample manpower numbers in the Thirties to field a WW1 type army.


This defensive mentality was at its worst in 1939, when a French offensive might have ended the war. I say might because we can't know for certain.


Good point. May also points to what we might call a public malaize, or demoralized French citizenry, at the time the war broke out in 1939. They had hoped that another world war would be averted, and to some extent, they believed in their government's propaganda regarding the inpregnability of the Maginot Line. But Anschluss, the Sudetenland, then Czechoslovakia, and Poland, made the weaknesses/failures of French diplomacy and military deterrence self-evident, and rather than rallying to the flag, they generally became very pessimistic. Add to this the pro-fascist sentiments noted earlier, and in a sense, the French were nearly psychologically defeated before May 1940.

gittes wrote:
Eldard wrote:
The defensive nature of this strategy also suited the socialist government that came to power in the '30s.


Was there a change when that government fell from power?


I'd have to go back to May's book to get the definitive answer, and I don't have it available at the moment. The Front populaire ruled the French Republic from May 1936 to June 1937, and while that period was short, it happened to coincide with Hitler's moves in the Rheinland. The Front appears to have been more interested in the Spanish Civil War than in countering the remilitarization of the Rheinland, and Blum wanted to intervene militarily on behalf of the Republicans, but the Radical & Socialist Party threaten to walk out of the government if France got involved, so France sat in the cheering section.

Of course, the French did wake up when they witnessed the fall of Poland, and there begun a frantic effort to create armored divisions of their own (De Gaulle was to command the 4th AD, I believe), but even with the long calm of the Phony War (aka Sitzkrieg), the French Army and Air Force were too far behind the curve to get it right. So, despite the quantitative and -- in many cases -- qualitative superiority of many principal French weapons, they were ill-prepared for what was to befall them. Still, May argues, France had a chance to win.

gittes wrote:
Eldard wrote:
That blitzkrieg was the result of Germany's lessons learned from the Great War. They, too, appreciated the dominance of firepower on the static battlefield. In their perspective, they lost when they coould no longer effectively manuever on the battlefield, and trench warfare set in. The solution, they concluded, was to restore mobility to avoid deadly bombardments. Building on the Hutier tactics of the stosstruppen in the First World War, they integrated tanks, trucks, and aircraft -- connected by wireless communications -- to the mix, thus creating deeper penetrations in less time to envelop the enemy from the rear. There was still skepticism on the General Staff, but Guderian had a sponsor of sorts in Hitler, and thus was able to create and exercise the organization to execute that new doctrine.

There were still a lot of aspects of mechanized warfare that the Germans had to work out, and some they never did resolve. But in 1940, it was enough to deliver a rapid knockout of the French army.


Very good summation, but I will add that the General Staff was generally wary of panzer divisions and not so much mobile operations. I believe Ludwig Beck thought the future lay with mobile infantry, such as what the Poles used against the Soviets. It was not as if the more conservative elements of the French, British, German, and even Soviet militaries denied the use of tanks and mobile warfare. Rather they doubted if tank divisions, ripping into the enemy's rear, were the best means to win the next war. As it was the Germans and Soviets went furthest with their pre-war tank doctrine and unsurprisingly achieved the most dramatic results.


Agreed. They were enthusiastic about mobility, but not big fans of the panzer division.

On a side note, it's interesting to note that with the exception of Patton, the best "tank" generals in WW2 came principally not from the cavalry as one might expect, but from the infantry.
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Eldard wrote:
Good point. May also points to what we might call a public malaize, or demoralized French citizenry, at the time the war broke out in 1939. They had hoped that another world war would be averted, and to some extent, they believed in their government's propaganda regarding the inpregnability of the Maginot Line. But Anschluss, the Sudetenland, then Czechoslovakia, and Poland, made the weaknesses/failures of French diplomacy and military deterrence self-evident, and rather than rallying to the flag, they generally became very pessimistic. Add to this the pro-fascist sentiments noted earlier, and in a sense, the French were nearly psychologically defeated before May 1940.


Much of France's leadership did see the German threat for what it was, including Reynaud (who supported tank divisions) and Daladier. It seems the political will was not there, both in the form of nascent-Fascism and a general weakness of will. Now I really want to read about France in the 1930s so that I might gain greater insight. Until then, I can only rely on wikipedia and that one time I watched The Rules of the Game.
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gittes wrote:
Eldard wrote:
Good point. May also points to what we might call a public malaize, or demoralized French citizenry, at the time the war broke out in 1939. They had hoped that another world war would be averted, and to some extent, they believed in their government's propaganda regarding the inpregnability of the Maginot Line. But Anschluss, the Sudetenland, then Czechoslovakia, and Poland, made the weaknesses/failures of French diplomacy and military deterrence self-evident, and rather than rallying to the flag, they generally became very pessimistic. Add to this the pro-fascist sentiments noted earlier, and in a sense, the French were nearly psychologically defeated before May 1940.


Much of France's leadership did see the German threat for what it was, including Reynaud (who supported tank divisions) and Daladier. It seems the political will was not there, both in the form of nascent-Fascism and a general weakness of will. Now I really want to read about France in the 1930s so that I might gain greater insight. Until then, I can only rely on wikipedia and that one time I watched The Rules of the Game.


I believe that underlying the appeasement by France and Britain was the conviction that war had to be averted at any cost, and this fed the false hope that Hitler was a 'rational' international actor who could be reasoned with.

Some politicians in both countries were even sympathetic toward Germany, coming to a rationalization that the terms of the Versailles Treaty were too harsh and that Hitler's demands were perhaps not so unreasonable.

There were probably a few among the small but influential pro-fascism/anti-Bolshevik factions in both countries that welcomed a revived Germany to fill a security void in the center of Europe against the USSR.

All of this weakened the collective political resolve to intervene before the invasion of Poland.

Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.
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Eldard wrote:
Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


Very true, except in the case of Poland. He expected France and Britain to back down. I wonder if the newspapers misled him or if it was more of his infamous wishful thinking.
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Eldard wrote:


Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


But he read them wrong in September '39...
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gittes wrote:
Eldard wrote:
Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


Very true, except in the case of Poland. He expected France and Britain to back down. I wonder if the newspapers misled him or if it was more of his infamous wishful thinking.


That's why I focused on the Thirties.

Up to the invasion of Poland, the French and British governments were very accommodating. Poland presents and interesting case, in that Paris and London declared war as they were obligated to do under their commitments to Poland, but they refrained from attacking Germany during the Phony War period, allowing Hilter to maintain the strategic initiative.

Hitler wanted war with France in order to defeat it and make right the betrayal of Germany by the "November traitors." And I would say that right up to May 1940, Hilter was still reading the Allied governments well. because after mobilization, the Allies basically sat and waited for the Germans. The exception was Norway, where the Allies committed insufficient force to counter the Germans, and further fed Hitler's perception that the Allies were weaker.

Meanwhile, the British government was changing, as it first brought in Churchill as First Sea Lord, and after the invasion of France began, the Chamberlain government was dissolved and a new one formed with Churchill as PM. The demoralized French government surrendered, to be replaced by Vichy, but the UK found its backbone in Churchill -- a Victorian Briton dealing with a 20th Century crisis.

At this point, one could say that he lost his read on London. He seems to have been convinced that Britain would sue for peace, allowing him to turn his attention east.

For Hitler, the German victory over the Allies and, particularly, the symbolic and very humiliating surrender ceremony of France in the railcar, stood as stark testament that he was correct all along while the experts in the foreign ministry and General Staff were timid and dead wrong.

By this time, success had gone to Hitler's head, and hubris mixed with perverted ideology changed the calculus. He became irrationally overconfident and ultimately delusional.
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wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:


Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


But he read them wrong in September '39...


To the contrary, considering the outcome of May-June 1940, I'd say he read them correctly.

 
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Eldard wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:


Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


But he read them wrong in September '39...


To the contrary, considering the outcome of May-June 1940, I'd say he read them correctly.



He was surprised that Britain (and France) declared war over Poland.
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wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:


Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


But he read them wrong in September '39...


To the contrary, considering the outcome of May-June 1940, I'd say he read them correctly.



He was surprised that Britain (and France) declared war over Poland.


Hitler was attempting to negotiate with Britain in the days prior to the invasion of Poland and believed that Britain could be persuaded to stay neutral. He was surprised when Britain declared war, but subsequent events appear to have validated his bsic strategic perspective of the Allies; the reluctance of Britain and France to attack Germany aligned with his perception of their weakness. Had the Churchill government been in power in 1939, I think he would have realized that he would have to take a different strategy to achieve his goals.
 
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Eldard wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Eldard wrote:


Hitler correctly discerned the wobbly state of Anglo-French will, and manipulated it. Ernest May notes Hitler analyzed the French and British daily press to get a sense of the political currents in Paris and London, and often overrode the advice of his foreign service. In the Thirties, he read them right.


But he read them wrong in September '39...


To the contrary, considering the outcome of May-June 1940, I'd say he read them correctly.



He was surprised that Britain (and France) declared war over Poland.


Hitler was attempting to negotiate with Britain in the days prior to the invasion of Poland and believed that Britain could be persuaded to stay neutral. He was surprised when Britain declared war, but subsequent events appear to have validated his bsic strategic perspective of the Allies; the reluctance of Britain and France to attack Germany aligned with his perception of their weakness. Had the Churchill government been in power in 1939, I think he would have realized that he would have to take a different strategy to achieve his goals.


Probably, except that there was zero chance of their being a "Churchill government" but for the acts of Hitler in the late 1930s. Churchill was an "effect" of Hitler's "cause." Indeed, there was only a Churchill government once complete disaster overtook the Allies. He was very much of a last resort choice for the British.
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