The French Army in WWII




 
--
 
July 24th, 2009  
benaakatz
 
 

Topic: The French Army in WWII


Why did the french army get beaten so quickly? Even if germany had better equipment, the french should of put up more of a fight. It's almost as if they chose to let the nazis conquer them instead of putting up any real resistance.
July 24th, 2009  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by benaakatz
Why did the french army get beaten so quickly? Even if germany had better equipment, the french should of put up more of a fight. It's almost as if they chose to let the nazis conquer them instead of putting up any real resistance.
To a large degree I think you are doing the French a disservice here as the French Military in WW2 generally performed extremely well with the exception of the German invasion of France where they were poorly led and using outmoded tactics/thinking for the time.
However if you look at the exploits of the Free French forces from 1941 - 1945 you will see a very different story, even if you look at the Vichy forces in Africa they put up far a far greater fight than was ever expected of them.

Personally I would be inclined at this point to say that France was beaten tactically in 1940 but it was not a true representation of the French ability to fight.
July 24th, 2009  
mmarsh
 
 
Oh boy its going to be along night... I was a history major in college guess what I wrote my senior thesis on??? Ill keep it short...

The Loss of France in WWII really goes back to the victory WWI.

1. In WWI France lost 1.1 Million men in KIA alone. Let me explain just how significant that is. In every village, town, and city there is at least one memorial to those townspeople killed in WWI. The names onscribed can be as few as a dozen to thousands.

2. Almost 90% of WWI was fought in France (and not in the UK or Germany which were almost unscathed). Over 1/3 the country was utterly devestated -raized flat. If you visit Verdun or Somme today there isnt a 1 meter flat piece of earth for miles, it is just littered with shellholes.

With that in mind, nobody in France could ever imagine that there would be another World War, and more to the point nobody in France could imagine that Germany would want one either, as the Germans had lost a similar amount of KIA. The Allies failed to understand two things, first that German was humiliated by the defeat and at the terms of Versailles and that they wanted revenge more than they wanted peace. The Germans had been forced to disband their military, but the architechs of the war machine were still free. Meaning the Germans werent as weak as the allies thought they were, and the Germans started to make plans...

One of the greatest failures of the French military was the low caliber of their general staff. While the Germans, Americans, (and to a degree British) were experimenting in innovation, these dinosaurs were still clinging on to the old system of warfare that handnt changed much since Napoleon. The funny thing was that the Two best French Generals Foch and Petain won in WWI because they were willing to try new things other than standard frontal infantry charge. The person that really invented Blitzkreig was in fact Napoleon himself, while the Germans learned Napoleon lesson of speed and menuverability, the French stook to the dark ages notions of strong static defense, the very thing Napoleon was an expert in defeating. This meant that every tactic, every weapon, every asset was focused on defense. Infantry were to be deployed to defend the border in defensive positions, tanks were designed to support the infantry. etc.

The idea that the German would completely outflank them in the Ardennes was a shock, but its exactly what the corsican emporer would have done. My grandfather (the reason I chose my thesis) was a Chasseur Alpine (the guys who wore the funny barets) roughly equivilant to our 10th Mountain Division. He was stationed at the Maginot Line in 1940, he never even got a shot off, so fast was the German encirclement.
--
July 24th, 2009  
Padre
 
 

^ good post Mmarsh. Very interesting.
July 24th, 2009  
mmarsh
 
 
There is actually more too it than that. Another big was the continual labor strikes during the late 1930s and 1940.

Hitler and Stalin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovosk. Which basically said that each would lend a hand to the other. At that time the labor unions were all run by the communists who took their orders directly from Moscow. There was almost constant disruption in the war industry during the 1930s so much that the French Government actually had to use troops to quell it temporarily.

After Hitler Launched Blitzkreig against the west in 1940, Stalin wanted to stay in Hitlers good graces, ao he ordered a massive labor strike in France espicially in the Saar region where all the coal mining takes place. This meant that all war manufacturing and all transportation ground to a stop as their was a fuel shortage for industry and the railroads.

My grandparents hated the communists ever since, because of them they were forced to endure 5 years of Nazi occupation. Of course when Hitler attacked Russia, Stalin ordered the French communists to resist as much as they could. Which is why the French resistence was made up of so many communists. After the war, French communists realized they had been used and abandoned to their fate by Stalin and while they remained communists the severed Moscow's control over them.
July 24th, 2009  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MontyB
the French Military in WW2 generally performed extremely well with the exception of the German invasion of France where they were poorly led and using outmoded tactics/thinking for the time.
The Titanic was a great ship untill it sank on its 1st voyage.
July 24th, 2009  
benaakatz
 
 
mmarsh, after they flanked them, why couldn't the french turn around and then attack he germans?
July 24th, 2009  
A Can of Man
 
 
benakaatz, you're taking a lot of the technologies available now for granted. Back then, operations like these took months to prepare but the forces at the Maginot Line were effectively cut off from all their supplies. It was over. I would have suspected that the Army would have starved before they could actually get going.
Also, as Mmarsh pointed out, there wasn't a whole lot of creativity in the French leadership.
Great post Mmarsh.
July 24th, 2009  
mmarsh
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by benaakatz
mmarsh, after they flanked them, why couldn't the french turn around and then attack he germans?
Two reasons, first the encirclement happened so fast that their was no time to react, and secondly when they realized they were trapped all CnC became total chaos. Imagine the encircement of 6th Army at Stalingrad, only done much faster.

To be honest, if they had resisted they would have been slaughtered, and it still wouldnt have changed the result. Surrender was probably the best option. Remember the French thought of the German Army in WWII as they did in WWI, basicially the Aristocrat Prussian Military Class not the absolute savages that the Nazis were.. They hadnt met the Nazis, SS and the Gastapo until after the occupation.

The Nazis did things that no WWI Prussian Officer would have ever dreamt about.
July 24th, 2009  
perseus
 
 
I believe if the French could have made an intact retreat back to the Somme they would have drawn the Germans into a stalemate or inflicted such damages on them they wouldn't have been in a fit state to attack Russia for some time. The initial tank battle actually went in France's favour but they retreated and left their damaged tanks on the battlefield whereas the Germans repaired theirs. The remaining French Armies actually put up a decent defence in early June but at that stage their defeat was almost inevitable.

I suspect the main German thrust could have been stopped or substantially slowed in it's tracks given a few booby traps and mines in the Ardennes but they waited behind the river and canal barriers.
 


Similar Topics
America's Medicated Army
Army Focus On Counterinsurgency Debated Within
Allegations Lead Army To Review Arms Policy
U.S. Army Battling To Save Equipment
Officers Leave Army Hurting