Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

  1. #1

    Default Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    Though many reasons have been given, it remains one of the most unexplained defeats in military history. No one in 1940 had predicted that France would fall in just six weeks to Nazi Germany. Adding to the phenomenon (to the chagrin of the MORS community) are legacy combat models and computer simulations that have similarly predicted a German defeat that ends with the French army in Berlin. [1]

    Assuming then that the French and Allied armies were militarily defeated, that combat models (such as the ones featured) do not account for strategy, and that France’s fall and surrender were not at all caused by bad internal politics or domestic issues, how could we correctly go about proving it?

    Perhaps the best way to prove a military defeat in this case is to simply look at a map.


    Battle of France - 1940

    Any accurate map for the Battle of France must show these two things: 1) a German breakthrough at the Ardennes, and 2) an initial Allied advance into the Low Countries that does not attempt to prevent or counter the German breakthrough. Because these key incidences will not change, no matter how many times we try to change the narrative for the fall of France, if would be difficult, even for the most stubborn historians, to not at least concede that French and Allied war planners had severely neglected to defend the Ardennes.

    The strong case that military defeat came through the Ardennes —via surprise attack— thus opens up one of the most intriguing questions and unanswered problems from the Second World War. Given that France’s fall and quick defeat seems especially linked to a failure to defend the Ardennes, or —at a minimum— a failure to anticipate an attack from that direction, would accurate intelligence beforehand have made a difference? And if so, was there, somewhere behind the French and Allied lines, a terrific and historic failure to warn?


    A Failure to Warn: The Case for Intelligence Failure


    Because intelligence agencies exist primarily to prevent and thwart surprises, including surprise attacks, a failure to warn is generally ranked in intelligence studies as among the worst possible intelligence failures. Intelligence failures are commonly understood as “failures to anticipate important information and events.” [2] This is especially true if warning from intelligence was possible and if errors in either intelligence reports or reporting can be demonstrated. The battle and fall of France shows that Germany achieved both operational and tactical surprise. The first with the surprising choice of assault through the Ardennes, and the second with the unexpected use of blitzkrieg and maneuver warfare. Thus, if warning from intelligence was possible —prior to or during the Battle of France—it has to be found in reporting on German army capabilities or in regards to their planning and operations.

    At the planning and operations level, the most important warning that could have been achieved would undoubtedly have been the location of the German panzers. A failure to monitor the situation of the German panzer divisions prior to and during the Battle of France, in hindsight, could offer one of the more devastating critiques imaginable to French and Allied intelligence. Not only do the strength and locations of the German panzer divisions offer the strongest indicators for estimating Germany’s attack plans and maneuver possibilities, but the concentration of five armored divisions in Kleist’s Panzer Group offers the single best clue to identifying the main German attack.

    Here, the case for French and Allied intelligence failure appears strong. At no time, for instance, did French and Allied intelligence ever produce accurate estimates or exact positions for all the German panzer divisions. [3] Precampaign estimates for the panzer divisions sometimes ran as high as 12 armored divisions with close to 7,000 tanks, which of course, was two more divisions and over twice as many German tanks in 1940 then there actually were. [4] In addition, when French reconnaissance planes and Allied agents began reporting a growing concentration of amour east of Luxembourg, these reports were either dismissed outright as “contradictory” or labeled a “secondary concentration” by French and Allied intelligence. Some planners and staff even went so far as to interpret the concentration of armor near Luxemburg and the Low Countries as a defensive measure for an alleged (and quite imaginary) Allied offensive; this, despite signals intelligence and enigma intercepts that suggested a possible German attack through the Ardennes. [5][6]

    Once the invasion began on May 10th, French and Allied intelligence again failed to raise alarm of German tank divisions advancing through the Ardennes. The most commonly accepted narrative is that the main German attack was not fully recognized or understood by the French High Command until the 14th of May. [7] This is of course one day after the lead elements of Army Group A had begun pouring units across the Meuse. Though poor interpretation of aerial reconnaissance deserves much of the blame, as does abysmal reporting from the French cavalry who had spotted German tanks, the failure from French and Allied intelligence to identify and report the location of the main German attack was ultimately equaled and exasperated by another failure to warn others about German army capabilities. Few specialists had thought, for instance, that the Ardennes was a dangerous sector, even though wargames and map exercises had shown it was passable for German tanks. Few had thought aerial bombardment could be substituted for artillery, and few had thought speed, tempo, and the surprising range of armored columns matched with mechanized infantry and close air support could be used to penetrate or bypass linear fronts much more easily. This failure to know one’s enemy and recognize the technological return of maneuver to the battlefield thus left the French and Allied command without any coherent ideas or viable military options on how to deal with a German blitzkrieg. The end result of this unexpected development in military capability meant that the reveal of the main German attack —and its surprising method— could only be answered with additional surprise and shock. Not even Pearl Harbor or Barbarossa ever achieved this level of surprise and dislocation.


    Other Factors


    Though the combat and events in the Battle of France are undoubtably coupled with a high degree of surprise, where intelligence failure seems to be a reasonable explanation, there are many other important phenomenon and explanations that should be considered. Everything from poor army morale, training, to national decadence, to a lack of air and reserve forces, to the Maginot line and German risk-taking has been suggested. The most important counter arguments to the intelligence failure narrative include dysfunction, blundering, and rivalry in the French High Command, to the obvious neutrality and alliance failures between the Low Countries and the Allies. The first made French officials less likely to change strategy, adopt reform, or alter preconceptions, no matter what the intelligence reports actually said. The second proves the fall of France was an Allied failure, not just a French one. Had Belgium and the Netherlands been willing to allow early entry of the French army and had done more to defend their borders and the Ardennes at the onset, the outcome for the Battle of France might have been very different. The fact that these countries did not immediately renounce their neutrality after the Mechelen Incident, and the fact that the French High Command had doubled down on the Dyle Plan and the Breda variant, without thinking how it could be countered along a 600-mile front, shows how unique and devastating these two variables were.

    In the end, the battle and fall of France offers one of the more intriguing cases of intelligence failures in military history. There is no doubt that accurate warning and intelligence, in whatever form, could have severely altered the Battle of France, which includes preventing the German breakthrough at the Ardennes. In addition, historians are reminded why good strategy is linked to good intelligence. It is not enough to examine the preconceptions and assumptions in French and Allied plans, and the decision making of the French general staff, without linking them back to their intelligence agencies and what they were being told. Yet, the true story in the Battle of France isn’t that intelligence had somehow failed to warn. No, its real story, found in one of the most shocking military defeats of all-time, is that warning and intelligence never played a role.


    [1] Trevor N. Depuy, “Military History and Validation of Combat Models: A presentation at MORS Mini Symposium on Validation, 16 October 1990,” The International TNDM Newsletter. Vol 1, Number 4. February 1997.
    [2] Thomas E. Copeland, “Intelligence Failure Theory,” Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Oxford University
    Press, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.27
    [3] Stephen A. Shuker, “Seeking a Scapegoat: Intelligence and Grand Strategy in France, 1919-1940.”
    Standard University Press, 2014. pp. 82.
    [4] John Delaney, The Blitzkrieg Campaigns: Germany's 'Lightning War' Strategy in Action, (Arms & Armour,
    1997), 77.
    [5] Andre Ausems, “The Netherlands Military Intelligence Summaries 1 939-1 94 and the Defeat in the
    Blitzkrieg o May 1940,” Military Affairs, Oct., 1986, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Oct., 1986), pp. 190-199.
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/1988009...o_tab_contents
    [6] Robert A. Doughty, The Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940 (Mechanicsburg, PA,
    Stackpole Books, 1990), 75.
    [7] Doughty, 101.
    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; September 13, 2021 at 07:42 AM. Reason: fixes
    Allied to the House of Hader
    Member of the Cheney/Berlusconi Pact

  2. #2
    swabian's Avatar Suspended
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    3,891

    Default Re: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    They were outnumbered, outgunned and scared to death of course. I don't know whose history blog you have copied there down to the resources, not even forgetting the "[]". Mr. Cheney, Dick.

    There is no describing with what kind of force the German rage must have struck Europe and subsequently the rest of the world. After the French have noticed and understood, that this is not an army of gentlemen, like it used to be before the Great war, but an army of ruthless annihilators that overpowered France's abilities at the time, they submitted. Like we all do, when a psychopathic hulk points a gun at us.
    Last edited by swabian; September 12, 2021 at 05:38 PM.

  3. #3
    Muizer's Avatar member 3519
    Patrician Artifex

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Netherlands
    Posts
    9,903

    Default Re: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    Actually, though, Dick's angle is not an implausible one. I am no expert of the era whatsoever, but reading this one can argue the fall of France was not the foregone conclusion it's often been portrayed as.

    Perhaps more interestingly, it suggests the German offensive through the Ardennes was devised in response to the Mechelen incident and that had it not been for this, the Germans would have given the French pretty much the war the French had been preparing for. One could argue that it was through this necessity that the Germans were forced to adopt a strategy that turned out to massively favour them. I've seen documentaries where it was said that German Panzer division commanders were themselves to completely surprised by the speed of their advance. In other words, before it happened, even the Germans themselves seem to have had little idea how effective 'blitzkrieg' would turn out to be. Which leaves the question: if this wasn't the favoured plan of the Germans themselves, one they considered themselves forced in by necessity, can one blame French intelligence for not recognizing it in time?
    Last edited by Muizer; September 14, 2021 at 07:00 AM.
    "Lay these words to heart, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority. Many men praise you; but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand?" - Lucius Annaeus Seneca -

  4. #4
    Tribunus
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    7,236

    Default Re: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    Not sure we can blame the French for failing to identify tactics to counter a new military doctrine.

    The failure to block the Ardennes was a blunder, but the assumption seems to have been their own forces could react in time to counter any German probes. It worked in 1914 when Paris taxicabs saved the Marne, and in 1939 the French were far more motorised than the Germans. The enemy was seen to be undertooled, and this wasn't an illusion: there was a resource imbalance. France had more tanks and more planes (even with the massive drain of the Maginot Line), and the addition of the British increased the margin of imbalance further.

    The WAllies were not expecting a strong encircling manoeuvre, the general assumption was WWI would replay, but with a smaller and more isolated Germany. Thats a lay down misere win.

    Guderian gives a decent (and surprisingly accurate) survey in Achtung Panzer! (1937) of the doctrinal mismatch. He identifies the British armour as powerful but too naked (no accompanying infantry, a severe weakness, meaning British tanks could attack but never hold ground, a sword without a shield) and the French armour too distributed: their superb half tracks and decent tanks were tied to their parent infantry and bogged down, not allowing concertation into schwerpunkt at the critical point. The German armour was unproven, as German tanks had been a joke in WWI and did not match up on paper with their French equivalents (the most common type in 1939 was the Panzer II I think) so it is understandable that their potential was not identified.

    The Ardennes was considered almost impenetrable: IIRC Foch had declared it so "if strongly held" and so it was neglected. I think the Luftwaffe concerned French planners more, and preventing the disaster of 1914 (losing 20% of the army in fruitless attacks and 40% of their heavy industrial areas in the first month of the wear): so occupying a forward position in Belgium was reasonable. From there Germany is on the blockade clock.

    Its hard to blame the WAllies. They won WWI with a bunch of approaches: I think blockade was the key, but US resource spamming was also critical, as was WAllied development of armour. The WAllies had all these elements in 1939 (an even more dominant RN, more tanks, and the US was most friendly with the UK of all combatants so support was almost guaranteed).

    The Germans saw their loss as being from resource imbalance too, but had addressed it in 1915-1918 with doctrinal changes. The WAllies addressed the reformed nazi forces they had seen in Spain (chiefly the Condor Legion) by building up interceptor forces and preparing their own strategic bombing doctrine.

    TLR France fell to a new motorised doctrine they had not seen before. The defeat was politically catastrophic as the Republic was divided, and the Right wanted to see Hitler smash the Soviets.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

  5. #5
    Cookiegod's Avatar Civus Divus Ex Clibane
    Citizen

    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    In Derc's schizophrenic mind
    Posts
    4,250

    Default Re: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Not sure we can blame the French for failing to identify tactics to counter a new military doctrine.
    In spite of what Guderian or Liddell-Hart like to claim, the Blitzkrieg was not a doctrine (at least not at that stage), the rapid success was much more of an accident. And the use of tanks for rapid exploitation was something considered by all countries, e.g. by the Brits with their light cruiser tanks, but France focused on the comparably slower paced rumbling tanks because they were preparing for a defensive war.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    The WAllies were not expecting a strong encircling manoeuvre, the general assumption was WWI would replay, but with a smaller and more isolated Germany. Thats a lay down misere win.

    [...]

    The Ardennes was considered almost impenetrable: IIRC Foch had declared it so "if strongly held" and so it was neglected. I think the Luftwaffe concerned French planners more, and preventing the disaster of 1914 (losing 20% of the army in fruitless attacks and 40% of their heavy industrial areas in the first month of the wear): so occupying a forward position in Belgium was reasonable. From there Germany is on the blockade clock.
    It's often portrayed like this even today, but that isn't exactly true. The reality was that the French were TRYING to cause a replay of WWI, and failed. They didn't expect the Ardennes to be completely impenetrable, the hills were in fact discussed as a potential attack vector many times over, including e.g. by Churchill and Alphonse Georges during a visit of the former to Paris in August 39. More on that later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    TLR France fell to a new motorised doctrine they had not seen before. The defeat was politically catastrophic as the Republic was divided, and the Right wanted to see Hitler smash the Soviets.
    Actually, not really. Though you're forgiven for thinking that, since this is how we're usually talking about that subject even today.

    The French and British absolutely knew they had time on their side and also knew that the Germans (like in WWI) would try to be as fast as possible in their opening strike. They did not expect the Germans to be THAT quick, but then again, neither did German High Command. But we'll get to that.

    A key factor people keep forgetting is that there's a huge gap in time when the French were developing their strategy for the next war and when the Germans did it.
    The French did it in the 10s and 20s, and they had the following paradigms to work with:
    • knowing that the next war wouldn't happen the next day or next year, but rather at some uncertain point in a hard to predict long term future, they could not assume that the UK, the US or Poland would exist to help.
    • Due to geographic considerations, the only thing guaranteed was that a German attack on France would always drag Belgium into it. France thus could expect the alliance with Belgium to hold true.
    • A war on French soil was to be avoided as much as possible
    • France was severely outnumbered by the Germans: 39mil vs 59 mil, with the German population growing much faster than that of France. For 1935 they could expect 184000 conscription aged Frenchmen to be outnumbered 3:1 by 464000 Germans.
    • Navies are a built strategy. You don't create a new navy over night. And given that the French surely couldn't expect the British to support the Germans, a naval blockade of resource hungry Germany was all but guaranteed.
    • This means that for a war lasting too long, Germany would inevitably lose (and yup, they ran out of oil 1941/1942 iirc).
    • For the short term, France would be in severe trouble however, and have to be creative.
    • In WWI, forts, such as those at Verdun, had played a key role in WWI. Nothing significant had changed in that aspect. You couldn't simply charge tanks at forts in WW2 either. This assumption held unequivocally true. The Maginot line held and did what it was supposed to do. It forced the war towards the northwest, and the bad rep it keeps getting is very undeserved.
    • What France wanted to avoid unter all circumstances was a war in home territory. They preferred to fight elsewhere. If not Germany, then Belgium would do.
    • The plan was for the defensive line to be in Belgium at the Meuse and the Prince-Albert-Kanal.
    • The plan was sound, except for the fact that the Rhineland crisis had caused the Belgians to end their alliance with the French and declaring neutrality.
    • As a result, France couldn't enter Belgium before the Germans had started their offensive. They had to hurry and barely managed to dig in at the Dijle when the break-through happened. The Belgians meanwhile got wiped out further north east at the old planned defensive lines.
    • Clearly the French tried to compensate for the loss of initiative by sending as many forces into Belgium to be able to seize the necessary positions. Hence why they had no reserves to counteract the German move.
    • Contrary to what is claimed by e.g. the OP and memed on so often, the western allies did not completely forget about the Ardennes. The expectations based on earlier tank versions, which indeed would have had a terrible time in the forrested hills, had become outdated with newer tank models, but the French and British were aware of that. A possible attack through the Ardennes was discussed by Churchill with Alphonse Georges in August 1939.
      The Ardennes were kept as a bulge outside the allied lines for a reason. Having defensive lines run through it wasn't worth the headaches that'd cause.
    • The reason such an attack was still dismissed, was because the terrain was still unforgiving, would cause significant issues with logistics (which it indeed did). We know from hindsight that they did a huge mistake. The reason why they made that mistake was that they forgot to ask themselves a very significant question: "We know the Germans are forced to win the war ASAP. What risks will become viable by our countermeasures to what we expect them to do?"
    • The Germans were essentially naked in the hills, if we disregard the tree cover from air detection. They made a huge gamble, hence why they chose that option fairly late. The French failed to consider that in preparing for the conventional scenario fairly well, they created the circumstances making the gamble of going through the middle fairly worthwhile.
    • But much more significant was the mistake that they did not have a fallback plan and did not keep reserves. This failure is much less excusable even when we keep in mind that we're talking with the benefit of hindsight, but we also criticise that forgetting WHY the French neglected that in the first place: They wanted to have a strong defensive position outside of France ASAP. The cause for the need to rush were as said before diplomatic and due to the mishandling of the Rhineland crisis.
    • Next we have to remember that the Germans did indeed plan for a conventional attack across the plains for a very long time. They very clearly saw the same risks and issues as the French did. The Germans changed their plans fairly late.
      The Germans also had the advantage that the French had prepared for the war much longer than they had (a bizarre advantage, I'll admit). They were thus clearly aware of what the French were trying to do, and had been able to mold their Wehrmacht and operational doctrines with this in mind.
    • It is also unfair to the French given that the German high command itself was very surprised at its own success.
    • A perfect storm of other very significant issues plagued the French. The most inexcusable one was the very bad decision making system they had. French generals were unreachable for days.
    • The oft repeated reasoning (here again by swabian in a post that manages to be completely false) that the Germans were somehow fighting more ferociously than the French in the tactical sense does not really hold true. Tactical issues weren't the cause for the French collapse at all. It was failure at the operational and strategic levels. The French weren't passive because they were covering in fear. They were passive because they couldn't assess and react to new information fast enough before the situation had already completely changed. Nor did the Germans fight this war as a Vernichtungskrieg as they did in the east. The west was considered civilised.
    • I honestly can't agree with Cheney's proposal of an intelligence failure. An intelligence failure necessitates that others somehow performed better. Throughout the war, and excluding the very successful allied code breaking operations, for which there simply hadn't been enough time in 1940 (which makes it unjustified criticising them on those grounds), all sides proved quite incapable to predict enemy maneuvers. There are countless examples for pretty much every country.
      The Western allies also had to contend with the fact that they each had independent intelligence services and thus did not share all information with one another, and each had their own decision making apparatus, with their own interests, visions and goals; and whilst information was shared like in the Mechelen incident, it wasn't done as much as it could have been.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Guderian gives a decent (and surprisingly accurate) survey in Achtung Panzer! (1937) of the doctrinal mismatch. He identifies the British armour as powerful but too naked (no accompanying infantry, a severe weakness, meaning British tanks could attack but never hold ground, a sword without a shield) and the French armour too distributed: their superb half tracks and decent tanks were tied to their parent infantry and bogged down, not allowing concertation into schwerpunkt at the critical point. The German armour was unproven, as German tanks had been a joke in WWI and did not match up on paper with their French equivalents (the most common type in 1939 was the Panzer II I think) so it is understandable that their potential was not identified.
    I used to like Guderian, but I can only advice you to not trust anything he (or most German generals for that matter) writes. Most people pretty up their autobiography, but with Wehrmacht generals desperate to justify their defeats and clear themselves of war crimes it's just ridiculous. Guderian in particular did not have the dominating role in inventing blitzkrieg which he managed to make the world believe.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    The Germans saw their loss as being from resource imbalance too, but had addressed it in 1915-1918 with doctrinal changes. The WAllies addressed the reformed nazi forces they had seen in Spain (chiefly the Condor Legion) by building up interceptor forces and preparing their own strategic bombing doctrine.
    The "the bomber will always get through" doctrine that saw bombers as world ending weapons had been discussed across the world by that time. The Germans thus had a strong bomber force as well. What they didn't have, however, was the abundance of resources (->fuel especially) the British could offer. Nevertheless as proven by the battle of Britain, the Germans did initially make significant strides in that area and were ahead of the allies in their use of air power in 1940.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    The failure to block the Ardennes was a blunder, but the assumption seems to have been their own forces could react in time to counter any German probes. It worked in 1914 when Paris taxicabs saved the Marne, and in 1939 the French were far more motorised than the Germans. The enemy was seen to be undertooled, and this wasn't an illusion: there was a resource imbalance. France had more tanks and more planes (even with the massive drain of the Maginot Line), and the addition of the British increased the margin of imbalance further.
    Fun fact side note: In terms of motorisation, the Germans were at their peak during Fall Gelb. They had to demotorise later on because of lack of fuel.


    EDIT: One final point I feel like I should point out:

    Like stated earlier the French focused on defense for very justified reasons. They were outnumbered significantly. What no one really talks about, however, is how this gave the Wehrmacht an incredible amount of freedom when it came to their own defenses. The French focus on defense was so absolute (they went as much all in as the Germans did on the offense), that the Germans could keep their defensive operations at a total minimum, as one could see during "la drôle de guerre" (which btw. also gets misrepresented a fair deal) when the Germans were completely free to deal with Poland simply because the French had very little in terms of offensive capabilities, and also in that the significant resources invested in the Maginot-Line also reassured the Germans that they didn't have to expect any significant offensives from that direction either.

    For all their challenges, the Germans had their fair share of advantages going into the war too. Hence why they went into the war in the first place (apart from the issue that they absolutely hadn't expected the French and British to declare war on them at all).
    Last edited by Cookiegod; September 16, 2021 at 03:27 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    From Socrates over Jesus to me it has always been the lot of any true visionary to be rejected by the reactionary bourgeoisie
    Qualis noncives pereo! #justiceforcookie #egalitéfraternitécookié #CLM

  6. #6
    Tribunus
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    7,236

    Default Re: Can Intelligence Failure Explain the Fall of France?

    Thanks for the rundown, its been a while since I looked at this stuff at any level.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    In spite of what Guderian or Liddell-Hart like to claim, the Blitzkrieg was not a doctrine (at least not at that stage), the rapid success was much more of an accident.
    I agree Blitzkrieg is a cool word used by journalists and not the participants of WWII. Guderian does not use the word Blitzkrieg in Achtung Panzer AFAIK, nor did I.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    And the use of tanks for rapid exploitation was something considered by all countries, e.g. by the Brits with their light cruiser tanks, but France focused on the comparably slower paced rumbling tanks because they were preparing for a defensive war.
    Yes and as pointed out by Guderian in1937, the French doctrine was dropped in favour of an infantry support role, and the British doctrine implemented badly because of intra-service rivalry. IIRC Pom tanks fell to former cavalry formations, with their air of superiority and disdain for footsloggers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    It's often portrayed like this even today, but that isn't exactly true. The reality was that the French were TRYING to cause a replay of WWI, and failed. They didn't expect the Ardennes to be completely impenetrable, the hills were in fact discussed as a potential attack vector many times over, including e.g. by Churchill and Alphonse Georges during a visit of the former to Paris in August 39. More on that later.
    France intended to prevent 1914, a reasonable strategic posture. As you say the Ardennes were not forgotten, but the need to guard them strongly was neglected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    Actually, not really. Though you're forgiven for thinking that, since this is how we're usually talking about that subject even today.
    Look its a whole other subject as to why Hitler was allowed to rise to power, rearm etc. but I feel like people wanted Hitler to wreck the Soviets and himself. In this scenario the war on the West was a blunder by both parties (and frankly Stalin could not believe his luck, first he gets half of Poland, then he gets to bully Finland Roumania Baltic States etc).

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    The French and British absolutely knew they had time on their side and also knew that the Germans (like in WWI) would try to be as fast as possible in their opening strike. They did not expect the Germans to be THAT quick, but then again, neither did German High Command. But we'll get to that.
    Yes the WAllies position seems to have been they would occupy Belgium, and Germany would beat their heads on the wall, and then cave.

    I think the German attack was in keeping with Lutz and Guderian's principles of armoured warfare. It was a surprise and Germany had avoided war with France up to that time as unwinnable. I think Guderian foresaw the possibility of swift victory though, but I'm not sure anyone thought it was likely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    A key factor people keep forgetting is that there's a huge gap in time when the French were developing their strategy for the next war and when the Germans did it.
    The French did it in the 10s and 20s, and they had the following paradigms to work with [snip].
    Some very good points and stuff I am ignorant of, thank you for this.

    The basic point that France rushed forward is well made and helps explain the less than perfect WAllied positioning in Belgium.

    It is often said "with the money used on the Maginot Line France could have afforded.." but that's assuming the alternate spend could be accepted by the public. The Maginot Line did sell to the public because they could believe in it, and the same budget for eve more tanks and planes might not have flown. As you mention French intervention in the Rhineland cost them dearly: more aggressive forces available might have led to more aggression and more isolation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    I used to like Guderian, but I can only advice you to not trust anything he (or most German generals for that matter) writes. Most people pretty up their autobiography, but with Wehrmacht generals desperate to justify their defeats and clear themselves of war crimes it's just ridiculous. Guderian in particular did not have the dominating role in inventing blitzkrieg which he managed to make the world believe.
    I haven't read Guderian's autobiography, I heard he lied about the importance of Liddel Hart at Hart's request to he could get it published so its clearly a problematic document.

    However have a look at Achtung Panzer: its written in 1937 as a defence of his and Lutz's principles directed at the rest of the German military. His observations about French and British armour doctrine are mostly accurate (despite being based on incomplete and inaccurate data-he buys the lie about Churchill being instrumental in tank development), and his exposition of how German armour doctrine could work are very accurate (he even identities the fuel supply as the weakest point, but dismisses it with "but the Fuhrer has promised synthetic fuel produiction will increase....").

    Lutz and Guderian definitely established and developed Wehrmacht armoured doctrine with the support of Hitler and against other theoretically approaches in the German armed forces. I suppose credit must be given top other players (there's names like Milch and Udet but I really know nothing about it) for cooperating with developing close air support and interdiction doctrines. I mean putting radios in the tanks was advocated by Guderian (among others), but the air force had to agree to letting tank troop commanders radio in strikes, that's a level of interservice cooperation the French and British found astounding.

    They did not invent Blitzkrieg because as you say there was no such doctrine in the Wehrmacht.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    The "the bomber will always get through" doctrine that saw bombers as world ending weapons had been discussed across the world by that time. The Germans thus had a strong bomber force as well. What they didn't have, however, was the abundance of resources (->fuel especially) the British could offer. Nevertheless as proven by the battle of Britain, the Germans did initially make significant strides in that area and were ahead of the allies in their use of air power in 1940.
    Indeed the Germans had a bigger airforce with more combat experience, and interdiction and close support doctrine to go with it. Their strategic bombing capacity was less developed. Certainly the brilliant development of the Luftwaffe occupied the minds of allied planners far more than armoured forces (as you say "the Bombers always get through" sounds far more ominous than "by tight combined arms cooperation and motorised infantry support concentrated tank formations could perform encirclements"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    Fun fact side note: In terms of motorisation, the Germans were at their peak during Fall Gelb. They had to demotorise later on because of lack of fuel.
    While that may be true of German supply systems during 1940 the German motorised infantry was tiny relative to later years; they were almost entirely transported in unarmoured trucks. The iconic SKW were extremely scarce in 1939, I believe the Germans salvaged hundreds of French halftracks for use in Barbarossa etc (Guderian positively drools over them in Achtung Panzer). The german fear seems to have been that France would wake up and concentrate its mobile tanks and armoured infantry transports (as happened albeit too late in the day): as with the Soviets eventually Germany's enemies responded and organised armoured/motorised infantry forces with close air support.

    You're right about the many myths of WWII: the invasions of 1939 and 1940 were won by Panzer II's and III's and chaps in trucks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    EDIT: One final point I feel like I should point out:
    Like stated earlier the French focused on defense for very justified reasons. They were outnumbered significantly. What no one really talks about, however, is how this gave the Wehrmacht an incredible amount of freedom when it came to their own defenses. The French focus on defense was so absolute (they went as much all in as the Germans did on the offense), that the Germans could keep their defensive operations at a total minimum, as one could see during "la drôle de guerre" (which btw. also gets misrepresented a fair deal) when the Germans were completely free to deal with Poland simply because the French had very little in terms of offensive capabilities, and also in that the significant resources invested in the Maginot-Line also reassured the Germans that they didn't have to expect any significant offensives from that direction either.
    You are right of course that France's defensive posture was a realistic one. Twice in 50 years they'd been swept by rapidly mobilised Germans. A chain fort seemed to offer a solution to that weakness.
    Long term Versaille guaranteed Germany would start with a smaller army (and breaking it should have been the trigger to start a military incursion to reinstate it).

    Curiously in 1940 France had more divisions on hand on the western front until Italy changed sides. I had to Google it and its closer than I thought but the only area where Germany had a clear preponderance is in aircraft. The WAllies have more tanks, more formations and more artillery. Had the Italians joined the WAllies Germany would have been outnumbered in all areas (at least on paper).

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    For all their challenges, the Germans had their fair share of advantages going into the war too. Hence why they went into the war in the first place (apart from the issue that they absolutely hadn't expected the French and British to declare war on them at all).
    Yep Germany started the war with their airforce and doctrines further developed than the WAllies and Soviets. Most other areas they were miles behind. Economic posture ("guns AND butter! haha"), resources, geographic position, alliances, all were terrible.

    Hilter was a mad gambler and got extremely lucky in the projects he backed and the blunders of his enemies.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •