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Battle of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In 1939-40, 45% of the army was at least 40 years old, and 50% of all the soldiers had just a few weeks training.[60] Contrary to what the blitzkrieg legend suggests, the German Army was not fully motorised. Just 10% of the Army was motorised in 1940 and could muster only 120,000 vehicles, compared to the 300,000 of the French Army. The British also had an "enviable" contingent of motorised forces.[60] Most of the German logistical tail consisted of horse-drawn vehicles.[61]

Only 50% of the German divisions available in 1940 were combat ready,[60] often being more poorly equipped than their equivalents in the British and French Armies, or even as well as the German Army of 1914.[62] In the spring of 1940, the German army was semi-modern. A small number of the best-equipped and "elite divisions were offset by many second and third rate divisions".[62]

In other words, Germany's army at the time was to a significant part a Potemkin army. If the Allies didn't know that, it's no wonder that they were afraid, especially seeing that they themselves had poorly equipped divisions, too. The situation was reversed for German military leaders, who originally only wanted to delay an all-out confrontation on the Western Front until 1942 when they could arm themselves in turn.

This (fairly well-referenced) Wikipedia article also points out that the Blitzkrieg narrative was created after the fact, that is, the invasion was more successful and victory more decisive than planned. From what I gather, the key factors were the use of communication by the (otherwise inferior) German motorised forces, and the French leadership's mistaken expectation of an attack focused on the Belgian-Dutch border (a more southerly attack cut up their lines).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 08:43:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The superiority of the German armed forces weren't due to better equipment (France had better tanks) or because ther German soldiers were Aryan übermenschen but because Germany had the best officer corps in the world, and the best operational doctrine in the world. This was further compounded on the eastern front by the enormous Stalinist purges which had more or less destroyed the formerly high quality Soviet officer corps.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 02:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And - thanks to real world experience in Spain -  a highly developed and experienced tactical air force.  The role of Stuka dive bombers and Heinkel He 111 level bombers at Sedan should not be overlooked.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 02:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To put it another way, at least some influential officers didn't want to fight the last war. But even the officer corps shouldn't be over-estimated, see the history of the Manstein Plan, or the genesis of the halt order that saved Britain's army. Victory can depend on who makes the bigger blunders, rather than on who has better strategic foresight.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 04:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed! The Mainstein plan story is fascinating. If that plane hadn't crashed in Belgium, who knows what might have happpened? The mind boggles.

Still, and I suppose I wasn't really clear on this, I didn't really refer to the eventual superiority of German officers on the Army Group, Army or Corps level, but rather on the platoon, company, batallion, brigade and division level. If I recall correctly, to be comissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Wehrmacht required 5 years of higher studies at the officer school, or whatever.

As we're already a bit off topic I'll end with a quote from one of my favourite Wehrmacht generals, Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord.

"I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief."

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 06:04:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having read Hammerstein-Equord's English and German Wikipedia bios, wow. This man would be much more deserving of post-war adulation than Claus von Stauffenberg; but I guess a general taking no active part in the invasion of Poland but plotting a coup or assassination already during the Sudeten crisis (not to mention his communist and Soviet ties) didn't quite fit the Adenauer era elite's foundation mythologies (like "Evil SS/Good Wehrmacht").

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 at 09:27:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did that really need guessing? Contacts to the left were very very bad. Having known what the rest of the population claimed not to have known was even worse. There was no need to make a difference between SS and Wehrmacht during the 50's: both wasn't embarassing, let alone a career-killer or so. That only changed during the Auschwitz trials in the early 60's. The CDU called Willy Brandt a traitor until far into the sixties, by the way.
by Katrin on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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