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If I remember correctly, France had one of the largest tank forces in the world in 1939. But it was planned to be used in a re-run of world war I, with slow heavy tanks dispersed among infantry. And that reflected the whole war plan, which was to re-run world war one, and this time avoid the front going through France. Thus France would be spared, so no revolution in France, but Germany would be blockaded again like in world war I. And eventually Germany would fall.

A Swedish historian I read argued rather convincingly that the war in Denmark and Norway was to a large extent caused by the Allied attempts to cut Germany of from the Swedish iron ore supply, which in turn was motivated not only by starving Germany of iron, but also by creating a northern front to in advance take the load of the French-Belgian front. The attempts to get an Allied force to occupy the ore fields in northermost Sweden failed when the pretext of sending it to Finland wasn't believed. Closing the Atlantic Sea route form Norway by the UK placing mines in neutral Norway's waters triggered a crisis, but the German attack on Norway and Denmark was to fast to really serve. This should have been a warning that the strategy was flawed.

So I see the fall of France mainly in terms of a failure of imagintation within the organisation. Then again, one needs to remember that the German army was also lucky. The German high command and Hitler worried about exposed flanks during the fast advance, and had the advance stopped, or had the French been able to use the expose flanks and knock out the fast moving tanks, then the story would have been different.

by fjallstrom on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 12:37:27 PM EST
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I'm currently reading "The Fall of France" by Julian Jackson.
France had the largest, most modern, tank force in the world on paper.
Unfortunately, despite the orders being placed in early 1938 (at whihc point they were added to regimental numbers), French military mobilisation in the beginning of '39 massively depleted the skilled workforce needed to build the tanks just as the production lines were really beginning to work. Delays due to worker disruption, corruption and plain incompetence had prevented much production in 38. It was May before manufacture began again. Indeed, most of the new tanks were eventually re-deployed by the nazis, straight from the factory, on the Russian front.
You are right about flanking attacks. de Gaulle (yes him) led one such attack that knocked the german advance back. However, this was at the cost of nearly his entire company. If he had been succesfully reinforced at that point, it's quite likely that the advance could have been halted in its entirety.
Sadly, the lack of co-ordination by the French high command and their unwillingness to talk to the British except to lie to them about the forces available meant this was impossible.
At the beginning of the campaign Billotte had been tasked with the co-ordination role between the high command (who lived in a castle with only carrier pigeons for communication - no phones, no radio) and the entire French and British effort in N France. A classic case of the separation of authority and responibility. Bilotte apparently burst into tears because he knew he could not make it happen. It took him 4 days to pull a staff away from reluctant superiors.
When he was killed in a car crash, a British commander darkly suggested that his absence, even if not replaced, would only improve things.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 02:56:57 PM EST
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Helen: Sadly, the lack of co-ordination by the French high command and their unwillingness to talk to the British except to lie to them about the forces available meant this was impossible.

This is where there has been considerable change since 1940: today, the British and French militaries are both among the largest and the closest ones in Europe; they have been cooperating in joint exercises regularly over the pas twenty years (actually, I think one such exercise is ongoing right now with two aircraft carriers).

by Bernard on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 05:37:35 PM EST
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All of which is useless, because WWIII is a propaganda and cyber war. And also a war of political and social subversion.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 12th, 2021 at 06:57:41 AM EST
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The sheer audacity and breakneck speed of the German advance was completely off the map for the French military. And indeed it could have come unstuck : the Germans could hardly believe their success themselves.

As for the fundamental tactic of co-ordinated infantry, armour and air forces, De Gaulle of course claimed to have written the book on it (Vers l'armée de métier, 1934). He spent all his spare time in the 30s lobbying the army's commanders, and politicians, to modernise the army. He claims in his autobiography that Hitler had his book translated, and that it directly inspired the blitzkrieg doctrine.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 14th, 2021 at 04:26:18 PM EST
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