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Old 8 April 2020, 09:55
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France: WWII

There's a really good series up on Netflix called World War II in Color.

The first episode provided a lot of good context for the start of Germany's aggression against European neighbors and the eventual conflict with France and England. I, like many others, have rebuffed France's actions due to them allowing Paris to be taken by Hitler. One part that I want to read up on more is the effects of WWI trench-warfare and how it informed France's prep and response. Apparently, France had quite the military power.
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Old 8 April 2020, 10:15
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Is this the same series that airs on AHC? If so I really like it and seem to watch it every time it is on.
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Old 8 April 2020, 10:36
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Originally Posted by RemTech View Post
Is this the same series that airs on AHC? If so I really like it and seem to watch it every time it is on.
It is.
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Old 8 April 2020, 12:14
Attila175 Attila175 is offline
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France had a better equipped and larger army than Germany in 1939-40. When they declared war because Germany invaded Poland, they lost a chance to defeat Germany. Germany's first line troops were in the east. If France would have attacked, there was little that could stop them. Why declare war and then wait to be attacked?

Once Germany did attack, France's over reliance on fortifications, failure to adopt maneuver warfare and squandering it's tanks as mainly infantry support instead of massing it's armor into armored formations all cost them any chance of victory.

French soldiers fought bravely but to little avail as their higher commanders wasted their men and resources.
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Old 8 April 2020, 14:10
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My dad made the Southern France invasion
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Old 8 April 2020, 14:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Attila175 View Post
If France would have attacked, there was little that could stop them. Why declare war and then wait to be attacked?
France did invade western Germany in 1939 while the battles were still raging in Poland, invading along the same stretch of border guarded by the Maginot Line. The Germans had left only a token resistance in the region without any armor support or bomber aircraft. The most effective German weapon is slowing the French advance was minefields covered by machine gun fire. When Polish resistance collapsed and the prospect loomed of the Germans tranferring their army westward, the French withdrew behind the Maginot line and prepared to implement the Anglo-French Dyal Plan.

More important to undermining the effectiveness of the French invasion than German minefields was the French political environment. The communists in the French parliament had sabotaged French military budgets during the 1920s and 30s and had sacked many of the more competent French officers. This was in support of the Internationale Movement which sought to remove all national borders and replace national loyalties with a worldwide socialist brotherhood. Germany was allied with the USSR at the time, so the French communists saw war with Germany as war against a Soviet ally, and accordingly did all they could to handicap the effort.

The attitude among many of the French army commonly called "defeatist" in 1940 was strongly encouraged by the communists who kept announcing that the army was fighting the wrong enemy. To them, the real enemy was the ruling class of anti-communists, the English, and the anti-communist Italians. The Italian invasion of France in 1940 was less successful than the German one already underway not only due to Italian incompetence but also due to the French army being more motivated to fight that enemy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKTbhC0s5xg
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Last edited by ET1/ss nuke; 8 April 2020 at 14:57. Reason: Edit to add link
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Old 8 April 2020, 16:52
Armitage12 Armitage12 is offline
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If you have some spare time, you should check out Marc Bloch's Strange Defeat, which is an account by a famous French historian who was in the middle of it and who attempted to make sense of it. A lot of his conclusions (based on his observations, not archival research) bore out. The French public was unwilling to sustain what they thought would be another long, drawn out war where a significant percentage of the adult male population would be killed or maimed for life. Additionally, the Germans were operating differently than the French had planned for, and the French high command could not redirect itself.

We often make fun of the Maginot Line, but the French had intended for it to continue north and contain Germany further than it did. The political problem they faced was either (a) building it with and for the Belgians (who had attempted to fortify their border but who had far less resources -- all parachutists know of Fort Eben-Emael), or (b) leave the Belgians to their fate and build it along the Franco-Belgian border. The French never solved that political question after the 1936 end of the Franco-Belgian alliance.

Another good account is Ernie May's Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France.
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Old 17 April 2020, 13:19
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A lot of the mythology of the supposed French Resistance, and the post-war French insistence on the importance of their own efforts in their liberation, has made honest discussion of what France did 1939-45 complicated. In the late 1940s and 1950s, France needed to be seen as a world power to sustain their reasoning for why they should retain control over Indo-China, Algeria, and other colonies as well as justifying their possession of a UN veto.

The uncomfortable truth was that an awful lot of the active French resistance of 1941-45 was made up of and supported by the very same people who collaborated to undermine French resistance in 1939-40. The same communists who handicapped resistance to an ally of the USSR (Germany) in 1939-40 suddenly became anti-German when Operation Barbarossa kicked off in mid-1941. The French fascists who welcomed the German invasion of 1940 were busy working for the Vichy government or joining the Charlemagne Legion of the Waffen-SS.

Through Normandy the western allies entered a part of France where most of the residents were neutral, communist, or indiscriminate collaborators with whomever showed up next. The invasion of southern France entered a region where there were fewer active communist cells, lots of Vichy fascists with their fingers in the air checking for which way the winds would blow next, and more indiscriminate collaborators. In the wake of the Allied advance across France, the communists (with Allied help) mostly purged the Vichy fascists.

The power blocs post-war were the communists (who were openly supportive of and supported by the Soviets), and nationalists led by De Gaulle, and an assortment of regional and single-issue parties who tipped the balance of power from one election to the next. De Gaulle opposed joining NATO because France needed to appear stong and independent; the communists opposed NATO because they were Stalinists. All sides had a vested interest in France NOT being portrayed (accurately up through the 1980s) as undependable allies, militarily weak and incompetent, backstabbing negotiators, at fault for their own conquest by Germany, mostly uninvolved in their own liberation by the Allies, and possessing such vacillating priorities that their policy pronouncements should be ignored.
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Old 17 April 2020, 22:06
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I will go one step further and state that France ("our oldest ally" /s) switched sides in during the war twice.

Most popular histories of the war conveniently forget or significantly downplay that the Anglo-American landings in North Africa were actively resisted by the French. It was the same situation in the French colony of Syria-Lebanon when the British attacked it in 1941.

The Vichy French v. Free French is largely a fiction of Allied propaganda. Vichy France WAS France. They held and governed central and southern France. The maintained an army and navy. The maintained control over French colonial holdings around the world. The were simply a vassal state of Germany. This type of arrangement for losers of wars had been going in Europe for thousands of years.

In contrast, the Free French were a creation of the British and completely dependent on them and the Americans for their existence, much to DeGaulle's resentment. The core of their forces were formed from some French soldiers that had been evacuated from Dunkirk along with the BEF. However, a majority of the French evacuees sought repatriation back to France once in Britain.

The primary purpose for sponsoring the Free French army and putting up with DeGaulle, was to put a French face on the Normandy and southern France invasions as much as possible. The Allies were concerned about potential resistance from the French as had happened in North Africa and Syria/Lebanon. This is also the reason that DeGaulle and the Free French army was allowed to enter Paris first instead of the US 4th Infantry Division which spearheaded that advance.
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Old 18 April 2020, 02:59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KillRoy View Post
The Vichy French v. Free French is largely a fiction of Allied propaganda. Vichy France WAS France.
Yup. And the mythical Resistance were communists.
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