1935: you run (only) the army

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by tomo pauk, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    8,006
    Likes Received:
    441
    Trophy Points:
    83
    In the absence of what-ifs, decided to start one.
    It's 1935, and you need to prepare army (not air force, not navy) of country you choose for an upcoming major war. You can't decide not to go to war, but just to prepare the army in material manpower sections. No nukes :)

    So I'll start with main changes for Italy, equipment-only:
    -issue request for good reliable radios
    -semi-auto rifle in 6,5mm
    -LMG, drum-fed, same calibre
    -GP MG in 8mm, belt-fed
    -forget about Brixia, develop mortars in 60 and 81mm calibers
    -develop recoilless rifle, hand-held (75mm?) and heavier (100+mm)
    -purchase license for a Vickers 6-ton tank, with intent to mount 47mm on it
    -develop SPG on that carriage, with regular 75mm gun, later with longer barrel
    -produce 37 or 40mm AAA
    -when production of tank chassis increase, allocate a number for SP AA (twin 20mm?)
    -mount 149mm howitzers on heavy trucks, like what was done for 75 90mm AAA
     
  2. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Your program for the italians would in many instances arrive too late and in others would arrive as unsatisfactory developments of the technology. In other instances monetary costs would have been prohibitive, which would have reduced other more strategically important programs.

    Just picking one item as an example. Your self loading rifle. Compare that to the US experience. They began developing a self loading rifle in 1916, but th4e general Board was not satisfied with the general standard of performance and reliability until 1931. at that point there were two contenders: the Pedersen and garandsw turning Bolt Action. The Garqand in its original design used a 0.276 calibre round, but realizing the massive stocks of 0.30" ammunition the US Army held in reserve. It was well that he did, because General Macarthur, who was controlling the selection process, flatly refused to accept the protoype unles it could fire the 0.30 round.

    It took a lot of time to perfect the production processes and by 1938, there were only 7500 Garands in existence. Even by 1941, the Army was not able to adopt the weapon as standard issue.

    The difficulty with adopting a new sidearm, is that it soaks up a relatively large amount of resources to develop and manufacture, and this applies to all weapons really. If Italy had begun a re-equipment program as ambitious as yours, it would not have been ready in time, and would have eaten into other programs severely.

    The biggest problem facing the Italians in their ordinance, was the multiplicity of types and calibres. There were something like 11 different calibres and types of small arms ammunition in circulation (actually many more, I am only counting the maqin types). What they needed to do was to standardise their existing types and calibres, and undertake a gradual and sustained program of refurbishment. Instead, they opted for fitful and chaotic modernization program that actually worsened the situation.

    Its the same old story really, one of matching your aspirations with the economic resources that you could realistically apply. Italy in the interwar period, according to Overy commanded less than 2% of the worlds economy, and from 1935 was saddled with severe asanctions from the Loeague. Thoug these sanctions failed to deter italian, or indeed Axis aggression, they were nevertheless effective in economically ruining Italy. ,
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2009
    Messages:
    9,780
    Likes Received:
    802
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    retired Firefighter
    Location:
    Central Florida Highlands
    #3 Shortround6, Mar 8, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2011
    It has been said that the Italians tried to convert to the 7.35X51 carcano round, not in a quest for better performance but because you take a 6.5 barrel and bore it out and re-rifle cheaper than making new 6.5 barrels. If true it really puts a perspective on the Italian Military budget.

    having said that the Italians, with just a bit more money could have re-barreled the existing rifles to take a 6.5 carcanno round with an 8 gram spitzer bullet instead of the 10.5 round nosed they used. Savings in material over millions of rounds, flatter trajectory over common ranges (simpler sight settings) and possibly greater wounding power (spitzers having more tendency to tip).

    Drum fed LMGs have been few and far between and for good reason. Ditch national pride and simply buy/licence the ZB 26 in the new 6.5 carcanno.

    keep the Breda 8mm, you need money for other things, or at least redo so it doesn't put the empty cases back in the feed strips, should be low cost change.

    I agree, ditch the Brixa and buy Brandt 60mm just like they bought the Brandt 81mm. No cost in research and development, no time lost and no engineers used.

    Recoilless rifles are an expensive luxury. Both in research/development and ammunition costs. They make lousy anti-tank guns (at least during WW II).

    The Fiat M11/39 was based on the Vickers 6 ton tank. You just have to convince the powers that be that one M11/39 is worth 3-4 L3/35s. And get production going a bit sooner. M11/39 turned into the M13/40 with a 47mm gun.

    The chassis was turned into a 75mm SP gun, the Semovente 75/18 which later had longer higher velocity guns fitted.

    The Italian Navy did have a 37mm gun which was adopted by the army as the da 37/54 modello 39, a little late and, as with most things Italian, not produced in sufficient numbers.

    Using Italian tank production for twin AA mounts is pretty much a waste of resources, the Italians are never going to have enough tank chassis and while the Italian 20mm guns were a good match for the German Flak 30, using the same cartridge and having the same rate of fire. However the practical rate of fire was a little more than half of that of a Flak 38. Sucking up a tank chassis to put 240rpm into the air doesn't seem like a good idea.

    While putting 149mm howitzers on truck may appeal to the Italians (they certainly put enough other stuff on trucks) it really isn't a good idea. Recoil is proportional to the momentum of the shell and not energy. Mass times velocity, not mass times velocity squared. That 149mm howitzer with it's 88-100lb shell ( I haven't looked it up) is going to have a fair amount of recoil compared to even a 90mm AA gun with a 22-25lbs shell. The other problem is tactical deployment. Large AA guns are seldom sited within artillery range of the enemy. Howitzers often are. To protect them they are placed in weapons pits. Dug into the ground with spoil and or rocks piled around to make the walls higher. It is bad enough digging in a normal howitzer. digging in something the length and height of a truck is going to be a real bi*ch. To do shoot and scoot you need good radios (not field phones), pre-surveyed firing positions, good maps, good mobile logistics (plenty of ammo trucks to move with you)., etc.

    A big part of the Italian Army's problems were leadership and morale. While some units fought very well (the artillery seemed to come for a lot of favorable comment) It seems ( i could be wrong here) that the Italian officer class had a lot more 'privileges' in respect to the men than most other armies. Stories are around about high ranking officers using multiple trucks to transport personal wine cellars, bath tubs and luxurious apratment fittings while troops went hungry or were left behind during retreats. Not exactly morale boosting. Trying to over turn a cultural way of life in a few years is not going to be easy.
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    664
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    #4 michaelmaltby, Mar 8, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2011
    I'm curious, Tomo. :) Why start with the Italians? Any changes made in 1935 would NOT have affected Italy's performance in the the build up to and involvement in WW2 (in any significant fashion), IMHO :).

    On the otherhand, if one had started to better arm and enlarge a permanent Estonian army (and enter into mutual support and training agreements with the Finns and Balts -- Latvia and Lithuainia) the events 1939, post Molotov-Ribbentrop might have been slightly different.

    MM
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    8,006
    Likes Received:
    441
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Okay, the disagreements are there. Now, what about picking a country and toss some ideas?
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    My suggestion would be to re-organize the French Army. Assuming no greater level of resourcing, I would concentrate on re-organising the resources rather then coming up with new or increased equipment levels

    The first thing I would do would be to legislate a mandatory retirement age for all General Officers. I would suggest about age 60. The French Army was plagued by reactionary elements that prevented the introduction of new ideas. There was considerable talent and innovation in the French army but it was effectively stymied by the ageing and change resistant leadership. Instead of such old timers as Weygand and Gamelin, the French Army of 1940 would have been led by men such as De Gaulle and Tassigny and Bethouart. This would have made a profound difference to the performance of the French on the battlefield in 1940.

    My efforts in reorganization would have concentrated on the mobile formations. By the outbreak of the war (or soon thereafter) historically there were 9 Motorized Inf Divs, 3 Heavy Armoured Divs (DCRs) (with a further two in the process of formation), 3 or 4 Armoured Cav Divs (DLMs) 5 Mixed Armour/Cav Divs (DLCs) and over 45 Independent Armoured Battalions. All of these formations failed pretty badly in battle, for various reasons….poor organization, a lack of supporting elements, late formation, poor levels of training, poor logistics. Simply beginning the process of formation earlier would carry with it major advantages in proficiency. If the French armour had been trained better in 1940 because its formations had been together for longer, there would have been major advantages again.

    My efforsts at re-organization would have centred around forming homogenous mixed armour/artillery/ infantry formations. This wouold have been achieved by grafting armour onto the Motorized infantry formations, and Infantry and Artillery to the armoured formations. Instead of a nearly irrelevant mechanized arm, I would be aimng for a highly effective arm, capable of dealing a death blow to the german Panzer groups. I estimate the French would be capable of fielding about 21 division sized armoured or mech formations, and perhaps a further 10 mixed Infantry/armour brigades similar to the Soviet Mech brigades of 1941. With that force level, retaining the Maginot defences, and led by forward thinking officers, there is no reason to not expect a significant victory in 1940. And this would be achieved for no additional cost in terms of equipment, with no feasible response possible by the Germans. WWII would have ended on the fields of flanders, as WWI had 22 years earlier

    There are couple minor tweakings that the French would still need to consider. They needed to improve communications by a wider introduction of radios, and they needed to improve their AA defences. I think these could be achieved without significant additional cost. The French al;so had to ditch the concept of “milch cow” tanks and adopt the german ideas of jerry cans for refuelling……
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Good luck with that.

    France was a political mess from 1936 onward and the army was not exempt. Many of the French enlisted soldiers were Marxists who had little respect for the largely non-Marxist officer corps. Conducting realistic training and building unit cohesion is almost impossible under those circumstances.
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    to a point i would agre with that. In the "B" series formations, in particular, there was some evidence of defeatism, and a poor level of morale, made worse by the inactivity of 1939-40. However i do not believe that france was a political mess, or that the french suffered a nationwide collapse of morale. The crisis that they did confront was far more localised than that, which i think would have been largely addressed by better training, and better equipment scales. Getting men busy and proficient would have lessened their fear of battle.

    In the case of the B Divs, after the initial shock of battle had subsided, these formations settled down and fought reasonably well. There were isolated instances of a collapse of morale here and ther, but on the whole the french army fought credibly, given the constraints they were fighting under. If better training and organization and better leadership had been provided, the french would have perfomed measurably better.

    With regard to the comment that all the french enlisted men were marxists, I would sure like to know on what basis that claim is made, and then, if it is true, why having an army of marxists makes any difference to its combat performance. The greeks also have been accused of this "problem, but it doent seem to have affected their ability at all. And of course there are the Soviets themselves who never showed any inherent combat weaknesses because of their marxist background
     
  9. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    664
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    "... With regard to the comment that all the french enlisted men were marxists, I would sure like to know on what basis that claim is made, and then, if it is true, why having an army of marxists makes any difference to its combat performance. "

    Don't know the truth of that claim, but, from September, 1939 until June, 1941 Germany and the USSR were allies and generally, marxists being the "follow orders blindly" bunch that they tend to be, they would NOT have been too enthusiastic about fighting an "ally". In the political sphere, marxists defended rubbish unthinkingly until the international told them it was OK to fight Hitler. No one is suggesting that Marxists are cowards or can't fight however. :)

    MM
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2009
    Messages:
    9,780
    Likes Received:
    802
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    retired Firefighter
    Location:
    Central Florida Highlands
    From an equipment point of view the French Tanks really needed to be changed. while the armor and even the guns were adequate for 1940, the 2 man crew and lack of radios were a real hindrance. Trying to control platoon or company formations in combat by waving small signal flags through ports is not going to work very well. Especially when the tanks that have to receive the signals have the only crew member with a hope of 360 vision trying to load and fire the tanks main gun with his eye to the gunsight most of the time. any penetration of enemy lines has to followed by quick lager of the tanks to go over the next phase of the operation if it differs from the plans made earlier (and it will).
    Tank units also need artillery observers with radios to call for support fire. Field phones are not going to work and mounting guns on tracked chassis so they can "keep up" is a joke if they can't communicate with the tanks they are supposed to be supporting.
    As far as refueling goes, the idea of "milch cow" tanks was also a joke. Many theorist of the time wanted "tank formations" in which ALL elements could cross the same terrain at the same speed. Great if you are North Africa or the steppes of Russia, maybe if good if you are trying to bring supplies across a moon cratered WW I no-mans land landscape. Not really needed for large parts of France and Germany. Just how far could the tanks get from a road or rail in France or Germany in 1940? If you can refuel using Jerry cans you can probably refuel from a truck with a tank and pump. I mean it can't really be done under fire either way.
    Yes the entire French command doctrine needed overhaul/change but in the case of armor it also would need equipment changes to make it work. As near as I can figure out the German MK I tanks had radio receivers only but that allowed them to halted, turned or retreated by their platoon commanders without resorting to flags, very pistol flares or running over and banging on the outside of the tank. The MK II's effectiveness was it's three man crew. Not because of the common idea that it had a two man turret (it didn't) but because the extra crew man in the hull was a radio operator. MK II's could control MK I's as platoon leaders or pass information up the chain of command. Jobs the majority of French tanks could not do no matter what you did with the French high command or command structure.
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    generally politics does not decide whether a soldier, or an army, are any good or not. if the politics of a nation decided how well its armies would fight the equation would be a relatively simple one.

    The political leanings of a nation may influence its posture and goals in a war, and affect the resolve of its politicians , but it seldom affects the resolve of the troops in the field. Even during the bolshevik era, the collapse of the Tsars armies had virtually nothing to do with the propaganda of the Bolsheviks. It had a lot to do with them starving and freezing to death, and the belief that they could not survive, but the immediate politics of Imperial Russia had virtually nothing to do with it. That the rise of Bolshevism was a malaise linked to injustices of the system that existed in Russia at the time was only of incidental importance to the rout of the armies. If the Tsar had found a way to victory, his people would have loved him, for a while, but Bolshevism would still have been there regardless of the outcome.

    neither does fanaticism make for particulalry good soldiers in the modern era. Fearsome, perhaps, but not effective. The SS has an awesome reputation to this day, but if you analyse their battles, particularly early in the piece, they were actually less effective than most more mundane regular wehrmacht units. SS totenkopf had its first combat experience near Arras in 1940, and showed distinct signs of panic at the first sign of resistance. So, if fanaticism was the only real difference between it and the wehrmacht units beside it, then the fanaticism of the totenkopf Division mattered for little.

    In fact, most post war studies that I know of that look into basic non-military related factors that look at what makes for a good soldier, dont even mention motivation or politicaql beliefs. these are big determinants in what makes a man enlist, but they have virtually no effect on what makes a man an effective soldier. no, the most important single non-military related factor in a soldiers effectiveness is his education level. The better educated a man is, generally the better he is at killing, because education means he is flexible, adaptable, and knows how to think. And thinking means you have a better chance of surviving, and knowing what to do.

    A military unit at its most basic, has but one objective, and that is to survive. All other considerations...mateship, duty, courage, aggression, are subservient to that survival motivation. take away the prospect of surviving, and most soldiers lose the will to fight. Not always, there are many exceptions to that, but in reality most soldiers are fighting just to stay alive.

    So, it is the belief that the "system" can keep you alive that determines if an army is effective or not. If a soldier believes that the weapons hes carries, the men who lead him, the colleagues that surround are equipped, trained and motivated to fight and survive, he too will fight. Anyone who has been under fire will know what i am talking about here. If you believe the system system will keep yopu alive, you will fight to keep the system alive. Your political beleifs may make you spruke around in the mess, but your politics will be far from your mind once the enmy start shooting at you.

    Moreover the performance of the french after 1940 puts to bed the lie that they were significantly affected by marxist leanings, or even that they were affected by anti-german feelings after the fallof france. their efforts in the levant they were an effective fighting force. Their contribution to the conquest of Kufra in 1940 also demosntrates their ability to be effective. their performance at Bir Hacheim, at Monte Casino in Tunisia and later in the reformed French Army on the southern provinces in 1944 all show in spades that the french people were effective soldiers and not wracked by politicalo doubt, at any stage, including during those stages when Russia was still "allied" to the nazis.
     
  12. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    664
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    I will read it, parsifal. Thanks.

    I want to clarify my comment (that you have misunderstood, slightly), to wit:
    "... In the political sphere, marxists defended rubbish unthinkingly until the international told them it was OK to fight Hitler. No one is suggesting that Marxists are cowards or can't fight however."

    By "political sphere " I was shifting focus from military to civilian - specifically parliaments and labour unions. In those years - September, 1939-June, 1941 - there were plenty of examples of mindless utterings from elected individuals (like Tim Buck) who were Canadian Communists. To them - the bond with international communism (Comintern) was stronger than what common sense told the rest of Canada (based on WW1 participation) was really happening and what the issues were.

    Just finished "Bloodlands" and the author makes a related point, stating how Stalin got a free ride on the extermination of the Ukrainian farmers because - socialists in the western democracies simply would NOT criticize the USSR. I recommend the book - but very black and sad.

    As for "political" soldiers - doesn't work too well although, I'm told, the Political Officers in the Red Forces were effective WHEN THEY LED BY EXAMPLE AND FOUGHT.

    Chairs,

    MM
     
  14. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Not all. But a good portion, mirroring French society at that time. What else would you expect when France appointed a Marxist Prime Minister in 1936 as part of the "Popular Front" government? Some historians suggest that the Marxist French Air minister was a Soviet Agent.

    It didn't help that the Soviet NKVD were allowed to work practically unhindered in 1936 France. That's why France became the primary recruitment center for organizing the so called "International Brigades" which fought as Soviet proxies in Spain.
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    664
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    I agree davebender. And the UGLY airplanes .... France and Russia both .... ugly of the proletariat.

    Still a good reason not to buy a communist-built Renault. :)

    MM
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Hi SR

    In all discussions about AFVs, all of the issues regarding their effectiveness can be broken down into three categories

    1) Firepower
    2) Protection
    3) Mobility

    Moreover, good design is generally a mix of these matters. Issues about such things as range, reliability, crew numbers, and communications are still adjuncts to these basic criteria. For example, crew numbers really relate to issues of firepower. Having and overworked commander/gunner really has an effect on the firepower the weapon (in this case the tank) can generate. Not having radios has an effect in all three areas really. In the case of the French, the design of their vehicles was such that it would require the already overworked commander to also operate the radio when fitted, which only added to their problems. Nevertheless, having a radio fitted would have been an advantage, and having a proficient commander would have at least helped to address his workload. If he could do his tasks quickly and efficiently, he might have been able to offset one of the biggest weaknesses in French tank design. I believe that was certainly within the realm of possibility, as the Allied experiences with the US Grant, a tank as least as complex as the French tanks (but nevertheless a successful type, in the hands of a properly trained crew).

    The germans, in my opinion tended to lose sight of these realities as the war progressed, and tended to produce designs that tried to be all things at all times….the results were overly large, overly complex, and overly expensive behemoths that could only be produced in limited numbers. Whilst individually they were impressive pieces of technology, as a group they were weak because they could not be produced in sufficient numbers to matter.

    I acknowledge that French AFVs suffered some really serious design faults and limitations. The most serious of which was the lack of radios, followed by an overworked commander and poor layout, followed lastly by poor range, and to a lesser extent a poor power to weight ratio. Their strong points remained generally good levels of protection and firepower. Defensively, they could have been decisive in 1940. What they needed was good training to compensate for the poor layout, the introduction of radios, but most crucially a concentration and provision of supporting arms to make them effective. If these issues had been addressed, the French armoured corps could have been decisive.

    With regard to your last statement, changes to the french command system wuld have made at least an indirect impact on tactical matters. For a start, increasing the rotation rate of the french officer corps would have allowed the opportunity for a better regime of trainng and reorganization to be introduced. as suggested above, if the shortcomings of the french tanks could be addressed by better training, this probably would increase their effectiveness. However even more significantly, overhauling the french command system would have yielded much more significant results than what we are talking about here. When the Germans made their ardennes thrust, the french command system was completely incapbale of reacting anywhere near fast enough. They had about four days of being aware of the major MLA of the germans, and frittered that precious time away doing basically nothing, all because their command system was so antiquated and inept. An overhauled command structure, and replacement of personnel would likley address that fatal weakness IMO
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Most histories I have read really discount the 5th column conspiracy theories as a major factor contributing to the french collapse. whilst it would be convenient to "blame the marxists" for the french collapse, there really isnt the evidence to support that. France was wracked by disunity and confusion in the period 1936-40, to be sure, but this was not due solely to marxist agitation. In this regard I disagree with yours and daves position. In reality the reasons for frances defeat had nothing to do with her material preparations. The french had more tanks, could have had more planes, had ample artillery and quality of material to defeat her enemies. Her manpower was of sufficient quality and motivation to do the job. The greatest failing was in her command and control systems. They just completely failed in so many ways. So if we are to apportion blame, it should be placed at the right peoples feet. the so-called conservative, reactionary, moribund, right wing, officer corps has a lot to answer for in this regard....
     
  18. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    664
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    ".... France was wracked by disunity and confusion in the period 1936-40 ..."

    Understatement. France was in "shock" from the Waterloo onwards. Unlike Hitler, Napoleon was never vilified - nor were his Bonapartists.

    France fancied herself - still does. We in Canada live with the ossified remains of French vanity. Parsifal posted earlier about how well Free French Forces performed after 1943. Well .. excuse me .. but the politics around de Gaulle within the Allies was sickening -- it's the one thing I fault Churchill on. He protected and advanced de Gaulle.

    The coup de grace for France was WW1. The country - once again - had lost a generation or two - and only pulled it out of the fire because Britain, the Commonwealth, and finally - belatedly - the US of A - saved her. The English-speaking world gave France backbone she lacked (due to her pretensions) twice in 50 years - and she still hasn't figured that out.

    I don't think the French had a clue what they believed - in 1939. And the boys in Feld Grau sure did.

    MM
     
  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Hi michael

    I dont think there is as much difference between our repsective positions as you think. I am not arguing against that the french were politically in disarray. That is not an understatement. to go any further, one would have to argue the french were in the grips of civil war. clearly they were not.

    I would also not disagree that the french have an overly high opinion of themselves. But then again, how does that translate to any sort of failure on the field of battle

    Neither can i see any valid connection between all these political failures in france, and her performance in battle. Except for the isolated cases i mentioned earlier about some breakdowns in the reserve units in 1940, there is no evidence to support a general failure of national morale for the country. What failed was the leadership. The Petains, the Lavals, etc do not represent the country as a whole. The frontline units as well as the 1st line reservists which represented all but 16 divs in a 90 div army fought with generally adequate morale. not outstanding, but adequate. There is no evidence that all this posturing that you refer to had any effect whatsover on the performance in the field of her army. what did fail, and badly, was her command system.

    neither is there any evidence of 5th column activity on her military production. What wrecked her aircraft output wasnt 5th column resistance it was a weak and disorganised industry in which there were too many small producers, and a very archaic and change resistant aircraft industry. France took too long to rectify this by forced amalgamations. There were never any real shortages of land weapons, and the french navy was as powerful as it had ever been since napoleon. in shortthere is no evidence that supports the notion that french obnoxiousness in the political arena translated into a failure on the battlefield, or in the factory at least not directly.

    Moreover, whilst i agree Churchill tended to pandy to the french, what relevance does this have on their battlefield performance. I would venture to say...none. What evidence do you have to support the notion that somehow they failed on the field of battle because of their political leanings, particulalry after June 25 1940. I would venture to say, none.

    Annoying as the french are, one has to approach an appraisal of their capabilities in a far more balanced and analytical way. One cannot afford to let ones prejudices against them (or indeed, prejudices infavour of them either) colour the appraisal of their military capabilities
     
  20. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,694
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    #20 parsifal, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011
    I don't think the French had a clue what they believed - in 1939. And the boys in Feld Grau sure did.

    Another post war myth I am afraid. The germans in 1940 produced at least as many dud divisions as the french. its just that they do not figure prominantly in the events and are glossed over in many accounts.

    If you want to learn about some of the less successful german formations, in 1940, do some reading on the following....the 526th, 537th, 539th, 540th, 554th, 555th 556th, 557th Reserve Divisions. these units had virtually no combat value, but they were were never tested in the same way as the French Reserve Divisions were. many were so bad they were quietly disbanded in the latter part of 1940. Similar divisions that were formed in the emergencies of 1944, such as the 559th and the 549th and were found to be very poor formations with at least as many failings as the french reserve divisions. even many of the higher order reserveDivisions such as the 276 infantry Division, in fact most of the 200 series divisions in 1940 could not be considered assault divisions and certainly would not compare favourably to the Active Divs in the french army. its one of those great myths of wwii that in 1940 the germans possessed 100 or so Infantry Divs, all of them capable of heavy assault operations. In fact in 1940, germans could only call on about 30 or so of its Infantry formations as 1st line assault divs.

    The really big difference between the German Army and the Allies was their all arms mechanized Divs, plus the fact that they had a revised doctrine of war and a command structure that was somewhat more flexible than the allied command structure, though this advantage was only marginal at best, given the German High commands repeated halt orders given to guderian during his dash to the channel. The margin of difference was not as great as one would expect. The german army possessed distinct advantages in a few of its units, but it was not a universal advantage, and the advantages were not as great as one might first believe
     
Loading...

Share This Page