Article about the French Air Force

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jenisch, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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  2. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "...The behavior of the leaders of the French Air Force before and during the Battle of France suggests that their primary purposes were to protect the regular air force against its domestic adversaries and to ensure its survival after the battle and the expected defeat. Refusing to expand the regular air force, spinning off the dangerous and unglamorous observation mission to the reserves, maintaining a low operational rate, declining to seize command of the air when the Luftwaffe was weak, and selecting only regular air force units and those unconnected with direct support of the army to send to North Africa constitute a coherent pattern. The senior aviators kept their service small, protected the cadres from severe danger, and kept most of the regular air force together out of the Germans' reach."

    What an indictment .....
     
  3. pattle

    pattle Member

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    #3 pattle, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
    I have read so much conflicting information on the French Air Force of 1940 that I don't know what to believe. The only thing I can say with any confidence is that the French were generally disorganised.
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #4 michaelmaltby, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
    Somewhere on this Board a few years ago I thought I read that during the B of F the RAF managed to mount two missions a day (average), the LW managed three and the A de A managed one** .... and on home turf.

    ** Source: http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation/battle-britain-turn-around-time-19850.html Post 11.

    To say ... "the French were generally disorganized" is a kindness .... France after the Revolution, Napoleon, Louis Napoleon, the Franco Prussian War, WW1, was totally demoralized as a political society. That the left-right schism breeched the Air arm from the Army (as outlined in the source) is unimaginable.
     
  5. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

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    It is interesting when a perception of a whole nation transforms from "Heroes of Verdun" to "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys"
     
  6. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... Cheese-eating surrender monkeys"

    Cheese ripens from within and that's also where cynicism breeds
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That's the real problem and it affected all branches of French armed forces. Right wing French commanders couldn't get their largely left wing enlisted solders to take training seriously. After a couple failed training exercises they quit trying.
     
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  8. l'Omnivore Sobriquet

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    #8 l'Omnivore Sobriquet, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
    I won't argue about the political drives that split the french society, and its armies, and its will to stand out.. for decades before then, and some centuries. Actually it started a bit before the Revolution, some one hundred years before.

    By 1914 the thoroughtly (and recently) revolutionized french army fared awfully bad. (also in 1870 and then it was a very conservative and reactionnary body... but yet not a normal one, given recent past.)
    By the end of WWI however the french army fared absolutely excellent, through important internal 'shakes' in mid-years in the commendeering networks, much thanks to the German pressure...

    It is no exageration, that the comparison stands very well relative to the soviet one in WWII. Started awfully bad just the same, because of ideological 'head sweepings' and inner terror, despite good ground soldiers courage already, yet 'thanks to the German pressure' ended their wars in their respective finest hours no less. (excellent generals being given free hands, at last, backed by comprehensive and close to perfect materials in massive proportions.)

    In 1940 the french army apparatus was more, simply, outfashioned and "en retard d'une guerre" ('one war late'.) It is easy cliché but mostly true.
    (You can check the American, the British and the Russian, even the Italians in 1940 they were all that way.)

    Air groups were given silly orders, typically ones to protect some single offensive action against a pair of bridges, lenghtily set up, already strongly defended by the ennemy for more than a day. ...While strictly ignoring the many Luftwaffe raids that were being carried out nearby. So you had some 80 french fighters watching over some 30 outdated french bombers being cut to pieces by strong german flak well positionned in advance around the strategic bridges; secured as they were since Rommel and his leading tanks had crossed them for more than a day... All the while Heinkels and Messerschmidts were cruising within eye-sight, if rather higher on their way to their respective targets (these more or less undefended!).

    All of this in a narrow distance, but no allowance to interfere !

    Then one the way back the Messerschmidts, and them alone, were allowed free hunts and fell down by their Db-601 in strict hit-and-run tactics - they had learned to rely on this some months before - from about one thoushand feet above onto the returning french.
    Then there were, at last, some real dogfights given the confusion and german over-confidence vs french airmens' fury, watching all this. Many victories then, but strategically a loss for us the french.

    From such fights our french statistics aren't that bad. (from 10th may until late June the Luftwaffe suffered more casualties than during the Battle of Britain... despite its obvious victory.)

    Enough said don't have extra time to spend on the forum ce soir.
    Rumours of blatant conspiracy from some officers' or 'advanced elites' corners spread fast then and now, with some fuel it must be known : extreme left, extreme right, fat middle... But hard facts-based neutral history remains more exciting, and telling.
     
  9. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I certainly wouldn't call the French soldiers surrender monkeys as they suffered such heavy casualties, it seems to me that these soldiers were let down badly by extremely poor leadership. If they had been properly led and things had been better organised then things should have turned out better.
     
  10. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "...If they had been properly led and things had been better organised then things should have turned out better..."

    In society, Leadership and Organization are functions of a political system ... France was a democracy ... their leadership and military options (organization) were functions of the French people's political "choices" at the ballot box. France, in 1939, was the product of its political choices .... the French were NOT victims pattle. The Poles were victims .... the French, delusional, cynical and burnt out; but not victims as you suggest.
     
  11. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    #11 CobberKane, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
    It’s always seemed to me that any assessment of the French armed forces, performance during WII has to be seen through the filters of the national consciousness and international politics. For many French the inability to prevent a second invasion from the same enemy within two decades was a source of national shame, particularly given the French army, in terms of men and equipment, was much stronger than the German army that routed it. Of course, the British were defeated just as comprehensively in the Battle of France, but they weren’t on home soil and the scars were nowhere near so deep.
    The French also had the reality of a collaborationist past to deal with; the Vichy Regime continued to oppose the Allies until the final days of the war, insofar as they were able, and a small proportion of the French went so far as to embrace facism wholeheartedly. It all made for a lot of baggage, and engendered the creation of a substantial national myth post war, particularly around the French Resistance. Studies on the 50th anniversary of D-Day indicated that the French population hugely overestimated the contribution of the Resistance, to the degree there was a real belief in the idea of ‘self-liberation’, (as promoted by De Gaul, with the tacit approval of the Allies who were keen to keep him onside). This is not to disparage in the least the courage, sacrifice and real achievements of the Resistance, but only a small proportion of the French population were involved beyond the level of sympathy and connivance (nor could they be, given the strength of the occupation) but the contribution of the Resistance to kicking the Germans out, heroics aside, could never have been more than tiny compared to the combined might of the Allies. Of course, post surrender, French soldiers and airmen distinguished themselves in the continuing fight against Nazi Germany, although it would have been a stretch to describe them as independent of the other Allied forces who trained and equipped them, regardless of what de Gaul might have liked to believe
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #12 tomo pauk, Nov 15, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
    A rather sober discussion here.
    If I may add: the German Army* and LW were in it's prime in 1940, French Army and air force were on the low part of their capability 'sinusoid'. The outcome was unlikely to be as it was historically, despite UK, Belgian and Dutch contribution.

    *Armies and air forces being far more dependent on proper (for time and place) doctrine, strategy, leadership and training, than on the armor thickness of it's tanks or extra mph their fighters were capable for
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "...*Armies and air forces being far more dependent on proper (for time and place) doctrine, strategy, leadership and training, than on the armor thickness of it's tanks or extra mph their fighters were capable for.."

    Well said. :) Finland and Israel are but 2 examples that illustrate this truth.
     
  14. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Agreed. A decent channel, or, better, a decent ocean or huge land mass between you and the enemy can also help one to recover from mistakes in timely manner (enemy's tanks cannot actually come to the shooting distance next by your airbase and/or factory) ;)
     
  15. pattle

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    I have to disagree as none of this makes any sense at all. It has no bearing whether a country is a Democracy or a dictatorship as to how well they fight a war, the Italians and Germans were both right wing dictatorships and one fought well while the other fought badly, America was a democracy but was more successful at waging war than Germany or Japan. The thing the French lacked was political stability, but French military tactics were not decided through the ballot box. The French had a large army with a reasonable amount of modern equipment, but however those in charge of the French Army did not understand how to use either it's men or it's equipment, for example the French head quarters did not have modern communications with the Armies it was commanding and did not understand how to use armour effectively. The French lost anything up 100,000 men killed in 45 days, this army was relatively well resourced with public money and had it been properly prepared and organised would have been effective. The French soldiers were let down by their Generals in this way and many died fighting a war that they did not wish for just as they did in Poland, the French were both victims of a bad leadership and of German aggression.
     
  16. pattle

    pattle Member

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    It is all well and good to talk of resistance movements in occupied Europe and to level criticisms at certain countries for not being fierce enough towards their occupiers, but when doing so stop to consider the high price of German reprisals.
     
  17. cherry blossom

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    There are a number of ways in which political factors did impact military effectiveness. One point is that some French politicians and voters (correctly) did not trust all French generals to be loyal to the Republic. For example, Gamelin was always a loyal servant of the Third Republic but Weygand most definitely was not and it was his threats that ruled out France following the Netherlands route of an army surrender in France while the government withdrew overseas to continue the war. It is possible that Gamelin's loyalty was critical in Daladier's consistent support for him, which would not have mattered if Gamelin had been competent. Of course, there were generals such as Huntziger, who combined hostility to the Republic with great incompetence. However, there was a perception that the supporters of mechanisation and a more professional or longer service army, might be politically disloyal.

    I am going off at a slight tangent above because the article does not focus on those issues as much as on the Army versus Air Force infighting. In that area, France was not alone. The Luftwaffe's collaboration with the Kriegsmarine or the RAF's enthusiasm for sending adequate resources to Coastal Command (or its earlier fights with RN) or the excellent collaboration between the Japanese Army and Navy could serve as attractive comparisons.
     
  18. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "....has no bearing whether a country is a Democracy or a dictatorship as to how well they fight a war"

    France never fought better than under a dictatorship .... of course "that fight" totally exhausted France, which was my point ... by 1939 France was cynical and burnt out,

    "..the French were both victims of a bad leadership and of German aggression."

    Make bad political choices in a democracy and you're suddenly "a victim"...? Victimhood is a cop out, IMHO.

    By your standard, "..the Germans were both victims of a bad leadership and of German aggression."
     
  19. pattle

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    #19 pattle, Nov 16, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
    Well yes actually the Germans were victims of their own bad leadership and their own aggression, I would say that it is difficult to find a better example of bad leadership coupled with aggression than Germany attacking the USSR. The difference is of course that the French were innocent victims who did not deserve (as you seem to believe) to be invaded by one of the most barbaric and oppressive regimes since the dark ages simply because they were not prepared to win such a war, by prepared I mean physically and not emotionally.
    Germany and France both had governments born from political instability caused by a failing economy, if Germany and France had both been booming during the 1920's and 30's then their citizens would have felt much more content and would presumably have been stable democracies. Hardship will often cause instability and extremist parties such as the Nazis can only succeed during times of such instability and hardship, as the hardship in France had not reached the levels experienced in Germany then France remained more stable and did not place a crazed dictator in power, as you suggest they were at fault for not doing so.
    You have to remember that both the Commonwealth and the USA were democracies whose citizens fought largely out of their own free will to preserve their freedom, they did not need to have a gun in their backs to do this.

    This is not aimed at you or anyone else on here but just to make a point, I have noticed in life that there is a belief amongst bullies and pushy or greedy types that passive people who mind their own business and don't set out to push overs around are weak, I am one such passive person but if anyone tries pushing me around then I will rip off their head and sh1t down the hole.
     
  20. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Well put. Bullies need to be beaten back, they don't repect words and supposed agreements.
     
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