Why phony?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Ferdinand Foch, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. Ferdinand Foch

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    Hey guys and gals,

    For Wenesday, one of my friends, Emma, is doing a presentation on the Phony War for our World War Two class, and I'm gonna help her tomorrow to research it. I have a pretty good idea on why it was only a Phony War, but I just wanted to see if you guys had a better idea of it than I do (most likely that's the case). The last thing I want to do is have some sort of blank stare on my face when I help Emma tomorrow. Any advice, facts, or anything to help point me in the right direction. Thanks everyone!
    Back off to research.
     
  2. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Germans called this period "Sitzkrieg" or "Sitting War". It was "phony" because there wasn't any serious fighting in the west during this time. Even RAF bombers flying over Germany were dropping flyers instead of bombs. As we know all this had changed on 10 May 1940...
     
  3. Ferdinand Foch

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    Thanks imalko! I think I heard about that (with the RAF bombings; kinda silly if you ask me).
    Sorry, I probably should have been more clear: Why, in the six to seven months until the Battle of France, did the Western Allies do nothing serious to fight Germany. I think that's the big question that our teacher wants us to answer. Were the Allies not serious about fighting? Did they not have the manpower? etc.? I get the feeling that the French did not want to get drawn into another bloody war, especially with the death toll that affliected their country in the first one. Not sure about Britain, though.
    That's the question I'm trying to help Emma answer. Sorry, I probably should've been a little clearer. :oops:
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The only allied country with a bigger army then was France,and their doctrine was to seat behind Maginot line (in short).
     
  5. merlin

    merlin Member

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    The British only had a small contribution to the Allied armies in the 'feld' in '39/40, so it wasn't up to them.
    Britain also had a bigger navy than France, and used it to ensure a 'naval blockade' of Germany, as in WW1 - only snag with that, was the raw materials that Germany was getting from Russia.

    France, at the top, saw the advantages of a 'long-war' its Air Force was still in process of rebuilding - when war for real happened - too many French aircraft were grounded for lack of essential equipment e.g. propellor! France, had placed large orders with US suppliers - many of which wouldn't be available until '41.
    They expected the fighting when it did start to be more protracted, with preliminary bombardments as per WW1. They expected to be able to 'hold' a German attack, inflict costly casualties, and later counter-attack when the resources of the Allied empires had been gathered in.
    With that view in mind, there was no point in antagonising the Germans, better leave that till 'we are ready'!!
     
  6. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    The British and French had golden opportunity to beat Germany in 1939 when bulk of the Wehrmacht was engaged in Poland. Why they didn't do so always puzzled me. German forces holding the West at that time were outnumbered and without tanks and air support. There are few explanations however.
    In 1939 western Allies greatly overestimated their opponents and the strength of the Siegfried line. They had more troops, tanks and airplanes (numerically) but they were still (French in particular) haunted by the hardships and loses of the Great War. Hence the entire French military doctrine was concentrated on the defensive warfare and Maginot line was the proof of that. Protected within their fortifications the French hoped to defeat enemy attacks with minimal casualties of their own. With enemy worn out by a protracted war a decisive counteroffensive would be launched. I also believe that Allies hoped Germany could be broken by a maritime blocade which would avoid spilling the blood on the battlefield.
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Aside from the logistical points, one reason the Allies weren't quick to reach, was that the leaders (politicians) were confident in the fact that they could appease Hitler and avoid an "unnessecary" and inconveniant conflict.

    If they allowed him to take a few things here and there, it would allow them more time to negotiate an overall peace while occasionally rattling thier sabers just to let him know they were serious.

    Hitler played the game well, though and called thier bluff at every turn. A classic photo from those times is of Britain's PM Chamberlain holding up a signed treaty while exclaiming "Peace in our time!".

    You know how the rest of the story turned out.
     
  8. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Good point. They had the means to defeat Hitler but somewhat lacked the will to do so.

    I have read one interesting assumption in a book "Rat na Zapadu" ("War In The West") by Branko Kitanović. The author theorized that western powers feared that if they completely defeat Germany then a strong barrier against Soviet Union would be lost. So, they were keen to make some sort of deal with Hitler and direct his attention to the East. And Hitler on the other hand played well on their fear of Communism.

    Don't know how much this line of thinking is valid though. Kitanović is even in my country known as fairly biased author and sworn Communist.
     
  9. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    Appeasement (and that famous pic) was actually from 1938, not after the declaration of war.

    The Germans had done a good job of kidding the British and French as to the true state of their capabilities in 1938/9 and the expansion programme in the UK was far from complete and French industry was beset by strikes and mismanagement. Neither country felt it was in a position to support an invasion of Germany in that time, and they were right. At least as far as the Germany they THOUGHT they faced.

    The German generals themselves had not wanted a war in Europe before 1944, but Hitler could not wait. The British and French were both terrified of a repeat of the Great War, as well as being painfully aware of the poor state of their armed forces (particularly Britian whose Army and air force had atrophied in the previous two decades

    This was the root of appeasement in 1938 but by 1939 it had become painfully obvious that we had allowed Hitler to go too far and become too confident by our inaction and so the invasion of Poland had only one possible outcome, and yet the same fear of disparity pervaded the halls of power even after the declaration of war and that was the reason for the Phoney War as I understand it, hence the French led tactic outlined above by imalko
     
  10. Ferdinand Foch

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    Hey, thanks again guys. Emma had her presentation yesterday, and our professor said that she did a great job! Our professors personal opinion on the Phony War I thought was interesting. He said that the French and British really didn't take Hitler seriously, I mean the Germans fighting on the West. They thought that he was only going to be focused on the East. And then when the Germans attacked in the West, it was a shock to them. So, in a nutshell, it was a major intelligence failure. I'm not sure if I believe the whole thing, but he does have some interesting points.
     
  11. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    That's sorta been my take on it as well. More like the French/British leaders didn't want a war to happen, so they chose to believe that Hitler wasn't as bad as they were hearing. Stuck their heads in the sand, and got their arses handed to them. Hitler, of course, was more than happy to let them (even encourage them to) believe what they wanted.
     
  12. zpd307

    zpd307 New Member

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    X2
     
  13. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Why didn't the French and British attack prior to May 1940? Probably a couple of reasons:

    1. Despite a numerical superiority, qualitatively and doctrinally France was at a tremendous disadvantage. The whole posture was one of defence in hopes of halting a German offensive before it really got going. Blitzkrieg changed all that but it was too late for the Allies to adapt to a new way of executing manoeuvre warfare.

    2. Several million dead in WWI undoubtedly influenced thinking - the leadership of Britain and France were keen to grasp at any opportunity to avoid another bloodbath.

    3. Germany had been mobilising far longer than either Britain or France. The Allies needed more time to mobilise existing reserves and build up their forces. If you think you're under-strength to mount a successful defence, you're hardly likely to embark upon offensive operations.

    4. Advancing into Germany would have left a wide-open left flank through Holland and Belgium. The officially neutral stance of both countries would have raised all sorts of problems for the Allies - unable to invade without being seen as the bad guys but equally unable to prevent German forces from sweeping down the coast and encircling the advancing Allied armies.

    5. The Allies consistently misunderstood Hitler. In 1938, Chamberlain believed he had secured peace but the accord didn't last a year. When faced with the choice of escalating or toning down a crisis, Hitler (and the Imperial Japanese leadership) consistently chose to escalate even when it patently was not in the nation's best interest. This lust for war was alien to the Allied political leadership - not so much an intelligence failure as it was a misappreciation of the peculiar character traits of one of the most evil men in history.

    Just a few thoughts to invite some return fire...!
     
  14. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think I could go with a point or two you've made but I think it can even be narrowed down further into 2 basic points:

    1 - The Allies had gone through an incredibly bloody war less then a generation prior and public opinion would be against a new one.

    2 - The incredible erroneous belief that somehow a madman can be reasoned with - something that even to this day continues.
     
  15. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Tend to agree Viking. You've summed it up quite succinctly, rather than my rather meandering blathering!:rolleyes:
     
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