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Alternate Timelines The great "what if's" of military history.

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  #286  
Old 27 Apr 12, 11:31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
I may not have made myself sufficiently clear, because you are missing the point. The French strategy crashed after the Germans exploited from the Meuse, the only remaining questions being when the French would admit it, and what they would decide to do about it…<snip>. Now, suppose instead that Weygand had told them, or that someone in Weygand's audience (the information was certainly there from the man's briefing) had rephrased it in so many words: France is lost, now what?...
Ok. I see what you are driving at. A May decision to evacuate raises many potential problems including “who goes?” “who remains behind?” Considering the physical state of the French army post Dunkirk the impact on morale to the troops being asked to remain behind should not be hard to imagine. The impact of removal of the formations selected to leave would also have an impact on the resistance capable of being put up against the next phase of the Germans attack. The French did manage strong resistance in places in June. This plan weakens those capabilities.

Then there are the possible German responses to learning about a decision to evacuate to Africa and surrender Metropolitan France. Do they call on Mussolini and ensure his neutrality, at least for now, so that the French are truly sidelined and simply finish the campaign with a complete occupation of France (and with less pain)? No front in the Mediterranean until Germany was prepared (possibly never) can only be to the benefit of both Axis powers.

Do they attack earlier than they did in order to hasten the collapse and interrupt the evacuation? This has problems but if the evacuation has pulled away some of the remaining better French divisions, resistance may be weaker than the OTL.

Do they huddle in Berlin and work out a plan that involves Italy and the early transfer of troops to Africa before Italy is even in the war? Could a light mech force be en route or even in place before the Jun 5th offensive even begins?

The May scenario opens so many possible rabbit holes as to make rational discussion all but impossible

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…I am not claiming this was going to work smoothly. I am not pretending to guess how things would have turned out. I am simply pointing out that this was the earliest realistic time for such a complete reappraisal of French strategy, and that evacuation would have been more complete in such a situation…
You would be right to suppose a rearguard scenario would not go smoothly. If the May battles are an indication of the French Army’s inability to react quickly to changing situations then I fear an early defeat in Phase II. The historical result of the June battles also does not bode well for this scenario. The Weygand Line positions resisted until the Germans worked their way through the gaps,… it then began to dissolve for want of mobile reserves. Within only a few days the Germans were rolling to and over the Seine (June 10).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
As I wrote, for simplicity's sake we could identify two other points of departure: mid-June when Reynaud resigned and was replaced by Pétain, which de facto meant surrender (even if evacuation was not officially killed at the time, everybody knew what Pétain wanted), and late June assuming Noguès would fight on - he toyed with the notion, and his counterpart in Lebanon-Syria had told him he would follow his example. That last possibility is the easiest to describe: all we have to assume is that the French get the historical, and very messy, evacuation attempt and what they historically had in North Africa is what they would have….
Which is why I was working from Jun 18-19 as it is the most plausible departure based on the actual plans in place until cancelled by Petain. The ten reservist divisions (possible exception the 3e Moroccan) and supporting troops were arguably not even up to the standard of the reserve divisions in France.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… Weygand went for fighting on, because he'd take the miracle but preferred surrender over the government in exile. Many other people sided with him, for various reasons….
Which is another reason I have serious doubts about the staying power of any resistance in Africa once the German armour wheels through the Matmata Hills south of the Mareth Line. The politics involved with the collapse of the 3rd Republic, to say nothing of the history since 1871, do not make for a sudden stiffening of resolve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… As an aside regarding these reasons, broadly it was not just a case of Anglophobia, but the fact that, in French history, governments in exile were the bad guys. The last example had been the bunch of royalist emigrés in Britain during the Napoleonic wars whom the British had restored to power after they had won. These had been corrupt and unpopular rulers, and the French vision of the Napoleonic wars was not that they had been liberated from tyranny, but instead that the British had restored the previous tyrans. Also, France was used to being a major power, there was no such tradition of a government in exile as in the Netherlands, Belgium or Poland….
Thanks, I am aware of that. All the more reason I doubt more than a token show of resistance before a final capitulation once the defences in southern Tunisia are turned and the Mareth garrison folds.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… I disagree with "the rot soon set in again", if it means that the army self-destructed. What happened was it was beaten in a regular battle by what was clearly overwhelming force by then. Only then did it collapse….
Yes, I know. The Weygand Line did hold for a few days but its lack of mobile reserves meant there was no answer once the Germans began to move through the gaps. The line was finished within a few days of the start of the German attack and the first German tanks reached the Seine on the 10th, less than a week after the new offensive began. Units still fought, some fought extremely well, none of this changes the fact that the battle was already lost and the Germans were soon to be everywhere from the Swiss border to the Loire in very short order.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… There never was any way that the French were going to evacuate a two million strong army, with complete air force and navy, to North Africa. Evacuation was only going to concern a rump force. The only question was what rump force? Evacuating the personnel from the shattered units evacuated at Dunkirk (i.e. lots of specialists, and people trained in armor warfare) would have made a significant difference over the long term, though….
There are possibilities but this would require time France does not have in late June. The 100,000 man force in Britain could not be rearmed until the British were happy with their own troop equipment levels and that would be some time considering they needed to equip home divisions, then the troops for the East African command and then bringing the Egyptian garrison up to strength. I do not see more than a “come as you are” defence of Tunisia. A June evacuation would not permit much in the way of stockpiling ammunition, although the lack of kit would make any such stockpiles rather moot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…As to the ability to maintain such a force, I disagree. North Africa had good port capacity and relatively good infrastructure. The British managed to maintain just as large and supply-intensive a force from Egypt over the years, so there is no reason why it could not be maintained. Of course, that would require imports, but a lot of these (most foodstuffs for starters, and significant amounts of fuel) could come from British- and French-controlled areas and require no expenditure of scarce gold and foreign currency reserves….
This all still requires the rump 3rd Republic to suddenly set aside everything that caused the May and Jun defeats in the first palce. I do not see that possible, there is simply not enough time. This is not a matter of months stretching into years but of weeks stretching into a few months at best. I sense too much dues ex machina

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…Yes, the question being would Luftflotte 5 be enough? The best anti-shipping platforms are retained in the Channel in your scenario, and of course absent Luftflotte 5 the RAF will have an easier time….
Not so sure. LF 5 played very little role in the BoB until very late when it was transferred to France. It was initially badly placed to be effective and its few attempts to intervene ended badly. T'wer it me I would begin with LF5 and slowly augment it as the Bob ran its course. By the time mid- September rolls around and Sealion looks remote, the Tuinisian battle could be well advanced if not already won.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… Italian submarines sailed out historically, and would likely do so again in this scenario. They were not particularly effective, however, due to the Mediterranean being generally hard on subs and Italian submarines having serious technical issues. There is no reason these problems would go away and make the subs more effective….
Believe me, I know what you are talking about. The Mediterranean was too crowded for (to say nothing of shallow in most areas) for large scale effective submarine operations. Everyone’s submarines would be likewise effected in the summer of 1940.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
… As to the surface fleet, light units would fight - no question about Italian bravery, and their light units were very good - but the British and the French simply mastered far more surface naval power than the Italians. To put it simply, suppose the Allies park that big fleet in front of Tripoli, what are the Italians going to do about it? They can seek battle and get sunk gloriously, taking as many Allied sailors with them as they can, or they can be sensible and let Libya rot.
And yet admirals were not so dismissive with regards to losing their cruisers and other heavy units in real navies. The politics of a battleship or carrier are as important as the size of its guns or the thickness of its armour.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…What weight of numbers are we talking about, here? If Luftflotte 5 redeploys to the Med, the Allies will find it expensive to operate in the Central Mediterranean, which means Darlan will refuse to commit his heavy units unless the Italian battle fleet sorties. Light units will sortie and fight, though, and Darlan's big ships may be persuaded to sail if the Royal Navy includes a couple of carriers. Once again, from Darlan's point of view, this would not be about pulling British chestnuts out of the fire so much as directly defending Tunisia.
It is clear that, if/when Tunisia becomes safe from invasion, Darlan will be an absolute pain to cooperate with, but that is beyond the scope of this particular scenario.
Yes LF5 and the RA, at least initially from late June. If there is no French offer of an armistice I cannot see Hitler letting the French quietly withdraw to Africa and then pose a strategic threat to Germany through defeating Italy in Africa. From mid-Jun onwards, just as the French make their preparations to continue the fight in Africa, the Germans will be making preparations to get at them in Africa.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…I disagree with your assessment of the outcome of a battle. The French troops were not remnants, they had never been defeated and they knew the ground. They were under-equipped compared to regular units, but that was compensated to some extent by equipment available as part of their fortified belt. French reserve units could, and did occasionally, fight off German armor, especially when the latter came in frontal attacks the way French tactical manuals said it would.
This does not change the fact that the divisions in the Mareth Line (in fact most of the formed divisions in Africa) were Category B reservists and immobile. They had two old tank battalions and some horse cavalry in support, little else. Further, the Germans were no more going to execute a frontal assault on Mareth than they would have on Maginot. They would simply mask the line with Italian infantry similar to Gazala in 1942 and wheel around the Mareth positions with their own and the available Italian motor/mech troops. At that point, unless these French African reservists are suddenly transformed into para-marine-commando-Old Guard types, resistance would not last long.

.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…So it would all revolve around when the German force would be available for attack….
As I have stated I see no reason that most of a light division could not be ready to begin major operations within 5-6 weeks of the decision to go. If the actual time line is any guide, light forces could be at the front testing the French within a day or two of landing. The Italians already have more than nine divisions available, most of which were to prove of good quality. Though I do agree their ability to launch an attack on June 10th is extremely limited without German help. By mid to late July the situation would be greatly transformed once the Germans decide to press their advantage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronsky
…My point about the German tank situation was that most of their units were dramatically understrength by the end of the campaign, with over half of their vehicles being damaged or immobilized by wear and tear. This means their available frontline strength was lower than the TO&E strength minus losses and write-offs figure you suggest. Over time, of course, the Germans would - and did - rebuild to full TO&E strength…
There is no need for the full sized heavy panzer divisions of 1940 to be sent. The 5th Light division was effectively 50% strength of a 1940 division and this lead division would not be hard to organise. As early as Jun 16-17, Guderian’s corps (for example) had reached the Swiss border and was effectively out of a job. A “5th Light” division could be organised from this corps with lead personnel departing first to be married up with new equipment dispatched from Germany even before the corps reached the Alps. It may even be easier to send a unit such as the Grosse Deutchland motor regiment as one of the lead elements due to its size and smaller ‘tail’. Air transport of infantry and light gear is also a possibility to speed deployment and secure the Tripoli base (staff work was my gig before leaving the army )

There are options open to the Italians and Germans that are not available to the French in mid June. The key moves for the Germans would be to secure Libya and then begin harassing the French to keep them "pressured" until ready for an operation aimed at advancing from Mareth to Tunis and Bizerte. Late July, early-mid August <<shrug>> it hardly matters, there is little in the way of recovery that could have taken place by that time.
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  #287  
Old 27 Apr 12, 18:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
There are possibilities but this would require time France does not have in late June. The 100,000 man force in Britain could not be rearmed until the British were happy with their own troop equipment levels
That American bounty received June/July 1940 of half-a-million rifles, 895 75mm's etc, etc came about after an Anglo-French request.


Quote:
Not so sure. LF 5 played very little role in the BoB until very late when it was transferred to France. It was initially badly placed to be effective and its few attempts to intervene ended badly. T'wer it me I would begin with LF5 and slowly augment it as the Bob ran its course. By the time mid- September rolls around and Sealion looks remote, the Tuinisian battle could be well advanced if not already won.
Which is just hindsightism. The Germans certainly intended Luftflotte 5 to play a full role in the Battle of Britain:
"For some time now the Germans had been waiting for this moment—the moment when the weather would be right for a concerted onslaught by all three Luftflotten. This, it will be remembered, was how they had planned to open the intensive phase of their campaign. While Luftflotte 2 attacked the south-east, and Luftflotte 3 the south, Luftflotte 5, in Norway and Denmark, would operate against the north-east. The British fighters would thus be engaged all along the line, If Dowding had stripped the north to thicken up his defences in the south, Tyneside and the bomber airfields of Yorkshire would suffer in full measure."

The date that occurred, August 15th.
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  #288  
Old 29 Apr 12, 00:31
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I've followed this same discussion in three other venues & this thread has solidified the idea that the WI revolves around naval & air strength at sea. The Italian navy is the Axis weakness here. Aside from the naval forces being numerically weaker than the Allies neither they nor the air force were well prepared for a campaign to protect the sea route to Africa. Certainly something would be cobbled together out of plans on file (if any) but the Italian track record vs the smaller historical British fleet & air force is not stellar. It is not reasonable to think the Italians faced with a far larger opposition than in OTL become much more aggresive and lean forward despite larger risks and possible losses. The Italian navy absolutely did not have superior doctrines to the British navy, neither did the airforce, and the inability of the two to operate together is well known. The other possible outcome here is the Italian naval leaders make excuses why the panzers still sit on the docks of Napoli while not beating a much larger enemy than what they lost against in OTL.

The likely result here is the Italians lose or decide they are losing the naval/air battle at sea and cannot sustain the Axis forces in Lybia, or cant send any German forces there at all. That event may occur very early in July-September, or perhaps as late as early 1941. In any case the Axis ground forces have as much chance of reaching Algiers or Casablanca as they did in OTL of reaching Alexandria or Suez.

Africa would not be the “life support”, of the French tho it had some resources. The US was already ‘hooked up’ & able to take that role. Historically the German conquest of western Europe broke the isolationists in the US & allowed the passage of the War Powers Acts, the mobilization of the US military, the start of a massive rearmaments program and the dispatch of larger aid to Britain. All this in just a few months from June. Given the effort already in place and that which went to Britain I can not see any any reason France would not receive the same. France already had a healthy slice of US industrial product enroute, with more on the factory floors and far more contracted. I'll leave it at that for now tho Bronsky might provide some details if asked nicely.
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  #289  
Old 29 Apr 12, 07:45
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Carl, the primary quibble I have is that for all that the US could provide it still had to be paid for. The British were reduced to begging for Belgian gold before Lend-Lease was finally granted so I just wonder whether a French 'ally' in North Africa would actually be of much assistance to the British?
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  #290  
Old 29 Apr 12, 08:13
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Would the US be interested in bases in Vietnam to support China, rather than using Rangoon?
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Old 29 Apr 12, 09:41
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Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
Carl, the primary quibble I have is that for all that the US could provide it still had to be paid for. The British were reduced to begging for Belgian gold before Lend-Lease was finally granted so I just wonder whether a French 'ally' in North Africa would actually be of much assistance to the British?

France's gold reserves were as large as Britains.
The joint gold reserves should have been enough to see the Allies through to 1942 ..
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Old 29 Apr 12, 09:47
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Would the US be interested in bases in Vietnam to support China, rather than using Rangoon?
Yes... but. In 1940/41 the USN was hard pressed to cover its current mandate in the Pacific. Docking a token cruiser is about all that might result. The more important result is the Japanese are not looking at taking a nuetral nations territory into protective custody with German permission. Japanese concerns about material to China via Haiphong harbor and desire to control Michilien rubber plantations runs up agains France as a active Allied nation. Its decision for war in 1941 was a act of desperation & the conditions for that did not exist in 1940. No one except a few admirals and fanatics wanted a Pacific War then and Japan throwing in as a German ally a year early with a invasion of Indo China makes no sense in the context of Japans government at the time.

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Carl, the primary quibble I have is that for all that the US could provide it still had to be paid for. The British were reduced to begging for Belgian gold before Lend-Lease was finally granted so I just wonder whether a French 'ally' in North Africa would actually be of much assistance to the British?
Well we have been over the French gold reserves already. Beyond that The US organized the Lend Lease program fairly quickly, and the raw materials both France & the Commonwealth had acess to is understudied in these dicussions of wartime finances. On the up side the French army & AF are a lot smaller & thus cheaper The larger expense would be keeping the French navy operating from 1941. It would be dependant on US dockyards for the bulk of its refitting.
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Old 29 Apr 12, 12:39
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It would be dependant on US dockyards for the bulk of its refitting.
The start of the French Navy's love of ice cream.
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Old 29 Apr 12, 14:11
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Originally Posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
Well we have been over the French gold reserves already.
Aye, although things aren't as clear as they could be.

Quote:
Beyond that The US organized the Lend Lease program fairly quickly, and the raw materials both France & the Commonwealth had acess to is understudied in these dicussions of wartime finances. On the up side the French army & AF are a lot smaller & thus cheaper The larger expense would be keeping the French navy operating from 1941. It would be dependant on US dockyards for the bulk of its refitting.
The US screwed everything they could out of the UK before grudgingly allowing Lend-Lease. The French will be totally dependent on their reserves which, if they want to take an active role in the war, will run out pretty quickly. That might cut two ways, it might bring Lend-Lease forward or it might bring the French to the negotiating table. There was a strong anti-colonial sentiment in the USA at that time and there might be a negative reaction to the idea of aid for an old colonial Power, its homeland lost and, arguably, draining its colonies in a vain quest to re-establish itself. Why should the USA even care about the former France? (Just putting an alternative view here, nothing more)
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Old 29 Apr 12, 14:48
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I dont remember how large the gold reserves were. How much was in the 2000+ "crates" sent to Toronto in March? How much was on the Bearn In Martinque? What were the Platinum stocks or other precious commodities reserves scattered about worth? What was the rubber harvest from the Mekong plantations worth? The Potash mines in Algeria. Were the Algerian iron mines operating then? It is not like the factories of Metropolitan France will be using much of those things. Knowing the market value of all that to the US might tell us something. The US and Vichy France remained trading partners post June 1940, so that might serve as a starting point.

A look at how long the French government expected the gold stash to last while paying for a full size military might indicate something as well.

As for the rest of it, I've got 1200+ pages on my shelf on US politics and social attitudes for 1939 - 1941 and feel like I have just scratched the surface. The anti colonial line seems to have been a artifact of the left.
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Old 29 Apr 12, 15:24
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Originally Posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
I dont remember how large the gold reserves were. How much was in the 2000+ "crates" sent to Toronto in March? How much was on the Bearn In Martinque? What were the Platinum stocks or other precious commodities reserves scattered about worth? What was the rubber harvest from the Mekong plantations worth? The Potash mines in Algeria. Were the Algerian iron mines operating then? It is not like the factories of Metropolitan France will be using much of those things. Knowing the market value of all that to the US might tell us something. The US and Vichy France remained trading partners post June 1940, so that might serve as a starting point.
But one has to factor in the lack of facilities for the French to make goods for themselves and for trading purposes. The British could fund themselves to a certain degree, build new warships, tanks, artillery pieces, munitions etc. The French will be buying everything they need.

Quote:
A look at how long the French government expected the gold stash to last while paying for a full size military might indicate something as well.
Maybe, but not that much.

Quote:
As for the rest of it, I've got 1200+ pages on my shelf on US politics and social attitudes for 1939 - 1941 and feel like I have just scratched the surface. The anti colonial line seems to have been a artifact of the left.
You mean the Centre-Right, there is no real 'Left' in US mainstream politics. Pedantry aside, can I assume you mean the Democrats? If so, didn't they control the majority of important offices at the time?
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  #297  
Old 29 Apr 12, 16:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
The French will be totally dependent on their reserves which, if they want to take an active role in the war, will run out pretty quickly.
Why would the joint gold reserves run out more quickly than just the UKs?

The UK upon the fall of France took on all the outstanding French orders, and of course, the bill for them.
Anyway:

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Old 30 Apr 12, 09:27
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There is still far too much focus on military hardware, a sudden change in how France might use it and *time*. The first of these the French had in some numbers, less than thought where aircraft were concerned (Bronsky's information) and desperately lacking where the army was concerned. Expecting the French navy to begin sorties into the central Mediterranean is also asking for a paradigm shift in naval strategy that was, as far as France was concerned, concentrated on defending the western Mediterranean. The army's troubles need not be discussed again.

Time, for the remnants of the 3rd Republic, is a commodity France does not have. There is no time to build the necessary airfields to house any air force "purchased" from America. There is no time to establish cash-and-carry programs from the US factories for more hardware. The belief by some that the Germans could not move with alacrity where Africa was concerned is the same sort of underestimation of their abilities shared by the staffs of XIII Corps and the Mid-East command in March 1941,... much to their chagrin. Time is not an "Ally". Even if all of the above moving of chess pieces is set aside there is still one aspect of the discussion concerning Jun-Jul 1940 that none seem to be taking into accounnt and that is the nature of 3rd Republic itself.

Third Republic France was born of defeat and revolution in 1871 and it was never to enjoy more than a few contiguous years of stability in its 70 year history before being extinguished. Founded in the 1870s it was to be wracked by the bombing attacks of Anarchists in the 90s and came to the brink of both military coup and revolution by the Dreyfus Affair. No sooner had the "Affair" finally been resolved than France was to be plunged into the catastrophe of the World War and despite the ultimate victory the French generals (if not necessarily the politicians) knew full well how close the army came to defeat on more than one occassion.

The shock to the French body was so profound that the philosophy of attack and aggression was replaced by one of caution and a complete aversion to all but the most carefully managed risk. The failure of Versailles to secure the Republic's future security was to be followed by the Rhineland crisis of 1923 and financial crisis of 1928 which saw France first abandoned by its allies and then politically isolated while its economy sank and Franc was threatened with collapse. Immediately following came the global collapse of 1929 which hit France all the harder because the effects of previous crisis had not yet subsided. The political instability that followed in the 30s saw governments change almost hourly, the rise of Hitler, unopposed by the greater powers who threatened France should she act alone and finally a new war and a shockingly rapid defeat that left France prostrate, its central nervous system in complete shock.

From this it is somehow expected a sudden turn around in mere weeks in order to hold off even a modest German and Italian attack on Tunisia. This is stretching credulity more than is admissable. It does so even more when it is realised that in 1943 it took naval strength much more powerful than that which existed in 1940 to choke Axis supply to Africa. Even this could only be accomplished with a much more powerful air force operating from well developed air bases and with massive superiority in numbers. On the ground the Allied army numbered more than 25 divisions, all many time more powerful and mobile than those in existance in 1940.

All of this was required to defeat an enemy who by 1943 possessed only a shadow of its former strength, hopelessly outnumbered at sea, in the air and on the ground.

Time? Time had run out for the 3rd Republic and a retreat to Africa would only shake the last few grains from the hour glass.
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Last edited by The Purist; 30 Apr 12 at 11:20..
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Old 30 Apr 12, 10:20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
There is still far too much focus on military hardware, a sudden change in how France might use it and *time*. The first French had in some numbers where ships were concerned, less than thought where aircraft were concerned (Bronsky's information) and desperately lacking where the army was concerned. Expecting the French navy to begin sorties into the central Mediterranean is also asking for a paradigm shift in naval strategy that was, as far as France was concerned, concentrated on defending the western Mediterranean. The army's troubles need not be discussed again.

Time, for the remnants of the 3rd Republic, is a commodity France does not have. There is no time to build the necessary airfields to house any air force "purchased" from America. There is no time to establish cash-and-carry programs from the US factories for more hardware. The belief by some that the Germans could not move with alacrity where Africa was concerned is the same sort of underestimation of their abilities shared by the staffs of XIII Corps and the Mid-East command in March 1941,... much to their chagrin. Time is not an "Ally". Even if all of the above moving of chess pieces is set aside there is still one aspect of the discussion concerning Jun-Jul 1940 that none seem to be taking into accounnt and that is the nature of 3rd Republic itself.

Third Republic France was born of defeat and revolution in 1871 and it was never to enjoy more than a few contiguous years of stability in its 70 year history before being extinguished. Founded in the 1870s it was to be wracked by the bombing attacks of Anarchists in the 90s and came to the brink of both military coup and revolution by the Dreyfus Affair. No sooner had the "Affair" finally been resolved than France was to be plunged into the catastrophe of the World War and despite the ultimate victory the French generals (if not necessarily the politicians) knew fully well how close the army came to defeat on more than one occassion.

The shock to the French body was so profound that the philosophy of attack and agression was replaced by one of caution and a complete aversion to all but the most carefully managed risk. The failure of Versailles to secure the Republic's future security was to be followed by the Rhineland crisis of 1923 and financial crisis of 1928 which saw France first abandoned by its allies and then politically isolated while its economy sank and Franc was threatened with collapse. Immediately following came the global collapse of 1929 which hit France all the harder because the effects of previous crisis had not yet subsided. The political instability that followed in the 30s saw governments change almost hourly, the rise of Hitler, unopposed by the greater powers who threatened France should she act alone and finally a new war and a shockingly rapid defeat that left France prostrate, its central nervous system in complete shock.

From this it is somehow expected a sudden turn around in mere weeks in order to hold off even a modest German and Italian attack on Tunisia. This is stretching credulity more than is admissable. It does so even more when it is realised that in 1943 it took naval strength much more powerful than that which existed in 1940 to choke Axis supply to Africa. Even this could only be accomplished with a much more powerful air force operating from well developed air bases and with massive superiority in numbers. On the ground the Allied army numbered more than 25 divisions, all many time more powerful and mobile than those in existance in 1940.

All of this was required to defeat an enemy who by 1943 possessed only a shadow of its former strength, hopelessly outnumber at sea, in the air and on the ground.

Time? Time had run out for the 3rd Republic and a retreat to Africa would only shake the last few grains from the hour glass.
To add to the "time" factor. When(I think it was)Reynaud advised Weygand to setup the Breton Redoubt on the Brittany peninsula, Weygand replied about having no forces to spare, no resources to spare, and no time to do it with. Every single resource was being used to form and strengthen the Aisne and Seinne line in expectation of the next phase of the German campaign.

Even though hindsight tells us that the Breton Redoubt would have been preferable to capitulation, the French were not so lucky. One thing that France lacked(as well as Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Holland)was strong leadership. A move to Algeria and Tunisia in 1940 would've required the type of leadership and decisive command that pulled off "dynamo" on short notice. A "split down the middle" group like the French were suffering at the time, would not likely be able to organize a move like this.
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Old 30 Apr 12, 10:20
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