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  •  The Hollow Years (3+ / 0-)
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    Massconfusion, Jay C, devtob

    Indeed the depleted classes of men available to the French in the period just before the start of WW2 always lay heavy on French planners.  One does need to recognize that they realized in the mid-1920s that they would face that challenge and begin the process 15 years before the crisis period to try to solve it successfully.  Except for command mistakes, they actually achieved those aims.

    One could argue that, rather than a more dynamic commander than Gamelin, the French would have benefited from a less dynamic commander.  Gamelin bet France's future on that very risky rush into Belgium, mostly be choosing to use the one reserve army available to form part of the active defensive line.  That left the French with no strategic reserve in case the German offensive plan for the campaign differed from what the French though they were facing.  That is precisely what happened when the Germans came through the Ardennes and surprised the French totally.

    Corap did not lead the 9th Army very well, and Huntzinger, despite his reputed brilliance, did not do a very good job with the 2nd Army either.  The Germans hitting the seam between those two French armies at Sedan was good luck, as was the fact that the absolute best German units (1st and 2nd Panzer) struck some of the worst French Class B divisions made up of out-of-shape reservists armed with obsolescent weapons (lighter artillery than current) or lacking anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery altogether.  Once the panzer tore a twenty-mile wide hole in French line, no reserve existed to put it back together.

    Interestingly, in my reading on this campaign, I've seen where the French planners who had examined a potential advance through the Ardennes predicted almost to the hour just how long it would take the Germans to be on the Meuse.  Unfortunately, the stove pipes were strong in the French army during that period.  

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:06:12 PM PST

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    •  French troops in Belgium fought quite well; (0+ / 0-)

      the French cavalry commander Rene Prioulx was very competent, and in fact stopped the German armored advance cold with heavy losses. This despite commanding a force with very little experience in large scale mobile operations compared to the highly trained German units.

      The tragedy is that by sheer luck the very best German commanders (Guderian, Rommel) faced the very worst French commanders in the Ardennes, and the French response to the German breakthrough at Sedan fatally sluggish. Almost everything went right for the Germans, and everything wrong for the French. It easily could have gone the other way. Only in retrospect does it seem inevitable.

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