Fall of France

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  • ‘Allied incompetence rather than German brilliance resulted in the fall of France and the Low Countries in the spring of 1940.’  Do you agree?
    • German Brilliance
      • Blitzkrieg.
        • The Maginot Line formed of hardened defenses was insufficient to absorb or blunt the lightning fast assault of Germany.
          • Blitzkrieg was able to divide the allied forces which prevented the British getting any reinforcement to the French. British forces were trapped by the German onslaught and had to retreat.
            • The Blitzkrieg attack sent the defending troops reeling. The roads overflowed with refugees fleeing the front. French and British troops rushing to the rescue were caught in the headlong retreat and pushed back
        • Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) to be executed at the shortest possible notice. This would prevent France from occupying them first.
      • Luftwaffe
        • the Netherlands fell after a Luftwaffe bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May with thousands of 2,200-pound delay-action bombs, killing 980 people, destroying over 20,000 buildings, and left 78,000 people homeless
        • Rundstedt called for air support in the form of Stuka dive bombers and low-level bombers to clear the French lines.
          • accurate payloads with pinpoint precision along with its psychological screaming sirens
        • German aircraft sealed the battle areas and rendered French unable to deliver adequate quantities of men and supplies to the front lines.
          • The combined Allied total was 2,935 aircraft, about half the number of the German force.
        • Continuous attacks by day and harassing attacks at night by German aircraft sealed the battle areas and rendered French unable to deliver adequate quantities of men and supplies to the front lines.
      • The creative use of German airborne troops, delivered by parachutes and gliders.
      • Communication
        • All German tanks were equipped with radio to allow coordinated action on the battlefield, while only 20% of Allied tanks had them.
          • It allowed for last-minute changes in tactics and improvisations to be formed far more quickly than the allies could.
      • Commander freedom.
        • Germans allowed subordinates the maximum freedom to accomplish their assigned task.
          • That freedom of action provided tactical superiority over the more schematic and textbook approach employed by the French and English."
    • Allied Incompetence
      • WW1 legacy.
        • The fall of the Low Countries, particularly Belgium, provided the German army a northern entry into France, which the Allies had expected as a repeat of WW1 strategy. However, while the capture of the Low Countries were strategic in nature, the real intension of Army
          • the French infantry master of WW1 was completely unprepared for modern combat that involved aircraft and armor.
          • The French had fortified the Maginot Line thinking its where the Germans would attack, they lacked to see that they'd merely skirt round the north of it, through the Ardennes forest.
            • Group B was to pin the best of the French troops, along with the British Expeditionary Force, in and near Belgium while the main offensive made their thrust through the Ardennes into the heart of France.
      • Weak commanders
        • French Commander Gamelin failed to call for practices at the divisional level, meaning that French commanders were not as well-versed with manoeuvring large armies as they should be.
          • Worst of all, Gamelin's obsolete belief in the value of infantry led to his decision to sell off many artillery pieces and anti-tank guns that became desperately needed during the invasion.
          • German forces to dig in on the east bank of the river and wait for their own artillery pieces to arrive before attempting to cross; They managed to cross unmolested. the French infantry master of WW1 was completely unprepared for modern combat that involved aircraft and amor.
          • The French Army was undisciplined
            • large number of men over thirty and needed retraining after mobilization.
            • The Dutch were poorly equipped.
      • Lack of preparation or initiative.
        • An ardent anti-Nazi, sent a word of warning to the Dutch government through Colonel G. J. Sas of the Dutch embassy
          • The message, with the exact date for the invasion, was sent to the Hague via a courier on the next day.
            • None of the two countries decided to share the intelligence with Britain and France.
        • German troops built bridges (that the French and British air forces failed to destroy) and brought their tanks to the west bank of the Meuse
          • As the German tanks had advanced so rapidly, they began to run out of ammunition and fuel, they also were too far ahead of the infantry.
            • A well-timed French counterattack by tanks at this time could have wiped out German tanks completely, but the French were so deeply immersed by defeatism and shock that they did nothing.
      • Lack of reserves
        • With nearly no reserves left, France could do little to stop the German Army Group A from moving into the open central plains.
          • German troops moved in a northwesterly manoeuvre that trapped the Allied troops in and near the Low Countries. France was now essentially open for the taking.


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