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Old 30th July 2008, 09:35
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Kirkland's article on the French AF

The only reason why I mentioned Kirkland is that his article is in ENGLISH as demanded by him who started this thread. Contrary to what you seem to think a lot of what Kirkland wrote does make a lot of sense. It is true, for example, that after an incredible defeat ON THE GROUND (a scandalous army defeat) the French Air Force was used, by the army generals who were the main culprits but were appointed by Pétain as top commanders of all French forces (except Gamelin), as a scapegoat to get rid of any responsibility in the defeat. Virtually everything was the Armée de l'Air's fault.

It is interesting to know that from 1933 (when Hitler came to power) through 1940 the French army and navy commanders were incensed at every single centime spent on the Air Force, on these glamorous fancy "acrobats". They fought bitterly to prevent the Armée de l'Air from receiving any money at all, if possible - or only for recce. Only their own recce and close recce aircraft and a few fighters for their protection interested them. Accordingly French bombers were precious few in May 1940 (but this changed rapidly) and there were not enough fighters to face approx. 3,500 aircraft actually engaged by Germany. Together, the Allies could engage about as many fighters as Germany so they were about even BUT Germany deployed 1,120 twin-engined bombers plus 342 "Stukas" which suffered appalling losses at the hands of Allied fighters, mainly French, and Allied AAA, but there were simply too many - not Stukas but twin-engined ones.

I wouldn't simply discard Kirkland and I have been working on this very subject for 30-40 years (which admittedly doesn't make me unfallible). We should read his contribution, and many others, carefully.

A very true remark has been made often by historians : in the 1940 French Campaign (only) the Germans had got a very big, very "unfair" advantage : according to Hitler's and Göring's nazi methods and habits they risked everything at once, no matter the cost, in an effort to force a quick and definitive decision. The Allies never had the stomach to do such a thing, they always wanted reserve forces, thought of a "long war" and husbanded with their air forces, especially the UK. Germany won (this time only) - at a high cost for the Luftwaffe but to them this didn't matter. What did was the result. They all were convinced that after their incredible success the war was over, that they had won ; most people all over the world believed this too.

It should not be forgotten that the key to the 1940 German success was the big breakthrough at Sedan, across a rather big and wide river (the Meuse) mainly with 7 of the 10 German armoured divisions! This operation was incredibly risky : it was simply madness. No reasonable C-i-C would have accepted these terrible hazards but Adolf Hitler was not reasonable, he was a fanatic and a lunatic. Nonetheless he had foreseen that the French would be too slow and not react properly in time. So to speak, the French moved on foot when the Germans attacked with fast vehicles at 30 mph or so. Too bad Hitler was so right. If the French generals, mainly Huntziger and Georges, had reacted simply in a normal way (without needing to be military geniuses) the German forces would have been stopped in their tracks BEFORE crossing the Meuse and they would have suffered appalling losses, their offensive would have been dead by 14 May... This same Huntziger became the French C-i-C after the defeat!

To sum up, this unique German victory was the result of a madman's gambling. It worked fine this time, afterwards it didn't... All discussions about the respective air forces etc. are very interesting but the German victory was won on the ground, mainly with ten armourded divisions deploying about 1,000 real tanks plus 2,000 small, vulnerable tankettes (the French alone had got 3,300 real tanks, all with a good armour and most of them with a good gun). The German air force supported the army and made their victory quicker and easier but it didn't win the French Campaign : the German army did, mainly thanks to a crazy attack plan which worked.

May I repeat once more that even 1944-45, in spite of their fantastic air superiority and - as a whole - good strategy and tactics, the western allies and the USSR still needed millions of men on the ground and tens of thousands of tanks etc. to win the war in Europe. They would not have achieved this with their aircraft alone.
Old 30th July 2008, 10:17
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?


On a side note, have you read The Republic in Danger - General Maurice Gamelin and the politics of French Defence, 1933-1940, by Martin Alexander? Curious about your thoughts if you did. Have a copy, but unfortunately still unread.
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Old 30th July 2008, 10:42
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The Republic in danger

No I haven't but I can try very hard!
Old 30th July 2008, 10:49
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PS : nice to have you back and TOCH working again! Hundreds of guys were gasping for air and close to fainting.
Old 30th July 2008, 18:36
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Thanks for the further info and discussion......

Of course I understand that many excellent books are written in languages other than English, however they are not much relevance to me as I only speak English, maybe a bit of French but not enough to make reading satisfactory.

If I had wanted a book in French, I would have put the request in French on a French aviation forum...........


Old 2nd August 2008, 18:38
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Originally Posted by FalkeEins View Post

I must admit to being a little perplexed at some of the statements here - namely that the French Air Force was modern and well-equipped in 39-40.
GZ : Thanks for your post "HawkOne" (HawkEye?). It shows that contrary to most people who published millions of tons of nonsense in books etc. you are really informed, but only in part, on this question which is VERY COMPLEX, believe me, and it is all too easy to mix up different things and even to follow officially highly-valued "historians" who published absolutely incredible BS, like for example - this is but an example ! - the late French professor Henri Michel, who was "Directeur de recherche au CNRS" (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) and Président du Comité d'histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale! In his book on the whole of WW II, which in France is considered some sort of Bible by numerous people, he wrote i.a. that 1939 the RAF flew "Mosquitoes" and four-engined bombers, that radar was a device detecting the noise produced by aircraft, etc. Many other "historians", both French and others, are of the same quality. They have been influencing most people for 68 years now : no wonder it's not always easy to make the difference between such nonsense and reality. So I am NOT blaming you for some errors, for you really need to be heavily specialised on 1939-40 to avoid all the traps and pitfalls. ”It ain’t easy, believe me!” Even one of the best 1940 French fighter aces (Camille Plubeau, 14 "certain" victories, shared or not) wrote 1985 that the LW engaged "15,500 aircraft" on May 10, 1940. He was a great fighter ace and a brave man all right but not an historian. All books written by the greatest aces including Accart (my hero), Plubeau, Clostermann, Adolf Galland and more, not to mention Peter Townsend, contain nonsense as soon as these authors don’t stick to their own experience, to what they REALLY know. Incredibly Galland published that the 1940 Me 110 was only 460 km/h slow (instead of 560 and it was not a printing error). He also wrote that Japan invaded Midway, etc. Clostermann wrote that on May 14, 1940 at Sedan the German Flak used quadruple 20 mm AA-guns, which is nonsense. To make it short : even the greatest men talk nonsense when they leave the areas they have personal knowledge of.

All this and more doesn't make it easy to have a clear view of these questions which, may I repeat, are very complex. Numerous unserious historians and amateurs have created a terrible mess – not to mention the biased official propaganda we got for several decades from France and from other countries. Just a sample : In France it was virtually impossible to tell the truth – that the 1940 defeat was caused by incredibly stupid and incompetent generals. Want a concrete example? When the French recce aircrew THEY had sent over the Ardennes area to reconnoitre came back and said – in due time - what they had seen (70 % of the German tank and motorised divisions, including about 2,100 tanks, marching towards Sedan THROUGH the Ardennes forest, where there were some… roads all right, with military traffic jams reaching 250 km behind the front) they were laughed at and nobody believed them. One of them was a French tank officer. Nobody believed him when he said that he had seen endless columns of tanks and trucks on all roads. And on and on… French counter-attacks were so slow, even with excellent tanks, that when they were launched at last the situation had changed completely and these counter-attacks didn’t make any sense any more so most of them were cancelled, and the Germans, very weak at the beginning, kept advancing. What army can have so incompetent leaders that such things can happen – not once but all the time!

FE : << When exactly was it modern and well-equipped - with the entry into service of the first D.520s (mid-May 1940 with GC I/3, see Avions Hors série 14, GC I/3 "Les rois du D.520..") or Amiot 354s ? Pilot accounts from this period stress the teething problems - as it was Groupe de Chasse I/3 managed only 75 victories during the campaign May-June 1940, a long way off the top score. ("..C'est la barbe, ces avions inexpérimentés..") >>

GZ : No combat AC was flawless 1940. Not the Me 109, not the Hurricane and not the Spitfire either. Too long to elaborate on this.

“Only 75 victories”? Is this some kind of joke? Here is the list of the most successful French fighter units 1939-40. The victory figures include the period from Sept. 1939 through 9 May 1940 too (and of course the French Campaign, May 10-June 24). They also include all CLAIMED victories : the “certain” ones and the “probable” ones. French fighter claims were very reliable – they could overclaim or also underclaim in vicious, complex fights; contrary to their colleagues with other air forces they almost never overclaimed on purpose (cheating) :

N° 1 - GC I/5 (Curtiss) – 111
N° 2 - GC II/4 (Curtiss) - 77
N° 3 - GC II/5 (Curtiss) - 76
N° 4 - GC I/3 (D.520) - 75
N° 5 - GC II/3 (D.520) - 55
N° 6 - GC II/7 (mainly MS 406, then D.520) - 52 including 30 flying the MS 406

I think the three GCs having won the ranks N° 2, 3 and 4 can be considered even. In particular, GC I/3 was engaged first on May 13, having lost at least 3 of the most active days of battle. Without this delay there is no doubt that GC I/3 would have clearly won rank N° 2 with about 95 victories behind superlative GC I/5, which enjoyed an unfair advantage : one of its two “chefs d’escadrilles” (flight cdrs) was super-pilot and above all super-leader and teacher Capitaine Jean Accart (he is my hero). The other chef d’escadrille was Lt Dorance, a very good man too and a top ace (French fighter pilot rank N° 2, even with Plubeau). The CO of GC I/5 was a remarkable officer too : commandant (Sqn Ldr or major) Murtin. So it was virtually impossible to beat this unit.

FE : " En Septembre 1939 presque tout son matériel était périmé (OUT-DATED), y compris ses chasseurs les plus récents, les Ms 406 .." ( Bénichou, La Bataille de France, Le Fana No. 228 )

GZ : It never occurred to me that Mr. Bénichou was an historian. I understand he is the editor-in-chief of “Le Fana de l’Aviation”, which really is enough of a burden for one man indeed. In Sept. and October 1939 both the Curtiss and the MS 406 (860 ch engine) fighters had clearly the edge over the Me 109 Ds (700 ch engine) they met. From November on the LW introduced the 109 E (1 000-1 100 ch engine with the bonus advantage of fuel injection), which was clearly better and made French Air HQ very concerned but the French fighters continued to put up a good fight – at a higher cost. Also, the 109 E was introduced only progressively. You can’t always win, as German pilots discovered during the French Campaign.

FE : Look at the French bomber force; it comprised -among others - some 300 Amiot 143 and Bloch 200/210s - these types were some 220 km/h slower than the equivalent Luftwaffe bombers... (some 1,600 in service). Chief of Air Staff Vuillemin in September 39 ; " the poor performance of our bombers will necessitate very prudent operations during the first months of the war.." He went further; of the-then 399 bombers in service only five - LeO 451s - could be counted as 'modern' ....

GZ : I assume all this to be correct (I didn’t check on it) but it is a very bad habit to mix up the situation in Sept. 39 and in May 40. They were very different. The Phoney War and the French Campaign were in every respect two entirely different periods. Many people (not you) do this mixing up to “prove” how hopeless the Armée de l’Air was… in May 1940. Besides, the LW engaged 1,120 twin-engined medium bombers on May 10, 1940, which was bad enough. France had got several squadrons of four-engined heavy bombers already. Who else in Western Europe, hmmm? ALL modern, French-made bombers were armed with one excellent cannon plus machine-guns : 360 LeO 451s, 254 Breguet 693s, 61 Amiot 351-354s. Their numbers were raising very fast. IIRC France had approx. 700 MODERN bombers left (in spite of the losses) when the campaign ended – including the excellent Glenn-Martin 167 Fs and Douglas DB-7s delivered by their US factories. The DB-7, aka “Boston”, was a very successful medium bomber during WW II and its production was strongly boosted by French orders (which were passed on, like the others, to the UK when the end came).

FE : Cuny and Danel quote 1,310 'front-line' French a/c, 416 RAF ('peu modernes'), 117 Belgian & 124 Dutch aircraft opposing some 5,000 front line Luftwaffe a/c on 10 May 1940.

GZ : This is May 1940 now not Sept. any more! You need to be an expert to follow your demonstration. The LW actually engaged approx. 3,500 combat aircraft.

AE : Given the primacy of the French Army in the service hierarchy, the continued subordination of the Air Force to the Army pre-1939 the majority of French combat units (Groupes) were comprised of observation and recce types.. some 41 such Groupes as opposed to 15 fighter groupes

GZ : I think 23 is more accurate, later 24, all this plus 6 “escadrilles” (flights) of 12 Potez 631 twin-engined fighters (too slow but well-armed). Add the local defence flights all over France (“chimney flights”), about 50 modern fighters, which put up a good fight against German intruders, and the 35 fighters deployed by the French naval aviation, the equivalent of the British Fleet Air Arm.

Answering every single remark would quite simply take several days. Sorry, I can’t do that.

FE : The French were expecting another static war and French aircraft factories - after the chaos of the mid-30s nationalisations -were managing to produce less than 100 a/c per month during late 38/early 39, hence the huge orders for foreign types in an attempt to catch up; the output from all French aircraft factories in total per month during early 1939 amounted to far less than the output from a single German producer. I think we can just about agree with Jackson that " by August 39 France's fighter aviation was just beginning to shake off the shackles of obsolescence..although the process of modernisation was painfully slow.."

GZ : This can be perfectly true – I don’t know (yet). It doesn’t matter because the totally obsolete AC types produced before the MS 406 and the Potez 63 series played no part in the fighting (except old bombers at night). Likewise the German fighters He 51 and Ar 68 (or so) didn’t play any part either, nor the many Ju 86 bombers (a few recce sorties perhaps). What matters is the modern AC produced from 1938 on but mainly 1939 and 1940. By May 1940 the French production of excellent fighters was approx. 2.4 times higher than the output of Me 109s and kept growing all the time. Add this to a similar British production : the LW would have been deemed within a few months even over France “if” the ground forces had stayed at least along the river Somme… or in the Dunkerque-pocket…

Remember, too, that the first really good German fighter, the Me 109 E, was deployed only from the spring of 1939 on, but the production was very slow. The 109 D was still widely used at the end of 1939 and at the beginning of 1940. Both France and the UK raised their fighter production frantically and they soon overtook Germany. The French equivalent of the 109 was the D.520 and it came about one year later. There were such alternating phases of new and old aircraft types, of superiority and inferiority, during the whole of WW II : Hurricane vs. Me 109 E, Spitfire II vs. Me 109 F, Spitfire V vs. Fw 190, then Spitfire IX and so on and so on. The French problem was not the Air Force nor their fighters but the ground forces (several million men) which, led by ridiculous generals, weren’t even able to hold the ground and were forced to retreat all the time. Otherwise the French Air Force would have engaged their numerous superlative fighters, which were being produced already, starting in August 1940 : Dewoitine 523, 524 and 551 (ever faster, ever better, eventually much faster than the 109 by November 1940), Arsenal fighters and more. The mass production had started already, masses of metal were bing cut within industry, it was not a nice dream, and at least the Dewoitine fighters were systematically designed to be made with a very low number of man-hours in the factories, so that their production could have been raised even further if necessary. Without the invasion of France including her aircraft factories the Luftwaffe would have been in dire straits indeed by November 1940 at the latest with a then obsolescent fighter (Me 109) and mostly obsolete and feebly-armed bombers (the few survivors!) : Do 17, He 111, not to mention the “Stuka”, “a fighter pilot’s dream”. The Ju 88 was much better but battle experience over France already proved that French and British fighters (“even” MS 406s) shot it down without any difficulty. Against the combined fighter forces and production of both France and the UK the Luftwaffe would have been virtually finished by the end of 1940 and would have lost a large part of her best, irreplaceable, aircrew, killed or disabled. It was bad enough at the end of the BoB even though the French participation had ceased on 25 June.

FE : As for the '916' or '730' victories during the campaign - German a/c which weren't available for the Battle of Britain as French commentators like to point out - these correspond to, what, about two month's German production, if not less, which is just one reason why the Battle of Britian started in earnest in August 1940 and not in July..

GZ : Whatever the exact German losses they were very heavy and obviously this helped the RAF a lot during the BoB. Many German aircrew, too, were killed or disabled. According to Peter Cornwell (page 529) the Luftwaffe lost no less than 3,278 aircrew killed (!) from Sept. ’39 through June 24, 1940, as compared to the RAF’s 1,127 and the Armée de l’Air’s 923. The high number for the LW is explained by the numerous bombers carrying 4 crew members, whereas the Allied aircraft had on average smaller crews. The French still had got relatively few bombers (even though this was changing fast), which explains that they lost “only” 82 % of the number of aircrew lost by the RAF. This was strongly compounded by the very high vulnerability of the “Battle” and “Blenheim”, which were just good enoiugh for German gunnery practice. According to P. Cornwell’s figures in the French Campaign alone the LW lost 1,460 AC, not counting the damaged ones. I am unable to see how such losses can’t have played a part during the BoB and even in its outcome, given the low German AC production except for the Ju 88, which enjoyed a special status as some sort of “miraculous aircraft” (Wunderflugzeug). During the BoB the LW lost 1,408 AC BUT IN TWICE THE TIME, so that the German loss-rate was twice the BoB-rate over France and Benelux.

FE : Now I'm not saying that the French didn't perform bravely - but I am saying that most were forced to fight with inadequate equipment

GZ : this is an exaggeration. The LeO 451, Amiot 351-354, Br 693, MB 174 and D.520 were perfectly adequate, state-of-the-art aircraft, often the best in the world in their category, just a LITTLE BIT too late but remember – Adolf Hitler had had a headstart… Unfair! The Curtiss, Morane and Bloch 152 fighters’ main flaw was their speed, which was lower than the Me 109 E’s. Nevertheless all in all they gave a good account of themselves and shot down scores of German AC, by far the main part, certainly to a large extent thanks to the excellent French fighter pilots, who were almost exclusively seasoned professionals who had been training TOGETHER, as teams, for years, which is an essential factors. Fighter pilots who didn’t know each other, or not well, couldn’t be an effective fighting unit. A German assessment rated the tough French die-hards much higher than the brave, good sportsmen of the RAF. Many German fighter pilots, too, were green to very green, and easy meat for their French counterparts. It is obvious that the Me 109 E was much better than the MS 406 but not in maneuverability and not in armament – and on average not in pilots. On 10 May 1940 the Armée de l’Air had got 912 modern fighters in first-line units stationed in France, of which 412 were MS 406s (45 % of the force) but the Moranes were replaced, as fast as possible, by the masses of MB 152s (two cannon, two MGs…) and D.520s which now were rolling out of the factories. GC III/2’s Moranes were replaced by Curtiss H-75s at the beginning of June. On 24 June only 5 Morane-GCs were left among 24 GCs (about 17 % of the fighter aircraft because the reequipped units mostly received 30-36 new AC instead of 24-28) and without the end of the campaign these, too, would have been reequipped, mainly with D.520s, very soon. Losses were continuously compensated for – sometimes with some inevitable delays.

According to Paul Martin 111 Morane-S. 406s were lost in air combat (and 27 to Flak, against which they could do nothing, or not much) including, I guess, about 30 lost to the deadly German rear-gunners (same remark as for Flak!). This leaves approx. 80 MS 406s lost in fighter vs fighter combat so it can hardly be claimed that the Moranes suffered a wholesale slaughter. Surely a more modern AC equipped with a more powerful engine (in the 1 200 ch-class I guess…) would have suffered even less losses. This was in the pipe too, including at Morane-Saulnier’s (MS 410, MS 450, but the D.520 won this contest).

Nowadays everybody knows, or ought to know, that at the end of this campaign the Armée de l’Air possessed MORE aircraft than on May 10, and better ones. In fact their numerical strength, in aircrew too, was rising all the time in spite of losses.

FE : and under obviously and hopelessly out-moded doctrine - see some of Facon's articles on the SHD site on FAF command structure for more insight into this.

GZ : Beware of P. Facon. He is not quite reliable to say the least. Not every single Frenchman spreading pessimistic or negative views about 1940 is a great historian!

FE : As for organisation & infrastructure see Lionel's super H-75 Hawk book - there are some amazing photos depicting the leading French fighter units deployed to forward airfields during the winter of 1939-40, equipped with absolutely NO infrastructure whatsoever ..and buried under three feet of snow. The 'post-campaign' commission of enquiry (Commission G) arrived at the following conclusions; ..." insuffisance numérique..infériorité technique..absence de matériel moderne...inadequate gunnery instruction, lack of combat training." ..etc etc

GZ : Yes, yes. It is always the same : after a defeat everything was wrong, which explains the defeat, and everybody is arguing with everybody. After a victory everything is wonderful – 1918 French generals were considered the very best in the world, especially in France. They were not, certainly not, but the ALLIES had won. After his literally “in-credible” 1940 victory, won mainly by sheer luck (always very important in any war) and by French generals’ amazing stupidity, Hitler and the other lunatics thought they were unfallible and invincible. You know how it ended. Given time these French nitwits with stars all would have been fired and replaced by people who perhaps were not so good at official parties with politicians but better in battle.

FE : Having said all of that you wouldn't necessarily expect a country with a population of 40 million to have anywhere like as capable an air force as its neighbour - primed for war, population 70-80 million (that's double!) and an industrial output far out-stripping that of all its neighbours put together..

GZ : Oh yes I would. The French leaders had actually decided to boost armament production, in particular aircraft, as strongly as possible and this they did. It worked. The French single-engine fighter production reached about 400 a month by June 1940 and the goal of 650 for the beginning of 1941 no doubt would have been reached. (Even 1941 Messerschmitt still produced about 140-150 Me 109s a month!). The same increase was taking place in all AC categories including four-engined heavy bombers from France (CAO) and from the USA (the B-24 had been ordered as well as the P-38 and P-40 on top of the French national production).

In May 1940 France possessed roughly 3,300 modern, real tanks, Germany had got about 1,000 tanks deserving the name plus 2,000 small tanks or rather tankettes (Panzer I and II), most of which were no match at all for ANY French tank, even the “light” ones. So in this category of industrial production France had clearly the edge over Germany, not to mention naval ships : the German navy of 1940 was simply no match at all for the French one.

Of course Germany, too, could have boosted its armaments production even higher than France but didn’t. This had mainly political reasons. (I leave it to great historians to elaborate on this).

FE : 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' - no of course not (that's an Americanism Peter - I don't know any British accounts/authors that have used that term..) [/quote]

GZ : What’s the matter with all those people who have a problem with French cheese? It is delicious with hundreds of different brands and versions; all this Anglo-American fuss about French cheese has ONE explanation : envy! Now I have to leave you to eat my daily lb (454 g) of garlic and 2 lbs (0,9 kg) of cheese – mmmmm! I know you’re jealous but don’t try to get it! Eat your boiled meat, your neutral-tasting porridge and your ketchup instead.

Last edited by Grozibou; 2nd August 2008 at 18:48. Reason: I am an old owl
Old 2nd August 2008, 19:46
Brian Brian is offline
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Here we go again!

Hi Grozibou - nice name but why are you hiding behind this nickname when you call other 'historians' whose names are not revealed, "cowardly, disgusting, dirty and inaccurate?" You appear to be extremely self opinionated - or is this just my impression? And some of your language is extremely childish and insulting - "flew back to mummy" for example. Implying that because some RAF squadrom commanders did not lead their squadrons into battle meant they were "chicken" comes out of comic books.

Are you a professional historian?

Perhaps you are. I am certainly not, and I doubt whether many of those who have contributed are. But we are all keen amateur historians (I have been fortunate in having some of my work published) - interested in the air war for various reasons - and if we didn't make our contribution, we would have to accept the opinions of others - perhaps even yours!

You mention my TDIM - OK, it's not 100% accurate in the light of more recent research, but it was researched and written in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and did offer an insight to how the RAF Hurricane pilots fared in the fighting during those fatal/vital twelve days. Probably the first English language book to achieve this, but that's all. That's what I set out to do, with the help of my contributors. It was not an account of the Battle of France and wasn't intended to be.

The latest offerings have access to material that was not available to me - that's called prgress. Personal opinons expressed were not mine, but of those who were involved. They were contemporary feelings and sentiments. Why delete them? Political correctness?

I anticipate a broadside from a proud Frenchman (?) but I am always up for a fight, being a proud Englishman!

Old 3rd August 2008, 11:25
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Nicknames and anonymity

Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Here we go again!

Hi Grozibou - nice name but why are you hiding behind this nickname when you call other 'historians' whose names are not revealed, "cowardly, disgusting, dirty and inaccurate?"
Sorry but I really can't give you a full reply now. Perhaps later (?). I hope you'll admit that my contributions to this thread ar fairly long and voluminous already - some people certainly are going to add "awfully long and boring, terrible".

To answer the above question I can tell you :

(1. about myself and my nickname) that virtually everybody here, except perhaps the most recent "members", knew at once that my real name is Yves Michelet. A few short remarks or "smileys" added by some other guys show this fairly clearly. I could have replied that Grozibou, "Big Owl" or even "Fat Owl", is the most dignified and accurate name I could find. A lot of people here use far less transparent nicknames including such monsters as "dr9dong" or some. Why not ABC or XYZ. Nobody ever protested this anonymity. Once more I am unique (I am used to this) insofar as in some people's eyes I am the only person not authorised (at least by you) to use a nickname instead of his own one. "Brian" is not that clear either, Mr. Brian Cull. There are lots of Brians so you could be anybody. I saw one in (I think) the first "Police Academy" film, a young schoolboy who refuses to go to school and a horrible brat : Brian too. Luckily police officer Tuckleberry (?) knew how to deal with him and he went to school all right. You ought to do the same thing : you'd learn a lot of useful stuff.

(2. about << other 'historians' whose names are not revealed, "cowardly, disgusting, dirty and inaccurate?" >> ) Firstly, it was ONE historian not "historians". Let us be exact please. Yes I confirm my opinion entirely. I criticised ONE such filthy fellow, only ONE, whose anonymous statement was printed in your book "Twelve Days in May". He who insults a whole category of soldiers from a certain country - here French fighter pilots - in a hypocritical, cowardly way ("It seems...") - without having the guts to sign his own statement is a coward. He who reproduces this in a "historical", serious-looking book (I don't know who it was, there are 3 names on the dust-jacket) is unserious and dirty himself because it is dirty to wholesale insult other people anonymously. Everybody who is even just a little aware of history knows perfectly well that such wholesale judgements and insults ALWAYS are totally wrong, including "All Germans are Nazis". A few real cases, IF ANY, are not a rule and don't justify such dirty statements, which meant even the 195 or so French fighter pilots (Paul Martin's figure of 186 in his 2nd edition, plus a few others from local "chimney flights" etc.) who lost their lives fighting nazi Germany. With the exception of the Poles they were the very first to do so - but the Poles had been attacked so they fought back (gallantly), whereas the French, who were not involved in the Polish war, declared war on Germany because it had attacked Poland : there is a difference. Almost all of them (about 160) were killed within 5 weeks of fighting during the French Campaign in May-June 1940. At this rate they all would have been dead by September. Had RAF Fighter Command been exterminated by September 1940 yet? I never heard such a terrible thing (thanks God, Dowding and Park!). We already had a similar discussion, here at TOCH, on unclever and inaccurate wholesale insults aimed at a certain category or nationality, like (in the preceding thread) Italian soldiers, who "were the bravest I had under my command", or something of this kind (general Erwin Rommel's opinion).

Besides, the mentioned, dirty, anonymous statement - "... it seems that French fighter pilots did not press home their attacks with every ounce of energy" is particularly stupid and it was a serious error to print it except, of course, if it expressed your own opinion but in this case you ought not to have hidden behind "an historian" (Mr. X). It is stupid because, as I underlined often already, including in this very thread, RAF pilots had exactly the same number of people killed during the BoB, taking the different duration into account. Nevertheless RAF fighter pilots were twice as numerous as their French colleagues and brothers in arms, so that the French KIA-rate was twice as high as the RAF one. So : who was not brave enough? Who was not eager to fight? Certainly not the French! Not the Britishers either : they fought for their country too, they obeyed orders too and they often lost their lives.

I would particularly like to draw your attention on the fact, an INDISPUTABLE fact,

that I often wrote on these questions, including in two books I published on WW II : "Les premiers et les derniers", by Adolf Galland (I translated it and added 100 pages of annexes, explanations and comments), in English "The First and the Last" (a very poor English translation, by the way), and "Invisibles vainqueurs" on the French Air Force 1939-40, by Paul Martin and myself; being the publisher I didn't mention my name as a co-author (50 % of the contents plus obviously the flamboyant title!) too,

BUT I never retaliated in kind - in fact I never even THOUGHT of doing so - after all the criticism and the incredible insults hurled at the French for nearly 70 years by mainly British, or rather English, people, like world-star Peter Townsend, a princess' dream, who had become a real cover-boy in France, where he lived (Paris-Match, Historia and many more popular magazines-covers). So I never even suggested that RAF fighter pilots or other aircrew, or other British soldiers including infantrymen, were chicken, were cowards etc. even though they took to their heels at Dunkerque and elsewhere, all along the French coast down to the Spanish border in the South (and the dumb French helped them as best they could and always were the rearguard making these reembarkments possible in the first place, including at Dunkerque). Never ever. Quite on the contrary I underlined at every opportunity that they were "brave" and "as brave as any" and I am still of this opinion.

This is one of the few things which make the difference between myself and an average English author (some are perfectly all right). According to Peter Townsend in his modest book "Duel of Eagles", published in France (in Paris I think) there were no brave Frenchmen 1940 (only roughly 90,000 were killed in 6 weeks, three times the WW I-rate, as compared to approx. 3,000 British soldiers, 30 times less) . Townsend certainly knew what he was talking about : he never took part in the fighting over "the continent" in May-June 1940 so he obviously was an expert at French fighter pilots (whom he libelled very heavily) in particular! He had been spending these months -as a fighter pilot - at a safe place, far beyond the sea, in England, and never heard or saw any Me 109-cannon fired in anger - and never experienced any Flak-fire - before the BoB so he was the most competent man in the world to write on what happened in and around France in May-June 1940 and hurl wholesale insults at the whole French nation and population. Many French people dislike or even hate the British, yes (there are ALWAYS such problems between neighbours, like Mexico and the USA, Germany and Poland, Italy and France, England and Scotland, Poland and Russia etc.), but I never read or heard one single French statement on the British as insulting as millions of British statements on the French. Clearly the British "race" (!) is vastly superior, which gives its members a special right to insult others.

Last edited by Grozibou; 3rd August 2008 at 12:06.
Old 3rd August 2008, 11:57
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Originally Posted by Brian View Post
You mention my TDIM - (...) It was not an account of the Battle of France and wasn't intended to be.
Well, even though I am a brain-amputated French fool I was aware of this fact, I had noticed. My copy of TDIM, like dozens of other German, English and French books on WW II*, especially on the 1940 French Campaign, is on the shelf close to me and I only need to stretch out my arm to grab it, which I quite often do - a horrifying experience but I, too, am a brave man (it's easy to be when you've got no brain). This explains that I am able to give very exact quotations from it.

* The only way to be well-informed - and not one-sidedly like most British authors - is to read them all if possible (all which have been published), or as many as possible. This means having an excellent command of three languages (4 if we include Dutch) : Fench (after all it was the French Campaign...), German (the most important language for it is hardly disputable that Germany played a major part in this campaign) and English, last and least for the British part in the 1940 French Campaign was a sideshow : they came and they left! (Can you imagine : those naughty German soldiers shot at them! This was outrageous!). This is confirmed by the respective losses in combat (excluding losses aboard ships sailing back to England) suffered by all waring parties. So English in fact really is the least important language (about the BoB it's exactly the reverse) but obviously virtually all British authors are unable, and they wouldn't dream of, reading even one single page of a French book on military operations, which does not prevent them from knowing everything better, being aware of everything and writing great, sweeping, resounding historical statements like "The Luftwaffe swept the French Air Force from the sky at once" (the truth is very exactly the contrary of this nonsense : "The Luftwaffe FAILED to...") and of course the famous "French fighter pilots were not eager to fight... had no guts... ate lunch instead of taking off to fight... drank their vermouth in elegant bars whereas German bombers destroyed the nearby city... didn't press home their attacks*..." and on and on, all this being to be found in highly scientific, historical English books).

Those who allow themselves to publish judgements on 1940 French soldiers without having read at least 20 books in French (not translated) on this subject are quite simply crooks for they commit a fraud. They get paid for a book containing nonsense. All right - some other people do this too.

* Well, at least (quote) "it seems that" they did attack and "even" possibly opened fire at the German aircraft- that was better than nothing.
Old 3rd August 2008, 14:11
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?


Gentlemen, lets not pursue this debate on a personal level. As I've asked before, and repeated more than once, this debate is too interesting too be spoiled by insult. Passion should not stand in the way of constructive and I'd like to add friendly debate.

I hope that it is possible for the participants to shake hands and continue in a constructive manner.
Ruy Horta
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