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Old 19th August 2008, 09:51
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

why this tirade against Gillet? To me it is good that he presented different numbers
that of “oficially confirmed by French HQ”, btw You had typo on officially.
that of Confirmed by SHD
and his own results.

On decimals, they are clearly products of converting fractions to decimal numbers. .29 = 2/7, .66 = 2/3, in fact it should be .67 and .787 is probably typo from .778 = 7/9.
When one sums up fractions, one gets rather odd fractions for ex 2/5 + 1/3 = 11/15 = .7333…

Old 19th August 2008, 14:41
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Originally Posted by edwest View Post

Consider how many people don't even know about this web site. My French is terrible and my German is getting a little better. How does one even begin to locate true professional historians on the internet aside from occasional sites like this and LEMB?
- Ed, I assume you are not being ironic or joking (both could be a possibility here but I'll discard it). If you are after all I'll try to help other (young?) people who doesn't possess your wide experience (and I am not being ironic myself).

"How"? Well, I think we have to do it the usual way : look for them, hunt them down. A Google or Yahoo-search can help a lot. This is how I discovered Lt-Col. Kirkland's article on the 1940 French Air Force. I had made a search on "1940 Air Force". Now, some people will claim that Kirkland's article is no good but I feel it is far from being entirely useless. I certainly got some other hits but I can't remember. Just try! Wikipedia can provide you with some good information too, in particular bibliography. There you'll find works which in turn contain a bibliography and so on (most of it not on the Internet but often available at bargain prices like $ 5 to 15). Likewise at Wikipedia you can look for the names of some famous airmen (at least in French you'll find Accart, Claude, Marin-la-Meslée, Clostermann and others). Clearly a published bibliography mentions works which have been published before (with few exceptions of forthcoming books) and COULD but must not be obsolete, but many of the authors are still alive and still knowledgeable, or even more than before, and you can ask them, possibly through their publishers.

I think everybody is going to bump at least into TOCH and LEMB with a search on, for example, "World War II, airpower, aviation, Luftwaffe, RAF", but also into other ones. I didn't try recently but you can do it.

I understand quite a few university doctor theses are to be found on the Internet. I didn't look yet but it is worth a try. Most theses contain a blibliography with numerous works, often not well-known but interesting, and I guess many of the mentioned authors are still alive. There are some high-level specialised reviews too (you can ask for ex. the library of the USAF or the historical dept. for their titles and addresses).

You can ask the corresponding doctorands (?) and their professors etc. Don't rely on so-called "historians" famous in the mass media but be very careful with the data and information they could provide you with. In most cases their real value is close to nil, at least in France. On the other hand TV networks have got very powerful instruments for finding documents, photos and film footage.

But we shoud not limit ourselves to the Internet. Looking around in bookshops including non-specialised ones, and in libraries, often allows you to find some gems you didn't know of yet. The more recent the book or article the more recent the bibliography. I think many Internet sites discuss existing and also future books, which is very useful.

Is there some way to solve these problems? A kind of clearing house for researchers? (...) Others are willing to help, but once again, how to find the people with the relevant details?
- Of course many historians will tell you : Mr. X is a good man/ an excellent historian. If many historians recommend the same man or men they're probably okay! But you always have to be careful even in this case. You can't do without a reasonably deep and wide own knowledge and you can acquire this only through reading MANY books, articles etc. They may contain a number of errors and contradict each other but all the same, at the end you'll know a lot : it's like a photofit-picture (? French : portrait-robot, a picture created with the addition of little bits like eyes, mouth, beard etc. to get a picture of a suspected criminal). The individual bits of information may be wrong sometimes but the result is close to reality. If you have a reasonable knowledge of your area of interest you'll be able to detect phoneys easily. These are so-called "historians" who put several times serious nonsense in their books (example : 1940 French aircraft production was "of course" not of the same quality... or : Hurricanes won the BoB because they were much faster than the Me 109s... or : The USAAF won the air war over Germany against German fighters thanks to the heavy defensive armament of their bombers...). If an author publishes things which you know are nonsense you can discard this author. He probably published some, or many, correct things too, but how do we know? How can we make the difference between nonsense and correct remarks and statements? They are intermingled so we have to know it all in advance so such books don't help a lot! Obviously you always can ask people, preferably several persons who know the discussed subject well : John Vasco about Me 110s, Chriss Goss about the Bay of Biscay (le golfe de Gascogne is even better), Peter Cornwell about the BoB etc. Of course it is for them to decide and say if they have time. You can ask them directly and frankly in private : is author X a good historian or a phoney? How much BS did he publish, if any? How do you value his work(s)? In any case it's up to you to form your own opinion - there is hardly any fast-made, fast-eaten "Big Mäc" in this field.

I fear there is no "clearing house" for researchers but the good ones who are working on more or less similar subjects often know each other (at least the names). Popular authors are rarely, if ever, serious historians. The very recent example of A. Gillet shows that even a lot of almost unanimous praise doesn't prove much. Several/many heavy, unacceptable errors make him, and others, untrustworthy. But, as I already mentioned, French experts have strong reservations about his works and results - and this is what they published on the Internet! They are shy. I suspect that in private talks some of them express much harsher opinions - which I for my part openly do.

What is a "heavy, unacceptable error"? Let me give you an example but of course there are many others, these are just a few examples among many : many authors, even today, publish totally wrong technical data on 1940-45 aircraft, their engines and their power, their armament and the technical data on these weapons etc., which really is totally unacceptable. A. Gillet, for ex., is still firmly convinced that a fighter's firepower was the number of rounds it carried for its light machine-guns (for ex. : Hurricane). He gave a wrong armament for several 1940 French fighter types : according to him the Bloch 152 had a "weak" armament but actually its 2 cannon and 2 machine-guns were seemingly the same armament as the Me 109's, which nobody except myself considers mediocre (I am the only exception but I insist that the Me 109 E-1 and E-3 had a very mediocre armament; yes, it was even weak - just look at the technical data!). In fact the Bloch 152 had a far better armament because its cannon had a much higher rate of fire and a much higher muzzle velocity, making them deadly weapons contrary to the German MG FF, which were very mediocre cannon (the Luftwaffe introduced the far better MG 151 in a hurry, as early as possible but only around mid-1941 with the calibre of 20 mm not 15). A. Gillet printed, too, that the 2 cannon carried by the Me 109 and 110 had 100 rounds per gun instead of the actual 60, which is 66.66 % too many. With such a "historical method" it is easy to "prove" that French fighters were inferior.

How can we rely on "historians" who don't even master the most basic and the most simple facts, data which have been known for about 70 years? We can't. And indeed, their own results, conclusions and statements are just good for the dustbin too (poor dustbin!). "Great French Historian" Patrick Facon published similar nonsense, like the 1940 Ju 87 "Stuka" carrying 1 000 kg of bombs instead of 500, etc.

It would be nice if there was a way for prospective authors to get some guidance before they publish. And then there may be a need to examine the financial considerations of getting some help depending on circumstances.
- Reading a dozen GOOD (serious) books first is a fairly good guidance already. Many reliable historians (perhaps not all of them - I don't know) are nice persons at the same time and they'll often readily accept to read a manuscript before publication, but in this case they must undertake to really read it entirely and CAREFULLY, not just diagonally in a hurry and say "It's okay/wonderful" in order to please the author. I think many are prepared to do this and even find it flattering. You could also call this "mutual assistance".

It might help prevent situations like this.
- What do you mean exactly? Could you explain please? Do you mean situations in which an author published a voluminous work full of serious errors?

In any case it is very unreasonable, and foolish, to publish anything on a subject you obviously don't know well enough, however exciting and fascinating you may find it. Frankly I don't think you Ed would do such a foolish thing.

I find astrophysics and astronomy really fascinating but I know almost nothing so I wouldn't dream of publishing anything, not even one page of text on this, just because I am interested! It's much better to listen to the experts and read what they publish instead.

Last edited by Grozibou; 20th August 2008 at 12:34.
Old 19th August 2008, 15:06
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

So, to sum up ...

France by May 1940 had a numerically strong airforce which was being re-equipped, too late as it turned out, with a range of modern types which (we will never know for sure) may have proved superior in combat to those serving with other nations had they been available in time and experienced none of the teething troubles that tend to plague newly introduced military aircraft. When Germany attacked, the French armed forces (which, I believe, outnumbered the Germans?) were deployed in a manner which was unequal to the task of defeating the invader.

French air power was more effective than has generally been understood but could not change the outcome. Despite these successes the French Prime Minister was pleading with Britain to deploy more squadrons of Hurricanes to France, squadrons Grozibou implies were not actually needed.

By contrast the British air defence system in 1940, with all its imperfections, did the job it was built to do. France was put out of the war and partially occupied, Britain wasn't.

And by the way, I still think "The Most Dangerous Enemy" was excellent. (1) It wasn't about the Battle of France and (2) the remarks Grozibou quotes are probably a very good summation of what the British then believed had happened in the Battle of France. And it was what they thought that affected what they did.
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Old 19th August 2008, 15:55
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

To sum up:
We were the best and we lost to a mostly inferior Luftwaffe.
Things turn out weirdly sometimes...
Old 19th August 2008, 16:33
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

Originally Posted by CJE View Post
To sum up:
We were the best and we lost to a mostly inferior Luftwaffe.
Things turn out weirdly sometimes...
But you must agree that the beating was not expected and it is hard to imagine, is not it? Something went completely wrong, but what was it?
Old 19th August 2008, 16:48
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

(the Luftwaffe introduced the far better MG 151 in a hurry, as early as possible but only around mid-1941 with the calibre of 20 mm not 15)
Where did you get this nonsense from? What cannon did the Bf109F-2 and F-3 have installed?
Old 19th August 2008, 19:07
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski View Post
But you must agree that the beating was not expected and it is hard to imagine, is not it? Something went completely wrong, but what was it?
British Professor of History - and French speaker - Julian Jackson argues that it wasn't an inevitable outcome...however he also says the defeat had many strands ...the collapse of a political system, the breakdown of an alliance between two countries, and in its final stages, the complete disintegration of a society, following the collapse of morale ....

de Gaulle and Gaullism was about both drawing lessons from 1940 and pretending it never happened...
Old 19th August 2008, 20:58
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians


Thank you for your detailed reply. As I mentioned, I would certainy use TOCH! and LEMB as resources if I were planning to publish but what about new authors? Those who have been buried in documents and archives but do not know or trust the internet very much? That was the question.

I am tired of reading about the many (obvious to experts and even casual researchers) errors in books after they are published. In fact, I am tired of the incomplete information on the History Channel, but the goal on TV is to sell "content" (a stupid word. A bag of potato chips has content.) Accuracy does not seem to matter as much as I think it should.

I have a relatively large library and have spent some years collecting information. Perhaps I will publish one day but my interest is on the fringes of World War II research. We'll see.

Old 19th August 2008, 22:29
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

Franek, it's hard to sum up a quite complex issue in a few words.
Let's say that the French were intellectually inferior to the Germans in 1940.
Old 19th August 2008, 23:24
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Re: 1939-45 airpower and professional historians

To pick one technical question out of the scrum.

I do not know whether the French had 100 octane fuel or not. If so, I doubt very much that they had other than a limited supply. It would be interesting to have an informed comment. I do know that the British supply was limited (although adequate for the fighters) and dependent upon technology previously developed in the US. Photographs show British fuel bowsers marked with lower octane number(s). I am particularly thinking of a well-used view of a line-up at a Wellington OCU.

The Germans did have a limited supply of 100 octane fuel, at least later in the war. However, it doesn't matter how good their chemical industry was if they were short of the required raw materials.
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