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Old 5th April 2005, 11:29
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Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
... the OKW (not Goebbels, Prien replied to me) released a triumphant statement according to which 79 French AC had been shot down (in fact 18) and 300-400 destroyed on the ground (in fact 16 according to R. Danel; it could be 19).
I have no idea who put this yellow icon instead of the figure 8. Certainly not me. Please read :
(in fact 18 ...)
Smudger Smith : I really cant' reply now, I have a profession etc. Just one thing : about the idea of French AC flying to England I already answered this either in this thread or in another one : "Fighter pilots chicken?" or Ruy's "Battle of France-Battle of Britain". In a few words : when French fighters were not too far from England and had the range to reach it the fighting was in full swing over France itself so there was no reason to leave, which would have been DESERTION. For this normally you are shot by a firing squad but this is not what deterred the French fighter pilots : they had a lot to do fighting the Fluftwaffe and the German army and they were destroying hundreds of German aircraft, much to England's benefit.
Later the German invasion pushed all French forces to southern France. When the decision to fly to England could have been taken it was too late, far, they didn't have the range to fly (possibly fighting German fighters en route to England). A few did fly to England, I don't know under what circumstances. Fighter pilots are no great navigators : possibly many were scared to end in the ocean West or South of England. The French Channel is very narrow at Dover-Boulogne but very wide around Land's End! Even from Cherbourg Me 109s later had just the range. If you miss... It would have been advisable to fly over the Atlantic in order to avoid German interception.
Remember that the RAF fighters' range was just sufficient to fly to Dunkerque and back, and fight a little, during the evacuation, but there the distance is very short. From Bordeaux, Toulouse or Perpignan it was simply virtually impossible to reach England with a fighter except twin-engined AC.
I explained already how all French airmen were trapped by Pétain's unexpected plea for an armistice : some in France, some in French North Africa. They all had been expecting a continuation of the fighting from Africa so until 17 June 1940 they had absolutely no reason to become deserters and fly to England. After that it was too late. Also, remember that Pétain was the LEGAL head of the French government (even if I hate him) and at the time was the by far most prestigious, most respected Frenchman (a WW I marshal, "Verdun's hero" etc.) so every soldier including pilots had a tendency to believe and obey him (which was wrong). 1940 Pétain had exactly the same place in French society and the same prestige as 1945 or 1958 Charles de Gaulle! Only a few pilots refused to listen to him.You can't expect such a feat from everybody, this would be asking too much. Besides, the US President, F.D. Roosevelt, preferred Pétain against de Gaulle (!) for several years and had full diplomatic relationships and excellent contacts with Vichy-France (which means Pétain) until November 1942!!! Almost 2 1/2 years after the end of the French Campaign! FDR knew about Pétain's collaboration etc., 1940 fighter pilots did not. So you see a simple French fighter pilot can be excused for having made the same error!
Those who stayed in France because their fighters didn't have the range to fly to N. Africa couldn't fly to England either. They were trapped in France.
I would have found it WONDERFUL if all French fighter pilots had taken part in the Battle of Britain but almost immediately they would have had to fly British aircraft for lack of French spares (the British industry was producing enough fighters for this). But I am not sure that the British government would have wished such a massive French participation and possibly dozens of French fighter pilots becoming great heroes in the eyes of the British population. This WOULD have happened for they all were very combat-hardened and dozens of them were "aces" already, at least 10 were great aces. No British government wished that...
No time now for the rest.

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 5th April 2005 at 13:58. Reason: "Fluftwaffe"

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