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  #41  
Old 4th August 2008, 19:11
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

For a moment I have thought that GCD I/55 was based at Villacoublay on 3 June 1940, but it was not, being at Etampes. Nonetheless accounts of Polish pilots, five of them being attached, of whom three achieved ace status later in the war, just confirm Park's comments. In the effect Poles refused to fly with French, and wanted to fly with Czechs. According to Zumbach, on 3 June only one French pilot actually engaged enemy. Poles had little success due to faulty aircraft, and in general both Czechs and Poles complained they had worsest aeroplanes.
One thing is worth to note, though. Frenchmen were one of the most communised societies in Europe, and post-war it was even feared that communists may won free-elections! In 1940 communists supported Germany, organised strikes or sabotage (hey, this happened in Britain too, eg. in Castle Bromwhich AF), and perhaps this was one of factors behind the French collapse.
  #42  
Old 5th August 2008, 04:46
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French Campaign

Yves aka Grozibou wrote:

"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."

The German victory in May-June 1940 was not the result of some madman's gamble but it was the result of careful and thorough planning which was carried out by a superb military force which had a modern military doctrine and the modern combined arms tactics to carry out the mission. The "madman" was not Hitler but it was the outstanding military mind of General Erich von Manstein, the author of Operation Sichelschnitt, who saw that the standard strategy of attacking through Belgium and Holland would not result in a decisive military victory (the old Schlieffen plan), but that it would result in prolonged campaign which might not achieve a German victory. Every military operation involves a degree of risk especially more so when the German Army had no superiority of numbers or quality of weapons. What the German Army had which the French, British, Dutch and Belgians did not have was the doctrine of subordinates deciding on how to carry out a mission which is called Auftragstaktik. When I was in the USMC, the one organization which was admired by Marines was the German Army and the Waffen SS, not the British Army or the French Army or even the U.S. Army (Marines have nothing complimentary to say about the Army).

The war games and map exercises, with the input of the creator of the Blitzkrieg, Heinz Guderian, confirmed that armor could travel through the Ardennes forest. Guderian had fought there during WW I, was thoroughly familiar with the terrain and the road network, and he stated that it would be no problem of moving a panzer division through there. When his corps, the XIX, was given the mission, he stated that he wanted all three of his divisions, the 1st, the 2nd, and the 10th PD, to move in mass. Klotzen, nicht kleckern (Mass, not dispersion). He was also given the Grossdeutschland Infantry Regiment. Guderian was the right officer in the right place at the right time. His armor,infantry, engineers, artillery, anti-tank, flak, etc. had perfected the combined arms doctrines as a result of the Polish campaign and the additional training prior to May 1940. The French and British had not learned the lessons of the Polish campaign, prefering to believe for various reasons that the Poles were simply too weak and not capable of stopping the German Army. The Allies believed they would have no problem stopping the Germans since they had a superiority in numbers.

The German Army had another tremendous advantage in that the leaders of combat units fought at the front and could immediately size up the situation and take immediate action. The U.S. Army finally learned this after the Vietnam war and prior to Desert Storm. Books on this war credit the Isaraelis with this concept but they themselves had studied the armored warfare of the Wehrmacht. In Desert Storm, the battalion commander was with his leading company; the brigade commander with the leading battalion; the division commander with his leading brigade; and so on. This was nothing new to the Germans.

The armored divisions of the XIX Corps moved faster through the Ardennes and reached the Meuse at Sedan and when the first units arrived, they immediately crossed the Meuse without waiting orders from higher HQs. Immediately, the Stukas and bombers were called for fire support and all available weapons used--machine guns, mortars, a few artillery pieces, a few tanks, assault guns, flak(especially the 88mm)--to pin down the French on the opposite shore. The first to cross were the infantry and assault engineers who destroyed the French bunkers. This made it possible to build pontoon bridges to get the tanks across. But it was the infantry of the 1st Rifle Regiment, 1st Panzer Division, commanded by Col. Hermann Balck and the Grossdeutschland Regiment which made this possible. He faced the French 55th Infantry Division and the 147th Fortress Infantry Regiment. Men such as Feldwebel Rubarth and eleven men of the 10th PD performed heroic tasks in eliminating many French bunkers and firing positions. He was awarded the Knight's Cross. His performance was typical of the German soldiers at Sedan. Once across Guderian's forces had achieved the prerequisite to the successes which were to follow.

The armed forces of France, Britain, Belgium and Holland were actually superior in numbers to that of the Wehrmacht. The Allies had four million men versus three million of the German Army. Other comparisons are as follows:
151 Allied divisions v. 135 German (inc. 42 reserve)
14,000 artillery guns v. 7378 German guns
4204 Allied battle tanks v. 2439 German tanks
Aircraft have been covered elsewhere.

The French have not been able to win a war on their own since Napoleon. They have required the assistance of the British Empire, Russia, and finally the U.S. which came to their rescue in two world wars. The Germans fought more effectively in WW I when they knocked out Russia but the U.S. was required to turn the tide for the French and British Empires which outnumbered the German Empire. During the 40-day campaign in 1940, the German fought more effectively as demonstrated by the casualties of both sides:
Germany lost 43,110 KIA and MIA
France: 124,000 KIA and MIA
Great Britain: 11,010
Belgium: 7500
Holland: 2890
Allied total dead and missing: c.145,400
The ratio of German to Allied dead and missing is 1:3.37.
This demonstrates a German superiority in skill and doctrine since they did not have the superior firepower that might have caused such a disparity.
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  #43  
Old 5th August 2008, 12:35
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Brilliant!
Nothing to add...

Chris
  #44  
Old 5th August 2008, 13:12
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Re: French Campaign

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Originally Posted by Sylvester Stadler View Post
This demonstrates a German superiority in skill and doctrine since they did not have the superior firepower that might have caused such a disparity.
But we can all be grateful that shortly afterward Germany went on to make a complete pig's ear of the Battle of Britain.
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  #45  
Old 5th August 2008, 18:31
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Well, Nick, BoB is not a "military" war but, at the beginning at least, a political war.
Up to Sept. 40, Hitler had no intention to crush the British as he could have done at Dunkirk.

Chris
  #46  
Old 5th August 2008, 21:41
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: French Campaign

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylvester Stadler View Post
When I was in the USMC, the one organization which was admired by Marines was the German Army and the Waffen SS, not the British Army or the French Army or even the U.S. Army (Marines have nothing complimentary to say about the Army).
Hmm!!!

Another not discussed issue was communications and use of Enigma that allowed to react quickly in changing situation.
  #47  
Old 5th August 2008, 22:37
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

I'll only answer the comments on the date and reason for Douglas' visit.

The high ranking french officer's didn't come to the field, the British delegation visits them (at their respective headquarters?). I simply haven't quoted the continued text.

Douglas is just expressing surprise that there is no welcome, which is then explained by the impending air attack. Something that could serve as a confirmation of the date.

The talks themselves don't seem out of place either, the British looking for some reassurance in case Italy entered the war. The extended text wasn't quoted by me, so don't be to quick to dismiss events.

He experienced an air raid on his aerodrome in WW1, with casualties, that would have been dwarfed by the attack on Villacoublay by virtue of technology and numbers of planes involved. His personal courage should not be questioned, he was just being realistic in his assessment.

It would be nice if anyone could confirm the airfield and date.

I'm disappointed to see a lot of assumptions and at best educated guesses.

If the dates and places are correct, I am not convinced that Douglas did not see numerous fighters, and that he did see air force personnel in the officers' mess. Whatever misinterpretations he may have made, it left a bad impression on him.

Sholto Douglas isn't gospel, just a high ranking british air officer who wrote his experiences of two world wars and his life before, in between and after. In short an autobiography as many...
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  #48  
Old 6th August 2008, 10:15
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

[quote=Franek Grabowski;70535]Poles refused to fly with French, and wanted to fly with Czechs. According to Zumbach, on 3 June only one French pilot actually engaged enemy. Poles had little success due to faulty aircraft, and in general both Czechs and Poles complained they had worsest aeroplanes.[quote]

Grozibou in post # 40 already :

<< As I already remarked these insults are ludicrous anyway, not credible in the least in view of the missions actually accomplished and of the losses in combat, and such insults eventually make only their authors dirty. They ARE dirty. >>

PS : please learn English at last. They say "worst" not "worsest".
  #49  
Old 6th August 2008, 10:17
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

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Originally Posted by CJE View Post
Well, Nick, BoB is not a "military" war but, at the beginning at least, a political war.
Up to Sept. 40, Hitler had no intention to crush the British as he could have done at Dunkirk.

Chris
What then was the intention, Chris? To starve Britain out; to demoralise the government or population; to damage war production; to degrade the air defences; or ... ? They seem to have tried all of these at some point, expending a couple of thousand aircraft and their crews for a gain of what - medals and promotions for a few hotshots? They undoubtedly did a lot of damage but at the end of it all, Britain was still an active belligerent and the RAF and the British Army were stronger than they had been at the start.
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  #50  
Old 6th August 2008, 10:53
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Alex
The French Air Force had numerous problems; fragmented command, poor pre-war training which emphasised daylight/fair-weather operations (but then so did the RAF) and a failure to achieve maximum effort, especially the fighter units which rarely seemed to average more than one or two sorties per pilot per day.
The French certainly used a great deal of comint and appear to have had their own Ultra system for they (and the British) had lots of notice of Unternehmen 'P' (Paula). They were helped by poor Luftwaffe signals security in which an Enigma signal clearly stating that Object P was Paris was sent to one Kampfgeschwader. The French also had a form of airborne early warning with Potez 631s tracking enemy bomber formations targeting Paris and providing a running commentry. The British had extended their RDF system into northern France and had begun handing over stations and sets to the French during the spring.
If you really want to know about the French Air Force go to the Chateau de Vincennes and the air force archives. Even if you speak poor French you can get by and the staff are very helpful.
I agree about Invisibles Vainquers and there is a useful background book 'The Forgotten Air Force: French air doctrine in the 1930s' by Anthony Christopher Cain. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington/London, 2002 ISBN 1-58834-010-4 which you might be able to order through your local library. There is a book shop specialising in aviation in Paris with loads of French language books but I have forgotten the name and address. I am sure other members will be able to help you.
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