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Could France have survived?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by UN Spacy, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. UN Spacy

    UN Spacy Member

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    I'm playing a game called Hearts of Iron 2, and it's without doubt the most realistic World War II global strategy game in existence.

    Hearts of Iron II - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Refer to there for more information.

    Anyway, I'm trying, extremely hard, to try to save Metropolitan France from falling. You are given an option of either sticking with history and capitulate in June (in which case you can choose to be either Free France or Vichy France) or continue to fight. Even if I start the scenario from 1936 and attempt to extend the Maginot line all the way to the English Channel, I still get overrun somehow.

    I know it's just a game, but like I said, it's the most realistic WWII game you're gonna get. But I guess I should just get to the point: with all the political turmoil France was facing, could France have survived as an intact country during WWII? If so, how could it have survived? Would it have affected Hitler's war in Europe? Would he had been able to invade the USSR without being bogged down against the French and BEF?
     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    The point is that continuing the Maginot line strategy was exactly the thing not to do. If there was an option that would allow you to increase aviation production with modern aircraft (Dewoitines instead of Moranes) and increase the number of Somua tanks then you would have a chance. Continuing the static strategy of the Maginot line would not change the odds. But these prarations would mean using the Blitzkrieg stategy whereas the world wasn't aware of its existence. I believe the best chance would be to attack Germany in Saarland in 1939 while they are busy with the Poles. Of course outdated aircraft and lack of tanks won't help...
     
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  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    How so? Did the Germans manage to penetrate the line anywhere?
    I thought the problem with the French tanks was more organizational than quantity. As for their aircraft didn't they have a fair number of decent fighters? I seem to remember reading that they inflicted some significant casualties on the Luftwaffe.
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    One of the things that really mattered was the morale of the troops. the Germans as usual kept on practising all winter while the Allied ,unfortunately, were starting to think there would be no attack and sooner or later there´d be peace. So in May the Germans were ready to do their thing, and the Allied were not, I think. Of course the Germans had several lucky breaks like Eben-Emael, and crossing of the Meuse River. Also the old-fashioned tactics of the Allied gave the Germans the upper hand, with a big load of troops staying inside the Maginot line,and the French commander inside his castle could be reached by a single telephone line only if even that, if I recall correctly. And once the troops were caught in the north, there was no strategic reserve.

    Once the Dunkirk had taken place I fear the Allied co-operation was also so badly damaged for the simple reason that the Brits had evacuated, had not sent enough troops earlier, and kept their fighter planes on their island. Once things start going wrong people start to blame each other for the disaster.

    Just my two cents on some things...
     
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    As "Kai-Petri" points out, Gamelin was isolated in the chateau of Vincennes, and "incommunicato" with not only the front, but with his own second in command (Georges?). He wouldn't speak to the man when they met in person, he would speak to his aide, his aide would speak to the other general's aide, and that would be the "link" of communication between the two men at the top of French defense.

    BTW, Gamelin had NO telephone nor radio at the chateau. His reasoning was that telephones can be tapped, and radio codes broken; "why risk telling the enemy where the command center is, or what they are doing". All communication was by hand delivered messages, carried by both motorcycle and horse couriers. Not a good plan in a war which is going to develope into one of mobility and communiction.

    As to the tanks, they outnumbered the German tanks, and on the whole were better tanks as well, especially the SOMUA 35 medium which was considered the finest medium tank in the world pre-war. The turret arrangement was rather cumbersome, but it was designed with sloped armor and while many were yet to be equipped with radios, that had been the original plan in 1936 when the first were delivered. And the French first line fighter was a DeWotnie (sp?), and was a fine fighter, I forget the designation at the moment (500/520?). Simply put, just not many of the new fighters had been supplied before war actually broke out, but the comported themselves with skill and had a numerical kill ratio superiortity to the Luftwaffe aircraft they came up against.

    Here is the stuff I was vaguely remembering about the D. 520:

    When the German offensive in the west began on 10 May 1940, GC I/3 was the only unit using the D.520. During the next month four more units converted to the D.520 (including G.C. III/6 on the Italian front). In combat the D.520 proved itself to be an equal to the Bf 109E – the only allied aircraft engaged in France that could really make that claim. In tests against a captured Bf 109E-3 the D.520 was found to be slightly slower but more maneuverable.

    The five D.520 units scored 108 confirmed victories and 39 probable victories. The confirmed victories included 23 Bf 109s and 9 Bf 110s. In the same period 106 D.520s were lost, although only 26 of those were lost in air-to-air combat. If the D.520 had been available in larger numbers in May 1940 it may well have denied the Luftwaffe control of the air over the western front.


    From:

    http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_dewoitine_d520.html

    The specs for the 520 are rather lame for a later period, but comparable to the Emil (109E) which was the main stay fighter of the Luftwaffe of the moment.
     
  6. MastahCheef117

    MastahCheef117 Member

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    No. The French took for granted what the Americans and British did in the winter of 44-45. They didn't extend the Maginot into the Ardennes because they thought the German Panzers wouldn't be able to reach through it and circle around the Maginot. However, the Panzers did do it with extreme ease, so extending the Maginot Line would benefit you in one or two ways, but nothing else.

    Also, is there a demo for this game? :D
     
  7. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I agree for the most part, the French were doomed to defeat mainly by WW1/defensive thought in a mobile war which fell upon them like a summer storm. Here are three points that should be kept in mind when thinking about the Maginot Line however.

    Point One:

    When proposed, and then designed and eventually financed in the late twenties the Maginot would not, and diplomatically could not continue past the Ardennes Forest where it, France and Belgium merged boundary-wise. When both planning/funding (twenties) and construction (1930) were approved and begun, the French and Belgians were still allied in the defense of the "west" from the now emasculated Germans as per the last war. It seems from my own recollection that the "southern" Belgians were French speaking "Walloons". Add in that the very geophysical properties of that area have to be kept in mind as well, high ground water level, alluvial plain type soil (great for farming, poor for defensive fortification in underground strength) from the Ardennes to the Channel. From its western terminus (Longuyan?) to the channel (between Dunkirk and Newport) the whole of the line would be on the border between France and Belgium.

    Don’t forget that in 1936 the Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all issue a joint declaration of neutrality in future European wars, and abrogation of all other treaties of "alliance".

    At the time, to both the French and Belgians it must have seemed diplomatically inconceivable than either would or should construct a massive defense line on a shared border (or waste their money doing so). Now, even though the Belgians didn’t declare their "neutrality" until 1936 (when the first stage of Maginot was nearing completion), they also had older fortresses and defensive lines on their side of the Ardennes facing Germany, which they had upgraded in the inter-war years. Most notably the Namur and Liege emplacements on the Meuse river and Albert Canal which were comparatively large but also defensive in construction and the main strong points were separated by about 60 km (38 miles approx.) which made mutual assistance of each of them impossible.

    By the time the French put all the money (and diplomatic consensus) together to start its construction, the "global depression" (1930) was hitting its stride as well, so this project might be looked at as both a "national defense" and a "works project" for government paychecks to hold down internal rioting by the "unemployed". I am not "defending" the Maginot line as a defensive strategy much as trying to place the blame for its failure where it belongs, and remembering that in WW1 the French suffered the highest causality rate (WIA, KIA) of any nation involved for the duration of "The Great War", the French Republic in WW1 mobilized; 7,500,000 men, of them there were 1,385,000 killed in combat and another 4,266,000 wounded. This makes a grand total of about 5,651,000 of the men mobilized, creating a percentage of troops sent to the front which were considered casualties of 75%. Only Austria-Hungary even gets close in either total numbers or percentages. The Austro-Hungarian empire mobilized 6,500,000 troops, they had 1,200,000 killed, and another 3,620,000 wounded. Their grand total was 4,820,000 men considered casualties, or percentage-wise about 73% of their armed forces.

    By the Armistice date, Germany on the other hand "only lost" (to death and wounding) about 54% of their combat troops, and Great Britain even less at 44%. Tzarist Russia, while having the loss of nearly 7 million men total during their abbreviated war participation, only really suffered a 55% casualty rate by percentage. Can one blame the French for fearing another "blood bath" like they had just suffered? These all coupled together is why I still believe it was the ineptitude of the French Marshall in charge (Gamelin), and his purposeful isolation (electronically) from the front line in the area of communications for his HQ (no radio, no telephone, no telegraph) that "doomed France" and the reputation of the Maginot Line when the Nazi Army Group B attacked through the Ardennes in its rapid war strategy. The Line was as good as could be constructed (at the time), and as good as the diplomatic realities allowed. The line wasn’t defeated by the frontal or diversionary attack (Army Group C), which it was designed to stop, but by being bypassed by the rapid movement of Army Group B.

    Point "Two";

    The military "co-operation" already existed as much as it could realistically, but not in the "so-called" staggered defensive lines in depth either on or off of French soil, as the Benilux government/military understood they were supposed to be re-enforced by both BEF and French troops and equipment if attacked. Again with poor foresight on the part of Gamelin in particular and the allies in general, he held the BEF and his own troops on the French side of the border for the crucial time period (poor communication) instead of sending them to either re-enforce and support the Belgian troops in the rapid war scenario as it developed, or to even fall back and defend France proper. He actually picked the worst of all possible choices by sending them to re-enforce the Belgians too late to do any good.

    Originally I am sure Gamelin believed his own plan was developing just as he had envisioned (using "Great War" tactics). He felt this "allowed" the Germans to over commit onto Belgian (rather than French) soil, then using the hinge of the Maginot to "slam the door" shut on them with BEF, French, and Belgian troops. On May 17th Gamelin was fired and the man he himself had replaced (Maxime Weygand) was called up from the Mid-east to salvage the matter. It was too far gone for any one man to repair even in that weeks time, and after "looking over" the situation by air (he was forced down and out of communication for another two days), he must have believed it was best to recommended an "armistice" with Nazi Germany. As an additional irony, it was he (Weygand), who verbally read out the armistice conditions to the Germans in the railway carriage car ending WW1 at Compiègne!

    Point "Three";


    The "fortress" construction itself couldn’t be done along that line (economically, diplomatically, or geologically), the very concept of "fast tank assaults and counter attack" had halted Charles de Gaulle’s own service advancement after he published his book Vers L'Armée de métier (The Army of the Future), in 1934. This book was viewed by his Army superiors as "anti-democratic, anti-French" while the Maginot was under construction; Guderian however read and translated it as well as the British Army’s J.C. Fuller and Lidell-Hart’s works on fast armor. Opps.

    Add in that the newly reformed stop-gap BEF itself was only deployed to France to secure the French promise to "declare war" against Germany if they implimented a Polish invasion. This was to both to help secure the French-Belgian border, and put British forces "in harms way" to insure the UK was as committed militarily as they were verbally. Lord Gort himself probably wasn’t "pleased" to have been placed under French command (Gamelin), and may have not "moved" as quickly in these circumstances as he would have if defending British soil proper, or commanding his own troops independently.

    Add in that as Belgium had declared its neutrality, no foreign forces could be deployed on their soil in time of peace, or the neutraliy could be "suspect". In fact Hitler used the Venlo Incident to justify his invasion of Belgium. By the time the Nazis began their advance through Belgian territory on May 10th, all the other strategic failures and shortsightedness doomed the "system" and the troops to failure. It seems unlikely (given the times), that much else could have been done with Gamelin in charge on the French side of the border.

    After the joint declarations of neutrality by the Swedes, Belgians, and Norwegians in 1936; Only Sweden began to quietly increase its arms production and military conscription numbers. Only days (on August 26th) before Hitler invades Poland (and ignores that "ten-year non-aggression" pact he had signed with Poland), he verbally and in writing guarantees the neutrality of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Danes and the Swiss.

    Hitler never invades the Swiss nor the Swedes, why rob your own banks? But everybody else is trampled under by his aggression. For some reason the Belgians thought/believed that the "plan" of neutrality which had worked so "well" for them in 1914, would work this time too; OPPS.

    At any rate that small three year hiatus between the Belgians declaring their neutrality, and the Nazis attacking Poland just didn’t give the French time to truly build a Maginot Line style of fortification between themselves than the Belgians. They also placed too much faith in Liege and the rest of the Belgian defensive positions, and WW1 tactics and war leader when this war was to prove that static defenses will almost always fail in time.
     
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  8. UN Spacy

    UN Spacy Member

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    Oh yes, there is the option for more modern planes and more tanks. Like I said, it's very, very realistic. Each division of any country (even the new ones created) is based off of a real commander of that country, each division has to have a supply route, and for the tanks they need oil...and so on. It's nowhere near what many people expect it to be (basically a reincarnation of the board game Axis and Allies...oh no, it's a LOT more complex and real).

    As for a demo, yes, there is.
    Download Hearts of Iron 2 Demo - The sequel to the greatest World War II strategy game ever made. - Softpedia

    The expansion, "Doomsday", has improved AI, the inclusion of sabotage and spies, and other neat stuff including a 1945 Allies vs. Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact scenario.

    But ANYWAY, to stay on topic...

    France had outdated aircraft? I had thought they had a pretty decent Air Force, particularly in the way of fighters.
     
  9. MastahCheef117

    MastahCheef117 Member

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    I don't like it. I think Hearts of Iron 3 will be more me, mostly because it has a 3D map, improved gameplay (Slicker interface) and better graphics (not really important but for the hell of it). But I have to wait until August... ah w/e I can wait for a stupid thing like that.
     
  10. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    There is a whole section of this site dedicated to Hearts of Iron (see the Gaming Forum) where it has been much discussed. HOI3 is more then just a few upgrades and flashier graphics, they've gone above and beyond as far as gameplay mechanics, technology, and territories. So many more things to look forward to etc.

    Understanding that the game isn't exactly like real life, you can either attack Germany while its attacking Poland, or start equipping troops with a lot of Anti-Tank Guns and Artillery. And AA Installments. Knowing the Germans will attack with Armor and Air, its the best you can hope for.
     
  11. MastahCheef117

    MastahCheef117 Member

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    *salutes Mussolini*
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Sorry, I didn't realize this was a thread concerning a computer "war game" and answered it otherwise. My mistake, I don't play them and wouldn't know how to answer in any case.
     
  13. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    Well I'm glad you answered it anyhow, it was an excellent post. :)
     
  14. UN Spacy

    UN Spacy Member

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    Well no, I still want to know if France could have survived in real life. I was just using the game as an example...
     
  15. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    France could have survived. In fact the Germans were the first ones to be surprised by their success. As others told earlier in this thread, the defensive strategy, even outdated, wasn't necesseraly doomed to a defeat. The trouble is that this strategy was combined by a major error : going up north to Narvik in April and to Belgium in May 1940 and leaving the Ardennes front almost undefended while doing so. Had the troops stayed in France from the Start the Germans could have been stopped allowing time for reinforcements and avoiding the evacuation of Dunkirk.
    The French aircrafts were not all outdated but there were enough modern ones available, they actually had very modern aircraft too, but the extrememe variety led to a major logistics problems (lack of spares, not enough trained pilots , too many testings, prototypes ...). Had their industry been concentrated on a few good aircrafts or invested in more foreign ones (Curtiss for example) , te odds could have different.
    Ths would have avoided using observer aircrafts as low altitude bombers and similar mistakes like using Moranes which led to the useless sacrifice of valuable pilots
     
  16. b0ned0me

    b0ned0me Member

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    I don't believe the forces sent up to Norway were big enough to make a significant difference in France. However given that the Allied commanders only had about 3 half-modern braincells between them, the command distraction certainly didn't help.
    I have seen the argument made that the French airforce were unlucky in that they were caught at just the wrong time as they were modernising from biplanes and very primitive monoplanes to modern aircraft, before they'd sorted out the resulting hiccups in logistics and training. The RAF had gone through a phase of maintenance problems and stupid accidents e.g. landing brand-new spitfires with the wheels up (once in front of a huge crowd at an air show) because the crews were not used to planes with retracting undercarriage - but they'd worked through the change by 1940.
     
  17. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The forces sent to Norway were too small to matter, the main cause of the French defeat was obsolete doctrine and bad leadership. The French were short in some weapon cathegories, like AT and AA guns and bombers, but enjoyed rough numerical parity in fighters, overall troop numbers (if you include the Dutch an Belgians) and a marked superiority in artillery and heavy tanks. Plane quality for fighters was roughly equal, the Me 110 was not a great dogfighter though the 109E had a slight edge over most Armee de l'Air types, tank quality actually favored the French for one one one fights but the more numerous French tanks were dispersed in a number of specialized units (DLC, DLM, DCR, independent batallions and brigades) that had no combined arms doctrine.
    Some deficiencies could be made good easily, for example they had large amounts of the excellent 75mm field gun in practically all divisions, that, if employed in an AT role a it often was later in the war, would have made life very hard for the thin skinned 1940 panzers, others like the lack of range of the tanks would be more difficult to solve.
    But what failed was doctrine and command, the French proved imcapable of wrestling the initiative from the more aggressive German troops so the campaign ended up as a series of disastrous retreats with the loss of large quantities of ground, prisoners and equipment until the German army, after the surrender of the Dutch and Bergians and the retreat of the BEF, became relatively too strong to stop.

    IMO Adding some more pillboxes along the Belgian frontier would not have helped as much as some additional training in tank fighting and a better study of the capabilities of modern armoured forces from the Polish campaign and the Soviet-Japanese border clashes. Had the French realized that the Germans could have attemped a Meuse crossing on the 13 they had ample forces to prevent it, as it was half the troops assigned to the sector were still leisurely getting into position and after the crossing no counterattack was attempted as Gamelin's GHQ suffered from command paralisys with the results we all know.
     
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  18. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The historical reality is that France could have survived the German invasion, or at least the possibility does exist that this could occur. The biggest problem France had was not equipment or orgainzation but rather doctrine. The French Army's doctrine for fighting a war was to put it mildly horrible.

    The French had adopted something called "Methodical Battle." This was essentially a cleaned up and more rigid version of their doctrine and tactics of late 1917 and 1918. Methodical Battle was a very rigid top - down orchestrated methodology for fighting battles. It called for everything to be tightly planned, controlled and, executed. It was almost like ballroom dancing.
    To compound matters, the top French generals forbade officers from discussing, writing, or otherwise putting out any contrary opinions or thoughts that might run counter to this doctrine under threat of being passed over (eg., never promoted again) or cashiered. DeGaulle remained a colonel for publishing his minor trease on armored warfare because of this.

    But, getting back to the question:

    Had the French for example reinforced the Meuse position prior to the Germans getting across in any strength it is very possible that the entire German plan would have failed. All the French have to do is get a stalemate at this point in the historical campaign for it to fail.
    The western arm of the Allied forces in Belgium probably would have been forced back in any case but with the line more or less intact the Germans would have once again found themselves in a WW 1-like situation with a semi-static and intact enemy front that they could not now break through easily. This would have called for them to make a temporary halt, reorganize and supply and, then try again in a month or two. By then it would be too late and we'd have WW 1 all over again.
     
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  19. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Yes, I think the above post from T.O.S. sums it up quite good,

    I might want to add, that the French were simply not ready to get into another war - they still (rather hoped and believed) that the Germans might share their feelings for the prevoius war and come to an understanding.
    Even if the French would have prepared for war, their military leadership and their conscripts would have been no big match for the Germans. IMO France would still have fallen but the losses inflicted on Germany would have undermined any further Hitler ambition for the next 2-3 years.

    So the French basically did what the Germans tried in June 44, (By trying to get rid of Hilter) prepare to surrender, and therefore preventing the own country from complete destruction.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  20. b0ned0me

    b0ned0me Member

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    If I recall correctly the initial response to the Meuse crossings was to order a counterattack to be carried out in five days time, which was pretty much the fastest the French army could reposition and plan. With their decision-making cycle measured in days versus hours for the germans, the French were doomed by their doctrine and C3 setup. Force-wise, they could have torn the germans up badly, but they were screwed by the fact that modern warfare had greatly favoured the type of Auftragstaktik and Bewegungskrieg the germans had been studying for many many years. Without adopting Prussian-style doctrine (and lets face it, how likely was that?) the French had no chance other than presciently setting up their main forces and concentrating their armour oppposite Army Group A (again, vanishingly unlikely).
     

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