What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 22 Nov 2019 04:07

What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? This question interests me because the complete expulsion of the Allies from France in 1940 made the recreation of the Western Front (in other words, the opening of a second front) unrealistic until 1944. This required the Soviet Union to do the lion's share of the fighting against Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. If the Allies would have managed to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940, they could have subsequently sent more of their own troops there and eventually used it as a breakout point after enough of their troops would have been put there and after both the USSR and US would have already entered the war. In turn, this makes me ask this question:

Was it actually realistic for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? For the record, I think that the most likely territorial candidate for this is the territory between the Alps, the Massif Central, and the Pyrenees:

Image

Image

If, instead of making an armistice, France would have remained in the war in 1940 and the US would have somehow been able to get Lend-Lease to begin much sooner, do you think that the Allies could have permanently held onto a part of European France? Also, if so, what do you think that the effects and consequences of this would be on the rest of World War II?

Any thoughts on all of this?

Aber
Member
Posts: 814
Joined: 05 Jan 2010 21:43

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Aber » 22 Nov 2019 08:47

Futurist wrote:
22 Nov 2019 04:07
What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?
Mainland? - Alien Space Bats. You have the whole of the German armed forces available with a single mission - crush the pocket.

Corsica? - More interesting. Possible if the Italians stay out, otherwise blockaded and surrenders.

North Africa - Feasible.

pugsville
Member
Posts: 849
Joined: 17 Aug 2011 04:40

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by pugsville » 22 Nov 2019 10:19

Futurist wrote:
22 Nov 2019 04:07
What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? This question interests me because the complete expulsion of the Allies from France in 1940 made the recreation of the Western Front (in other words, the opening of a second front) unrealistic until 1944. This required the Soviet Union to do the lion's share of the fighting against Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. If the Allies would have managed to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940, they could have subsequently sent more of their own troops there and eventually used it as a breakout point after enough of their troops would have been put there and after both the USSR and US would have already entered the war. In turn, this makes me ask this question:

Was it actually realistic for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? For the record, I think that the most likely territorial candidate for this is the territory between the Alps, the Massif Central, and the Pyrenees:

Image

Image

If, instead of making an armistice, France would have remained in the war in 1940 and the US would have somehow been able to get Lend-Lease to begin much sooner, do you think that the Allies could have permanently held onto a part of European France? Also, if so, what do you think that the effects and consequences of this would be on the rest of World War II?

Any thoughts on all of this?
Belgium being a little smarter and less in denial. The Allies deploy in Belgium and construct defenses while the Germans are in Poland. With Bridge demolitions and set defenses the sickle cut is no longer a great shot and teh allies are not hit while redeploying.

Not revising the Dyle plan thus having an strategic reserve, The Mobile strategic reserve of the best and most mobile units can counter attack..Not certain to work but chance to work.

Replacing Gamelin.


Once the sickle cut has succeeded there is no holding France.

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5041
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by glenn239 » 09 Dec 2019 18:44

Futurist wrote:
22 Nov 2019 04:07
What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? This question interests me because the complete expulsion of the Allies from France in 1940 made the recreation of the Western Front (in other words, the opening of a second front) unrealistic until 1944.
Allied strategy and conflicting Pacific-Atlantic and Anglo-American priorities made an invasion of France impossible until 1944.
Was it actually realistic for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? For the record, I think that the most likely territorial candidate for this is the territory between the Alps, the Massif Central, and the Pyrenees:
Assuming that after the heavy defeats in Belgium and Northern France in May, that rather than attempting to hold Paris, the French high command had instead created a defense in depth to the purpose of holding the French south coast? The German offensive in June would have to reach deeper southwards beyond Paris before reaching the French center of gravity. Certainly the French army could hold out for longer in that scenario, but actually hold Toulon until the Americans arrived? I strongly doubt it.
Also, if so, what do you think that the effects and consequences of this would be on the rest of World War II?

Any thoughts on all of this?
In order to lose WW2, Germany needed to invade the Soviet Union. The fall of France in 1940 set up the opportunity for Hitler to turn east and lose the war. If France instead manages to hold out rather than falling, would Hitler invade the USSR?

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7319
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 12 Dec 2019 00:19

This
pugsville wrote:
22 Nov 2019 10:19
Belgium being a little smarter and less in denial. The Allies deploy in Belgium and construct defenses while the Germans are in Poland. With Bridge demolitions and set defenses the sickle cut is no longer a great shot and teh allies are not hit while redeploying.
..and this if it is done earlier. Gamelin was a couple years past the usual length of time in that position. He had his talents but Renaud needed someone with a fresh outlook & willingness to replace the old crocks enmass.

[quote=pugsville post_id=2234955 time=1574414360 user_id=50814Replacing Gamelin.

To digress Georges decisions 19 May through 21 May were more important than Gamelins. The later made almost no decisions in that ten days. Georges who as the NW front commander had day to day control of the battle was responsible for much of what Gamelin is blamed for. Billotte was another who's role in the defeat is largely ignored in the Pop English language histories. Corap, Flavigny, and several others individually and as a group bore more responsibility that Gamelin. But, as the management consultants say 'The Fish rots from the head first'. Dalliers confidence in Gamelin was misplaced & had he been 'retired' in 1938 the butterflies would be swarming.

Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 29 Dec 2019 04:02

pugsville wrote:
22 Nov 2019 10:19
Futurist wrote:
22 Nov 2019 04:07
What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? This question interests me because the complete expulsion of the Allies from France in 1940 made the recreation of the Western Front (in other words, the opening of a second front) unrealistic until 1944. This required the Soviet Union to do the lion's share of the fighting against Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. If the Allies would have managed to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940, they could have subsequently sent more of their own troops there and eventually used it as a breakout point after enough of their troops would have been put there and after both the USSR and US would have already entered the war. In turn, this makes me ask this question:

Was it actually realistic for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940? For the record, I think that the most likely territorial candidate for this is the territory between the Alps, the Massif Central, and the Pyrenees:

Image

Image

If, instead of making an armistice, France would have remained in the war in 1940 and the US would have somehow been able to get Lend-Lease to begin much sooner, do you think that the Allies could have permanently held onto a part of European France? Also, if so, what do you think that the effects and consequences of this would be on the rest of World War II?

Any thoughts on all of this?
Belgium being a little smarter and less in denial. The Allies deploy in Belgium and construct defenses while the Germans are in Poland. With Bridge demolitions and set defenses the sickle cut is no longer a great shot and teh allies are not hit while redeploying.
In theory, this can be done even without Belgian consent, no? Or would that have hurt Britain's and France's reputations in the US and thus made them less likely to receive military aid from the US?

I do agree with you that blowing up bridges and also setting a lot of mines in the Ardennes would be absolutely marvelous for the Allied cause. Seriously. It would make a quick German attack and breakthrough in the West much, much harder to achieve.

In this regard, one might argue that France screwed up in 1936 by not intervening over the Rhineland since it was this event that pushed Belgium back into neutrality.
Not revising the Dyle plan thus having an strategic reserve, The Mobile strategic reserve of the best and most mobile units can counter attack..Not certain to work but chance to work.
Completely agreed.
Replacing Gamelin.
With whom? Would Maxime Weygand work for this?
Once the sickle cut has succeeded there is no holding France.
Not even if the US is somehow already in the war and already willing to send a large AEF version 2.0 to (southern?) France?

Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 29 Dec 2019 04:03

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
12 Dec 2019 00:19
This
pugsville wrote:
22 Nov 2019 10:19
Belgium being a little smarter and less in denial. The Allies deploy in Belgium and construct defenses while the Germans are in Poland. With Bridge demolitions and set defenses the sickle cut is no longer a great shot and teh allies are not hit while redeploying.
..and this if it is done earlier. Gamelin was a couple years past the usual length of time in that position. He had his talents but Renaud needed someone with a fresh outlook & willingness to replace the old crocks enmass.

[quote=pugsville post_id=2234955 time=1574414360 user_id=50814Replacing Gamelin.

To digress Georges decisions 19 May through 21 May were more important than Gamelins. The later made almost no decisions in that ten days. Georges who as the NW front commander had day to day control of the battle was responsible for much of what Gamelin is blamed for. Billotte was another who's role in the defeat is largely ignored in the Pop English language histories. Corap, Flavigny, and several others individually and as a group bore more responsibility that Gamelin. But, as the management consultants say 'The Fish rots from the head first'. Dalliers confidence in Gamelin was misplaced & had he been 'retired' in 1938 the butterflies would be swarming.
Do you think that Weygand would have been a better French CoC than Gamelin was?

User avatar
T. A. Gardner
Member
Posts: 2081
Joined: 02 Feb 2006 00:23
Location: Arizona

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 29 Dec 2019 05:05

Actually, the easiest way this could have happened is the French and British do nothing when Germany invades Belgium. Instead of rushing forward to meet the Germans head on, they are dug in on the French border and improving those positions. When the panzers crash through the Ardennes and hit the Meuse they find all the bridges down and the French dug in on the far side of the river. The 5 DLC's are held in reserve there (these are really large regiments / brigades not divisions) that can move quickly as a mobile group to plug any hole or reinforce the front as needed.

The French were not prepared in any way, shape, or form to enter a battle of maneuver with the Germans so why do it? Simply let Belgium be overrun and let the Germans crash into your prepared defenses that fit your doctrine.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7319
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Dec 2019 08:11

Futurist wrote:
29 Dec 2019 04:03
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
12 Dec 2019 00:19
This
pugsville wrote:
22 Nov 2019 10:19
Belgium being a little smarter and less in denial. The Allies deploy in Belgium and construct defenses while the Germans are in Poland. With Bridge demolitions and set defenses the sickle cut is no longer a great shot and teh allies are not hit while redeploying.
..and this if it is done earlier. Gamelin was a couple years past the usual length of time in that position. He had his talents but Renaud needed someone with a fresh outlook & willingness to replace the old crocks enmass.

[quote=pugsville post_id=2234955 time=1574414360 user_id=50814Replacing Gamelin.

To digress Georges decisions 19 May through 21 May were more important than Gamelins. The later made almost no decisions in that ten days. Georges who as the NW front commander had day to day control of the battle was responsible for much of what Gamelin is blamed for. Billotte was another who's role in the defeat is largely ignored in the Pop English language histories. Corap, Flavigny, and several others individually and as a group bore more responsibility that Gamelin. But, as the management consultants say 'The Fish rots from the head first'. Dalliers confidence in Gamelin was misplaced & had he been 'retired' in 1938 the butterflies would be swarming.
Do you think that Weygand would have been a better French CoC than Gamelin was?
I really don't know. They both had run past their expiration dates.

Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 29 Dec 2019 21:33

What about either Pretelat or De Gaulle? Also, what about Georges?

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7319
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Jan 2020 06:11

Futurist wrote:
29 Dec 2019 21:33
What about either Pretelat or De Gaulle? Also, what about Georges?
Pretelat was past his 40th year of service. Born in 1874. About the only thing I recall of relevance is that as the nominal commander of the French 2d Army in 1938 he studied the problem of a German advance through the Ardennes. He judged the region indefensible with the force allocated and recommended organizing a much stronger force to block the Germans there. Assuming he replaces Gamelin in mid 1939 then perhaps he might give Huntzinger as the new commander of 2d Army a new mission of sending a substantial corps to meet a German advance, and be reinforced accordingly.

DeGaulle was a relatively junior Colonel who had written a book, and had favorable performance evaluations in his record. Making him Gamelins replacement in 1938 or 1939 would be like elevating Major Eisenhower or Captain Mark Clark to US Army CoS instead of General Marshal.

Georges was another 'older' General, with 40+ years service. Born in 1875. If you trace the key decisions for dealing with the German attack 10 May through 18 May he is making most of the wrong ones. Gamelin had his sins, but the battle during those critical days was under Georges operational control ascpmmander of the North East Front. Gamelin confirmed the use of the Dyle Plan early on the morning of 10 May & then only followed the battle for eight days, giving no orders. Georges is reputed to have opposed the Dyle Plan, but when confronted with its failure Georges was unable to conceive or execute actions that might retrieve or at least alleviate the situation. As commander of the NE Front this was his job. Gamelin left him alone to do it without interference & Georges failed. Some witnesses describe him as having a 'breakdown' beginning around the 14th or 15th of May.

Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 03 Jan 2020 21:15

Thanks for this information, Carl! :) BTW, why didn't Gamelin personally give any orders after May 10?

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7319
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 Jan 2020 17:12

Futurist wrote:
03 Jan 2020 21:15
... BTW, why didn't Gamelin personally give any orders after May 10?
He did intervene on 18 May, the day before Renaud relieved him.

In simple terms it was not Gamelins role. At that point he was the military chief of France globally. Only the Minister of Defense & the Prime Minister were above him. For operational purposes there was the military commander of Metropolitan France below him, then Gerorges as commander of the NE front - the 1st, 2d, & 3rd Army Groups, then the separate AG commanders, then the Army commanders. Gamelin giving operational or tactical orders would be like Admiral Leahey or General Marshal sending detailed actual orders to local army or fleet commanders. Gamelins responsibility were strategic and global. ie: The decision to execute the DYLE Plan or The ESCAUT plan was political and strategic, so that fell on Gamelins desk, & by extension Daladier & Renaud. Those two had to to sign off on the political side of it.

At least on paper thats how it worked. Gamelin however had tendencies to micromanagement. I've seen some evidence he tried to control that, but the nature of the French Army in the 1930s led to detailed 'guidance' from his office. Horne noted a very detailed instruction on "patrolling" ensuing from Gamelins HQ in 1939 as a example of his spending too much time examining the trees and not the forrest.

The 'intervention' on the 18th seems to have reflected Gamelins view of Joffres actions in 1914. As the French armies were defeated in Belgium and driven south Joffre calmly monitored the incoming messages, watched the battles on the maps. Gather ing information until he felt the time ripe for a counter attack. The Marne & all that. Historians like Doughty & Horne or Jackson cite comments recorded from Gamelin that indicate he was trying the same thing 12-18 May. On the 18th he decide it was time to make his grand intervention, and on his daily visit to Georges HQ directed the 1st Army & the newly forming forces south of the German armored corridor to counter attack. He left some specific instructions on where & when, then departed to go bother someone else. Since multiple English language historians have traced this same narrative perhaps theres something to it.

Would this counter attack on the 19th or 20 May succeed? Renaud gave Gamelin the dismissal notice shortly after, Weygand on arrival postponed the attack until he could evaluate the situation. it was two days delay & the counter attack of the Fr 1st Army & BEF did not kick off until the 21 May. Degaulles small attacks worried Guderian, but that was too small & lacked any follow up force.

Georges, Billotte, Corap, Huntzinger, & their subordinates were on the spot, were in the tactical and operational seat, and they failed. Some like Huntzinger even understood the situation better & sooner than anyone else, & still they failed. Since Gamelin misunderstood the attack as badly or worse than anyone its difficult to see how his earlier intervention would have helped. He'd have to had grasped the German plan as early as the 11th May, possibly even earlier. If the judgement that Georges had a breakdown, and the weakness in Coraps 9th Army are correct then even perfect intervention by Gamelin after the 11th may not have been enough. The problems identified surrounding Georges & Corap may have neutralized any orders from higher up.

Futurist
Member
Posts: 1770
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Futurist » 09 Jan 2020 08:27

Thanks for sharing all of this information, Carl! :)

Also, just how realistic do you believe it would have been for France's leadership and military to make the necessary changes in the lead-up to the Fall of France in order to prevent this? As in, what percentage would you have given to them being able to see things in a different light early enough?

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7319
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: What would it have taken for the Allies to permanently hold onto a part of France in 1940?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jan 2020 15:22

A lot of the necessary changes were in the hands of the Chamber of Deputies. The military budget of the 1930s drove the chiefs to make some difficult choices in priorities. Ultimately the priorities went first to completing the new fortification system, second to new weapons development, third to air force development, ground forces training was low down. To have had a properly trained army in the autumn of 39, or spring of 1940 fundamental alterations in strategy and expense priorities would have to be made as far back as 1928. Probablly not later than 1934. Thats when Gamelin became influential in the ministry of defense. Less changes as late as 1938 0r 1939 might have helped. ie: A different schedule for standing down air groups for conversion to new aircraft. When the Germans attacked over a third of the air force had been deadlined to receive and train on the new aircraft arriving from the US. Over 600 in April and May. If the French air force had gone to a full alert status for May the air battle could have been far bloodier and less successful for the GAF.

Im unsure if following Pretelats & Huntzingers recommendation would have helped much. Sending a couple corps into the Ardennes in may 1940 may have had results as in 1914. Or worse. Or perhaps better. Something one would have to game out repeatedly with close examination of the French ability to fight a meeting engagement in difficult terrain.

Return to “What if”