Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

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PODS96
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Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

Post by PODS96 » 11 Nov 2022 21:07

In the WW2 fan community, the idea that France could have won in those years is very popular.

However the demographics clearly suggest a certain defeat for France.

So this myth is really supported by weighty counterfactuals or is it just a baseless criticism of Western governments and military
Last edited by PODS96 on 12 Nov 2022 15:08, edited 2 times in total.

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 12 Nov 2022 02:27

I can't figure out what you're asking here. Could you elaborate on this some?

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by Loïc » 12 Nov 2022 14:18

I am afraid that you and your two-w-fan-community have some gaps in both French and Soviet international policies and Soviet-French relationships for "1938-1940", by september 1939 to summer 1940 Soviet Union was de facto WITH Nazi Germany AGAINST France, occupying Poland having still its government and army on French soil, and at war with Finland that triggering French military support where the Red Army narrowly escaped to be bombarbed by the French air force in Caucasus by the lack of means in Levant and the defeat of june 1940 and in Finland by the Finno-Soviet armistice of march 1940 that also halted an Expeditionary Corps from Alpine Chasseurs who should be sent against the Red Army as well as a Georgian sabotage unit already gathered for the Caucasus

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by PODS96 » 12 Nov 2022 15:06

T. A. Gardner wrote:
12 Nov 2022 02:27
I can't figure out what you're asking here. Could you elaborate on this some?
Can France alone win in 1938-40?

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 12 Nov 2022 19:30

PODS96 wrote:
12 Nov 2022 15:06
Can France alone win in 1938-40?
Short answer, no.

France faces two major issues / problems that it really cannot overcome within that time frame.

The first is their doctrine, that is how their military forces will fight the war is just awful. The French planned and expected to fight 1918 all over again. Their expectation was that the war would bog down and become a slog for both sides giving them time to adjust to anything new and different as it progressed.
With that in mind, the trained their officers, designed and constructed their equipment, and organized their forces to fit that doctrine. It was quite impossible for them to toss all that out the window and reorganize, equip, and train their military to fight an entirely different war than what they expected.

The second was the nation's internal politics and economy. These made funding and equipping their military slower and far less efficient. Spending on fixed defenses and fortifications ate up a big portion of the available money leaving less for field forces and training. The air force was slow to develop better, modern aircraft and even where these became available, production was slow. This issue was so bad that France was forced to mass purchase US manufactured aircraft to make up for the shortages.

All of that left the French in a position where they weren't going to win their war.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Nov 2022 14:33

T. A. Gardner wrote:
12 Nov 2022 19:30
PODS96 wrote:
12 Nov 2022 15:06
Can France alone win in 1938-40?
Short answer, no. ...

One can reverse the question: Can the Germans lose? One view is can the Germans choose a less effective plan of attack, make less effective preparations, and make less appropriate decisions during the attack?

1. The plan chooses was regarded as high risk, Halder choose to support it with reluctance, Rundsteadt thought the odds against it & would have supported other attack plans equally well, Hitler was as nervous as a virgin and kept pestering Halder & the others about devising better plans. The other army & corps commanders had little faith in the 'Sickle Cut' plan & thought the map exercises that tested it contrived or weak tests. The Luftwaffe based their plans on the capture of Dutch and eastern Belgian airfields for attacking Britain as they thought those on the Channel would still be be in Allied possession at the end of the campaign.

Had Halder and Hitler not been willing to gamble and chooses one of the conservative lower risk plans it would have played to certain French strengths; fire power, attrition, & marked material superiority in some critical items over the longer haul. Had they choose not to exploit French weaknesses any attack & the war is much more likely to turn into a attritional war Germany can less afford.

Given the situation of May 1940 & the German choices there may not be much the French can do to win. Changing the equation from their side requires reaching back into 1938 & beyond. But, theres a lot the Germans can do to screw themselves.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Nov 2022 14:47

PODS96 wrote:
11 Nov 2022 21:07
In the WW2 fan community, the idea that France could have won in those years is very popular.

However the demographics clearly suggest a certain defeat for France.

This was precisely why the French Army turned towards a fire power and mechanized oriented military. In his study of 20th Century firepower MBE Bailey noted how the German infantry tactics model of 1940 was very vulnerable to casualties. The loss of NCOs and company level officers over extended battles weekend their infantry faster than preservation oriented fire power tactics. His observation runs against a population PoV, but the numbers and loss of offensive ability by the German infantry argue otherwise. The French intended to fight with artillery, strike aircraft, tanks, mines and preserve the infantry and general mass of their manpower.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

Post by Loïc » 13 Nov 2022 15:43

PODS96 wrote:
11 Nov 2022 21:07
In the WW2 fan community, the idea that France could have won in those years is very popular.

However the demographics clearly suggest a certain defeat for France.

So this myth is really supported by weighty counterfactuals or is it just a baseless criticism of Western governments and military
if it is a "myth" you had already answered to your own thread...

sorry but the only "myth" I see behind that if the one we suffer along the spanish-speaking and english-speaking forum about the usual myth brainwashing of the inevitable ineluctable fatality of the French defeat facing the so-called great glorious panzer army of brave nazis knights, all that linked to a so-called social demographic military racial cultural specific french decadency having always met and confirmed a deep popular underlying obsequious attention until our days outside France...despite again someone as Philip Nord in angloamerican litterature has rectified this kind of clichés, he has been even translated in french I don't know why because others french-speaking Historians and searchers before him did it previously 20 years before or more, probably because if it has been written in english this becomes Parole d'Evangile who knows
this kind of clichés myths and legacy reminiscences of nazi propaganda is the topic of many WWII Myths articles in magazines and books, recently (again)
Maurice Vaïsse in Myths of WWII (2018)
2 - La défaite de 1940 était inéluctable
https://www.cairn.info/les-mythes-de-la ... age-31.htm
it would be tedious to list what has been written to explain how defeat was inevitable. A whole historiography has indeed tended, since 1940, to explain the defeat by the historical evolution of France in the interwar period. And Ladislas Mysyrowicz's remarkable analysis, Autopsy of a defeat, is subtitled "origins of the French military collapse of 1940", to clearly indicate that it was from 1919 that France slid towards defeat. Most historians tend to analyze a sequence of events in light of their outcome. Ante hoc, ergo propter hoc. In short, one can wonder if the historians of the defeat have not tended to show that before the military confrontation France had accumulated "lost battles in diplomacy, demography, economy, rearmament: c There were many defeats before the word was given to arms”. At the same time, Jean-Baptiste Duroselle built his work by insisting on the root causes that led France from "decadence to the abyss": "The French entered the war on September 3, 1939 and, for this peaceful people , it is already a moral defeat. Material defeat will follow, less than nine months later. Even Marc Bloch's testimony, L'Etrange Défaite, which remains the most lucid work on the causes of the 1940 debacle, does not escape the observation of the inevitability of defeat, as Etienne Bloch explains. , his son, who considers the title “absurd… Both in its testimony part and in its reflections part, everything agrees in concluding that the defeat is foreseeable”. This work is confirmed by the most recent historical studies, even if, as we shall see, it must be updated in the correct assessment of the causes of the defeat.

nada de nuevo bajo el Sol

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 13 Nov 2022 17:26

To elaborate on my previous answer some.

For France to win you have to change the mindset of the leadership of the French military. These men won WW 1, but at a very high price in lives. They saw the French army mutiny at one point. With WW 1 events clearly in their minds, they chose a set of doctrines and means to fight the next war avoiding the mistakes of the last as they saw them.

The German military came very close to defeating the French and British in 1918 with the same strosstruppen tactics and doctrine they used successfully on the Russians and Italians. They examined the reasons they failed to win and improved on the tactics and doctrine they'd used in that war to win the next one.

So, for France to defeat Germany one or both of the above has to change. For either that begins no later than about 1934 - 35 otherwise there isn't time to completely let the changes sink in and the military mindset to change fully. Without that change, the historical outcome is pretty much inevitable.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Nov 2022 23:07

PODS96 wrote:
12 Nov 2022 15:06
T. A. Gardner wrote:
12 Nov 2022 02:27
I can't figure out what you're asking here. Could you elaborate on this some?
Can France alone win in 1938-40?
Revisitng this question: In its simplest interpretation it excludes Belgium, as well as Britian, Netherlands, the USSR, & arms purchases from the US. Of course with Belgium excluded the Germans are artificially limited to attacking only across the Franco German border, with alters a great deal, including how the German leaders perceive the situation and their plans. All this carries the question into the outer limits of counterfactual analysis.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 14 Nov 2022 00:23

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
13 Nov 2022 23:07
PODS96 wrote:
12 Nov 2022 15:06
T. A. Gardner wrote:
12 Nov 2022 02:27
I can't figure out what you're asking here. Could you elaborate on this some?
Can France alone win in 1938-40?
Revisitng this question: In its simplest interpretation it excludes Belgium, as well as Britian, Netherlands, the USSR, & arms purchases from the US. Of course with Belgium excluded the Germans are artificially limited to attacking only across the Franco German border, with alters a great deal, including how the German leaders perceive the situation and their plans. All this carries the question into the outer limits of counterfactual analysis.
If that's the case, then the Germans wait until late 1940, then smash the Maginot line with 54 cm Karl morsers, and the 80 cm Gustav railway guns. They would eventually come up with the Fritz X too, and that would have been the end of the line as well. Of course, they still use 88's and 105 flak in direct fire to take out the observation cloches and such leaving the line impotent too.

The problem remains that France was preparing for the wrong war and was mentally unprepared for what happened.

The Germans got well inside the French OODA loop and simply out thought them in that sense. Imagine this as a chess game where the Germans get two or three moves to each one the French can make...

I think the Char B1 bis makes an excellent example of how technology follows doctrine and thinking. This tank was little more than a mobile, miniature, Maginot line bunker. The 75mm in the hull was aimed and fired by the driver. It had no traverse, only elevation and depression. That meant the vehicle had to be stationary to really aim and hit anything when firing. So, it was useless against a moving target.
The 47mm gun and turret were more like an observation copula from which the commander directed the 75mm fire on a target. The gun and machinegun were just there for self-defense. The vehicle was heavily armored to withstand enemy fire.

It was a bunker on tracks...

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by PODS96 » 14 Nov 2022 03:10

T. A. Gardner wrote:
12 Nov 2022 19:30

Short answer, no.

France faces two major issues / problems that it really cannot overcome within that time frame.

The first is their doctrine, that is how their military forces will fight the war is just awful. The French planned and expected to fight 1918 all over again. Their expectation was that the war would bog down and become a slog for both sides giving them time to adjust to anything new and different as it progressed.
With that in mind, the trained their officers, designed and constructed their equipment, and organized their forces to fit that doctrine. It was quite impossible for them to toss all that out the window and reorganize, equip, and train their military to fight an entirely different war than what they expected.

The second was the nation's internal politics and economy. These made funding and equipping their military slower and far less efficient. Spending on fixed defenses and fortifications ate up a big portion of the available money leaving less for field forces and training. The air force was slow to develop better, modern aircraft and even where these became available, production was slow. This issue was so bad that France was forced to mass purchase US manufactured aircraft to make up for the shortages.

All of that left the French in a position where they weren't going to win their war.
But this is practically a "yes" to a great extent.

In your opinion, France could avoid its defeat by making certain reforms, but it does not address the demographic issue.

France had 40 million people and Germany 80 million, so victory simply seems impossible unless France attacks in the initial moments of German rearmament.

Hence, many of us consider that the defeat of France was something totally structural.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 14 Nov 2022 05:34

PODS96 wrote:
14 Nov 2022 03:10
But this is practically a "yes" to a great extent.

In your opinion, France could avoid its defeat by making certain reforms, but it does not address the demographic issue.

France had 40 million people and Germany 80 million, so victory simply seems impossible unless France attacks in the initial moments of German rearmament.

Hence, many of us consider that the defeat of France was something totally structural.
It's a "yes" only if France recognizes the problems with their doctrine and equipment in peacetime well before WW 2 starts. They have to figure out the issues in 1934 or so, at the latest, not 1939 -40. France has the colonial population to make up the population difference, but only if their military has a sound doctrine and is committed to it.

That didn't happen historically.

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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets reliable in 1938-40?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Nov 2022 19:58

T. A. Gardner wrote:
14 Nov 2022 00:23


If that's the case, then the Germans wait until late 1940, then smash the Maginot line with 54 cm Karl morsers, and the 80 cm Gustav railway guns. They would eventually come up with the Fritz X too, and that would have been the end of the line as well. Of course, they still use 88's and 105 flak in direct fire to take out the observation cloches and such leaving the line impotent too.
One of the reasons the Germans were loathe to do this is they judged French artillery superiority would neutralize the near mobile and short ranged heavy weapons. As it was they attacked only attacked secondary fortifications, and after the French had withdrawn the field armies and their long range artillery that backed the border fortifications to build the Weygand Line.
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Re: Is a French victory without the Soviets feasible in 1938-40?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Nov 2022 20:08

France had 40 million people and Germany 80 million, so victory simply seems impossible unless France attacks in the initial moments of German rearmament.
Conversely France intended to draw on its empires population of 200 + millions. The companion intent was to drawn on the manpower of the British empire, with some 500 millions people. Drawing on half of 1% of that provided 3.5 million men for military service. drawing 1.5% over three years is over nine million men. Germany is near its limit at 80 million population.

On the doctrinal side theres nothing set in stone. Everyone evolved their tactical and operational doctrines to circumstances. Where they did not they started losing battles, and badly. ie: the East Front veterans like Schweppenberg failing to understand their successful tactics in the east were not appropriate for fighting the Commonwealth or US Armies. The French were adapting even before the battle started & despite his political ties Gamelin & his playbook was on his way to retirement in May 1940. Assuming the French army will behave the same way from start to finish is weak.

If the Germans fail in the spring 1940 attack the French and Brits can adapt. Actually over the long haul I'd see the French adapting better than the Brits did OTL.

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