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

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

Post by PODS96 » 15 Nov 2022 01:10

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
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.
In practice the empire never mattered in terms of troop mobilization.

This is valid for both world wars. The French and the British always had a systematically lower number of troops than the Germans, very close to their demographic ratio between metropolises. If what you say were true the French would have a manpower similar to the Soviets and the war would have ended quickly, that never happened.

The same happens with the Axis, Japan and Germany had hundreds of millions of people under their rule but the mobilization was limited to the metropolis.

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

Post by gebhk » 15 Nov 2022 11:56

I can't think of any campign of WW2 in which the side with air superiority did not win. I know this isn't an independent factor, the level of air power is usually an outcome of the power and policies of their respective armed forces. Nevertheless, there it is.

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

Post by T. A. Gardner » 15 Nov 2022 15:25

gebhk wrote:
15 Nov 2022 11:56
I can't think of any campign of WW2 in which the side with air superiority did not win. I know this isn't an independent factor, the level of air power is usually an outcome of the power and policies of their respective armed forces. Nevertheless, there it is.
You can win with air parity, you don't need air superiority to do it. That is, so long as you can effectively contest the airspace above the battlefield/ theater, you can win on the ground. The Germans showed this is possible both in N. Africa and Russia. Yes, they eventually lost both theaters, but they never had true air superiority over either for more than brief periods of time at best.

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Nov 2022 18:28

T. A. Gardner wrote:
15 Nov 2022 15:25
gebhk wrote:
15 Nov 2022 11:56
I can't think of any campign of WW2 in which the side with air superiority did not win. I know this isn't an independent factor, the level of air power is usually an outcome of the power and policies of their respective armed forces. Nevertheless, there it is.
You can win with air parity, you don't need air superiority to do it. That is, so long as you can effectively contest the airspace above the battlefield/ theater, you can win on the ground. The Germans showed this is possible both in N. Africa and Russia. Yes, they eventually lost both theaters, but they never had true air superiority over either for more than brief periods of time at best.

This is a important point in understanding the campaign in the west in 1940. The Luftwaffe was well prepared for the campaign. The Dutch, Belgians, and RAF less so. The French air force had in April ordered a third of the air groups stood down to transition to new aircraft. While usually included in the total air strength for 10 May 1940 those groups were actually far away in southern France, & a few in Morocco. Their aircraft parked, with ground and aircrew either on leave or in the early stage of transition to the new models. A full third of the squadron strength usually given for May 1940 was paper strength only for the first critical weeks of the battle. This stand down at the worst possible moment made a portientialy bad situation much worse in reality.

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

Post by T. A. Gardner » 15 Nov 2022 20:30

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Nov 2022 18:28
This is a important point in understanding the campaign in the west in 1940. The Luftwaffe was well prepared for the campaign. The Dutch, Belgians, and RAF less so. The French air force had in April ordered a third of the air groups stood down to transition to new aircraft. While usually included in the total air strength for 10 May 1940 those groups were actually far away in southern France, & a few in Morocco. Their aircraft parked, with ground and aircrew either on leave or in the early stage of transition to the new models. A full third of the squadron strength usually given for May 1940 was paper strength only for the first critical weeks of the battle. This stand down at the worst possible moment made a portientialy bad situation much worse in reality.
It also doesn't help that a large portion of the French Air Force at the time were flying some really crappy aircraft. The MS 406 for example was obsolescent at best and pretty much completely outmatched by the Me 109. The Bloch MB 151 and 152 were much the same way and flying on unreliable Gnome Rhone radials. Ex-Polish pilots that had escaped the fall of Poland were given the completely useless Caudron C 714.

Bombers were the same way with them being slow and vulnerable--not to mention usually downright fugly...

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

Post by lahoda » 17 Nov 2022 11:39

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.
I think your question is too broad, as 1938 to 1940 is huge span of events. Thus the short answer is earlier the better, they could win in 1938, they still had a chance in 1939 and they were bound to defeat in 1940 once Germany recuperated from Polish campaign.

Longer answer is that France missed the best chance in 1936 when Hitler get into Rheinland, but that is out of your time slot. The next best event was to intervene in March 1938 when annexation of Austria was a direct violation of Versailles treaty. Question is if France was really willing to enforce it both in 1936 and 3/1938? They could beat Germany in 10/1938 had they honored their treaty with Czechoslovakia, although this would most likely involve some symbolic aid from the USSR, as it was part of that treaty. Last realistic chance was during/immediately after the Polish campaign, they even started a (successful) offensive only to be surprised by that success and stop it. Even after collapse of Poland, there was time to win a war with Germany, as German forces were weakened by this campaign (to the state where generals were able to convince Hitler not to attack France immediately in 1939) - this one would be very bloody for both sides, which was exactly what France wanted to avoid, so this last opportunity was the least realistic.

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Nov 2022 14:30

T. A. Gardner wrote:
15 Nov 2022 20:30
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Nov 2022 18:28
This is a important point in understanding the campaign in the west in 1940. The Luftwaffe was well prepared for the campaign. The Dutch, Belgians, and RAF less so. The French air force had in April ordered a third of the air groups stood down to transition to new aircraft. While usually included in the total air strength for 10 May 1940 those groups were actually far away in southern France, & a few in Morocco. Their aircraft parked, with ground and aircrew either on leave or in the early stage of transition to the new models. A full third of the squadron strength usually given for May 1940 was paper strength only for the first critical weeks of the battle. This stand down at the worst possible moment made a portientialy bad situation much worse in reality.
It also doesn't help that a large portion of the French Air Force at the time were flying some really crappy aircraft. The MS 406 for example was obsolescent at best and pretty much completely outmatched by the Me 109. The Bloch MB 151 and 152 were much the same way and flying on unreliable Gnome Rhone radials. Ex-Polish pilots that had escaped the fall of Poland were given the completely useless Caudron C 714.

Bombers were the same way with them being slow and vulnerable--not to mention usually downright fugly...

Ironically the air groups with the older ,aircraft were those flown south in April for the transition stand down. There were some 300 Hawk-75 interceptors and MB-167 fast bombers in the depots and a similar number on the docks in the US. The aircraft industry was just restarting large scale production after a major reorganization and retooling, and more aircraft were scheduled for delivery from the US. France was about five months away from having a modern air force. If the war in 1939 or 1940 goes the other way Germany is very much on the wrong side of the air war. British aircraft production alone in 1940 outstripped German. 6,200 German combat types vs 7,700 British.

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

Post by lahoda » 17 Nov 2022 21:45

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
17 Nov 2022 14:30
Ironically the air groups with the older ,aircraft were those flown south in April for the transition stand down. There were some 300 Hawk-75 interceptors and MB-167 fast bombers in the depots and a similar number on the docks in the US. The aircraft industry was just restarting large scale production after a major reorganization and retooling, and more aircraft were scheduled for delivery from the US. France was about five months away from having a modern air force. If the war in 1939 or 1940 goes the other way Germany is very much on the wrong side of the air war. British aircraft production alone in 1940 outstripped German. 6,200 German combat types vs 7,700 British.
Yep and that window was quite narrow, as Bf-109 E started to be produced in November 1938, but due to problems with the new powerful engine DB 601 with fuel injection some units only got their airplanes as late as in August 1939, literally weeks before the war broke out.

French "obsolete" airplanes such as MS-406 would fare much better against Bf-109B/C which were still at the units earlier (as well as some Arados Ar-68, with Heinkels He-51 being moved to ground attack units starting spring 1938)

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Nov 2022 19:01

lahoda wrote:
17 Nov 2022 21:45
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
17 Nov 2022 14:30
Ironically the air groups with the older ,aircraft were those flown south in April for the transition stand down. There were some 300 Hawk-75 interceptors and MB-167 fast bombers in the depots and a similar number on the docks in the US. The aircraft industry was just restarting large scale production after a major reorganization and retooling, and more aircraft were scheduled for delivery from the US. France was about five months away from having a modern air force. If the war in 1939 or 1940 goes the other way Germany is very much on the wrong side of the air war. British aircraft production alone in 1940 outstripped German. 6,200 German combat types vs 7,700 British.
Yep and that window was quite narrow, as Bf-109 E started to be produced in November 1938, but due to problems with the new powerful engine DB 601 with fuel injection some units only got their airplanes as late as in August 1939, literally weeks before the war broke out.

French "obsolete" airplanes such as MS-406 would fare much better against Bf-109B/C which were still at the units earlier (as well as some Arados Ar-68, with Heinkels He-51 being moved to ground attack units starting spring 1938)

Thats one nuance of the air war question. Another is the size of the French (and British) pilot or air crew reserves. Then there is the depth of training for each group of pilots, and the number coming out of the training schools April - July 1940. Then there is the question of tactics.

Sorting all that out would be difficult. I don't have numbers for the first item, the number of total pilots on each side not just those in squadron or group service. Theres claims the French and British combined had better than 50% more trained pilots than Germany in April 1940, but that can mean many things depending on the type of training/experience.

The second item, depth of training is complex. Both the Brits and French were making drastic alterations in the training of their pilots. The extended prewar programs of producing a well rounded 'airman' had been pared of a lot of nice to have items to a bare essentials program of 3-6 months. Its not clear to me how far along the Germans were in that. I have seen a claim they were still using a extended full course program, but I cant recall any collaboration of that. Beyond that the Average French pilot had four plus years service. a large portion were reservists in their mid to late twenties. The bulk of the Luftwaffe pilots had been enrolled and trained from 1938 giving them less time to accumulate OJT, flight hours & potential less tactical training. A study of the German & French (or British) training records would clarify how large the difference actually was.

For the third item there is that the Germans temporarily shut down their intake into the basic flight and finishing schools for the summer campaign. Further many of the instructors were transferred to combat units to bring those to full strength. In both cases the French a Brits had their pilots schools running through the summer. Depending on the actual numbers that has implications for a a sustained campaign through the summer, autumn, and into early winter.

Fourth is tactics. The general consensus in the literature is the Germans were using better fighter and bomber tactics. Rolling with that theres a advantage much more important than the tiny details of aircraft performance. At least for the summer the Germans have a combat multiplier in this respect. How long that lasts depends on how fast the surviving Allied pilots and their squadron/group leaders learn.

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