How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.
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Ironmachine
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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Mar 2020 10:35

paulrward wrote:Well, how about this? It is August, 1936. The Spanish Civil War has broken out in Spain. Andre Malraux is gathering men and aircraft for the Republic, and the Republicans are getting ready to re occupy the Mallorcas.

And, at this moment, in defiance of British sensibilities, France leaps into action. The Armee de l'Aire immediately frees up 230 of the older Nieuport NiD 62 series fighters, along with some 75 of the Dewoitine D-500 monoplane fighters, and despatches them, with pilots, mechanics, spare parts, and ammunition, to support the Loyalist Government in Madrid. ( The Republicans ) In addition, surplus Breguet 19 two seat bombers and Potez 54 twin engine bombers are also supplied. The sudden influx of literally hundreds of French aircraft simply sweeps the small number of German and Italian aircraft from the skies, giving the Republicans a virtually unchallenged air supremacy.

Along with this, some 300 elderly Renault Ft17 tanks are shipped across the Pyrenees, to bolster the Republican Militia. These tanks, though old and obsolete, form a huge striking arm for the Republicans that neutralizes the Nationalist's advantage in Cavalry. Accompanying the tanks are 600 of the WW1 vintage 'French 75s', which, when hitched to any available Spanish lorries, serve as a rapid deployment artillery force in the Autumn of 1936. Though somewhat roadbound, they are still fast enough to move with the army, and the columns of Nationalist troops moving toward Madrid have their advances blunted or turned back by the famous old french howitzers.
There's no doubt that France could have helped the Republicans. However, it is much less clear that an agreement between French political forces could have been reached that allowed it. It is also less clear that the French soldiers would have been happy with being sent to a foreign war (and they would have to be sent, simply because the Republic was in complete chaos in 1936 and just sending weapons is not going to be enough). It is questionable that France could have done it soon enough to significantly change the map, that is, to blunt or turn back the National colums moving towards Madrid. And it is also questionable that the number of weapons mentioned (230 NiD 62, 75 D-500, 300 FT-17, 600 75's) would have been sent to Spain, at least just in 1936.
paulrward wrote: What is more, the influx of French Aid to the Republic effectively ' checkmates' the efforts of Stalin to get involved, and, with the risk of the spread of communism thwarted, Britain goes along with the French policy.
The "risk of the spread of communism" is not thwarted just by checkmating Stalin. A strong anti-Communism policy by the French would have been needed, and that could have further weakened the Republicans.
paulrward wrote: The Nationalist Banderas and Raquetta Columns dwindle
What are Raquetta Columns? Do you mean Requeté?
paulrward wrote:the siege of the Alcazar ends in a Republican Victory,
The siege of the Alcázar ended in 27 september 1936. It is unlikely that any French help would have been sent in high numbers soon enough to change that.
paulrward wrote:Franco and his cronies find themselves standing against a brick wall on a sunny day, blindfolded, and smoking one final cigarette......
With the French involved and directing the whole affair, which is the only possible way for them to control the evolution of the war, that's questionable. And by the way, Franco did not smoke.
paulrward wrote:The victory in Spain gives France the opportunity to test new weapons, build up it's industry, and serves as a spur to prepare France for the coming War with the Axis.
If the revolt is virtually defeated "within weeks" (that's your idea) is really difficult to believe the French are going to have enought time (or even the need) to test new weapons and build up their industry. Germany and Italy, that were involved in the war much more time, tested a very limited number of weapons and did not significantly build up their industry as a direct consequence of the SCW.
paulrward wrote: The fight in Spain also discredits the Rightists in France, and allows the Government to purge the Army, Navy, and Air Force of ' pro-fascist ' officers. The result is a force that, in 1940, is strongly pro-France and even more strongly anti-Hitler.
So do you mean that in OTL the 1940 French Army had a significant anti-France and pro-Hitler faction?
That whole paragraph is ridiculous.
paulrward wrote: The Offensive of May, 1940, is met with strength, vigor, and elan by the French. Hundreds of Dewoitine 520s and 510s, along with more than two thousand Morane Saulnier MS-406s rise to meet the Luftwaffe. Even without radar, they create a sufficient air umbrella to protect the French Army, and as hundreds of the fighters have been fitted with under-wing racks to carry small bombs, they begin to harrass the advancing German armies.
Wishful thinking at its best, and mostly unrelated with the possibility of a French participation in the SCW. Are you really saying that fitting under-wing racks for bombs in their fighters is a consequence of a French participation in the SCW?
paulrward wrote: In addition, with no threat from a Fascist Government south of the Pyrenees, the French are able to call on an additional three Corps of troops to bolster the front north of the Maginot Line. Some historians have claimed that these men were the difference between victory and defeat....
Some historians have claimed really bizarre things; that doesn't made them right; I wonder who those really uninformed historians are, because there were no three Corps deployed near the Spanish border. In fact, " no Army, Corps or even Division remained" there in 1940, as you can see if you take a look at this thread: viewtopic.php?f=112&t=176007&p=1566706& ... s#p1566706, where you can see the real state of the forces deployed to protect France from the "threat from a Fascit Government south of the Pyrenees", and then perhaps you could tell us how are you going to call three additional corps (but surely you couldn't).
paulrward wrote: When the Germans try to cross the Meuse River, the British send a force of Fairey Battle and Bristol Blenheim bombers to destroy the bridges. The Luftwaffe intercepts them, but the Messerschmitt pilots find themselves facing over three hundred Moranes and Dewoitines who are tasked with escorting their British allies. The bombing missions are a success, the bridges are ' dropped ' in the face of panzers, and the German advance is stalled. When Heer columns try to force a passage through the Ardennes, they are met with unending attacks from the air by single seat fighters that drop small HE bombs, and then llnger to strafe the helpless german soldiers.
The German Blitzkrieg peters out after occupying Belgium and Holland and northeastern France, just as it had some 26 years earlier. For Hitler, it seemed that history was repeating itself- and Germany would now face the slow, inexorable economic strangulation by the British Empire....
Maybe. Maybe not, even if the French managed to have a victorious Spanish Republic in 1940.
paulrward wrote: As a tiny side note - several divisions of Spanish Troops were moved by train to the front lines in time to fight the Germans in July, 1940. Their motto, "No Passaran !" echoed the French Army's , " Il ne passe pas " that made the defence of Verdun a legend....
In OTL, the French were true to their word, the Spaniards were not, so...
Anyway, highly improbable because a post-SCW Spanish Republic is not going to be like you think it would be. And in the best case, those Spanish divisions would have been like the Portuguese troops with the British Army in WWI: courageous, but wholy unprepared for the war they are going into.
paulrward wrote: In reality, Franklin Roosevelt, speaking at a dinner in the White House during WW2, confessed to his guests that his greatest mistake as President was NOT supporting the Spanish Republic in 1936, and agreeing to go along with England's decision to impose a blockade of war materials on Spain, thus ensuring the Fascist Victory in Spain that led inexorably to the Second World War......
That's his opinion. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and they are all full of shit. Anyway, it seems that was not his opinion in 1936-1936, and who knows what would have been his opinion in say 1950 if still alive..
paulrward wrote:If you look like a pig, act like a pig, smell like a pig, and lay down with pigs, people will call you a pig. Franco's
initial support base was the Falange, he staged a military coup, he created a repressive government after the
Civil War was over, and had friendly one-on-ones with both Hitler and Mussolini . That makes him a pig - oops -
sorry, that makes him a Fascist.
Sorry, that doesn't make him a Fascit. All you mention here may be necessary conditions (they are not, really) but they are not sufficient conditions. His initial support base was not the Falange, his initial support base was the Army, and it remained his main support base all his life; he used the Falange, and reworked it to support him, but that does not make him a Fascist. He took part in a military coup, but that does not make him a Fascist (there were many leftish military coups during the SCW). He created a repressive government after the war, but that does not make him a Fascist. And he had friendly (or at least civilized) one-on-ones with Hitler and Mussolini, but that does not make him a Fascist, in the same way that having later a friendly one-on-one with Eisenhower doesn't make him a democrat.
Franco was not a Fascist. A man who said: "Haga como yo, no se meta en política" is not really into political systems and ideologies. Was he somewhat better because he was not a Fascist? In no way. He gets no absolution for his sins for not being a Fascist.
paulrward wrote:During the War, Franco allowed German U Boats to refuel and re-arm in Spanish ports, offered to join the Axis in June of 1940 after the Fall of France, and sold critical items like Tungsten and Oil to Germany. His government cooperated with German Intelligence, and he sent a division of troops to fight in Russia ( The Blue Division ). He did NOT become a neutral until AFTER the U.S. invaded North Africa, and he realized he might be next.
Some of those points are questionable, particularly that he offered to join the Axis in June of 1940 after the Fall of France. However, just remember, for example, that Finland cooperated militarily with Germany, sent many divisions to fight in Russia, and did not changed sides until AFTER the Soviet Union invaded it and they realized that they were defeated. So what?
paulrward wrote:In fact, Franco's victory freed up Germany to start the war. After the Condor Legionaires returned home, and the Heer and Luftwaffe had absorbed the lessons learned in the fighting, they were able to wage a modern combined arms type of war against Poland and later France. Had Hitler and Mussolini been defeated in Spain, it might very well had deterred them from attacking Poland, as a revitalized France would be more of an enemy than it was historically.
In fact, Franco's victory freed up a ridiculous amount of men, and even less material. It did not freed up Germany to start the war, if only because Hitler did not expect the invasion of Poland to star a war with Fance and Great Britain. The lessons learned by the Luftwaffe and the Heer (particularly by the Heer) in the SCW have been always overrrated; the Germans would have been albe to wage a modern combiend arms type of war without (whatever) the lessons of the SCW. And the last sentence of the paragraph is just a wish: a Republican victory in Spain and a revitalized France may have deterred Germany from attacking Poland, or may have not.
paulrward wrote:The United States embargoed shipments of aircraft, machinery, transport equipment, and medical supplies to Republican Spain while allowing Texaco to ship U.S. Petroleum products to Franco. Had the Roosevelt Administration allowed shipments to the Spanish Republic, it might have defeated Franco, and one less Fascist Government in Europe would be a very good thing for the United States, as well as everyone else in Europe....
It is questionable if one less Fascist (though it was not really Fascist) government in Europe would have been a very good thing for the USA and everything else in Europe if you don't consider the alternatives. Would a one more Stalinist government in Europe (a quite possible outcome of the SCW if the only change is the amount of help provided by the USA to the Republic) be a very good thing for the United States and everyone else in Europe?
paulrward wrote: On the other hand, a Victorious Spanish Republic, grateful for the aid given to them by France in their hour of peril and desperate need, might very well have been more than happy to send a few divisions to northern France to fight the despicable Nazis and the hated Fascists..... ( Note: I am using the jargon of 1940 ! )
That would depend on what kind of Spanish "Republic" survives the war. Certainly there are many possibilites that would not led to a Spanish support of France. And anyway, as I wrote before, those few divisions may have been more a problem than a help for France.
paulrward wrote:After the end of the Spanish Civil War, Spain was left prostrate and destitute, and misguided Francoist economic policies did nothing to help that situation. Despite this, they were still able to send a division of soldiers to fight in Russia until nearly the end of the war. Now, if FRANCE had come into the war from the beginning, and soundly defeated Hitler and Mussoliini in, let us say, six to nine months, then the Civil War would have been over in the Spring of 1937, and Republican Spain, without it's Communist dominated POUM, might have been able to turn things around economically, and put together a few divisions that could be sent to fight in France.
Wow, so many things wrong here. A victorious Spanish Republic, depending of how much the war lasts, could have been as destitute as the Spain of OTL, and it is not a sure thing that any alternative government would have followed much better economic policies. Saying that Franco was able to send a division of soldiers to fight in Russia unitl nearly the end of the war is at least misguiding: what were sent were enought men to form a division (that was withdrawn in October 1943, so hardly "until nearly the end of the war"); but all their equipment and weapons (with some little exceptions that make no difference) were provided by Germany, as Spain could not do it, so this is proof of nothing.
The mention of the "Republican Spain, without it's Communist Dominated POUM": I can't really make any sense of that, but it seems that you don't know what was the POUM, as you don't know many things about Spain. That's not a problem per se, but it is one when you want to discuss the matter.
A victorious Republican Spain might have been able to turn things around economically, or might have not able to do it. Who knows? It would depend first in what kind of Republican Spain survives the war. Unless France is decided to remain in Spain after the end of the SCW and use the force to control the country, a quite possible outcome is the Communist, the Anarchists, the Nationalists (the "true" Nationalists, not those Nationalists that were really called the Nationals, but hey English-speaking authors can just take note of that little fact), and the burgeoise Republicans would begin to kill each other until only one group remains in power. And that group would have control of a prostrate and destitute Spain, and that group might perhaps not be very friendly towards France's burgeoise republic.
paulrward wrote:Even without them, the fact is, France had to keep an entire army of about three Corps watching the Pyrenees, for the same reason they had to watch the Southern Border with Italy, in order to prevent a possible attack by Franco in the Spring of 1940. But, If Spain was still Republican, and diplomatically grateful for the French aid that had saved them from Franco, then it is likely that some or most of these troops could be been re-deployed into the front between the end of the Maginot Line and the English Channel. Nine divisions of troops is a LOT of men....
I have already posted a link to a thread that shows there were not three corps watching the Pyrenees. The idea of a Spanish attack through the Pyrenees in 1940 is completely ridiculous. As ridiculous as the idea of nine Spanish divisions deployed in the front between the end of the Maginot line and the English Channel, by the way.
paulrward wrote: After the Victory in early 1937, the Spanish people, seeing how close they had come to a political and social disaster, experienced a new birth of political tolerance. Leaders of the different factions began working together in the Cortes General to create a new, United Spain, with improved rights for factory workers, improved educational opportunities divorced from the control of the Catholic Church, a re-distribution of the land to the farmers and peasants who worked it, and strove to empower ALL Spaniards with the political rights and freedoms to openly express themselves politically without resorting to violence.
Birth of political tolerance? How? Which leaders? The rightist leaders, who would have been killed without considering whether they supported the coup or not? The Nationalists, who didn't want to be part of Spain? The Communists, who just wanted a Communist state? The Anarchists, who wanted no state? The burgueoise left, who was fully unable to control the extremists? As I said before, La-La-Land.
paulrward wrote:There was at least one French General who openly stated that he would rather serve Hitler than Leon Blum. The infighting between the left and the right in France paralyzed that nation until the Germans over ran them. On the other hand, a Victory in Spain, not for Communism, but rather for a more moderate coalition of Center-Leftists, might create in France a similar period of collaberation between the Left and Center, allowing them to squeeze the Right wing out of power in time for a defeat of Hitler.
Two problems here. First, for a victory of a moderat coalition of Center-leftists in the SCW, the French would have to involve themselves politically and militarily in the Spanish quagmire for a long time, because the same day the coup took place, the moderates in the Republican government became basically powerless. The power would have to be taken back by force from the Communists, the Anarchists and others, and that would not be easy and it would take a long time. Second, the infighting between the left and right may have paralyzed France (paralyzed is too strong a word), but unless a civil was like in Spain took place, this problem has a difficult solution. Certainly a rebel defeat in the SCW is not going to solve that problem in France.
paulrward wrote: It is a historical fact that Edouard Deladier made the comment in October 1938, "If I had three or four thousand aircraft, Munich would never have happened. "
And if he had had just two "cojones", Munich would never have happened, either.
paulrward wrote: If France embarked on a program of rapid aircraft construction, concentrating initially on the Dewoitine D500 series in 1936 and 1937, by the summer of 1938, they might have had as many as 1000 of these fighters, more than enough to intimidate Hitler into staying out of Czechoslovakia, and thus PREVENTING WW2. Even if this had not taken place, the subsequent production of the Morane Saulnier MS406 could have been speeded up, with some 2000 aircraft being available in the spring of 1940. Finally, the Dewoitine D520 and the Caudron C714 programs could have been streamlined and accelerated, with perhaps as many as 250 of each aircraft being available when the balloon went up in May of 1940. This would give the French some 1000 D500s for ground attack, 2000 MS406s as their main fighter, and some 500 of the new D520s and C 714s coming on line. A luftwaffe facing 3500 single seat fighters would have a daunting task indeed....
Fine. But that does not depend on a French participation in the SCW. All those measures could have been taken without French intervention in the SCW. In fact, that "mighty" "Fascist" state that you say forced France to keep an entire army of about three Corps watching the Pyrenees in order to prevent a possible attack by Franco in the Spring of 1940, might have been a better incentive for French weapons production that a friendly Republican neighbour.
paulrward wrote:What Freewheelin' Franklin was expressing was what we in the United States refer to as, '20 - 20 Hindsight' - The old saying is, " Everyone has 20-20 Hindsight !" In other words, looking back, allowing Franco to come to power was a massive mistake.
What Franklin was expressing was just his opinion, and it is not even a "20-20 hindsight", as he didn't know what alternative future a defeat of Franco could bring.
paulrward wrote:I have not, in my post, suggested that Roosevelt intervene in the SCW. My suggestion was, had FRANCE intervened, it might have saved France four years later in the summer of 1940.
My suggestion is it might have not.
Last edited by Ironmachine on 26 Mar 2020 11:03, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Mar 2020 10:42

ljadw wrote:10 A Republican recapture of the Mallorcas was excluded , as the Spanish navy was no longer operational .
Actually, the Republican Navy was operational enough to carry out such an operation. In fact, such an operation (a seaborne invasion of Mallorca) was actually carried out, and despite its completely amateur planning and execution, it almost succeeded, and only the arrival of some Italian reinforcemets saved the island. Given the sorry state of the defenses of the island, a more profesional command and control of the operation would have very probably allowed the Republicans to conquer the island without having to detach a significant naval force.

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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Mar 2020 10:53

ljadw wrote:2 Franco did not sell oil to Germany : he had no oil ! That he sold tungsten to Germany did not make him an ally of Germany : the SU, Switzerland, Sweden,..were trading with Hitler, that makes them not allies of Hitler . Hitler sold weapons to the Chinese KMT which used them to kill Japanese , USA sold oil to Japan which used them to kill Chinese ...
Franco (Spain) did have oil, which was provided (sold) by the Western Allies. But the quantities provided were small for the needs of the country. If Spain did sell some oil or oil products to Germany during the war, then necessarily the quantitites involved would have been too small to have any real significance for the German economy or war machine.

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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by ljadw » 26 Mar 2020 13:33

Ironmachine wrote:
26 Mar 2020 10:42
ljadw wrote:10 A Republican recapture of the Mallorcas was excluded , as the Spanish navy was no longer operational .
Actually, the Republican Navy was operational enough to carry out such an operation. In fact, such an operation (a seaborne invasion of Mallorca) was actually carried out, and despite its completely amateur planning and execution, it almost succeeded, and only the arrival of some Italian reinforcemets saved the island. Given the sorry state of the defenses of the island, a more profesional command and control of the operation would have very probably allowed the Republicans to conquer the island without having to detach a significant naval force.
Most Spanish naval officers supported Franco and a big part of them were shot at the start of the civil war .

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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Mar 2020 14:58

ljadw wrote:
Ironmachine wrote:
ljadw wrote:10 A Republican recapture of the Mallorcas was excluded , as the Spanish navy was no longer operational .
Actually, the Republican Navy was operational enough to carry out such an operation. In fact, such an operation (a seaborne invasion of Mallorca) was actually carried out, and despite its completely amateur planning and execution, it almost succeeded, and only the arrival of some Italian reinforcemets saved the island. Given the sorry state of the defenses of the island, a more profesional command and control of the operation would have very probably allowed the Republicans to conquer the island without having to detach a significant naval force. Most Spanish naval officers supported Franco and a big part of them were shot at the start of the civil war .
Most Spanish naval officers supported Franco and a big part of them were shot at the start of the civil war .
Yes. And still the Republican Navy was operational enough to carry that kind of operation.In fact, no significant amount of naval power was really needed for it, as there were no rebel naval units in the area, the coastal defenses of Mallorca were negligible, and there was no air threat. If the Italians did not intervene in force, the island could easily be recovered by the Republicans. The definitive prood, if needed, is that the invasion took place in August-September 1936. And even without the full involvement of the Republican government (the operations was an iniciative of the Catalan government), the naval forces involved ammounted to one battleship, one light cruiser, two destroyers, one coast-guard ship, a number of transports and auxiliary ships, and three submarines. Ibiza, Formentera and Cabrera were occupied, and Mallorca was only "saved" by the doubts and inactivity of the landed forces, due to their lack of training and experience of the militian forces employed and their commanders. Their hesitancy gave time for the arrival of Italian reinforcements, and they withdrew. A more profesional operation, planned, comanded and executed by the Army, would have had great chances of success.
So, in response to your original statement:
1) A Republican recapture of the Balearic Islands was not excluded; in fact, it was attempted and nearly achieved.
2) The Spanish Navy was not non-operational; in fact, it was carrying out offensive operations at the time.

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Re: How could France have avoided defeat in WWII?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 26 Mar 2020 20:14

The simplest answer to the original question is France, and the British, decide to forego advancing into Belgium after Belgium goes neutral. That is, they let Belgium go down on their own.

This has two positives for the French.

First, they are now in prepared positions and not trying to fight a mobile war. This plays to their doctrinal strengths. Thus when the panzer divisions reach the Meuse, they are faced by a far more solid defense that is backed up by the DLC's-- yes, these are just brigade sized "divisions" but they are mobile and there's 5 of them. This would change the dynamic of the river crossing. It also means that the DLM's and other DCR's could move to support the German attempt to break through.
Elsewhere, the French and British are dug in in prepared positions and read to fully defend them, not moving forward and trying to get set in position.

Second, even if the breakthrough at Sedan occurs, the French and British are in a much better position to move to counter it, or to fall back and regroup if necessary.

The likely outcome here is a stalemate ensues and the French eventually learn from their mistakes. The war in the West bogs down into another WW 1 slugfest. The French don't win so much as they don't lose. The stalemate doesn't go down well with the German populace either (nor with the British or French).

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