Saturday, October 24, 2015


The Allied Forces had raced across France the summer of 1944 after the breakout from Normandy in July. The Germans were reeling and in what was deemed to be complete disarray. By mid-September the Allies had reached the Hitler’s Third Reich that was meant to last a thousand years. The Allies expected it to crumble by Christmas 1944. The American forces were anticipating encountering beaten forces as they drew near Germany. Yet, eight months later after much struggle, in May of 1945, the Reich finally was subdued.

Part of the story is the Battle of the Huertgen Forest at the western border of Germany. It was a twenty mile by 10 mile forest, some 200 total square miles of forest. The West Wall or what the Allies eventually called the Siegfried line, 390 miles (630km) long with 18,000 bunkers, tank traps and tunnels ran through it. It was built between 1938 and 1040. And contrary to thinking after the Fall of France where the Maginot line was inconsequential to lightning warfare, here Blitzkrieg warfare was stymied. Terrain, weather contributed. The Huertgen Forest removed the tank and the air might from the military equation. The narrow trails or fire breaks through the forest were generally not passible for tanks or a tank in the narrow confines of the forest often hit a mine and blew out a track, ending up blocking it. The Americans could rarely use the Air Force to “soften” targets. In the fall and winter of 1944 in the inclement weather, overcast skies and the dense forest these elements were negated.

Combat here has little relation to the dashing heroics accompanied by complete ineptitude of the enemy so many of Hollywood’s war movies like the Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan, and Fury among many others, portray. In fact the famous Army Rangers, 2nd battalion spent a few days taking Castle Hill near Bergstein near the Roer fought bravely, but were delighted to get out as torn up as they were. Here a soldier would likely to spend days in a cold, frozen, wet foxhole, being subject to mortar fire, machine guns, artillery shells and infiltration or counter attack,   praying, hoping and sometimes crying that you get out alive. The weather in northern Europe in inclement in the Fall and Winter with rain, sleet, snow. 

Fighting here was no picnic. Land mines were a constant danger for men and military vehicles including tanks. At night in the forest it was normally literally pitch black. You didn’t leave you foxhole for fear of stumbling near someone and  being shot. Tree bursts in the dense forest showered deadly shrapnel down on you and a foxhole was no help unless covered with thick foliage and tree trunks. Standing up was the best policy in that situation.

Thousands of casualties came from combat fatigue: frost bite in which toes and fingers and limbs were lost, trench foot in which feet were constantly wet and cold, mental breakdown, etc. This was as close to hell on earth you will find. This battle was a literal “death factory” as the soldiers who were there called it.

I know of only one movie that accurately depicts combat conditions in the Huertgen Forest; When the Trumpets Fade. This was a 1998 made for TV movie available on YouTube. (This movie is rated R for a reason: strong language and violence.) But it conveys the absurdity of modern combat and the Huertgen Forest combat in particular, completely accurately. No Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks or John Wayne ever stoic and confident, here. Those fearless types were likely to die right away. This is the kind of combat that can break many a good man. That saw desperate prayers and uncontrollable crying and mental breakdown as well as great heroics.

Processions of several divisions were sent into the forest over three months from Mid-September to Mid-December and were basically decimated. Many men found themselves back at the aid stations for a variety of mental distress among other disabilities. Dereliction of assigned duties became a big problem. There were some who gave themselves self-inflicted wounds, like shooting themselves in the big toe to escape the hell. It became such a problem it was decided that someone like Ernie Slovik, a deserter, was executed as an example to others; the first since the Civil War.

This battle is forgotten; just south of the Forest the battle of the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge was fought beginning December 16, 1944.  Essentially 5 to 6 months the Allies were stalled on the Siegfried Line with the Battle of the Bulge punctuating the lack of advancement.

Much of the failure to push the Germans aside in the fall of 1944 hinged on the lack of supplies. Supplies were coming from Cherbourg, France the closest deep water port, farther then Normandy. It was only until November 28 that the major port Antwerp was freed up for shipping, the Netherland coastal areas being held by the Germans up until then.

By the autumn of 1944 there began to be a shortage of front line riflemen. There were 12 men supporting 1 man up at the front in the American Army. The Germans it was 5 to 1. But nonetheless it demonstrates an army operated like other bureaucracies; people tend to avoid the dirty work. And it got no more dirty,  than this. It was the end of the war and people knew it was only a matter of time before Germany capitulated and who wants to die just before the war ends?

In the three months up to December 16 only a few miles of territory were gained. They were trying to reach the Roer River, which flowed north south here, paralleling the much larger Rhine River, the border of ancient Germany. In those three months casualties totaled 32,000. 

Combat in the forest could include house to house fighting and even a rare bayonet charge; the forest and areas surrounding it was dotted with settlements. And in the dense forest infiltration by the enemy was a constant danger; sometimes trenches would be only 30 yards apart.

The Germans were vastly outnumbered, somewhere 5 to 1 but were masters at this type of warfare. The forest was part of the West Wall with bunkers, pill boxes and many a defensive entrenchment not easily spotted. They mined extensively as noted above. Their artillery and mortar fire was accurate and deadly.

The American infantryman was often a teacher, desk clerk, bank teller or some such. Brick layers and construction workers and such went to the Army engineers not the infantry. The American Army had two classifications: general fitness and noncombat. The British had physical fitness classes A through I with the A, top, going to the infantry. The Germans with a similar system sent their top physical specimens to the infantry. When the American soldier fought with the tremendous advantages in the number of tanks, planes and such, it didn’t matter. In the forest few of those standard advantages were present.

Due to the large amount of attrition that occurred in the forest, replacements were individually inserted into the battalions, companies, platoons and squadrons with little or no instruction, training or insight into the type of fighting they were going to encounter. This is no way improved combat effectiveness since the replacements didn’t have the advantage of what prior units had learned.

The greatest irony of the Huertgen Forest is that it lacked any strategic value. The initial idea was to push aside the weak German units in the Huertgen Forest that were presumed to be in disarray and drive straight to the Roehr River. The situation was found to be much different but the upper echelons of the American military continued to pursue that objective. However, it was finally realized after about four months that the true strategic goal was the dams on the Roehr south of the forest that held enough water to flood the Roehr plain for miles downriver. A failed attempt was made in early February to capture the dams but they were too late. The sluices were destroyed by the Germans and huge volumes of water cascaded down the river and flooded the plain anyway. For a period of weeks the Americans were blocked from crossing the Roehr and the Germans on the other side were freed up to attack the British and the Canadians farther north. The Americans were able to cross the Roehr on February 23, 1945, some 5 months after plan. That completed the fustercluck that was the battle of the Huertgen Forest.

Lessons I draw from the battle: 1) lightning tank warfare has limited application where here it ceased to be a factor. There were no rapid breakouts 2) fighting in the Huertgen forest was fiendish and 3) Hollywood’s depiction of combat over the years bears only a slim resemblance to the Huertgen Forest combat  except in a made for TV movie, When Trumpets Fade,  which faithfully recounts the conditions of combat in this battle.
Final note, learning about this battle gave me even more appreciation for the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation who we owe our freedoms to. They’ve largely passed, only a few remain. A memorial was finally erected in 2004 for those who gave service in World War II. Of course that was 59 years after the war; the majority who gave service had already passed including my father.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall of France 1940

American has been pre-eminent for last century or so, largely by the coming to the aid of Europe in World War I and II, specifically France in 1918 and 1944 among other actions. The Fall of France in 1940 is generally attributed to the might of the unstoppable German Panzer Armies. The truth of the history of the Fall of France in May 1940 and its run up is a surprising tale of cowardice and incompetence as much about German military prowess. Truthfully, America might not have been required to come to the rescue in 1944 to reclaim France. On the contrary, France could have forestalled the disaster with a proactive policy running up to the war and stymied Hitler’s schemes at their inception.

The purported reason World War I was fought was to make the “world safe for democracy” and thus the League of Nations was established. This failed. After World War II America setup a similar league, the United Nations. In doing this America was meant to avoid the British hegemony that led to the conflagration of World War I. In large part PAX AMERICANA, that was inaugurated after World War II, has been a Godsend to the world. Peace in the Western Pacific and Western Europe. No cataclysmic conflicts in 70 years. Regardless, President Bush’s military adventurism in the war against Iraq, although needless, would not have failed if the hugely expensive process of nation building was allowed to have been completed over time. Instead, President Obama found it more convenient to retreat as the keeper of world peace and leave Iraq to disintegrate. And yes, in hind sight it would have been far better if the military wasn’t sent there in the first place after September 11. It was a Crusade for Democracy, in an effort to what is called “nation building”, to erect a Jeffersonian Democracy in Iraq. It was tilting at windmills. I think we can safely say there are NO actionable Jeffersonian Democrats in the Arab Middle-East: Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and ISIS among others as patent examples of the absence of liberal democratic governance and sensibilities.

And the fact being the majority of democrats resident in Germany and Japan were put there by America after literally leveling their cities and imposing democratic regimes. It goes without saying this is NOT a standard foreign policy in which you can regularly rely on, otherwise that would have been contemplated when America was the sole possessor to atomic weapons. It hardly goes without saying its neither a workable nor moral foreign policy. Employing that weapon against civilian populations is pure horror and it remains up to debate if ANY use of that weapon is justifiable. America would have been the biggest mass murder of all time, attempting to “Americanize” the world. Retaliation with this weapon against conventional aggression is something like the situation whereby my neighbor kills my dog, so I’ll destroy him, his family and house and neighborhood with RPGs: NOT proportionate. And certainly not anything in which a diplomatic policy could be formulated.   And somebody forgot to think that “wait a minute!” that weapon (atomic bomb) at some time in the future could be used against….US! And that prospect was the linchpin of the MADD strategy. My nuclear gun is pointed at your head and yours at mine….gottcha, let’s not get an itchy finger. So what does it means if American “won” a nuclear war when Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, etc. are smoking radioactive cinders? What does this have to do with the Fall of France 1940?....very little. Let me get back to the issues at hand.

The French defeat in 1940 was an unmitigated fustercluck (bungle), something for which American boys would have to end up fixing with the requisite sacrifice. In this defeat history paints a picture of French incompetence and dereliction, politically and militarily with the complicity of the French People.  Britain and Canada, as brave and valiant as their contributions were, wouldn’t have had a snow ball’s chance of returning to the Continent without the presence of the United States military.  


Yes, the French were badly led in World War I. They lost a quarter of their young men killed in a brutal war of attrition, not forgetting to mention wounded and scarred for life (over a million killed). The society was unified in their opposition to committing to the same sacrifice in the run up to WWII. But the political and social situation in France was far more complicated mess than most people understand. The society was deeply divided. The very active French Far Right was sympathetic to Fascism and was anti-Semitic. Antisemitism is incomprehensible to us as it should be but these French Right wing currents ran against what was seen in pre-WW II circles as key Jewish participation in Left wing, Communist and Socialist political movements as well as principal agents in pivotal financial sectors. (No reason to exterminate a race! A true horror that taints and will continue to taint our entire civilization. NAZI’s used Darwinian race theories to justify their hatred.)
The history of democracy in France had a legacy of unbridled mob action, beginning with the French Revolution and the Jacobins which included the Guillotine and war against the tradition adhering peasant, who remained loyal to an idea of monarchy.  One reason one hears no French “folk” music. All culture came from the center; that is revolutionary Paris. To many on the Right democratic rule becomes associated with terror and mob violence. On the other hand, those of Liberal (original meaning) republican sensibilities were hostile to religion and especially the inordinate influence the Roman Catholic Church; removed from being the state religion in 1905.  The Roman Church was closely associated with monarchial sentiments; the monarchy that supported and fostered the Church.  Liberalism today takes on a great deal of socialism, where originally Liberal meant sympathy for Classical economic nostrums of exercise of capital in free markets including free unrestricted labor. The Left, Socialist and Communist (after the German Soviet nonaggression pact), was largely pacifist and international, seeing warfare like the recent Great War as one of a conflict between capitalist nations. Aggression towards Germany and re-arming to prepare for conflict against Germany were seen as not in the interests of the working class.


The Germans began the invasion of France on May 10th of 1940. Within a matter of five days after the Germans had attacked, the Premier of France, Paul Reynaud, called Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, to say “we are defeated… we are broken. We have lost the battle. The front is broken at Sedan.” Within the first few days of the invasion the German Blitzkrieg had punched across the narrow lightly defended Luxemburg and Southern neck of Belgium which includes the densely forested Ardennes, across the river Meuse at Sedan to then begin to race west behind the French and English Armies, north of them in Belgium. The Allies had moved forward into Belgium to meet main thrust of the German Army, where they presumed the bulk of the German army was poised to attack.  This move forward east into Belgium about 50 miles insured that the English and French could be trapped, as Germany in its Blitzkrieg, advanced West through France behind them.
After hearing that France deemed itself defeated the British Army began to retreat to Dunkirk on the coast of La Manche, the English Channel, in hopes of being able to evacuate itself from France. Much of the French army was left to fight on even after entrapment but couldn’t re-organize itself to attack. In fact the French armies, completely paralyzed, along the Maginot Line remained on the West and didn’t move to join battle north against the break through.

This collapse could have been avoided. The first blunder was absence of opposition to Hitler’s move to re-militarize the Rhineland. After WWI France wanted to insure itself that Germany would never again rise up to invade it like it had in 1870 and 1914. Part of the Versailles treaty stipulated that the Rhineland adjacent to France’s Eastern border would remain denuded of troops as well as severe limits on the size of the Army, just 100,000 soldiers. Hitler upon attaining power in January, 1933 set to dis-mantle the restrictions imposed on by Versailles.

March 1936 Hitler moved into the de-militarized Rhineland. France had over a million troops at its disposal to counter this. Yet, they remained behind the Maginot Line. Some 295,000 German personnel, most nonmilitary, walked into the Rhineland; virtually all were non-military members of the SA (Storm troopers [Brown Shirts]), the SS (Black Shirts) and Landespolizei (Federal police force) and some 7,000 actual military: 3 battalions of combat ready troops. As we already know this was a phantom army. Wikipedia article referencing this event makes a patently absurd claim that the real reasons for France’s hesitation were discovered after the opening of the French historical archives in the 1970’s. We discover that France was broke and couldn’t afford to advance into Germany for fear of financial collapse. (Stephen Schuker). Funny nobody else (French and German principals in question) mentions that at the time or in retrospect. William Shirer interviewed many of the principals and all confirm the nature of Hitler’s gamble and that France and Britain’s dereliction. They are silent about France’s pending financial collapse.

Just the quantity of military hardware France possessed in 1940 puts a lie to the purported dire financial constraints that would completely harness French military activity. French military was equal in numbers if not superior to the Germans in 1940 based on my readings. They had more airplanes and tanks in May 1940. For that matter the German tank was far inferior to the French. The majority (over 2,000) of the German tanks were Model (Mark) 1 (lightly armored at 6 ton) with simply two machine guns in the turret! And the armor (13 mm) could be penetrated by 50 caliber machine gun. On the other hand the hundreds of Czechoslovakian Skoda tanks (approx.. 12 tons with a 1.5 inch (37 mm) cannons in the turret) the Germans obtained thanks to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his capitulation to Hitler in 1938, provided a significant contribution in the attack on France.

 Again, the Wikipedia article contends that France was financially incapable in March 1936 to finance an excursion into the Rhineland. Something as vital as this financial factor, would likely to have been a matter of debate but never arises as a contemporary issue, among the principal parties.  William Shirer, author of the masterful Collapse of Third Republic: an Inquiry into the Fall of France, 1940, covers this issue extensively.* It is a very curious view. I have not read the aforementioned Stephen Schuker’s uniquely pointed monograph. The evidence supporting France’s lack of will, not absence of financial resources regarding the re-militarization of the Rhine, as the prime cause, is extensive.

We find that French General Gamelin, Commander and Chief, is a central figure in France’s failure. He insisted that a general mobilization of all French military would be necessary to meet the German move into the Rhineland, which he deceitfully overestimated in size by counting non-military personnel (some 235,000). This insistence in complete war mobilization was known by Gamelin to be a nonstarter and a means to insure no response would be made to Hitler’s aggressive move. Why he would have held this belief is a mystery to many a historian. The presence of the massive Maginot Line and the insistence on a defensive response might be part of France’s thinking.

The Maginot line was hugely expensive, sucking up military resources that could have been used elsewhere like planes, tanks, guns. It is said that just one 87 mile stretch cost $ 3 billion francs (my est. $600 million)… that’s more than 1/3 the cost of the Manhattan project. The Maginot would eventually need to stretch 720kilometer (450 miles) between Switzerland in the south to Luxemburg in the north.  Problem is France has a 200 mile border with what became neutral Belgium.

Construction of the defensive wall along the border would have caused critical diplomatic issues with a country meant to be an ally, so the wall couldn’t be extended there. The Germans went around it in any event. In addition with the Rhineland now re-militarized Belgium saw German soldiers on its border and declared itself neutral again in October 1936.  This meant that France couldn’t pre-empt a German invasion into Belgium but had to wait, which is what happened in May of 1940.

In the re-militarization of the Rhine of March of 1936 before acting against Hitler France insisted on British support and received none. They couldn’t face Germany alone, the thinking ran. Tragically the Hitler’s aggression with the re-militarization of the Rhineland in March 1936 was allowed to pass, much to France’s dismay later as we know. Another factor for France’s lethargy was the imminent prospect of election in the spring of 1936.  The political class feared the French electorate, who was solidly pacifist.

Yet, France in 1936 had a decided military advantage. If France had acted, the German response would have been a quick retreat back across the borders, according to von Blomberg, Germany’s Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief. Hitler had only just announced his intent to violate the Versailles military restrictions, and Germany’s Army was not yet built up. Yet, France would not risk 100 divisions against German 3 battalions. They would pay later for their cowardice; an historic opportunity was missed.

It must be emphasized that French popular opinion favored sticking their head in the sand in 1936, ignoring Germany’s aggression. The Front Populaire (Popular Front), which sprung forth much like the Arab Spring of 2012,  was a collection of left wing Socialists and Communists and the Center Radical parties that opposed Fascism within France, which was small but active. In 1936 there was great outcry by the Popular Front that France hadn’t intervened in Spain’s Civil War, yet they largely ignored the real menace and that was NAZI Germany. My reading tells me that France prior to WW II was almost unanimously pacifist in leanings or at least wanted to ignore the menace that was the re-arming NAZI Germany. There was no middle ground. The French Left except for the Communists was pacifist and the Far Right was sympathetic to Fascist movements in Germany and Italy. The Popular Front was initiated when the Communists changed tact and joined with the Socialists, who they ordinarily considered vile betrayers of Communist advancement, and the Radicals, the center party, to form a coalition.

The French popular front outburst could be likened to much more wide spread and virulent “Occupy” movement in America in 2011 which protested income inequalities by holding sit-ins in streets and parks. “We are the 99%” was one of their slogans, as a chant against the 1% that seemed to have made it through the Great Recession of 2008 just fine. The Occupy Movement had no real program however, just an outpouring of popular discontent. The Popular Front likewise had no agenda, other than just an outburst in the name of social justice. That broke out into massive general strikes and demonstrations everywhere, including strikes by retail and department store workers. Strikes involved sit-ins as well; one of the more famous was a sit in the Renault auto plant. One result of the protests was a legislated reduction in the work week to 40 hours with no reduction in pay. Employers couldn’t pay someone the same wage for fewer hours without loss of productivity and so it goes without saying inflation ate up the “gains”. However in addition, they were granted 2 weeks of vacation guaranteed and rights to form a labor union as well. When the Leon Blum, Socialist administration fell in June 1937, the 40 hour limited week was rescinded by the next government.


The French blunders in the build up to World War II piled up one on another.  In 1938 when Czechoslovakia was being carved up France had a chance to stand up again. Once again the British tried appeasement and granted Hitler the Sudetenland, the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia. Prime Minister Chamberlain claimed “peace in our time” in the act of appeasement to Hitler’s aggression. France, if they didn’t see a need to fight in 1936, didn’t see one in 1938 to take Germany on alone. Note they had signed a defense pact with the Soviet Union in 1935. One small detail in the pact Soviet Union didn’t abut NAZI Germany and would either need the permission or invade a neutral country to reach NAZI Germany. Anyway once Soviet Union saw that the West, France and Britain et al. acquiesced to Germany they lost faith in them as allies. They went courting NAZI Germany and signed a nonaggression pact in late August 1939. Thus France couldn’t have played it any stupider; now Germany could turn on France alone. But of course France had another opportunity in September 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland. With Britain’s support France declares war on Germany, once Germany invades Poland. Germany held a thin line on protecting the West while virtually all of the Wehrmacht was employed against Poland. Some might think it was time to attack Germany. The best France does is a tentative move some few kilometers into Western Germany then a quick retreat before anybody got hurt. 8 months later they got a full blown war; the Maginot line didn’t save them. 

In 1940 the German air force in raw numbers is outnumbered by the French and the British but tactically Germany handled its air force much more adeptly. Based on my reading the dominance of the German air force in the Invasion of France in 1940 was founded on Germany’s tactical superiority. Aircraft were used to support the Army, not as a strategic weapon, so loved by other air forces including Britain and United States and really French air power advocates. Germany was able to concentrate their aircraft to dominate a local air space, which swept the French and British from the skies whenever they would appear. Germany flew many times more sorties per aircraft than the French, while their far superior anti-aircraft capabilities downed many enemy aircraft. The French inexplicably had only 25% of their airplanes in the Western Front, holding their airplanes back to preserve them for possible later use. Let me say that the French once again was deeply divided as to the strategy and purpose of its Air Force. Leaders of the Air wing looked to see air power as a strategic strike weapon. The Army demanded a tactical Air wing. The Air Force passively fought the Armies aims and as a result the French Air Force failed to have the infrastructure such as airfields and communications to support a tactical effort. In mid-June when it became completely clear that defeat was imminent most of the French air force was flown to North Africa, without ever being utilized.  How do you say dereliction of duty?

On May 10, 1940 after over eight months of inactivity, the Germans attacked. Germany’s Army Group B, comprised of 29 total divisions began a move through Belgium and Netherlands to France, the route they used in 1914 in World War I. This enticed the Allies, France and Great Britain to move forward into Belgium by some 50 to 75 miles. Belgium had insisted on their neutrality so a move before invasion was not possible. Belgium switched to neutrality when France made no move to counter the Germans in 1936.  By occupying the Rhineland German military adjoins Belgium.

Yet, the main thrust of the German invasion was being made not there but through the Ardennes to the south, a heavily forested area with few roads, just north of the vaunted heavily fortified Maginot line with Army Group A with 35 divisions including 7 fully equipped Panzer divisions.  In fact if the French had bothered to notice, they would have seen a huge traffic backup winding its way through the area composed of German military vehicles. The French air force never attacked, though an attack would likely to have been crippling. In the fog of war this thrust was ignored for several days, even as the Germans crossed Belgium and reached Sedan on the River Meuse on May 13, crossing over into France initially with a fragile hold on the opposite bank. The Germans met the 2nd Army composed of 5 divisions, the two most forward the 55th and 71st. The initial assault over the Meuse at Sedan initiated a general panic of the 55th French Infantry division, which fled in disarray south.
A dilatory counter thrust against the break through at Sedan was ineptly made by France. The 3rd Armored division was scattered and in training on May 10 and had to be collected and wasn’t prepared to fight on May 13, when the Germans began to cross the Meuse at Sedan, the French Armor lacking anti-tank weapons, fuel, radios, repair companies, etc. The French 3rd Armor and the 3rd Motorized divisions sent to staunch the breach delayed their attack by a day to counter the pocket over the Meuse made by the Germans. This permitted two divisions of the German 19th Armored Panzers Corps led by General Guderian to continue their turn right to the West on May 14. This would lead them driving, along with the 4 Panzers including Rommel’s 7th mentioned below, across France to the Channel. The French Armor counterattacked north towards Sedan, but due to their dallying of a day, was met and stopped by the Grossdeutschland infantry regiment and the 10th Panzer division. The French decided to remain stationary content to staunch the German thrust south. The 10th followed the other Panzers west across France.
Some 50 miles north along the Meuse four Panzer divisions, including Rommel’s7th who insisted on leading from the very front of the spear, along with infantry support broke through a weak French 9th Army, which lacked armor and anti-tank weapons. They were swept aside by the Panzers. The inept General Gamelin who remained passive throughout the 1936 remilitarizing of the Rhineland up through the breakout of the Panzers in France was asked to step down on May 18 and was replaced by an equally inept 73 year old General Weygand. The Germans would be able to race to the Channel by June 5, keeping the French and British off guard. The British and French Armies in the north were cut off, who evacuated at Dunkirk in the thousands. Meanwhile the Belgians had given up the fight. The defensive strategy of the Maginot failed them.

Britain lost confidence in France’s fighting ability by May 21st, when Britain attempted a break out south across territory of the Panzer thrust but France could not organize itself to attack north to meet it. The Brits began to contemplate evacuating to fight another day. France felt betrayed, especially when Britain wouldn’t send more squadrons of fighters to attempt to protect their troops; the excuse given was that they were needed to defend an attack by Germany who now possessed the Channel and could easily fly sorties across the Channel.

Britain’s retreat off the continent sealed France’s fate if it wasn’t sealed before by its military ineptitude. The return would have to be made by the Americans in conjunction with the Brits and Canadians four years later in a massive invasion. The Soviets would commence colossal offensive in the East two weeks later as well. France would be restored in about three months.


The declaration of war by Britain when Poland was attacked was silly. Hitler was nothing but shocked that Britain chose to go to war for Poland. Britain had NO means to rescue Poland. Poland would remain under tyranny for the next fifty years, either NAZI or Communist. For that matter they were of little help to France with their 9 divisions. So when they saw France sinking they beat a fast retreat relying on America to rescue them. In one way of thinking wouldn’t it been easier to have done all you could to remain on the continent, than try to battle your way back on it? If they weren’t prepared to win the war on the continent, they needed to be certain of France’s fighting abilities. After so many concessions, 1936 Rhineland and 1938 Czechoslovakia among others, they might have been better to have remained off the continent. And see NAZI Germany and Soviet Russia eventually fight it out to their exhaustion. Anyone who read Mein Kampf knew about Hitler’s desire for Lebensraum, the needed living space for the Nordic master race in the east and the inevitable conflict between NAZI and Communist Ideologies. Probability of the conflict can be seen in the aftermath of the war, when the two allies, the Americans and the Soviets became dreaded enemies in the Cold War.

The result of World War II for Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe was Soviet domination, not what I call a condign result. One can never forget the horror of the Holocaust. It must be said it could NOT have been any worse for the Jews in Eastern Europe, absent the intervention of the Brits, so intervening in the continent certainly didn’t save Jewish lives. The Jewish population which numbered millions in Poland prior to the war was virtually wiped out.

For all that, contrast the response of the French Republic versus Soviet Russia. Russia suffered some four million casualties in the first months of the war. Of those captured 90% will die in prisoner camps. They lost their agricultural and industrial heartland. Yet, they continued on, obtaining eventually a large amount of supplies from Britain and U.S. to allow them to win the war. Thus, the sacrifice France failed to make fell on Soviet Russia to shoulder and later to the Americans to come to the rescue. Without Lend Lease from America I seriously question if the great sacrifice Russia made would have been enough, but the bottom line is that they were able to rally their people to make it. The Russian incurred 9 out 11 million casualties inflicted by the Germans. Yes, discipline was extremely harsh in the Soviet Army but they were fighting for their lives, not livelihood. And I imagine Stalin was thinking Germany would be locked in battle with France and Britain for years a la 1914 and he could watch them spend themselves.  This was a massive miscalculation. Once France was dispatched Hitler came for Soviet Russia.

 *This is confirmed in other writings including the French work, France and the Nazi Threat by Jean-Baptiste Durosell. See To Lose a Battle, Horne as well.