WWII Question: Could the French government have fought on?

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WWII Question: Could the French government have fought on?

Post by Force Lord » 2012-07-03 04:06pm

We all know the story. The Nazis invaded France and the Low Countries in 10 May 1940, and within a couple of months overran them due to better German doctrine (for the time) and, more importantly, serious Allied incompetence. The governments of Holland and Belgium mostly fled to Britain with few exceptions, while the French government did not, instead signing an armistice with Germany and becoming the puppet Vichy regime. Those who opposed peace with the Nazis either followed De Gaulle to Britain (forming the Free French) or were, like Reynaud, arrested. The fall of France led to events such as the sinking of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir by the British (who feared it being used by the Nazis), the "protective" occupation of French Indochina by Japan (thus aiding their later invasion of South-East Asia), and the invasion of French North Africa by the Anglo-American forces in an attempt to get the French back on their side. In short, France's surrender, though not something we should really condemn (for reasons we all know by now), did make the Allies' job of winning the war harder.

But, what if the opposite happened? What if the French government had chosen to fight on for the Allies instead of surrendering in 1940?

To mention about the consequences of a French government still in the war, even with the fall of France, a French North Africa hostile to the Axis would have meant the swift fall of Italy's holdings in Lybia and increased danger to Axis positions in the Mediterranean. This might force Mussolini to cancel his invasion of Greece, or perhaps even accelerate it in a desperate attempt to save face. Hitler would be even more worried about covering his southern flank, with negative effects on his offensive designs against the Soviet Union. Even if he still launches Barbarrossa, it would end up having less resources commited to it, aiding the Soviets. For the effects on Asia, Japan would find itself having to invade the whole of Indochina and waste time evicting its French garrison before even thinking about invading the whole East Indies, let alone reach Burma. Depending on what the Allies do, the Japanese would end up being stuck trying to fight their way out of Indochina, only to be stopped by spare Commonwealth troops that were never sent to North Africa and thus did not even have the wrong training for jungle warfare. The Phillipines would still fall in my opinion, but if there is a stalemate inland in South-East Asia then less resources would be left for Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese defensive perimeter would thus be smaller, and the US would have an easier time squishing Japan with its industrial might.

Oh, and the world would be spared of those annoying 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' jokes.

So, I'm asking this, what changes would it have taken to keep France (more specifically, the French government) in the war, even with the loss of France itself to the Germans? How likely would these changes be? I know that Alt. Hist. threads have a less than stellar history (pardon the pun) in this sub-forum, but I've been rather curious with this scenario, and I want to know the opinions of the more knowledgeable people here.

EDIT: Oh, and the proposed Franco-British Union may end up becoming something tangible, though I can't see how the French and the British can get along for long after WWII ends. Just leaving that out.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Blayne » 2012-07-03 05:11pm

I've been reading the Hitler's War series by Turtledove that seems to vaguely explore your scenario, but does it differently. In HW, they actually fight over Czechoslovakia and Munich falls apart, so since the battle of France happens about a year earlier than normal the Manstein Plan is Butterfly'd away and instead Schiffelin Mark Two is used as originally planned. So while German Annihilation Tactics are used with armour to great effect and the Germans still reach Paris, the French have not had their main forces and armoured reserves destroyed in the first few month and despair doesn't set in.

Essentially the idea is that if you fight the war earlier, with weaker tank designs, the Germans won't win like they did in our timeline and will lose steam and vastly overextend themselves, as:

-They don't have the Czech tank forces to expand their numbers, well, they'll have whatever they capture but the factories would have been destroyed and will take time to gear up again.
-The Germans will need to keep stuff in Poland to fight off the Russians who would now be in the war and so Molotov-Ribbentrop never happens.
-Fighting the war earlier means using many lighter and less proven tank designs, also less durable, meaning more breakdowns and more prone to deployed light and infantry portable anti weapons, this would result in higher attrition of the tank force with any offensive losing speed much faster and earlier.

But what if the French never surrendered?

French Africa would have been hostile, so I suppose the Italians wouldn't have sent 200,000 troops to Russia, but used them to take and hold North Africa, with potentially more German support, maybe an increased priority on the Middle Eastern theater?

I don't think the British-French Union idea would have been any more tangible, not if De Gaulle somehow still becomes President of France post war.

I wonder about Vietnam, if the French were still officially in the war that may deter the Japanese sufficiently from occupying it (which they did by pressuring Vichy originally?), which may prevent the embargo from happening. If we take it that Japanese militerism would inevitably lead them to a path to result in an embargo by FDR and thus WWII than I think whatever garrison they have in Vietnam would not significantly slowdown the Japanese southernly thrust beyond the logistics of it.

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-03 06:27pm

A short lived ground war in North Africa would mean fewer, not more German resources face the south. The Italians would have far more forces deployed on the north shore of the Med, and the Germans would not endlessly drain away aircraft tanks, and above all vast amounts of motor transport to fight in Africa. The British and French would be entirely unable to mass the forces needed to present any serious risk of an invasion, and the Italian fleet wouldn't be constantly loosing its ships escorting supply convoys. This would all burn much less fuel too, major net gain for the European Axis.

As for the Pacific, it would be troublesome for Japan but the French garrison in Indochina was incapable of serious resistance. However if the Japanese don't invade Indochina in 1940, then the US wouldn't impose a complete trade embargo either and Japan might decline to launch a war at all or delay its plans, or perhaps opt for the strike north option. Japan in any event has no need to invade the whole of Indochina, all they actually needed was Haiphong, Cam Ranh Bay and Saigon, all on or close to the coast and wide open to a serious attack. Once they have those points the rest of the colony could be digested at Japans leisure.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by spaceviking » 2012-07-03 08:34pm

I think you are underestimating Frances strength post invasion. IIRC while the French had been soundly beaten they still had most of their soldiers active. They were now short of things like transportation and supplies (ammo) so they could not launch a major operations to push the German out quickly, but they could have made the invasion far more costly for the Germans.

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-03 09:39pm

Umm, no, they had almost no strength left, thus the whole surrender concept. Look at a map of the Battle of France. On June 4th the Germans attacked across the Somme river, the so called Weygand Line. Here the French army fought very hard, but was completely defeated and almost all units at this stage lost what remaining artillery and armor they had. This was the last grasp of France on the continent, though in reality after Dunkirk victory was impossible anyway. This transformed an army certain to be defeated into one incapable of serious resistance.

By the June 12th the line was totally broken, and on the 14th Paris fell, which effectively doomed France even had a serious army remained able to fight, because it was the center of the national railway network and most French industry as well as coal and iron ore was north and east of the city. Also on June 14th and 15th the Germans broke through the Maginot line after French field forces in that sector were ordered to retreat, most would be encircled shortly after as the order was given too late. An entire army group was lost in the process. The entire front line was also now unhinged from the channel to the Swiss border.

By June 18th the Germans were at Tours, nearly 150 miles south west of Paris. On the 19th they reached Brest, 300 miles west of Paris and forced the French fleet to flee to North Africa. By this point the French were already evacuating troops from the Atlantic ports in the south of France, no effort was even being attempted to hold the area.

On the 20th, not even a week later the Germans reached Nates on the Atlantic coast and Lyons in south central France, as much as 250 miles south of the German border and only 150 miles north of the Mediterranean Sea. By June 22nd when France signed an armistice they had advanced almost 50 further miles south... in two days.

Yes serious numbers of French men remained in the field, and indeed they had little transport, ammo, heavy weapons or air support. What exactly do you think they would suddenly do, as they grow weaker by the day, that they had not been trying to do in the two previous weeks in which the Germans overran the majority of France? The Germans were pretty well literally advancing as fast as was possible.

At best a futile defense could have been mounted north of Toulon and Marseilles to buy a few extra days time to evacuate more manpower to North Africa, but historically the Germans allowed such an evacuation after the armistice anyway. Odds favor a total defeat of the French by the end of June.

The Germans were not and would not suffer serious losses in this phase of the campaign, the French simply had nothing left that could stop even a single Panzer corps on the attack. The French, surrendered for a reason, and even those who wished to fight on thought only in terms of fighting on from the colonies. As it was they already had 300,000 casualties. As far as defending France went resistance after about June 12th was militarily pointless.

Another week of evacuation might get several hundred thousand French troops to North Africa, problem is at best they'll have rifles only and the US is incapable of supplying armament material to reequip them on any serious scale prior to 1942. In fact historically even in early 1943 it was still a problem to rearm anything near the number of men the French wished to field without diminishing supplies to US units. So no matter how much manpower escapes, its value is limited, and taking western Libya will seriously eat into the stocks that do exist. Something like 150,000 Italians garrisoned the area historically, which is why the British had to call a halt on the advance from the west in early 1941. The troops might suck, but killing/defeating them still eats up lots of war material.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by CaptHawkeye » 2012-07-04 02:11pm

It's probably been beaten to death and said on this forum a hundred times but could you lay out what factors sort of undid the French War effort? A list format in order of priority would be good and we could just link it back to this thread anytime someone asks why things went the way they did in Fall Gelb.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by lord Martiya » 2012-07-05 03:43pm

I may be wrong... But wasn't the Wehrmacht at the limits of its own logistic capabilities when France surrendered?

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Blayne » 2012-07-05 05:38pm

It didn't matter when the enemy has nothing to speak of and no morale in which to fight anymore.

That and the logistical problem is arguably a result of the decisive victories during the campaign and had it been an actual struggle would have been less of an issue. In that you don't have armoured units driving hundreds of miles away from the fuel dumps non stop.

See for example the massive British victories in libya in 1940-41 where they had hundreds of thousands (I think? I am vaguely recalling from Blood, Tears and Folly here from about 5 years ago) of Italian prisoners who had to be fed and transported that massively ate at British logistics in the Middle East, and they didn't have jerry cans or American trucks yet!

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-05 06:08pm

Southern France is about as far from German bases then the distance covered in the initial German push into Russia, and it had considerably better railway and road networks across that distance, which were at least in central France, not extensively demolished either. The Germans overran everything too quickly. Meanwhile the retreating French forces have totally horrendous logistics since most of France is already in German hands, and stockpiles that do exist in the south need to supply the Italian front as well as the Germans, and the French had a very low level of equipment standardization (not that the Germans were good either, but they have intact depots). The Italian advance never gained much ground meanwhile, but they never stopped attacking either and the defensive effort was consuming large amounts of ammunition if nothing else. The Germans sure didn't have logistical problems to the limit of the historical advance, they could scarcely have been expected to move faster. Exhaustion of manpower and horses and progressive breakdowns of vehicles are more likely to be impediments then lack of supplies.

Talk of surrender in the French camp meanwhile, actually began several days before Italy entered the war, and when the Germans were still north of the Loire river which was a plausible defensive line, had the coherent forces existed to hold it. The presence of hundreds of Regia Aeronautica bombers within easy bombing range of all of southern France really is just icing on the cake; they might not be that effective but neither were French air defenses. German bombers could reach southern France from bases in Germany meanwhile, only Stuka and fighter units are actually forced to deploy forward.

Interesting stuff could come out of France staying in the war, such as could Corsica be held? But the Battle for France itself was lost in the first couple days of the campaign, and even Paul Reynaud, the very prime minster who was forced out on June 16th for wishing to continue the war, had declared as much in mid May to Churchill.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-05 06:25pm

CaptHawkeye wrote:It's probably been beaten to death and said on this forum a hundred times but could you lay out what factors sort of undid the French War effort? A list format in order of priority would be good and we could just link it back to this thread anytime someone asks why things went the way they did in Fall Gelb.
1) Allies planned to avoid defeat rather then win, bad idea in general, and assumed the Germans would do exactly as expected...
2) no reserves, when you look at allied reserves only France had any at all of note, and only then scattered single divisions that could have no operational effect. Most were in reserve only because they had not completed training. Even had the Germans done as expected this was just a bad idea and in fact, strongly against the lessons of the late stages of WW1 that allied tactical doctrine was oriented towards. The allies literally would have done better had they truly planned and prepared to fight 1918 over again as they are often accused of.
3) Plan to avoid defeat was in fact a highly political plan to meet several contradictory and questionable goals, such as denying Germany bases from which to bomb Britain even though industrial France would be left wide open, supporting Belgium even though Belgium wont cooperate, link up with the Dutch because this will make everyone feel good even though the planned corridor was narrower then the range of artillery fire and Dutch defensive strategy did not require or plan for such a link up, all of this meant abandoning prepared defenses in north France and every other advantage a defender might have otherwise had

Everything other then those factors was basically just making an awful situation worse, but some other failings in no real order include

4) almost all mechanized forces placed on the left flank to link up with the Dutch, rather then being kept in reserve or used for anything useful
5) French air power was the Army man's dream, and shows what a stupid idea it is to make air power subordinate to ground forces. End result is the French had vast numbers of reconnaissance and observation planes, and not nearly enough modern fighters or bombers. This was just starting to be altered in mid 1940.
6) Belgians essentially had the same plan they had in 1914, only it failed even worse, and because of constant detail changes many of the fortifications the plan was based on were not in a state fit for use, nor were the promised fortifications for the allies ready or in some instances even in the promised positions
7) allied planning failed to take into account the allied superiority in artillery, as shown by decision to advance suddenly
8.) failure to commit sufficient forces to Norway to become a serious diversion of German resources + entire handling of the Norwegian campaign'
9) almost all troops did duty on the Maginot Line prewar and even during the phoney war, which may have instilled a passive element into the lower ranks, though hardly the fault of the line itself which was the only part of the French army that damn well worked

behind all of this you also can just look to the disunity of France, its endless industrial problems that left its military much worse equipped then it ought to have been, absurd decisions to export tanks and artillery even in 1940, all of which channeled into the reasons why surrender not only became appealing and plausible but that the Vichy regime could exist at all.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Thanas » 2012-07-05 06:30pm

How would a better Norwegian campaign have looked like?
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-05 07:39pm

Well for one thing had the allies gone ahead with the original plan, they would have launched an invasion of Norway on April 3rd with the landings on the 5th well ahead of the Germans. The plan was to occupy just about every port and major airfield on the Norwegian coast except Oslo. As Oslo would have soon seen its defenses mobilized, as opposed to the caretaker status they had during the historical invasion and German landing would have become almost impossible unless the Norwegians openly invited it. That in turn, is not bloody likely. Hitler is then faced with either invading via Sweden, or accepting allied domination of Scandinavia. Invading Sweden would be a big enough diversion that it might easily have postponed invading France.

The April 3rd plan actually got as far as a regiment being loaded onto several cruisers which were going to take the lead elements to Narvik, with other forces embarking on transports for closer objective. It was delayed mainly by complaints by the French, which seem to have revolved around fear that, my god, the Germans might do something in reply and break the phony war! As a result so only the well known minelaying plan went ahead after a delay, with laying taking place on the night of April 8th just before the Germans landed. The diversion of so many warships into the invasion forces and the minelaying force played a role in why the actual German invasion force was able to reach all of its objectives with so little engagement at sea.

Even the April 3rd plan was a major delay over earlier plans in which only Narvik was to be taken by a single allied division, on the pretext of using it as a base to aid Finland. The division would then move into Sweden to occupy the rail line to Finland, sending a brigade forward to actually fight with the Finns, that said rail line was also the same one that handled all iron ore traffic to both coastlines was purely a coincidence. Around the same time the British and French were also starting a plot to bomb Baku and so cut off Soviet and German oil, that actually got as far as some secret recon missions being flown over the USSR.

Now, even once the Germans did land as historical, basically the allies were not willing to commit significantly more troops or equipment then already planned, which pretty well doomed the central Norway campaign that might have stalled the Germans for a much greater period of time. They had some bad logistical problems too, but had the will existed more could have been done to combat them such as dispatching British crewed trawlers to act as ferries. Many of the ports were too small to dock larger transports, so small Norwegian fishing boats were used, but losses to air attacks and just refusals to operate were high.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Thanas » 2012-07-05 07:50pm

Thanks.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sidewinder » 2012-07-06 07:44am

Sea Skimmer wrote:Well for one thing had the allies gone ahead with the original plan, they would have launched an invasion of Norway on April 3rd with the landings on the 5th well ahead of the Germans.
I remember reading in a military history magazine that, had the Allies invaded first, Norway would end up joining the Axis- the Norwegians would resist an invasion, regardless of whether the invaders spoke with a German, French, or British accent. Would that have significantly damaged Allied plans?
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Spoonist » 2012-07-06 08:05am

Sidewinder wrote:
Sea Skimmer wrote:Well for one thing had the allies gone ahead with the original plan, they would have launched an invasion of Norway on April 3rd with the landings on the 5th well ahead of the Germans.
I remember reading in a military history magazine that, had the Allies invaded first, Norway would end up joining the Axis- the Norwegians would resist an invasion, regardless of whether the invaders spoke with a German, French, or British accent. Would that have significantly damaged Allied plans?
Nope. Just like their resistance vs germany was very limited, such a resistance vs the allied would have been similarily limited.
However the continued part of the plan vs Sweden and Finland could have seen more action, if the invasion of Norway would have triggered Sweden and Finland joining the axis as well (like some documents from Stockholm & Helsinki suggests), that would have been a bad thing, especially depending on airsupport.
If the luftwaffe would have gained access to swedish airfields it would have been very nasty business for allied troops in norway dependent on supply from the seas...
Also being unable to hit the populated areas of sweden directly like they could with norway that would mean facing a more cohesive OOB. While certainly not modern by any standard it was still enough to make churchill hesitate.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sidewinder » 2012-07-06 01:31pm

In WWI, Churchill's decision to seize a dreadnought a British shipyard was building for Turkey, led to Turkey joining the Central Powers, and then to his stupid decision to attack the not-so-soft "underbelly" of Gallipoli. (If the dreadnought wasn't seized, at worst, Turkey would probably remain neutral in that war, instead of joining the Germans.)

Now I'm hearing about Allied decisions to invade Norway before the Germans can invade, and the possibility it would've led to Sweden and Finland joining the Axis. It seems Churchill's handling of wars was incredibly inept, as his policies resulted or could've resulted in Britain gaining enemy combatants it otherwise would not have.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-06 03:36pm

Sidewinder wrote: I remember reading in a military history magazine that, had the Allies invaded first, Norway would end up joining the Axis- the Norwegians would resist an invasion, regardless of whether the invaders spoke with a German, French, or British accent. Would that have significantly damaged Allied plans?
Look how easily the Germans overran the place. Norway had the worst defensive posture one could dream up. Not only was its military comprehensively demobilized, they went so far as to break down small arms and for example, store rifles and rifle bolts in separate facilities. This was out of fear that they were so poorly defended the army was going to stage a coup to install a rational defense policy. End result is, whoever first takes Norwegian cities also takes most of the armies guns and ammo before they can mobilize, the historical mobilization was carried out very poorly on top of that.

But since the allies had no plans to take Oslo or overthrow the Norwegian government, its not impossible that a negotiated settlement would take place, rather then inviting in the Nazi war machine to ensure that massed pitched battles are fought all over Norway in terrain ideal for a repeat of the Italian front from WW1. The Norwegians were pretty damn heavily pro allied in both world wars, even when British ships attacked Altmark, and then again mined Norwegian waters all they did was issue formal protests. Altmark actually had Norwegian warships guarding her too… which moved aside to allow the British attack.

As for Sweden, the idea that Sweden would declare war on the UK and France, merely because Norway was invaded seems like a long shot, I’d love to see some information on it. Sweden was dependent on imports particularly for fuel (historically she was allowed 10 ships a month through the blockade), her military was short of ammunition, was importing Italian biplanes as its best fighter and as that OOB shows was almost entirely lacking air defense equipment. Considering how bomb frightened everyone was at the time, I highly doubt they would leap into a war until actually attacked.

Even if she did join the war, and this forces the allies out of Norway (for allied planners this is no certain thing, they don’t know the Battle for France will be such a debacle), the long term effect is limited. The Sweds were effectively a pawn of the Nazis for all of WW2 anyway, including allowing German supplies to be shipped to Narvik by rail while the battle was ongoing, it’s hard to see what difference this would really make. Sweden can commit manpower, while being short of everything else except iron, but how willing are Swedes going to be to dispatch them fight a war of conquest for Germany? They were not for example willing to send combat units to help Finland, even knowing that the USSR was demanding Finland build a railway direct from the Soviet to the Swedish boarder for the blatant purpose of supporting a future attack on Sweden itself.


Meanwhile, Germany could reduce her garrison in Norway, but some of the troops would end up ensuring Swedish loyalty instead. This was in the first place a major reason why Norway was so heavily defended by the Nazis. Sweden will compete with German factories for scare resources, using her military intensively can’t happen for lack of fuel, I don’t see a overwhelming difference.
Sidewinder wrote:In WWI, Churchill's decision to seize a dreadnought a British shipyard was building for Turkey, led to Turkey joining the Central Powers, and then to his stupid decision to attack the not-so-soft "underbelly" of Gallipoli. (If the dreadnought wasn't seized, at worst, Turkey would probably remain neutral in that war, instead of joining the Germans.)
We now know that is a bit mythical. Ottoman leadership and Germany signed a secret treaty on August 2nd to enter the war against Russia at an undermined point and were known to be negotiating at the time. The British only embargoed the two Turkish dreadnoughts August 3rd, though they had actively delayed the departure since July 27th. The Young Turks were heavily biased to the Germans, and the British seized the ships in no small part because they believed Turkey was going to enter the war on the German side. The takeover was also allowed by the building contract, typical for a nation going to war, and the British offered rental payments for the duration of the war and guaranteed replacement should one be lost. Also worth considering that the British margin of superiority over the Germans was limited, and the British still had to worry about Italy entering the war on the side of the central powers.

Meanwhile at worst, actually at very likeliness, both dreadnoughts in Turkish hands give the Turks control of the Black Sea and led to a massive Russian defeat in the Caucuses. That’s before you add Goben, which would mean that even the later completion of Russian black sea dreadnoughts could not have restored the balance of power. Gallipoli succeeding meanwhile might well have won the war for the allies in 1916; certainly it would have gone an enormous length towards keeping Bulgaria out of the war, or even on the allied side, and preventing the fall of Russia as well as delaying or preventing the fall of Serbia. Romania might enter the war earlier and certainly in a more favorable manner. Even if the Turks did not surrender upon the fall of the capital, they would have been so disrupted and isolated that the war effort would have soon fallen apart.

While carried out in a thoroughly unsatisfactory manner, the fact is Gallipoli was a good idea, the Ottomans were weak as hell (it took something like 75% of the entire Ottoman army to hold off the Gallipoli invasion, launched with only limited allied troops), and the naval assets deployed were not needed for anything else, the allies had predreadnoughts oozing out the cracks. It’s almost certain that had the British and French fleets kept attacking, they would have broken through, and the only two arsenals in all of the Ottoman Empire were on the actual shoreline at Constantinople, which had not a single modern heavy gun to defend it above the narrows. Nothing but one lucky Turkish minefield was able to inflict any serious loss on the allied fleet. IIRC the worst casualties on any battleship from gunfire were under thirty killed and wounded and only one ship had serious fires, without serious damage. Might have had something to do with almost all the Turkish guns being from the 1880s.

Even after the foolish decision to abort the naval attack and never renew it, though plans were laid several times and were actually going ahead in late 1918, the land campaign could have worked too, lots of bad leadership to blame for that coming from the British Army which Churchill had no control over.

Now I'm hearing about Allied decisions to invade Norway before the Germans can invade, and the possibility it would've led to Sweden and Finland joining the Axis. It seems Churchill's handling of wars was incredibly inept, as his policies resulted or could've resulted in Britain gaining enemy combatants it otherwise would not have.
What, as opposed to avoiding Norway completely, and letting the Germans take it unopposed? The Allies planned to invade Norway in full knowledge that the Germans were planning to do the same thing. Both sides knew the other planned to act, the allies could have gotten in first but hesitated and the Germans got in the first move. Meanwhile even fighting Sweden is pretty well worth it, if as the Allies did, that any battle for France in 1940 will end in statement. Taking out Swedish iron ore supplies would cut what was it, 40% of all German iron and thus steel? So a 40% reduction in German weapons tonnage, that is a decisive kind of advantage.

You want comprehensively bad plans, the idea of bombing Baku and likely sparking a Soviet invasion of the Mid East, or say, Churchill’s pet 1943 invasion of the Aegean Islands are much better examples.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Simon_Jester » 2012-07-07 04:03am

Hm.

Every other conversation I've had in the past few years was to the effect that the Gallipoli attack was a terrible idea- hearing you say the opposite confuses me, Skimmer.

As to the Aegean plan, what was so bad about it? I only found out it existed at all when I reread The Hinge of Fate recently, and while I assumed by default that it wasn't as likely to work as Churchill thought... I think the really obvious problem with it was "the assets to make it work weren't available because they couldn't be diverted to that theater without screwing over other operations."

Although come to think of it, keeping any foothold in the Aegeans for long would be contingent on cooperation from Turkey (so that you'd have decent air basing and could actually keep your forces from being beaten to death by Stukas), and I suspect Churchill was far too sanguine about anything he did having a chance of bringing Turkey in.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-07 08:34am

People tend get very confused over the logic of the campaign, vs. the horrible manner in which it actually went ahead, or the fact that it could have easily gone differently, and in my experience modern books only make this worse. It’s ridiculous how narrow the decision to abort the naval attack really was, almost everyone on the spot wanted to keep going. In reality the idea of breaking through to Constantinople was an even better idea then was known at the time, as it was not known until 1918 just how extensively concentrated Ottoman industry was at the city. Even if it did not surrender or could not be occupied a fleet offshore for a week could have burned the entire place down. A lot of people think this is what made it all a fools errand, but in reality we know that the population and government actually were fleeing in panic at the very idea it might happen at the time.

As for the Aegean, Churchill tired to justify it on opening a convoy route to Russia… which would have run about 60 miles from German held shore even if every single island in the Aegean were occupied, not even remotely the plan. Then since allied warship transits through Turkey would be limited, the convoys on the Black Sea end, only 80 miles from another German held shoreline would have had little escort. The US did not bite at such a dumb idea, because we knew his real point was to create a basis for invading Greece for postwar political reasons. Also the forces just didn’t exist unless we didn’t invade Italy, which was fine by Churchill.

So anyway, the whole plan with its limited forces hinged on taking the airfields at Rhodes, but as the British did not attack Rhodes first, due to a failure to negotiate it’s supposedly willing to surrender Italian garrison to surrender in time, the Germans got it first. Might have had something to do with the fact that almost 10,000 Germans were already on the island, the Germans knew the Italians were negotiating with British personal, one small island had already surrendered and been occupied by a token British force, and that any successful conquest required the Italians to defeat them for the British as the British had not the manpower in the entire planned invasion to do so.

At this point the whole thing should have been given up, but instead the British kept putting troops onto other small islands willing to surrender, only one of which had a single airfield. Germans thus easily maintained air superiority and retook everything with parachute and amphibious assaults. None of the British forces had any serious heavy equipment, since they’d all been landed for warships (it’s all more then a bit like Japanese attempts to reinforce Guadalcanal) so fending off sustained attacks wasn’t ever going to happen.

Turkey was not going to enter the war. Every Turkish city was wooden, the Germans still had serious bomber forces active and the Turks had zero air defenses. The British promised them all kinds of stuff to join, and might have really delivered on it, but the state of Turkish transport and obsolescence of the entire standing Turkish military meant that it would take months for the forces and equipment to arrive. Meanwhile, what can Turkey possibely gain? Hitler could promise Turkey a restored Ottoman Empire. The British can’t reasonably offer back Iraq and Syria, at best they could offer back the Dodecanese Islands and only then by enraging the Greeks which isn’t very likely. Some barren islands that will be fought over again postwar aren’t much of a prize for the devastation a war would have brought.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Spoonist » 2012-07-08 05:30am

Sea Skimmer wrote:...But since the allies had no plans to take Oslo or overthrow the Norwegian government, its not impossible that a negotiated settlement would take place, rather then inviting in the Nazi war machine to ensure that massed pitched battles are fought all over Norway in terrain ideal for a repeat of the Italian front from WW1. ... As for Sweden, the idea that Sweden would declare war on the UK and France, merely because Norway was invaded seems like a long shot, I’d love to see some information on it. ... Considering how bomb frightened everyone was at the time, I highly doubt they would leap into a war until actually attacked.
If the allied only occupied norway then sweden would stay out of it, just like Finland and Denmark/Norway (and Iceland). However that neglects that the allied plans was never to limit themselves to norway only. So such a scenario never existed seriously.
http://www.history.army.mil/books/70-7_02.htm
Instead R4 and similar allied plans before it (mostly by the French) always included an occupation of at least Kiruna and Luleå, due to steel and other metals. Which means that any allied invasion of norway included plans to escalate the conflict to include sweden as well. Preferably by provoking the germans to attack first thus giving the allied the moral high ground, especially since brit intelligence said that german's declaration of neutrality in finland's winter war had given rise to big anti-german sentiment in scandinavia. But even striking first if necessary. That would have made swedish neutrality impossible and would have provoked the germans into action, so sweden would have had to pick a side.
In some french versions they wanted as big a distraction as possible to forestall any attack on the Belgian/Dutch corridor by provoking the germans into an escalation of troops in scandinavia. That plan included an occupation down to a "lake defence" consisting of almost a straight line between oslo to stockholm. This was rejected by the brits, like I mentioned above.
Sea Skimmer wrote:...Even if she did join the war, and this forces the allies out of Norway (for allied planners this is no certain thing, they don’t know the Battle for France will be such a debacle), the long term effect is limited. The Sweds were effectively a pawn of the Nazis for all of WW2 anyway, including allowing German supplies to be shipped to Narvik by rail while the battle was ongoing, it’s hard to see what difference this would really make. Sweden can commit manpower, while being short of everything else except iron, but how willing are Swedes going to be to dispatch them fight a war of conquest for Germany?
Quite willing, because they wouldn't have a choice, just like the finns had no choice in reality, due to sentiments I'd say they would even be better lackeys than the finns. Sweden liked both brits and germans alike, so they would aid whoever off those two was in power at the time. The big threat was always soviet/russia/communism, even before the winterwar, hence the large number of volunteers going to finish aid. So aiding barbarossa would definately be within the scope here, while aiding a sealion would have met with obstructionism.
Now regarding long term effect, that would all be dependent on how much troops the allied committed and thus how much troops and aircraft the german response would entail. But if we assume that the german attack in the lowcountries goes as history, then the more committed the allied would be in scandinavia (like the disastrous french plan), the worse off they would be due to airsupport and supply lines. The idea only made sense as a diversion from a stalemated western front anyway, so a collapsing front in the west would mean disaster in scandinavia.
Sea Skimmer wrote: They were not for example willing to send combat units to help Finland, even knowing that the USSR was demanding Finland build a railway direct from the Soviet to the Swedish boarder for the blatant purpose of supporting a future attack on Sweden itself.
Of course they wouldn't. Both germany and the franco/brits refused to help. Without such help there really was no point in sending combat units while they could get away with aiding like they did. I really can't see any pragmatic reasons to commit combat troops in the winter war without german or franco/brittish commitment. Could you elaborate on why that would make any sense regardless of future soviet plans?
Sea Skimmer wrote: Meanwhile, Germany could reduce her garrison in Norway, but some of the troops would end up ensuring Swedish loyalty instead. This was in the first place a major reason why Norway was so heavily defended by the Nazis. Sweden will compete with German factories for scare resources, using her military intensively can’t happen for lack of fuel, I don’t see a overwhelming difference.
Not in the big picture no. There would be some more allied losses depending on committment. Then some more axis minors in the jatkosota/continuation war. But that is pretty much it, so no big change.
However I think you underestimate the self reliance & industrial capacity of sweden during this.
Blayne wrote:Now I'm hearing about Allied decisions to invade Norway before the Germans can invade, and the possibility it would've led to Sweden and Finland joining the Axis. It seems Churchill's handling of wars was incredibly inept, as his policies resulted or could've resulted in Britain gaining enemy combatants it otherwise would not have.
Don't blame churchill for this, instead most of the pressure came from france who badly needed to divert germans "anywere but here".

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-08 03:51pm

Spoonist wrote:]If the allied only occupied norway then sweden would stay out of it, just like Finland and Denmark/Norway (and Iceland). However that neglects that the allied plans was never to limit themselves to norway only. So such a scenario never existed seriously.
Nor did an allied plan to actually fight Sweden exist seriously as the plan was actually to be executed, the plan was the Sweds let us roll over to Finland and block the iron ore along the way, which would then be exported to the allies, or they don’t and we stop. Since Sweden had a major and very well known ‘Gibraltar of the North’ fortress at Boden blocking the way, at least passive Swedish cooperation was essential to the scheme as executed with only one division aimed at Narvik. As your link says only 18,000 men were intended for the area, in fact only two divisions for all of Norway. Had Sweden refused permission to enter, then other plans might have gone into effect. Sending 100,000 men was only an ‘eventual’ part of the plan.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/U ... way-2.html
This would be a better page to look at, since the US Army report you linked to is just citing this book which I browsed a long while ago. It makes it fairly clear that Swedish resistance was not being expected. Doesn't make it clear why but one can muse many reasons, such as an assumption Sweden would accept joining the war to see the USSR stopped.

Preferably by provoking the germans to attack first thus giving the allied the moral high ground, especially since brit intelligence said that german's declaration of neutrality in finland's winter war had given rise to big anti-german sentiment in scandinavia. But even striking first if necessary. That would have made swedish neutrality impossible and would have provoked the germans into action, so sweden would have had to pick a side.
Yes that was the ultimate hope, force Sweden into the war on the allied side. The allied plan as prepared for execution seems to have been tailored to this goal, rather then just forcibly invading Sweden out of hand. The landing at Narvik did not have orders to go past the border, not initially anyway.

In some french versions they wanted as big a distraction as possible to forestall any attack on the Belgian/Dutch corridor by provoking the germans into an escalation of troops in scandinavia. That plan included an occupation down to a "lake defence" consisting of almost a straight line between oslo to stockholm. This was rejected by the brits, like I mentioned above.
Yeah, ideas existed for stuff like that, thus my original point about forestalling the Battle for France, but nothing was ever firmed up past sending 18,000 men to Narvik in detailed planning and various other forces across southern Norway.
Quite willing, because they wouldn't have a choice, just like the finns had no choice in reality, due to sentiments I'd say they would even be better lackeys than the finns.
A nation state always has a choice, particularly about if it is to deliberately allow its neutrality to be violated on a massive scale. The Finns certainly had a choice as to if they would fight a war of revenge. The Fins and Sweds took the easiest choice.

Now regarding long term effect, that would all be dependent on how much troops the allied committed and thus how much troops and aircraft the german response would entail. But if we assume that the german attack in the lowcountries goes as history, then the more committed the allied would be in scandinavia (like the disastrous french plan), the worse off they would be due to airsupport and supply lines. The idea only made sense as a diversion from a stalemated western front anyway, so a collapsing front in the west would mean disaster in scandinavia.
It might not work out well, but since almost all formations in France were lost with all equipment heavier then rifles anyway and two thirds of the manpower was captured, fighting in Scandinavia almost literally cannot turn out worse.

Of course they wouldn't. Both germany and the franco/brits refused to help.
Actually the allies did offer to help once it was apparently Finland would be squished like a bug before anyone could even try to help, and sent a fair bit of war material,. Once they began offering troops though Mannerheim concluded that allied plans were too vague and shifting to be counted on late in the war. The fact that the allies considering sending troops at all is very interesting, since like the plan to bomb Baku it shows just how convinced the FrancoBrit had become by the end of 1939 that Stalin and Hitler were close allies.

Without such help there really was no point in sending combat units while they could get away with aiding like they did. I really can't see any pragmatic reasons to commit combat troops in the winter war without german or franco/brittish commitment. Could you elaborate on why that would make any sense regardless of future soviet plans?
Because Finland has so much wasteland like depth to fight in, better to fight far away then close by the iron ore fields the Stalin sought, probably for the same reason the allies did, it’d give him a stronghold over the Germans at a time when the USSR already had a near total economic stranglehold anyway. Sweden had a pretty long fear of a Russian attack in the north to take the iron ore fields as it was, that’s why such incredibly expensive forts were built at Boden in the first place before World War One.
Not in the big picture no. There would be some more allied losses depending on committment. Then some more axis minors in the jatkosota/continuation war. But that is pretty much it, so no big change.
However I think you underestimate the self reliance & industrial capacity of sweden during this.
No, I think Sweden did pretty damn well building up a peacetime military with war time priorities historically. The problem is once you actually go to war, consumption of war material skyrockets, the economy begins breaking don't because you can't afford to maintain stuff, and manpower is steadily reduced. Sweden doesn’t have much more to give because it already armed itself so heavily, and it would have fewer and not more resources to work with in an actual war in some respects. The Germans are in no position to offer anything except slave labor, which they would probably insist be used to expand iron ore production. Sweden was not going to be able to sustain the military it had in combat for any length of time. Only a fraction of the forces could be, and meanwhile certain subjects like air defense may require much greater resources. About the only saving grace on that is Stockholm is on the extreme edge of allied bomber range, though still within it.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by slayyort » 2012-07-24 01:15am

IMO had the French stayed in the war, by no means would it have meant a guarenteed Allied victory, but it would have definitely changed the outcome of the rest of the conflict. The German air doctrine was good, but on the ground the "dreaded" Panzers really didn't stand out from the allies armored forces. The french fall started at the high political level and the higher generals. Unfortunately that's all it takes to wreck an army. Which it did as history shows us. The people who made the decisions didn't see the front or know or care what was happening against the Germans. A panic set in and what really suprises me is the the British didn't do a thing to intervene. They just packed up to leave. And yes Dunkirk was a miracle in and of itself, but had the French government gotten it's act together it wouldn't have had to happen in the first place.

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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sidewinder » 2012-07-24 09:51pm

slayyort wrote:The people who made the decisions didn't see the front or know or care what was happening against the Germans. A panic set in and what really suprises me is the the British didn't do a thing to intervene. They just packed up to leave.
What could the British Expeditionary Force have done? Hold the line long enough for the French Army to get its head out its ass? Or (a bad idea, but one I could see the British government supporting) supported a coup by French officers willing to fight on?
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2012-07-24 11:13pm

The British in fact did keep sending fresh troops across the channel after Dunkirk and kept fighting as hard as they could, including the entire 52nd Lowland Division, the incomplete 1st Armored Division and several independent infantry brigades, who joined with the 51st Highland Division which had been manning part of the Maginot Line. They all fought south of the Somme and then following the general collapse of this line were evacuated from Le Havre, Cherborg and ports further west. It was during this evacuation that over 4,000 men died when RMS Lancastria was bombed and sunk when sailing without escort, the British are still keeping documents on this secret. That it happened at all was completely secret for the entire war. One of the worst losses of life at sea of all time and about a third of all British dead in the Battle of France went down with this ship.

In hindsight it was all completely pointless and the British should have cut and run after Dunkirk, but that was unacceptable when hope was still held out that logistical factors might halt the Germans for a long time, plus the usual political factors. The British had no real pull to force changes in the French high command when the French had always controlled over 85% of the joint forces in France, nor does any British leader stand out as fit or able to take command, let alone on no notice. Plus it wouldn't have mattered by June 1940 anyway.

Now meanwhile, prior to the campaign, the British were a strong driving factor behind the entire disastrous sweep into Belgium in the first place, so one can hardly expect that they should have intervened to stop such a bad plan. They wanted it! I have no idea just what the British thought of Gamelin prior to the start of the campaign, but his record in WW1 was considered excellent and he was politically reliable in that he had stayed completely out of the chaotic French politics of the 20s and 30s. Challenging him would have been incredibly hard.
Last edited by Sea Skimmer on 2012-07-24 11:15pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WWII Question: Could the French government have fought o

Post by Thanas » 2012-07-24 11:14pm

slayyort wrote:IMO had the French stayed in the war, by no means would it have meant a guarenteed Allied victory, but it would have definitely changed the outcome of the rest of the conflict. The German air doctrine was good, but on the ground the "dreaded" Panzers really didn't stand out from the allies armored forces. The french fall started at the high political level and the higher generals. Unfortunately that's all it takes to wreck an army. Which it did as history shows us. The people who made the decisions didn't see the front or know or care what was happening against the Germans. A panic set in and what really suprises me is the the British didn't do a thing to intervene. They just packed up to leave. And yes Dunkirk was a miracle in and of itself, but had the French government gotten it's act together it wouldn't have had to happen in the first place.
Did you just fail to read the entire thread in order to post something in favor of RAHRAHRAH COWARDLY FRENCH DID NOT CARE ABOUT THEIR FRONT?
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