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View Poll Results: Was it in France's best interests to quickly lose in 1940?
Yes 10 25.00%
No 30 75.00%
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Old March 28th, 2018, 02:47 PM   #1

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Was it in France's best interests to quickly lose in 1940?


I've been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of years:

Was it in France's best interests to quickly lose in 1940?

For the record, I would say Yes. I mean, sure, France did get occupied by Nazi Germany for four years, but it then ended up being liberated by the Western Allies and enjoyed decades of prosperity (and high birth rates) afterwards (in contrast to the Eastern European countries which had to endure Communist rule for half a century after the end of World War II). Also, Yes, it is a huge tragedy that some French people lost their lives in the Holocaust (about 75,000 of them), Allied air raids (about 69,000 of them), and--in the case of people from Alsace-Lorraine--being drafted into the German Army and serving on the Eastern Front (the malgre-nous--of whom about 32,000 were killed in action and of whom 5,000 to 10,000 are believed to have died in captivity). However, in a scenario where France doesn't fall in 1940, these French deaths which occurred in our TL would have to be balanced against the deaths that French military personnel would endure in a continued Franco-British war against Germany.

Even if the Schwarze Kapelle would have successfully overthrown Hitler and the Nazis in either late 1940 or early 1941 in this TL (remember, no Fall of France = much less prestige for Hitler), it is not clear that they and the Franco-British would have immediately been able to agree on mutually acceptable peace terms. I mean, even Weimar German politicians absolutely loathed the Polish Corridor and hoped to reacquire it one day (either through diplomacy or through force), and even if Britain and France agree to the idea of holding a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor and other disputed areas, there would still be questions like who gets to vote in this plebiscite and whether this plebiscite would be winner-take-all or there would be a partition of this territory in the event of a split decision. Indeed, the Schwarze Kapelle might insist on limiting participation in plebiscites to people who lived in these territories in 1918 or before whereas Britain and France might insist on allowing everyone who lived in these territories up to 1939 to vote in these plebiscites.

Anyway, my overall point here is that even in the event of a successful Schwarze Kapelle coup, the war might not immediately end and thus Britain and France might need to endure (a lot) more bleeding before the war will be over. In contrast, in our TL, Germany ended up being totally defeated with a relatively small number of French deaths (even if one includes the French people who were killed in the Holocaust, in Allied air raids, et cetera). Indeed, in spite of losing in 1940, France ended up being treated as a victorious country at the end of World War II in 1945--including getting a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Also, Yes, France could have kept its colonial empire a bit longer if it hadn't fallen in 1940. However, I don't see it being much of a benefit for France to continue ruling over tens of millions of non-French people. Thus, I don't see it as being much of a loss for France to lose its colonial empire.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this? Specifically, do you agree that, counter-intuitively, it was in France's best interests to lose in 1940?
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Old March 28th, 2018, 03:48 PM   #2
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I think in terms of casualties the French came off very lightly. So your point is valid. Paris was not flattened like London or Berlin.

As for the French Empire, I am guessing the reason the Empire collapsed (like the British Empire) was that the colonial enterprise stopped producing profit after WW2. Remember, Japan and Germany had their economic miracles in the 1950s and 1960s without an empire. The UK, France, Portugal, Belgium, etc invested nothing in the industrial production of their colonies. They just took the raw materials for free.

This is clear in the opposing forces in 1940. The British had 531 million subjects (mostly in their colonies), France had 130 million (mostly in their colonies). Germany had 75 million subjects (all in Europe). So a country of 75 million thrashed an alliance of 660 million. Because Germany's industrial capacity was greater than the French or British Empire's.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 03:57 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by Sandman75 View Post
I think in terms of casualties the French came off very lightly. So your point is valid. Paris was not flattened like London or Berlin.
Yes, this is absolutely correct. Also, even with the deaths from the Holocaust, Allied air raids, et cetera, France in World War II still came off with much less deaths than France in World War I.

Quote:
As for the French Empire, I am guessing the reason the Empire collapsed (like the British Empire) was that the colonial enterprise stopped producing profit after WW2. Remember, Japan and Germany had their economic miracles in the 1950s and 1960s without an empire. The UK, France, Portugal, Belgium, etc invested nothing in the industrial production of their colonies. They just took the raw materials for free.
Technically speaking, though, Britain and France could have continued looting their colonies for a while longer if it wasn't for World War II.

Quote:
This is clear in the opposing forces in 1940. The British had 531 million subjects (mostly in their colonies), France had 130 million (mostly in their colonies). Germany had 75 million subjects (all in Europe). So a country of 75 million thrashed an alliance of 660 million. Because Germany's industrial capacity was greater than the French or British Empire's.
Actually, in terms of total industrial potential in 1938, Britain and France combined were superior to Germany:

http://www.beaconschool.org/~bfaithf...encecharts.pdf

However, you are correct that Britain did not yet have the time to transform its massive industrial potential into military might in 1940.

Also, though, it is worth noting that sending the Seventh Army over to the Low Countries and not investing enough in their air force in the pre-World War II years didn't exactly help France either.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 04:23 PM   #4

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Ultimately... no.

Arguing that France did better because they lost fewer people in WW2 fails with regard to the context of the fact that Germany ultimately lost the war and was replaced with a democratic west and a Communist dominated east and France being free to choose its own future... But what if Germany WON the war?

Look to the terms the Germans put on the French, essentially demilitarized them and what military they had could only be in the colonies. That leaves the French completely vulnerable to anything the Germans might have wanted. And Hitler's racial and revenge minded policies that there is quite a lot that he would want to accomplish. And that could well include stripping France of much of its colonies...

And beyond that what would the Nazis want or take? Their rise to power in Germany was based on revenge and what they made sure with regard to France that they would be able to get it and keep it had they won the war. In this, France got extraordinarily lucky that Britain wouldn't surrender, America came in, and Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Had Germany somehow won the war... though... France wouldn't have gotten that sort of good fortune.

The problem the French had in the starting years of WWII it was clear that France needed to take a more forward defense, as they didn't have the room to trade space for time in Europe where all of France's main European factories and facilities were. They had to defend them and that meant coming forward, which therefore taking the risk of being defeated quickly. They couldn't take being defeated quickly, but in 1940, the French had no choice. They had to take the risk and were ultimately lucky that Germany lost the war.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 04:38 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
Ultimately... no.

Arguing that France did better because they lost fewer people in WW2 fails with regard to the context of the fact that Germany ultimately lost the war and was replaced with a democratic west and a Communist dominated east and France being free to choose its own future... But what if Germany WON the war?

Look to the terms the Germans put on the French, essentially demilitarized them and what military they had could only be in the colonies. That leaves the French completely vulnerable to anything the Germans might have wanted. And Hitler's racial and revenge minded policies that there is quite a lot that he would want to accomplish. And that could well include stripping France of much of its colonies...

And beyond that what would the Nazis want or take? Their rise to power in Germany was based on revenge and what they made sure with regard to France that they would be able to get it and keep it had they won the war. In this, France got extraordinarily lucky that Britain wouldn't surrender, America came in, and Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Had Germany somehow won the war... though... France wouldn't have gotten that sort of good fortune.

The problem the French had in the starting years of WWII it was clear that France needed to take a more forward defense, as they didn't have the room to trade space for time in Europe where all of France's main European factories and facilities were. They had to defend them and that meant coming forward, which therefore taking the risk of being defeated quickly. They couldn't take being defeated quickly, but in 1940, the French had no choice. They had to take the risk and were ultimately lucky that Germany lost the war.
Oh, I completely agree with you that things would have been much, much different had Germany won the war. For one, France might have been reduced to its 1648 borders in the east. As for France's colonies, it would really depend on how much of a navy Nazi Germany could build; after all, to my knowledge, the reason that France was allowed to keep its colonies in the first place was due to Nazi Germany's insufficiently large navy.

Anyway, though, Yes, my answer to this question is predicated on an ultimate Allied victory in World War II. Without it, I would have certainly answered differently.

As for what France should have done in 1940, it should have avoided sending its Seventh Army to the Low Countries (instead keeping it at Rheims, as per the original plan). Plus, investing more in its air force wouldn't have hurt either. Also, I wonder if it would have been possible to move a large part of France's factories further south--you know, in order to make them more secure from a Nazi German invasion.

Finally, I really do wonder if Britain and France should have just flat out invaded Belgium in September 1939. I know that it would have looked bad, but at least this would have allowed them to put mines in the Ardennes and thus to make the Manstein Plan non-viable.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 05:18 PM   #6
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UK only sustained about twice as many casualties as the French for all those extra years of effort. Then again UK being in the war wasn't the same as France fighting a Western front like war. Would the French have lost more and sustained more damage if the war had lasted longer? Yeah but the war in the West lasting a few years could have also mitigated the rest of WWII. Part of the reason the Germans were able to do such a large scale invasion of the Soviet Union was because the early phases of the war went so incredibly well for them. But the French were certainly worse off.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 05:25 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by Emperor of Wurttemburg 43 View Post
UK only sustained about twice as many casualties as the French for all those extra years of effort. Then again UK being in the war wasn't the same as France fighting a Western front like war. Would the French have lost more and sustained more damage if the war had lasted longer? Yeah but the war in the West lasting a few years could have also mitigated the rest of WWII. Part of the reason the Germans were able to do such a large scale invasion of the Soviet Union was because the early phases of the war went so incredibly well for them. But the French were certainly worse off.
The UK was probably able to minimize its World War II casualties by not having to fight a massive land war until 1944 and by having the Soviet Union divert a lot of Nazi German troops away from it.

With France not having fallen, there would have been a land war in the West starting from 1940 and the Soviet Union would have been in no hurry to enter the war. After all, why exactly should Stalin help the British and French unless he can get something out of it?

Also, Yes, both the Soviet Union and a large part of Europe's Jews would have certainly been much better off in this scenario. However, I am specifically asking about France here.
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Old March 28th, 2018, 06:00 PM   #8
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Hello everybody.
A little precision;in 1939 France has mobilized in her territory and in the colonies 3 000 000 men of the three armies (terre,air,mer).
But 80 % of the troops were equipied with the weapons s stocks of 14-18,considering that an enormous quantity of crédits had been swallowed in the fortifications of the famous "Maginot line".The real effectives of the battle corps modernly equipied were about 400 000 men.
Considering that in the battle of the North the two french armies Billotte and Corap had lost 100 000 killed and 150 000 wounded and prisoners,we must admit that after one month of war,the french army was completely defeated.The introduction of the units of reserve in the battlefied could nt change anything,excepted 30 000 soldiers killed in three weeks.
The losses of the french pilots of the aviation were 30 % killed;50 % of the planes were destroyed in fight or in the Luftwaffe attacks of he air basis.
The ultimate force was the navy that the germans wanted to recuperate in négociations.So i consider that the raid of the English army in Mers el Kebir was very useful for the allied forces,sad but more than necessary.
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Old March 29th, 2018, 01:03 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by Futurist View Post
France did get occupied by Nazi Germany for four years, but it then ended up being liberated by the Western Allies and enjoyed decades of prosperity (and high birth rates) afterwards (in contrast to the Eastern European countries which had to endure Communist rule for half a century after the end of World War II)
Click the image to open in full size.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demogr...n#Population_2
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Old March 29th, 2018, 02:33 AM   #10

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Nope. It was in Frances interest to win and repulse the invasion. That’s the best result. Next best would have been to big the Germans down into a long front stalemate that keeps France in the war. Probably would be bombed, but the Luftwaffe would be spread more thinnly fighting combined British and French air forces so the over all impact on France and Britain would be less.
The next best thing for France (third) would have been to stay neutral and be like the Swiss.
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