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Old December 17th, 2015, 11:13 AM   #21
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I mean considering that they have the best military record of any European country. In 800 years France has won 132 wars, lost 43 and drawn 10, making them the most successful nation in the history of Europe military wise.

It seems to me that some people base all of French military history on World War II.

Look it up. Its true
I'm not sure why France has the best record? Is win/loss for Austria Hungry worse? England and then UK certainly isn't though they do have the distinct advantage of being an Island.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 11:59 AM   #22

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i remember my high school basketball coach use to say, "don't give up like the french army" when we were loosing a game .

the french probably makes fun of other armies as well, it's not all one way traffic with this sort of banter.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 12:22 PM   #23

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So why don't the Germans enjoy a poor reputation? When did they do anything other than lose a major war?

Really, it's not about winning here. Germany is given a solid record based on WWI and WWII, which they both lost. Otoh France gained a MASSIVE military record in the 19th c., for losing the Napoleonic wars. In that respect the Germans are to the 20th c. what the French were to the 19th.

Perceptions are highly deceptive here.
Germany gets respect because it took on multiple enemies and based on many basic histories out fought and out thought ALL of them and that the Germans ONLY lost because they didn't have the numbers arrayed against them...

With World War I

And based on histories written in the English speaking world, credit for World War One goes to the British for holding the line and holding off the BULK of the German armies and the Americans for finishing off the Germans. According to most histories in the English speaking world: After all, the French NEEDED British help. If it weren't for the BEF charging into the gap between two German armies in 1914, the French would have lost on the Marne. If the British hadn't attacked on the Somme in 1916, the Germans would have taken Verdun and defeated France completely. And the French had a massive mutiny in 1917 which showed they had weak morale that couldn't allow them to fight on, and if it weren't for the British attacking at Passchendaele, the Germans would have surely attacked the French and knocked them out of the war. And in 1918 in the Spring Offensive, if it wasn't for one brigade of US Marines, the Germans would have taken Paris and knocked the French out of the war...

This generally says a lot of good things about the Germans, belittles the French in the war and speaks highly of the British and the Americans. It doesn't bother to look into France's involvement beyond needing help. In fact the US Marine Corps STILL teaches new recruits that one USMC brigade defeated five German divisions in Belleau Wood to save Paris...

They don't know that the British took only a token number of German troops prior to 1916 and that France had done the bulk of the fighting prior to then. They play down Petain's defensive tactics that slowed down the German advance at Verdun and the bravery with which the French fought there. They take no notice of France's offensives after Petain took command and put an end to the mutinies in 1917 and pay total attention, "we will wait for ... (tanks) and the AMERICANS." They also ignore that Ludendorf had no intention of taking Paris in 1918 and that the Marines weren't even only the only American unit at Belleau Wood, let alone the only Allied unit...

It's biased history with little look to France's involvement. Though as more French sources are translated and become available, perhaps greater information on France's involvement in WWI will put an end to old myths...

With World War II

World War II repeats the same scenario over again. Germany takes on the world and it takes the world 6 years and millions of lives to defeat Germany. And again, at the most basic level, Germany's generals are described as brilliant and innovative and that their soldiers as the bravest and individually the toughest in the world... and that the Allies and Soviets ONLY won through attrition. It also carries the add on that "if only Hitler had let his generals fight the war, then Germany would have won."

And based on histories in the English speaking world: Without tanks and aircraft, exhausted from World War I, and with old officers with no concept of blitzkrieg tactics, the French were ill-prepared for World War II and hid behind the Maginot Line. When Germany went around the forts, they were rapidly defeated and ending France's involvement in World War II. It wasn't until the massive resources of equipment from America and men from the Soviet Union that the Germans were finally defeated... and if it weren't for them, France's official language would be German.

It again ignores were Guderian got the idea for armored warfare, the fact that not only did France have tanks but that they had better tanks than the Germans. It neglects to mention that the French INTENDED for the Germans to go around the Maginot Line. Their issue was the expectation of a repeat of the Schlieffen Plan from World War I. Few mentions of the Free French and most histories that do mention them tend to make only brief mentions and make the commentary on how De Gaulle made Eisenhower's job tougher. The fact that Free French units were the first to enter Paris in 1944 are not mentioned... or if they are mentioned, it's downplayed by comparison's to Patton's rush toward Metz.

As with World War I, much of the coverage in the English speaking world is biased history designed to make the Germans look like superhuman geniuses... and thus making the Americans in particular look good for taking the Germans down, while French roles are downplayed and often made to look weak.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 04:52 PM   #24
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It again ignores were Guderian got the idea for armored warfare, the fact that not only did France have tanks but that they had better tanks than the Germans. It neglects to mention that the French INTENDED for the Germans to go around the Maginot Line. Their issue was the expectation of a repeat of the Schlieffen Plan from World War I. Few mentions of the Free French and most histories that do mention them tend to make only brief mentions and make the commentary on how De Gaulle made Eisenhower's job tougher. The fact that Free French units were the first to enter Paris in 1944 are not mentioned... or if they are mentioned, it's downplayed by comparison's to Patton's rush toward Metz.

As with World War I, much of the coverage in the English speaking world is biased history designed to make the Germans look like superhuman geniuses... and thus making the Americans in particular look good for taking the Germans down, while French roles are downplayed and often made to look weak.
The French were the first to enter Paris for political reasons. It seemed politic to Eisenhower to put the French in the lead there and I think he was right. If anything, the surprise and gratified public response at seeing a Free French Army was worth it.

The valiant French who refused to recognize Vichy and who marched north from from Central Africa with their army fought bravely and their stand at Bir Hakeim is quite well known. Not to mention the fanatical defense the French made before Dunkirk, allowing the cream of the British Army (and thousands of French soldiers) to escape. Minus their equipment, of course.

The French get a bad rap, but they were defeated. The Maginot Line, as far as it went, was a success. It just wasn't long enough and depression-era budget cuts limited its length. The Germans knew better than to attack it frontally. When most of the fighting was over, the Germans attacked it from the rear.

There are, I know, a lot of Americans who express a disdain for French fighting ability, but, honestly, they are ignorant and don't know what they are talking about.

Last edited by royal744; December 17th, 2015 at 05:44 PM.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 07:03 PM   #25

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The French were the first to enter Paris for political reasons. It seemed politic to Eisenhower to put the French in the lead there and I think he was right.
Actually, Eisenhower's intention was to bypass the city because he didn't want to feed Paris's population, and had the Free French Second Armored Division not disobeyed orders, the Paris uprising would have been crushed and someone in the German garrison would have blown up every landmark in the city... as would happen in Warsaw.

The Free French were the first to enter because to them the liberation of Paris was symbolic.

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The valiant French who came up from Central Africa with their troops fought bravely and their stands at Bir Hakeim is quite well known. Not to mention the fanatical defense the French made before Dunkirk, allowing the cream of the British Army (and thousands of French soldiers) to escape. Minus their equipment, of course.
They're known to those who have a serious study of history and thus have either read histories directly on the campaigns of the Free French, or the Battle of France in 1940, or similar sources where the author has had greater access to French records and was able to translate them... or took the time to translate them.

Not something easily done with many general histories in the English speaking world and not even attempted in some media. There's a documentary out there on "the fighting men of WWI" and narrated/lead by the actor who played Al Boreland on "Home Improvement" which was entirely a following of the British, Americans, and Germans... no mention of the Russians or the French at all. I can imagine that there are some histories that did just as much work with regard to World War II.

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The French get a bad rap, but they were defeated. The Maginot Line, as far as it went, was a success. It just wasn't long enough and depression-era budget cuts limited its length. The Germans knew better than to attack it frontally. When most of the fighting was over, the Germans attacked it from the rear.
The main part of the Maginot Line, though, wasn't to be an impervious wall to prevent the fall of France. With what they had, the French intended for the Maginot Line to divert the German attack through Belgium rather than directly into France.

The issue that really doomed France in 1940 was that Gamelin expected the attack to go through the north of Belgium, thus why all of his best units were sent to northern France and when the Germans moved into northern Belgium. It lead to the Battle of Hannut, in which French tanks stopped the German attack there in northeastern Belgium... but the German attack went through the South of Belgium and the Ardennes. The result was that the French were caught out of position. The Maginot Line was to the south, their tanks were largely to north and the Germans were able to attack with little present.

They were defeated, but not because of cowardice or anything remotely close to that.

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There are, I know, a lot of Americans who express a disdain for French fighting ability, but, honestly, they are ignorant and don't know what they are talking about.
Agreed.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 09:17 PM   #26
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The Free French were the first to enter because to them the liberation of Paris was symbolic.
De Gaulle's words to Leclerc as he set off for Paris with the 2me DB was "Last thing we want is another Commune."

The quite real political stakes were enceapsulated in that.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 09:29 PM   #27

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De Gaulle's words to Leclerc as he set off for Paris with the 2me DB was "Last thing we want is another Commune."

The quite real political stakes were enceapsulated in that.
For the French, yes, but their capital was more than just avoiding the commune. Most of France's greatest landmarks and museums are in Paris (or normally were). And in that sense, having the capital free and these landmarks free from German occupation would be a powerful symbol that France was and would be free.

And in the end, both were at odds with Eisenhower who didn't want to strain taxed Allied logistics to feed the people of Paris.
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Old December 17th, 2015, 09:34 PM   #28
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True, but but the question is not fully in the numbers committed but the effectiveness of the units involved.

So the French units that fought in the First Gulf War in 1991 were rather small, as were the units sent to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, but the fact remains that these French units fought well and showed real courage with regard to the tasks assigned them.

It should also be noted that many of the African Union members that had been confronted in Mali before the French were asked to join didn't fair well. It was the French involvement that provided the ultimate firepower and special forces units to win that campaign...

Their numbers may have been small, but they were still effective which demonstrates good capability and bravery, which is something that those who engage in French bashing do not believe the French have at all... regardless of the numbers.
Well yes, when you send your best forces you will do well, but what I am saying is that it is not representative of Frances ability to fight a major war. You cant use limited involvement to extrapolate general fighting ability. Much the same way people bring up Libya as an example of good military performance when all that showed is that the European countries lack the will and projection power to even enforce a no-fly zone in their back door without the help of America.
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Old December 18th, 2015, 12:05 AM   #29
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Well yes, when you send your best forces you will do well, but what I am saying is that it is not representative of Frances ability to fight a major war. You cant use limited involvement to extrapolate general fighting ability. Much the same way people bring up Libya as an example of good military performance when all that showed is that the European countries lack the will and projection power to even enforce a no-fly zone in their back door without the help of America.
So, in fact, there is no other real army other than the US one ? Since the end of the Cold War, every european army is shaped for small-scale conflict, not for major war, so it makes sense their armies are not up to a major conflict. In 2011, the main thing is the total inability of the European States to group themselves in a unified command outside of Nato, not the individual capability of the militaries. The French Air Force led 35% of the air strikes and it sure had the projection power to enforce the fly-zone - but it would have depleted the strategic reserves to a very dangerous point.

The French Army, as are the other europeans armies, is a "sample army", a rather small number of very trained units. It has retained tactical capacities, only with very few operators, in order to be able to train larger numbers in case they are needed. So, when it is fielded in operations, the Army does well but does not that much. It is an army shaped for action in Africa and inside international coalitions, not for taking down the Russians one-to-one.
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Old December 18th, 2015, 12:05 AM   #30
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I mean considering that they have the best military record of any European country. In 800 years France has won 132 wars, lost 43 and drawn 10, making them the most successful nation in the history of Europe military wise.

It seems to me that some people base all of French military history on World War II.

Look it up. Its true
From the middle aged until after the time of Napoleon, the French were the number one land power in Europe. The French were decisively beaten in 1870's by Germany, and if it hadn't been for its allies like the British in WW1, the Germans probably could have beaten them again if it was one on one, they came pretty close to it in tne first part of WW1.

But France's poor showing in WW2 was certainly atypical. I blame it on France still being exhausted from WW1.
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