Is the Manstein Plan (Sickle Cut) main reason of France's defeat in 1940 or are there other main reasons ?

Apr 2014
372
Istanbul Turkey
#1
Was Manstein's Ardennes breakthrough at Sedan with all panzer divisions and rapid march to Channel idea main reason for French defeat that turned to debacle afterwards ? Or were there other fundementai reasons like German operational warware culture of missin oriented approach (that allowed leeway to commanders like Guderian , Hoth , Rommel to march as much as they could regardless of Halt orders from above) weakness of French high command organisation , communication , slow reactişon of French High Command General Staff ?

Could Manstein Plan , Sedan beakthrough and Sickle Cut though Northern France be beaten ?
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,787
#2
Was Manstein's Ardennes breakthrough at Sedan with all panzer divisions and rapid march to Channel idea main reason for French defeat that turned to debacle afterwards ? Or were there other fundementai reasons like German operational warware culture of missin oriented approach (that allowed leeway to commanders like Guderian , Hoth , Rommel to march as much as they could regardless of Halt orders from above) weakness of French high command organisation , communication , slow reactişon of French High Command General Staff ?

Could Manstein Plan , Sedan beakthrough and Sickle Cut though Northern France be beaten ?
factors in order

1/strategy & lack of reserves.

It could have been beaten. It could quite possibility have been a diaster. If the Allies had a powerful mobile reserve that cut the panzers off. (though such a reserve does not mean automatically that it could do the job, but it would have made it not without very dangerous possibilities.)

The Revised dyle plan without any real reserve was the worst possible plan to counter the sickle cut plan.

2/ command and control (high level)

The French command and communication issues, two competing HQs communicating via dispatch riders. We're not talking a radio in every tank, or company but the lack of effetcive radio comuication at the higher levels made French responses to changing circumstances desperately slow.

3/ doctrine
French doctrine of methodological battle.

4/ Air force co-ordination and co-operation.
Air forces were new a new arm that normally was fighting desperate turf battles to surive as an independent arm. The Love affair by many commanding air focres with strategic bombing in the interwar period was inpart it was a task the air force performed alone without being subordinated to the Army. The German tatical air force and it's co-ordintaion was mostly accidental rather than a clearly throughout strategic choice. Another example of the sad tale of interservice rivalries and power games is Fleet Air Ar/Coastal Command, last for getting decent air craft.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,859
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#3
When a plan like that meets success it means that on the other side they didn't prevent the context which allowed such a victory.

France, in the perspective of a possible further conflict against Germany, concentrated resources on defensive structures and ground forces. Without developing efficient battlefield communication tactics [lack of radio devices, just to say] and without preparing a suitable Air Force.

Moreover, France trusted the Maginot line and thought that German wasn't going to attack for real ... [think to the phony war. Why didn't the allies attack first?].

But the main mistake was about the Air Force: the Luftwaffe deployed almost two times the planes that the French were able to send against them. Clearly Germany had prepared very well the Blitzkrieg, while France didn't [like the allies].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,859
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#4
To change the situation France had to understand the German new idea to find a "Schwerpunkt" where to concentrate the forces during the attack to be able to break through the defenive lines of the enemy. French forces remained too scattered to face such a tactic.

With this, Paris had to think tot the Air Force in the 30's, improving it and increasing the number of operative combat planes [fighters and bombers]. But this required time ... years of preparation [so if they made a less impressive Maginot line and more modern fighters ...].

Then they needed to develop better communications.

So ...

* better communication
* good intelligence to discover where the Germans were going to attack
* concentration of divisions in the area of the incoming German attack
* better Air Force with well more planes
* less resources for the Maginot Line [so a less heavy line]

In this context ...

The French Air Force [with the allied ones] could have stopped the Luftwaffe, allowing the armored divisions to concentrate themselves in front of the forwarding enemies. Without air superiority there is even the possibility that the Germans had forced to renounce to the Blitzkrieg ... and we would have seen an other WWI style front ...
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,248
#5
I think this was well adressed already by Pugsville.

Just thinking about, Manstein's plan largely accomplished all that the German wanted to accomplish (the non-destruction of the BEF being a major hiccup) also because it was what Germany needed to accomplish under the circumstances.

It clearly wasn't without its risks. Afaiu one of them was simply a kind of "mission creep" – if the Germans couldn't knock France out at roughly the pace it did in 1940, by that time Germany also had not prepared for anything like a long and grinding war. So IF the French, with the British (and Belgian) allies could have managed a "Marne" style reversal, and stop the relentless German forward momentum, at some point the German would have had to slow down also for lack of supplies, carburants etc. And if that had happened possibly there could have been time for the Allies to digest the lessons of fighting this new German army, and set about retooling their own, and start fighting back more effectively.

It's clearly not a matter of the Germans outright losing the war without Manstein's plan, but without that bit of a gamble, it's likely to have been slower, and it might not had developed into that startling complete and rapid victory?
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,859
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#6
The quick defeat of France had also a great impact at level of motivation and self-confidence; on the Germans in positive and on the allies in negative. The Germans realized that even the Great France wasn't able to face their new technological army.

Actually I think that this excess of self-confidence [well feeded also by the Nazi ideology about the superiority of the German Aryans] is among the reasons why at the end Germany lost the war in a bad way: it wasn't a marvelous idea to invade the USSR, but they were absolutely certain to have no comparable rivals.

If Germany respected the pact signed with Russia about Poland, the conflict would have been well different. But to keep the European Fortress without the resources of USSR was almost impossible in the long term. So the end would have been the same, the development of the war would have been different.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,787
#7
* better communication
.
Which would have been easy NOT havingt two competing HQ for starters and actuality using radios at the top level
They had the radios, the trainingand the ability to do so,

* good intelligence to discover where the Germans were going to attack
.
They had the intelligence they just did not listen to it.
Intelligence was just not taken seriously as a part of the French military,

* concentration of divisions in the area of the incoming German attack
.
No, they just needed a reserve. The Dyle plan before revision had a powerfuil modbil reserve.
Any reasonably central loctaion in the Northern front would have been well placed to counter the German breakthrough.

* better Air Force with well more planes
.
The extreme slowness in the French plane development/production/delivery cycle was just very slow,
They had some reasonable (not great but reasonable) they just reached service so slowly in such low numbers,

The Co-ordination betwene army and air force was poor. Germany had Spain and Poland to work a lot of this stuff out.
The Modbilization or Austria and Czechslovkia also showed up problems that the Germans got to address,

* less resources for the Maginot Line [so a less heavy line]
.
none of the points above were compromised by building the Maginot line.
The French were facing a more populous nation with a much bigger industriual base.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,787
#8
The quick defeat of France had also a great impact at level of motivation and self-confidence; on the Germans in positive and on the allies in negative. The Germans realized that even the Great France wasn't able to face their new technological army.
.
The COnetxt that in teh previous great war, the french had been much tougher oppoents whiel tehRussians had been beaten by the imperial German army. Psychologically they had done the hard task that their fathers had not.

If Germany respected the pact signed with Russia about Poland, the conflict would have been well different. But to keep the European Fortress without the resources of USSR was almost impossible in the long term. So the end would have been the same, the development of the war would have been different.
There is little reason to expect Stalin to respect the pact. Both sides were smiling but their hands firmly clasped knives behind their backs, the alliance was always viewed as temporary by both parties. I thinbk Stalkin was banking on a long atttrional war in teh west while he built his army. Stalin was a problem that Hitler could not just ignore. Was the task going to get easier or harder over time? Invading the soveit Union is oftenn called a msiatke. I not convinced. 1942 the Russians would have been stronger, the Germans not so much. Sometimes you don;t have great choices.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,859
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#9
The COnetxt that in teh previous great war, the french had been much tougher oppoents whiel tehRussians had been beaten by the imperial German army. Psychologically they had done the hard task that their fathers had not.



There is little reason to expect Stalin to respect the pact. Both sides were smiling but their hands firmly clasped knives behind their backs, the alliance was always viewed as temporary by both parties. I thinbk Stalkin was banking on a long atttrional war in teh west while he built his army. Stalin was a problem that Hitler could not just ignore. Was the task going to get easier or harder over time? Invading the soveit Union is oftenn called a msiatke. I not convinced. 1942 the Russians would have been stronger, the Germans not so much. Sometimes you don;t have great choices.
The real mistake was geopolitical: USSR was part of the wrong global strategy ... Germany was a not enormous country in the middle of Europe, without long coasts and not so near to important resources [for example oil]. It was impossible [this is what Hitler and the German leadership didn't understand] for Germany, even with that extraordinary army, to sustain a long war effort at global level. Moreover Germany had some pivotal defects regarding global wars. A part the problem of the resoruces, they didn't grasp a basic concept about projecting force at global level. Despite they had a great Air Force and they understood how to use it to get air superiority, they didn't think to supply mobile air coverage to the Navy. In this they were like Italians: they believed in battleships, thinking that carriers weren't that useful.

Just WWII has demonstrated that a mobile air coverage is essential in a modern global war. Let's remember that the Bismark had destroyed thanks to the decisive contribution of the planes embarked on a British carrier. Italians realized this too late and we built some carriers, but we never used them. Germans tried and use one of them at the end of the war.

So the point is very simple: Germany wasn't in the conditions to win a global war against all.
 

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