Why did France lose in 1940? They were should have won?

Oct 2014
77
Osaka
Why did France lose in 1940? The French had bravely resisted the Germans in the previous war, 1914-1918, and they had gained a victory after a long hard struggle.

The French army at the start of WW2 was large, modern, and equipped with good tanks that some say were better than the German ones. They had plenty of men and everything needed for a successful defence. The German army was barely prepared or fit for a major conflict.

France was a bastion of civilisation compared to the Nazis, and it is sad that the country fell. Imagine a French victory instead - Hitler could have been defeated much earlier and many lives saved.

Why did they lose? And don't tell me "because the Germans outflanked the Maginot line". I know that already. I want reasons that go beyond this.

Thanks
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
I think we've had this one a couple of times.

Communication, tactics and command and control all in the German corner in 1940. The French army couldn't respond fast enough to a fast-paced fluid situation, while the German army could do so much better, and did. The gear and the men of the French army were at least as good. The failings were mostly on the level of command and direction of the fighting.

That, and the fact that the German quite gutsy move (not insignificant risk of abject failure, but it came off beautifully) through the Ardennes instantly sidelined the best, the professional, units of the French army, along with the BEF. Instead of being in the thick of the figthing, these ended up cut off in a side-show. The job of stopping the Germans had to be deferred to units not intended to be tasked with that kind of job.

So the Germans largely managed to avoid having to take on the strongest defences AND the strongest field units of the French army, while enjoying several other advantages on top of that.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,023
Italy, Lago Maggiore
It was a matter of historical context: in late 30's the offensive military technology was superior to the defensive one.

In particular two aspects were dominating:

*air forces [anti air defenses, overall for moving troops and divisions weren't that efficient]

* heavy artillery [in many cases mobile heavy artillery].

These factors made it "easy" for who attacked to prevail and extremely difficult for who defended to resist.

The French had only a possibility to stop the Germans: to bomb their advancing division and in a heavy way already in Belgium.

To say all, inverting the roles, if France attacked in mass first, France would have invaded and occupied a large part of Germany, this is my guess.
 
Jan 2014
1,281
France
Why did France lose in 1940? The French had bravely resisted the Germans in the previous war, 1914-1918, and they had gained a victory after a long hard struggle.
In 14, Germans had to deal with Russians.
In 40 they didnt.

The French army at the start of WW2 was large, modern, and equipped with good tanks that some say were better than the German ones. They had plenty of men and everything needed for a successful defence. The German army was barely prepared or fit for a major conflict.


France was a bastion of civilisation compared to the Nazis, and it is sad that the country fell. Imagine a French victory instead - Hitler could have been defeated much earlier and many lives saved.

Why did they lose? And don't tell me "because the Germans outflanked the Maginot line". I know that already. I want reasons that go beyond this.

Thanks
Well that's the very reason ! If France wd not have moved into Belgium, Germans wd have had hard time.
 
Oct 2014
77
Osaka
In 14, Germans had to deal with Russians.
In 40 they didnt.

Well that's the very reason ! If France wd not have moved into Belgium, Germans wd have had hard time.
J'etait en France la Septembre ce anne, dans la ville de Josselin, J'ai vu les noms de les Francais qui morte pour la resistance en 1944. Je pensais c'est triste, un de les hommes etait trop jeune! Il a 17 ans et il est mort.

Aussi, J'ai vu un dedicace, de 1940, que dit "hommes de France, la battaille peut etre perdu, mais la guerre est pas perdu! En le monde, il y a des pays qui travaille pour la liberation de la France."

Le Francais c'est pas ma langue maternelle, donc c'etait mieux dans l'originale.

Francois, d'ou en France venez-vous?
 
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Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,621
Westmorland
Why did they lose? And don't tell me "because the Germans outflanked the Maginot line". I know that already. I want reasons that go beyond this
Why does any army lose? Perhaps because war is ultimately chaotic and uncertain. Having the best shot on paper (assuming we can all agree how these things can even be assessed, which I bet we can't) means nothing when the bullets are flying. Morale, weather, logistics, landscape and sheer luck all play a major part and cannot readily be factored into any paper exercise of the relative strength of each side. As such, the oft-repeated notion than one or other side 'should have won' is a complete nonsense and a very bad place to start any analysis.

That said, the French fondness for two hour lunch breaks would have been a major hindrance to speedy manouevring.

Regards,

Peter
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,486
The Actual fighting was fairly even, French front line troops in general gave a good account of themselves.

* Bad Strategic Plan
The Revised Dyle Plan of advancing quickly into Belgium and Holland with best and more mobile parts of the Allied Army, which effectively advanced deep into a pocket which were cut off by the German "sickle cut" through the Ardennes.

* No Reserves
The Plan didnt have strategic reserves which meant when things went wrong they ddint have some availbe reserves to respond.

* Bad Command and Control
Lack of radios, reliance on telephones and personal visits a divided command with 3 HQs needing to co-ordinate meant any response would be slow in developing.

* Poor Army-Air Force co-ordination
The turf fights in both French and British armed forces meant their air forces focused on strategic bombing and generally fighting their own war rather than co-operation with the army.

* Poor Intel
The nature of the French Army meant status was related to how many men you commanded, meant Intelligence officers were poorly regarded leading to poor relations and poor understanding of intelligence.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
So on balance, "the Germans flanked the Maginot line" is a red herring compared to: "the Germans flanked the bulk of the Franco-British field army having set off deep into Belgium".
 
Sep 2013
432
France
As you've said, France is a bastion of civilisation.
As a very civilized people, it's our pleasure to let our neighbours win a war or two sometimes, because humiliating them every time would not be very fair.
So we can say when we beat them: see how they're really strong, still we beat them.

This, and the mighty power of our brillant british allies who performed so well can explain fall of France in 1940. :D
 
Jan 2014
1,281
France
J'etait en France la Septembre ce anne, dans la ville de Josselin, J'ai vu les noms de les Francais qui morte pour la resistance en 1944. Je pensais c'est triste, un de les hommes etait trop jeune! Il a 17 ans et il est mort.

Aussi, J'ai vu un dedicace, de 1940, que dit "hommes de France, la battaille peut etre perdu, mais la guerre est pas perdu! En le monde, il y a des pays qui travaille pour la liberation de la France."

Le Francais c'est pas ma langue maternelle, donc c'etait mieux dans l'originale.

Francois, d'ou en France venez-vous?
From many parts of France. But what's your point ?