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  #21  
Old February 11th, 2013, 03:23 AM
DaleCoz DaleCoz is offline
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Another possibility: more French troops escape the pockets at Dunkirk and Lille via land routes--ie either start out south of the Panzer corridor and stay there or pull back south of the Panzers' path before they reach the sea.

The 3rd DCR (French heavy armored division) wasn't really ready for combat on May 10th and should probably have been kept in reserve/training status rather than being tossed into battle, for example. Instead of getting wasted as scattered pillboxes--all that the commander felt it was ready to handle, it could have given the French two armored divisions rather than one after Dunkirk--not enough by itself to change the balance, but enough to help, assuming that the extra month before going into battle was enough to remedy the worst of the training deficiencies. The French might also have been able to get some of their DLMs (light armored divisions) south of the Panzer Corridor if they had (a) Not allowed local commanders to take control of the divisions' S35s (in the case of the 3rd DLM) and stall for days on giving them back and (b) Made their prime focus getting mobile troops south of the closing pocket rather than trying to cut through the Panzer Corridor when it was already too late to do so.

Weygand froze French decision-making for a crucial few days when he took over. He should have immediately started trying to get mobile forces in position to (a) Keep a corridor open as long as possible to get as much of the French army out of Belgium, and (b) Keep the channel ports (not just Dunkirk) in Allied hands as long as possible, hopefully keeping a bridgehead there that could be resupplied and sustain any forces that couldn't get south of the corridor as a fighting force to threaten the German flanks if they headed south. There were a lot of good reasons Dunkirk alone wasn't sustainable except as an evacuation port, but add in several other ports and you might be able to sustain a bridgehead. The French were hoping to do that historically, but events moved too fast for them.

That could actually make for an interesting battle, with the Brits bringing over Spitfires as aircover for the bridgehead and moving destroyers and cruisers in to hammer German forces if they got within range of the coast.

Chew up enough German forces and enough time in the north and/or force them to leave covering forces around an Allied bridgehead and it starts looking a little less impossible for the French. I would still bet on a German victory, but I wouldn't give you very long odds on it.
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  #22  
Old February 11th, 2013, 03:58 AM
Devolved Devolved is offline
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Originally Posted by DaleCoz View Post
Another possibility: more French troops escape the pockets at Dunkirk and Lille via land routes--ie either start out south of the Panzer corridor and stay there or pull back south of the Panzers' path before they reach the sea.

The 3rd DCR (French heavy armored division) wasn't really ready for combat on May 10th and should probably have been kept in reserve/training status rather than being tossed into battle, for example. Instead of getting wasted as scattered pillboxes--all that the commander felt it was ready to handle, it could have given the French two armored divisions rather than one after Dunkirk--not enough by itself to change the balance, but enough to help, assuming that the extra month before going into battle was enough to remedy the worst of the training deficiencies. The French might also have been able to get some of their DLMs (light armored divisions) south of the Panzer Corridor if they had (a) Not allowed local commanders to take control of the divisions' S35s (in the case of the 3rd DLM) and stall for days on giving them back and (b) Made their prime focus getting mobile troops south of the closing pocket rather than trying to cut through the Panzer Corridor when it was already too late to do so.

Weygand froze French decision-making for a crucial few days when he took over. He should have immediately started trying to get mobile forces in position to (a) Keep a corridor open as long as possible to get as much of the French army out of Belgium, and (b) Keep the channel ports (not just Dunkirk) in Allied hands as long as possible, hopefully keeping a bridgehead there that could be resupplied and sustain any forces that couldn't get south of the corridor as a fighting force to threaten the German flanks if they headed south. There were a lot of good reasons Dunkirk alone wasn't sustainable except as an evacuation port, but add in several other ports and you might be able to sustain a bridgehead. The French were hoping to do that historically, but events moved too fast for them.

That could actually make for an interesting battle, with the Brits bringing over Spitfires as aircover for the bridgehead and moving destroyers and cruisers in to hammer German forces if they got within range of the coast.

Chew up enough German forces and enough time in the north and/or force them to leave covering forces around an Allied bridgehead and it starts looking a little less impossible for the French. I would still bet on a German victory, but I wouldn't give you very long odds on it.
I don't think Weygand 'froze' decision making. He had to travel from Syria and take up his post. Travel and communication in those days was slower than now. Also many French commanders on the ground had no idea what was happening either.

I am no fan of Weygand but he did inherit a confusing and hopeless situation and he needed time to arrive and make decisions.

The RAF commited large forces to Dunkirk and they destroyed many planes but apart from sacrificing all of Fighter Command's strength there was little more that could have been done. It was pretty clear that fighting in a bridgehead was not a realistic option and the morale of many British and French units was in a poor state. An attempt to make a stand (even with a couple of more ports) would have resulted in collapse and a bigger disaster than OTL.
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  #23  
Old February 11th, 2013, 06:25 AM
Archibald Archibald is offline
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The closest historical thing from the OP I can think about is "Le réduit Breton" - "French Brittany redoubt".
As the name implies, it consisted of a French Brittany bridgehead from which a British-backed counterattack could be atempted, perhaps in spring 1941.
Needless to say, it was a political option (Reynaud) rather than a military one. From Weygand to De Gaulle it was considered a military suicide. The fall of Cherbourg did not helped, and the project was rapidly buried.

the truth is post Sedan / post Dunkirk the only thing able to stop the German onslaught is the SEA - either the Channel or the Mediterranean, London or Algiers.
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  #24  
Old February 11th, 2013, 06:39 AM
Shaby Shaby is offline
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I think what doomed this prospect is the Luftwaffe. The British and the French would have a hell of a time trying to supply this through Brest. It would require an extensive deployment of RAF to protect this bridgehead from air raids and the bridgehead itself could easily be contained by the limited amount of German infantry, especially since bocage would make defense almost impenetrable.

Given the British ineptitude with attack and application of combined arms until at least 1943, I see little prospect of making something worthwhile from this endeavor. The bridgehead would absorb many valuable assets that could be used to better effect elsewhere (Egypt? Far East?).
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  #25  
Old February 11th, 2013, 06:47 AM
Magnum Magnum is offline
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I don't think Weygand 'froze' decision making. He had to travel from Syria and take up his post. Travel and communication in those days was slower than now. Also many French commanders on the ground had no idea what was happening either.

I am no fan of Weygand but he did inherit a confusing and hopeless situation and he needed time to arrive and make decisions.

The RAF commited large forces to Dunkirk and they destroyed many planes but apart from sacrificing all of Fighter Command's strength there was little more that could have been done. It was pretty clear that fighting in a bridgehead was not a realistic option and the morale of many British and French units was in a poor state. An attempt to make a stand (even with a couple of more ports) would have resulted in collapse and a bigger disaster than OTL.
Didin't Weygand cancel the planned counter-attack, then slept the whole night, then spent almost the entirety of the next day making curtousy visits to ambassadors etc, and than ordered his own counter-attack almost identical to the one he cancelled, thus wasting valuable time ? He also failed to inform anyone in the pocket other than gen. Billote on the extent of his plans, meaning than when Billote was killed, there was ample confusion.
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  #26  
Old February 11th, 2013, 07:01 AM
Shaby Shaby is offline
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Didin't Weygand cancel the planned counter-attack, then slept the whole night, then spent almost the entirety of the next day making curtousy visits to ambassadors etc, and than ordered his own counter-attack almost identical to the one he cancelled, thus wasting valuable time ? He also failed to inform anyone in the pocket other than gen. Billote on the extent of his plans, meaning than when Billote was killed, there was ample confusion.
Well, this is generally the result one gets when they switch the general in the midst of a losing battle. There was plenty of confusion going on with or without communication between different commanders. The situation in the pocket was chaotic as is. Weygand felt it was necessary to establish the facts on the ground himself as it was impossible to get an accurate picture by doing what Gamelin did - i.e. sitting in Vincenness and awaiting the reports from the commands who themselves knew very little of the situation.

It didn't help that entire French communication system was based on the telephone and they prepared for a static battle. Once the situation turned chaotic in one sector it tended to compound and built upon it until the entire line was in confusion.

Finally, it is doubtful that any counterattack the French could pull out at that point could result with anything good. Their best formations were either destroyed or disorganized to the point that any attack they make would piecemeal and ineffective. Their best bet was the counter attack at Sedan with the 3rd Armored.
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  #27  
Old February 11th, 2013, 10:27 AM
Archibald Archibald is offline
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The Germans rushed from Sedan to Abbeville within a week - May 13 to May 20. Break that corridor / rush / offensive and things might be interesting.
I know of various atempts to try that (which all failed)
- De Gaulle in Moncornet
- the Weygand plan
- the BEF in Arras
- De Gaulle again, another atempt at Abbeville
Any taker ?

EDIT: in english "Le réduit breton" translates as "Brittany redoubt"
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  #28  
Old February 11th, 2013, 03:08 PM
ivanotter ivanotter is offline
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The Brittany plan is rather fantastic.

Brooke did not like that idea at all. Dill claimed that it was never presented to London.

The idea of having a bridgehead in France and waiting for spring 1941 to beak-out was impresive but unpractical in the extreme at that time.

Ivan
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  #29  
Old February 12th, 2013, 06:56 AM
phx1138 phx1138 is offline
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could a non-defeated France have become a German ally? If Mesr-el-Kebir still happens, the incentive is surely there
This one fascinates me. It offers all sorts of opportunities. Aid to Italy from *Vichy Syria? U-boats based in Dakar? Aid to Japan from IndoChina? No Pacific War?
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  #30  
Old February 12th, 2013, 12:28 PM
Carl Schwamberger Carl Schwamberger is offline
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... Aid to Japan from IndoChina? No Pacific War?
With France remaining as a active Allied nation Indochina will be much less 'low hanging fruit' & it is far less likely Japans imperialists would push through a higher risk invasion in early 1941. Without the Indochina occupation/invasion the US & Britain would not be organizing the trade embargos in the summer of 1941, which leave Japan with little incentive to attack anyone else in the Pacific. Embargos might come later, followed by a Pacific war, but not within six months of OTL, or not at all. the entire China problem might be resolved by changes within Japans leadership in 1942.

Between a Allied French government controling the French empire from the start, and a indefinite delay in the start of a Pacific war the British/Allied economic situation changes significantly, as do Allied logistics globally. Just adding in the French cargo fleet & its navy to protect it after mid 1940 is a huge game changer.
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  #31  
Old February 12th, 2013, 02:46 PM
ivanotter ivanotter is offline
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Carl, this is a new spin to it.

is this your scenario, Carl?

In essence:

France somehow claws itself back from brink of disaster and stay in the war in Continental Europe.

Germany makes a decent peace with France, recognising France as (near) equal.

France becomes an ally of Germany

European Union in 1940: France, Germany, Italy and Spain as the key members.

Japan, aligned with Germany/Italy, is told to leave French possesions alone which they then do.

Japan gets its oil etc from Dutch Java insofar as Holland is now a partner of the new EU.

Britain is a bit alone on the edge of the economic super-power: European Union -> continental Europe
. Britain willhave to step down from "hot" war to "cold" war, leading to a normalisation in the 1950's.

US is not playing hard-ball at all and the militarisation of the US does not occur.

This is a crucial point: up unitl Pearl, US (as I see it) was not a military nation. US forces were not highly regarded.

After WWII: the glory to the US forces and we see the heavy militarisation of the US: High-ways being built as escape routes, Pentagon budgets sky-rocket, confrontations with USSR at every turn, etc.

It just might not have happened (but that has been discussed as well I will bet).

Ivan
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  #32  
Old February 12th, 2013, 04:07 PM
Carl Schwamberger Carl Schwamberger is offline
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Originally Posted by ivanotter View Post
Carl, this is a new spin to it.

is this your scenario, Carl?

In essence:

France somehow claws itself back from brink of disaster and stay in the war in Continental Europe.

Germany makes a decent peace with France, recognising France as (near) equal.
No. If Reynad moves the government to Africa it would be as a Allied government, still hostile to Germany. The Germans could have set up a collaborationsit puppet government in France, holding out various incentives, but without the navy that government would have been helpless to influence the colonies in any effective way.

From the moment the Weygand Line collapsed both the French navy & airforce begain executing evacuation plans. By the time the armistice came the navy was effectively gone, out of Germanys reach, and the French AF had already evacuated a portion of its best aircraft and pilots. Given another week thousands of aircraft mechanics, spare parts, and up to 500 aircraft would have been removed from France. Given two weeks over 1000 of Frances best aircraft would have been collected in Africa, along with enough of the support personnel to keep a substantial operational airforce aloft.

The French navy had several substantial naval bases overseas, capable of supporting combat fleets. Also, France already had contracts for ship maintiance in the US. More important was Renaud had already evacuated most of the French gold reserves. In March 1940 two deliveries had been deposited in a Toronto Canada bank, another ship load ended up in Martinique in June aboard a navy squadron. The bulk of the reserves ended their journey in Dakar that summer.
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  #33  
Old February 12th, 2013, 04:31 PM
King Augeas King Augeas is offline
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Originally Posted by ivanotter View Post
Carl, this is a new spin to it.

is this your scenario, Carl?

In essence:

France somehow claws itself back from brink of disaster and stay in the war in Continental Europe.

Germany makes a decent peace with France, recognising France as (near) equal.

France becomes an ally of Germany

European Union in 1940: France, Germany, Italy and Spain as the key members.

Japan, aligned with Germany/Italy, is told to leave French possesions alone which they then do.

Japan gets its oil etc from Dutch Java insofar as Holland is now a partner of the new EU.

Britain is a bit alone on the edge of the economic super-power: European Union -> continental Europe
Doesn't this still end up with famine and industrial atrophy as a blockaded western Europe can't produce enough food or raw materials? Followed by Barbarossa on schedule in 1941?
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  #34  
Old February 12th, 2013, 06:00 PM
ivanotter ivanotter is offline
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Carl, that would probably be the outcome. Shame really. I would love to see EU in 1940.

Not sure if such a EU would not be able to feed itself. There are two things to look at:

Barbarossa
Nuclear bomb

The first one is tricky but could still be on target but now with active participation of French army (THAT would be different)

Nuclear bomb: Well, If Britain could develop one, so could Germany. If somehow the time frame is more or less the same, it is "MAD" in the 1940's.
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  #35  
Old February 12th, 2013, 06:15 PM
Robert Robert is offline
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Doomed from the Start

France was doomed from the start for several reasons.

1. The French Army was reluctant to launch any offensive operations due to the massive losses it took in the First World War.

2. The French Government was defeatest and divided even before the German attack in May.

3. The sabotage of it's arms industry by French Communists due to the Hitler Stalin pact.
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  #36  
Old February 12th, 2013, 07:08 PM
King Augeas King Augeas is offline
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Carl, that would probably be the outcome. Shame really. I would love to see EU in 1940.

Not sure if such a EU would not be able to feed itself.
Well, you state an alliance of Spain, Germany, Italy and France. AFAIK Spain was dependent on imports and would probably have been a burden on the Axis, and the rest are basically as OTL. So it seems likely that similar problems of food and raw materials would exist. And since Germany is clearly the senior member of this EU, I think I know where the food and raw materials are heading.
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  #37  
Old February 13th, 2013, 02:21 AM
DaleCoz DaleCoz is offline
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I don't think Weygand 'froze' decision making. He had to travel from Syria and take up his post. Travel and communication in those days was slower than now. Also many French commanders on the ground had no idea what was happening either.

I am no fan of Weygand but he did inherit a confusing and hopeless situation and he needed time to arrive and make decisions.
I understand why Weygand did what he did, and don't blame him for doing it, but it doesn't change the fact that the French had a limited amount of time to minimize the amount of damage the German breakthrough caused and the way the change in command was handled wasted crucial days.

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The RAF commited large forces to Dunkirk and they destroyed many planes but apart from sacrificing all of Fighter Command's strength there was little more that could have been done. It was pretty clear that fighting in a bridgehead was not a realistic option and the morale of many British and French units was in a poor state. An attempt to make a stand (even with a couple of more ports) would have resulted in collapse and a bigger disaster than OTL.
Two things: (1) In terms of number of modern fighters, Britain and France together were approximately equal to the Germans, with a higher production rate. Germany was able to establish overwhelming superiority because Britain kept a very large reserve of fighters for fighter command. When the fighting moved within range of Britain-based fighters, it potentially put German control of the air in question.

If the British went all out to give air support to a bridgehead, they would have a shot at taking the Stukas out of the fight because dive bombers are terribly vulnerable to opposing fighters. Taking dive bombers out of the equation would reduce German air effectiveness drastically because at World War II levels they're far more accurate than level bombers.

The downside, of course, is that going all out could deplete fighter command. If the bridgehead fell without delaying the fall of France, Britain would be screwed for Battle of Britain, though I still don't think a successful Sealion would be in the cards.

The potential upside: Every week France stayed in the war would be a major plus for Britain. It meant a smaller window for any German invasion before fall weather made it impossible. It meant more time for Britain to train and equip additional forces, pilots, etc. It would be a gamble. Keep France in the war an additional month at the cost of three or four hundred British single-engine fighters and some lost pilots. Would Britain be better or worse off? What if the difference was a week on the one extreme or two months on the other?

2) From the point of view of France, there really isn't much way the collapse in the north could have been much worse. They got 150,000 men out at Dunkirk, but with no equipment. From old and possibly fallible memory, I don't believe they got a significant number of those men re-equipped and back in battle before the battle of France ended. Britain could have ended up worse off if they lost more of the BEF, but again, if they last more men and planes but gained time before the fall of France it might be worth it, depending on the extent of losses and the amount of time gained.
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  #38  
Old February 13th, 2013, 04:55 AM
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EDIT: in english "Le réduit breton" translates as "Brittany redoubt"
Both the Brittany Redoubt and the Cherbourg Bridgehead were plans that never stood a chance of actually holding out.
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  #39  
Old February 13th, 2013, 07:48 AM
Archibald Archibald is offline
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Both the Brittany Redoubt and the Cherbourg Bridgehead were plans that never stood a chance of actually holding out.
Certainly. On the very France Fights On forum I inquired about another possibility - Corsica.
Two big flaws a) it is way too close from Mussolini Italy (unless he never declares war to France, but that's ASB) b) Corsica lacked a port big enough to support an evacuation from continental France.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 10:47 AM
Magnum Magnum is offline
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Certainly. On the very France Fights On forum I inquired about another possibility - Corsica.
Two big flaws a) it is way too close from Mussolini Italy (unless he never declares war to France, but that's ASB) b) Corsica lacked a port big enough to support an evacuation from continental France.

I think Corsica could and should be held in the case of a French evacuation to Africa, since you can use the short distance to move lots of men and stuff using much smaller boats (like was done at Dunkirk), for which you would normally not have the time or shipping capacity to send directly to Algiers.

You can, however, try to hold on to it longer, maybe long enough to take Sardinia:

It would be a prime spot to lure the Regia Marina into battle and, given its abysmal performance OTL, knock out most of it.

Since the Regia Marina is pretty crappy, Italian amphibious landing experience and hardware is limited and the island would probably be packed full of evacuated French infantry, it would not fall early on against an Italian attack.

Then you have the battle of Britain. Would Hitler risk ruining any chance of winning the war by wasting his (already mauled) force of Fallschirmjager to take out an insignificant island ? My guess is he wouldn't. That means preparations for the invasion of Corsica would begin somewhere in late September, or even late October if the BoB was going better than OTL for the LW and Hitler took time to make up his mind about Seelowe.

From there, it would take the Germans some time to prepare for an airborne assault, meaning it would hypothetically take place in November, or even early December. If the Germans deem the defences too strong, they might postpone the attack even further to allow for a bombing campaign. By then, the Allies would have had ample time to fortify Corsica.

Given what a close call Crete was, it is not out of the question for the initial Fallschirmjager attack to be repulsed with heavy casualties. This means another couple of months of respite untill the Germans rebuild their paratrooper force, just in time for the Balkans campaign (if there still is one, which is likely).

Regardless of whether they win or loose on Crete, the Germans would be in no position to taken on Corsica right afterwards. Next comes Barbarossa, and its demand for aircraft, meaning all those bombers that would be crucial to success would be off into Russia.
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