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Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
    Of course, I doubt that even if France had the political will to go to war in '38, that it had the military capacity for an offensive war. As the Phony War demonstrated, the French High Command planned to 'fight the previous war'.
    I wish there some good sources in English about the French mobilization and war plans in that era. The fragments I've been given by folks from that corner of the world were 'interesting'. Enligtening even.

    Back in my modern European history course in 1980 Kline-Albrandt told us the French politicians were willing, if the Brits supported them. The monographs he had us reading on the Czech crisis supported that view. Chamberlain considered taking the French recomendation, but as with the French his marshals were pessimistic, unrealistically so in retrospect, about Allied capability vs the German military. Chamberlain was shown visions of London and Paris in flames. Current Spain writ larger.

    One might say the problem here was poor intelligence, diplomatic as well as military. Had Chamberlain a better understanding of the nazi PoV and internal dialogue he might have taken the longer view and realized the duplicity of the nazi regime. That one could not do business with them. The French politicians seem to have understood this better, but were crippled by the adversion to going it alone again, as they had in 1923-24.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
      I wish there some good sources in English about the French mobilization and war plans in that era. The fragments I've been given by folks from that corner of the world were 'interesting'. Enligtening even.

      Back in my modern European history course in 1980 Kline-Albrandt told us the French politicians were willing, if the Brits supported them. The monographs he had us reading on the Czech crisis supported that view. Chamberlain considered taking the French recomendation, but as with the French his marshals were pessimistic, unrealistically so in retrospect, about Allied capability vs the German military. Chamberlain was shown visions of London and Paris in flames. Current Spain writ larger.

      One might say the problem here was poor intelligence, diplomatic as well as military. Had Chamberlain a better understanding of the nazi PoV and internal dialogue he might have taken the longer view and realized the duplicity of the nazi regime. That one could not do business with them. The French politicians seem to have understood this better, but were crippled by the adversion to going it alone again, as they had in 1923-24.
      Interesting.

      Another big question is at what point Chamberlain would be willing to 'go all the way'. From my reading, he was a man who instinctively sought compromise.
      Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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      • #18
        Some one described him as a "businessman", who thought every problem could be reduced to some sort of agreement.

        Of course the mistake is to over focus on his decisions & not look at the actions of the Cezch leaders. They also thought, until the results of the Munich conf were revealed, that some sort of compromise would be reached. The actual result has been described by observers as a terrible shock.

        Getting back to reviving the collective security idea. I'm guessing it depends on the leaders of the moment as much as anything. I've no idea about the Rumanians. The Poles seem to have been overconfident. Still, a actual war, even if just a few months or weeks, would be a shock and cause some revaluation of policy. If Germany is not actually defeated to the destruction of its new army & occupied then Poland and Belgium might have second thoughts about 'nuetrality'. France might also try a bit harder at incentives to its erstwhile allies.

        Internally France is likely to take a serious look at its miltiary doctrines. Its peacetime army arraignements, mobilization plans, as well as battle doctrines would receive a long look. Any perceived failures leading to changes. In 1938 there were no real division size armored formations. It is probable the experimental "Light Mechanized Division" would quickly turn into the several mobile DLM of 1940, and the mechanization of the ordinary cavalry divisions move on apace.

        Gamelin is more likely to retire on schedule after the Czech war, opening up the army to a clearance of the old guard from the key leadership posts.

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        • #19
          Yes, I can see the businessman approach being valid.

          The Poles were too cocky after their victory over the Reds.

          I don't see the French being willing to mount an offensive war in '38, and the British wouldn't be able to field a BEF very quickly. I think the ball would be in Germany's court.

          However, without the non-aggression pact with the USSR, which won't happen until August '39, Germany cannot invade Poland.

          One thing that would be on France & the UK's minds was that at this time Spain was still a bloody mess. I know the civil war there gets a footnote in retrospect, but at the time it was major news in Europe.

          Its a very interesting situation. Now I'm going to have to read up on Rumania.
          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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          • #20
            From a military point of view;

            The Czechs could have held off the German Army in 1938... but for how long, that is the question.

            The Luftwaffe was much stronger than what Czechoslovakia had then, but the bombers didn't have anything heavier than a 500-pounder. That would have been insufficient to destroy the concrete bunkers along the frontier.

            And, I am no big fan of fortifications, but what they had along that front was damn impressive. Considering that the heaviest artillery the Germans had at that time was 150mm, and not much of it, I don't think it could be breached with less than a Corps-level attack.
            That's one hell of a trip-wire!

            Don't expect the Germans to move like they did during WW2, their mobile tactics are still all theory. There are only 3 fully-formed Panzer Divisions, too. Czech Generalship won't be any great shakes either, they are wedded to the French defensive school of warfare.

            How long this goes on is the killer. At what point would a Soviet Mechanized Corps show up, with air support?
            When would France stop dithering and march into the Rhineland?
            How many weeks pass before the RN declares a blockade of Germany?
            "Why is the Rum gone?"

            -Captain Jack

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            • #21
              Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
              From a military point of view;

              The Czechs could have held off the German Army in 1938... but for how long, that is the question.

              The Luftwaffe was much stronger than what Czechoslovakia had then, but the bombers didn't have anything heavier than a 500-pounder. That would have been insufficient to destroy the concrete bunkers along the frontier.

              And, I am no big fan of fortifications, but what they had along that front was damn impressive. Considering that the heaviest artillery the Germans had at that time was 150mm, and not much of it, I don't think it could be breached with less than a Corps-level attack.
              That's one hell of a trip-wire!

              Don't expect the Germans to move like they did during WW2, their mobile tactics are still all theory. There are only 3 fully-formed Panzer Divisions, too. Czech Generalship won't be any great shakes either, they are wedded to the French defensive school of warfare.

              How long this goes on is the killer. At what point would a Soviet Mechanized Corps show up, with air support?
              When would France stop dithering and march into the Rhineland?
              How many weeks pass before the RN declares a blockade of Germany?
              Excellent points.

              The only question I feel comfortable answering is that France, with more preparation, did not move at all from the onset of war until the Battle of France, so I'm pretty confident they would not take the offensive in '38.
              Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                I don't see the French being willing to mount an offensive war in '38,
                Do you have any literature on the expectations of the French political leaders or the war plans? Despite my French friends and Kline-Albrandts class a lot of details are missing with me.

                Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post

                Its a very interesting situation. Now I'm going to have to read up on Rumania.
                While you are at it look up the location and capacity of the railroad connections from the USSR to Prague via Rumania. Effective Red Army support would be very dependant on those.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                From a military point of view;

                The Czechs could have held off the German Army in 1938... but for how long, that is the question.
                On the game board this is dependant on the Germans solving some show stopping logistcs problems. Artillery ammunition being one, supplying a significant offensive force in austria is another. What the reality might have been I am unsure.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post

                The Luftwaffe was much stronger than what Czechoslovakia had then, but the bombers didn't have anything heavier than a 500-pounder. That would have been insufficient to destroy the concrete bunkers along the frontier.
                The numbers for actual operational air groups or squadrons I've seen fall short of the gross existing, which were exagerated in German propaganda, and it is claimed by the French air force intelligence dept. Perhaps the greater problem was the lack of experience of the German pilots. A large number of new men had been taken in during the previous two years and actual flight hours were low compared to 1940 or 1941.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                And, I am no big fan of fortifications, but what they had along that front was damn impressive. Considering that the heaviest artillery the Germans had at that time was 150mm, and not much of it, I don't think it could be breached with less than a Corps-level attack.
                That's one hell of a trip-wire!
                This brings us back to the logistics question. The strongest fortresses in theory could be out flanked via the Austrian border. But it is not clear how well the German army was prepared to concentrate a significant army there, and supply it in offensive operations north to Prague.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                Don't expect the Germans to move like they did during WW2, their mobile tactics are still all theory. There are only 3 fully-formed Panzer Divisions, too. Czech Generalship won't be any great shakes either, they are wedded to the French defensive school of warfare.
                Guderian stated clearly afterwards he had serious doubts any of the armored or motorized forces would perform as they did later in 1939. Training was very incomplete above company or battalion level. In operational ability these resembeld the French DCR type armored div of 1940.

                The Cezch 'Fast Divisions' had the advantage here as their role as a reserve/counter attack force meant they would be making short simpler jabs near their supply sources.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                How long this goes on is the killer. At what point would a Soviet Mechanized Corps show up, with air support?
                That comes back to my question about the railroad connections between Prague & the USSR. Even if modern paved highways had existed in that region there is no way a effective reinforcement of any size could be move or supplied at that distance without railroads. The Red Army mechanized or motorized forces were not significantly better than anyone elses in 1938. they had strictly a tactical capability & long operational movements of hundred of kilometers were difficult and no faster than ordinary field forces due to the lack of experience and inadaquate logistics support for large mechanized formations.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                When would France stop dithering and march into the Rhineland?
                If my thin research has any accuracy the war plan had regiment/brigade size attacks to clear the German outposts starting the second week of mobilization. Corps size attacks to probe the main German defense zone would be starting about the third week of mobilization. Full scale attacks to penetrate the entire maine defense zone and the reserve zone would be underway around the fifth or sixth week from the start of mobilization.

                Note that the German Army had started mobilization 3-4 weeks before the target attack date of Czechoslovakia and the full weight of the ground forces may not have been available until six to eight weeks after mobilization started, if not later.

                It is also important to note the German border fortifications existed only in some limited test or training models, and propaganda photos. The road to the Saar & Rhineland were defended by partially mobilized formations frantically digging trenches and looking for their barbed wire deliveries. AT guns, field artillery, mines, and ammunition reserves were very slim. If the Czechs stall the German six to eight weeks the German Rhine land defense is in trouble.

                Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                How many weeks pass before the RN declares a blockade of Germany?
                How soon would a DoW be declared? A DoW would be a given should Chamberlain support the Czechs & French in this. The simple fact of a DoW in the short run is more important than the fact. Germanys finances were a house of cards & the Austrian financial reserves were more or less run out. A DoW from Britain and France would create a crisis of confidence in Germanys creditors. Many would withold further deliveries unless paid in cash, or would raise prices substantially. A finacial panic is not out of the question. In the sort term of a couple months this will have a far greater effect on Germanys economy than whatever naval blockade that could be organized.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                  Do you have any literature on the expectations of the French political leaders or the war plans? Despite my French friends and Kline-Albrandts class a lot of details are missing with me.
                  I'm going more with the French actions during the 'Phoney war'. They deloyed for a defensive war and waited for the Germans to make the first move. Given that that was about eighteen months later, I feel its an accurate assessment.

                  Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg
                  While you are at it look up the location and capacity of the railroad connections from the USSR to Prague via Rumania. Effective Red Army support would be very dependant on those.
                  I seriously doubt King Carol would have been willing to allow the Red Army to move through his country. While he was at odds with the right-wingers in his country in '38 (the Iron Guard), they were a potent faction, and until around '36 he had supported them.

                  The Czechs certainly would not have wanted Soviet troops in their country, either.

                  Moreover, I don't believe the UK or France would want Stalin pushing troops into central Europe. Poland certainly would oppose Soviet forces to their south.
                  Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                    I'm going more with the French actions during the 'Phoney war'. They deloyed for a defensive war and waited for the Germans to make the first move. Given that that was about eighteen months later, I feel its an accurate assessment.
                    There was the Saar Offnesive which started in the second week of September. As I understand from French sources this was to clear the German outposts for the next phase that would start in the third or fourth week. The three week collapse of the Poles was unexpected and left the further offense pointless for the moment. The French had expected the Poles to hold out 4-6 months against a unimpeded German offensive. They hoped that their late September/October attacks would at least draw enough German forces west the Poles could last until spring or beyond.

                    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                    Moreover, I don't believe the UK or France would want Stalin pushing troops into central Europe. Poland certainly would oppose Soviet forces to their south.
                    Chamberalin & Co in the Brit government were very anti communist. conversely the French were more pragmatic as a whole. With the dissolution of the 'Little Entente' and the weak support of the Brits the French leaders were anxious to find help where they could. Even many conservatives held their noses and said little when the French foreign ministry discussed at several different times military actions by the USSR.

                    It must be understood here the French remembered very well the failure of the Brits to support the enforcement of the Versailles Treaty in 1923-24. Since then the Brits had been diffident on every other international crisis, so the French were willing to make a deal with a distant enemy in order to overpower a very near enemy.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                      There was the Saar Offnesive which started in the second week of September. As I understand from French sources this was to clear the German outposts for the next phase that would start in the third or fourth week. The three week collapse of the Poles was unexpected and left the further offense pointless for the moment. The French had expected the Poles to hold out 4-6 months against a unimpeded German offensive. They hoped that their late September/October attacks would at least draw enough German forces west the Poles could last until spring or beyond.
                      And then they sat on their hands until ther Germans finished gearing up.

                      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                      Chamberalin & Co in the Brit government were very anti communist. conversely the French were more pragmatic as a whole. With the dissolution of the 'Little Entente' and the weak support of the Brits the French leaders were anxious to find help where they could. Even many conservatives held their noses and said little when the French foreign ministry discussed at several different times military actions by the USSR.

                      It must be understood here the French remembered very well the failure of the Brits to support the enforcement of the Versailles Treaty in 1923-24. Since then the Brits had been diffident on every other international crisis, so the French were willing to make a deal with a distant enemy in order to overpower a very near enemy.
                      You still have the Poles, Czechs, and Rumanians who would not trust Stalin. And keep in mind that France backed Poland heavily in its war with the USSR. I do not see the deployment of the Red Army as an option.
                      Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                        And then they sat on their hands until ther Germans finished gearing up.
                        As I pointed out there was no sound reason to continue a active offensive once the Poles fell apart in three weeks. The short term strategy died with the Polish field armies & continuing the Saar offensive would ahve been a waste.

                        Beyond that completing the mobilization of reservists, activating another twenty new infantry & mobile divisions, tooling up weapons production, planning out orders for 5000+ aircraft from the US, executing the joint plans with Britain for economic warfare on Germany, and more... was all "gearing up" of the same as Germany was doing. Since both were doing the same thing one could hardly be sitting on their hands while the other was 'busy'.



                        Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                        You still have the Poles, Czechs, and Rumanians who would not trust Stalin. And keep in mind that France backed Poland heavily in its war with the USSR. I do not see the deployment of the Red Army as an option.
                        Yet the French leaders sought that deployment despite all those considerations. Since the Rumanians & others a ceased cooperating with France vs Germany the French leaders were a bit anxious (desperate?) and declined in concern over what the those nations thought of the Red Army.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                          As I pointed out there was no sound reason to continue a active offensive once the Poles fell apart in three weeks. The short term strategy died with the Polish field armies & continuing the Saar offensive would ahve been a waste.

                          Beyond that completing the mobilization of reservists, activating another twenty new infantry & mobile divisions, tooling up weapons production, planning out orders for 5000+ aircraft from the US, executing the joint plans with Britain for economic warfare on Germany, and more... was all "gearing up" of the same as Germany was doing. Since both were doing the same thing one could hardly be sitting on their hands while the other was 'busy'.
                          I'm not buying the idea that the French had any serious plans for a major offensive. There's a reason they called it 'the Phoney War'. The French were on the defensive and stayed that way.

                          The Brits had to form & ship a BEF, and the Germans had to put down Poland, sort out occupation, and re-deploy.

                          Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                          Yet the French leaders sought that deployment despite all those considerations. Since the Rumanians & others a ceased cooperating with France vs Germany the French leaders were a bit anxious (desperate?) and declined in concern over what the those nations thought of the Red Army.
                          Regardless of the French's wishes, even if I accept the premise that they were OK with Stalin in central Europe (which I'm not), that opinion has zero impact on the Poles, Czechs, and Rumanians. It really doesn't come across as a plausible scenario.

                          Examples of nations allowing a non-allied army to pass through their territory are pretty sparse, even thinner in times of peace. Even less when a maniac like Stalin is the ruler of the nation sending the troops.
                          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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