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What if... the plans for Case Yellow were never lost?

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  • What if... the plans for Case Yellow were never lost?

    Hitler and his chums have crushed Poland, have audaciously launched an invasion of Norway, stealing ports from under the noses of France and Britain, now the Panzers face the French border. However the Ardennes is quiet this time. On January 10th, 1940, two German officers made a lucky escape after their plane had been damaged near Belgium. Thankfully their top-secret plans hadn't been lost. von Manstein has not had to suggest the scythe of the sickle, and the Allies are likely to get exactly what they expect. Can they stave off defeat? Can they halt the Blitzkrieg? Or will they even be able to crush the Austrian upstart?

  • #2
    This one is a toughy

    The biggest question that springs in my mind is how well Dutch and Belgium forces would perfom with the extra breathing space Case Yellow would have allowed them.

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    • #3
      Hmmm,.... I'm not so sure. The plan was evolving all the time (five or six versions including Manstein's) the final version would probably still have been similar to Manstein's. By that point the plan was already showing a heavier commitment to the Ardennes and was strongly influenced by Hitler's own ideas. Manstein's plan was another (much more) refined version of a trend.

      Had the Germans actually attempted an armoured Schlieffen Plan they still would have won but it would have meant more casualties and perhaps a few more weeks. The French army was far weaker than its numbers let on.
      Last edited by The Purist; 15 Nov 06, 00:09.
      The Purist

      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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      • #4
        Great 'what if'! I really love this Forum!!

        If I recall correctly, by the time of the plans loss, Hitler (who was never really satisfied with the initial plan) had already assigned 3 PzD for the Ardennes. So let's answer to this question: what if the kra... ehm Germans had attacked in January or February with 3 PzD on the Ardennes and 7 in Northern Belgium? (If they had waited until May it's probable that the plan would have ended up quite similar to that actually used).

        Three Panzer divisions would not have been enough to accomplish the 'Race on the Sea' by themselves. In winter the advance through the Ardennes would have been slower, and the French cavalry would have been more successful in delaying them. Once arrived on the Meuse they could probably have punched a hole on the French lines, but then what? The Jerries could have realised the possibility to continue to the Channel, but then they should had deployed some other PzD from the North, which by that time would have already been committed. This redeployment would have taken too much time to exploit a breakout by the first three PzD.
        There is another possibility however: the 3 PzD from the Ardennes could have swung north with a much shorter wheel in order to catch the French First Army and the British from behind. Would they have succeeded? I think it depends on the timing. If the Northern Allied armies had already stopped the main German thrust (von Bock), they could probably have parried a wheeling attack from 3 PzD. But if they were still full engaged frontally by 7 PzD, with their armored divisions already committed, an attack from behind would have spelled their doom. The campaign would have lasted longer and the Germans would have suffered higher causalties, but the final outcome wouldn't have been very different. I tend to consider this hypothesis more probable, considering that the Northern Allies armies had already trouble in dealing with von Bock and his three PzD in the real history. Against seven, I don't think they would have been able to hold the line of the Dyle, they would soon have committed their three armored divisions in the Flanders and executed a fighting retreat on the French frontier. At this point, an attack from behind by the three PzD from the Ardennes would have been decisive, especially considering the slowness of reaction of the French army, due to its outdated system of Command and Control.

        But, on the other side, I could just say a lot of BS Any ideas, comments and hipothesis?

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        • #5
          I agree with Proconsul. Hitler was not at all satisfied with Plan Yellow as it stood in January 1940. Most his generals werre pessimistic about it. None of the wargames they had run between late October & late December had resulted in more than a marginal victory for the German team. Manyof the games had actually promised tactical as well as stratigic defeats.

          Even in December Halder & others were starting to take a look at placing the schwerpunkt in the Ardennes vs Central Belgium. Guderian had become involved in this view and seems to have argued for it even more cogently than Manstein.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Proconsul
            ...

            Three Panzer divisions would not have been enough to accomplish the 'Race on the Sea' by themselves....
            Why not, that is precisely how many actually executed the move in May,...Guderians 1st, 2nd and 10th. The others pushed the allies back and helped expand the the hole in the front but the above three divs were the ones that made the dash almost unsupported.

            Had seven panzer divisions moved through Liege they would have met Prioux's Cavalry and probably pierced the front before 1st Army and the BEF could have come up in enough strength. This could have then led to the use of Plan E or the French deployment west of Antwerp along the Escaut/Scheldt.

            In armour, both sides would have been weaker and the BEF smaller. The French had only formed the 1st DCR and were only about to begin forming the second so the heavy French divisions will be absent. Seventh Army with the 3rd DLM would be available for use as a reserve but this would have been more than compensated for by the early lose of the Belgian army fighting on it own west of Brussels. On the German side the expansion of the light divisions to panzer divisions would not have been completed and the numbers of Pz IIIs and Pz 38s been much reduced.

            Me thinks phase one would have ended with a German drive to the Escaut as well as taking the Lille area followed shortly thereafter by Phase II driving for the Seine and a short Phase III knocking out France before August. This longer time frame would have suited the Germans logistics problems better as well, since the historical Phase II could be done by drafting some 120,000 tons of truck capacity from the civilian economy.

            Overall, the Germans were probably right to wait for spring, they gained better tank formations, parachute forces, a stronger airforce and the ability raised and complete the training of a larger army.
            The Purist

            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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            • #7
              If I am reading Mays (Strange Victory) correctly there were six armored divsions assigned to Army Group A & the Ardennes and four to Army Group B & the Belgian plain in the January version of Plan Yellow.

              Does any one have the weather reports for January & Febuary handy. The week schdueld to the attacks was susposed to be clear. I seem to recall a severe weather front blew in unexpectedly about three days after the offensive was to kick off. I'm wondering if it really was bad, or if it lasted a significant time.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                In armour, both sides would have been weaker and the BEF smaller. The French had only formed the 1st DCR and were only about to begin forming the second so the heavy French divisions will be absent. Seventh Army with the 3rd DLM would be available for use as a reserve but this would have been more than compensated for by the early lose of the Belgian army fighting on it own west of Brussels. On the German side the expansion of the light divisions to panzer divisions would not have been completed and the numbers of Pz IIIs and Pz 38s been much reduced.
                Right, I forgot that the French did have only one DCR ready, which would have even increased the German advantage. So probably the Allied Norhern armies would have been crushed in a pincher manouver between the PzDivisions from the Flanders and those from the Ardennes. Even if their defeat would have been less complete than in May, it still would have been probably fatal.

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                • #9
                  Flipping back thru the descriptions of the German wargames of October thru January I see one of the reasons they frequently failed was the witholding of the armored divsions from the initial attack. That is the infantry armys led while the mechanized corps followed. As the situation clarified late in the first week of the campaign a decision was to made as to the location of the 'Schwerpunkt' and then the armored thrust would be unleashed. Each time this was tried in the map exercises it failed.

                  Interestingly Hitler seems to have been the loudest proponent of holding back the mechanized corps. He is refered to as worrying about a premature commitment being caught by a French counter offensive.

                  Its not clear from my sources if the January version of Yellow was to commit to a schwerpunkt from the start, or later.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                    Flipping back thru the descriptions of the German wargames of October thru January I see one of the reasons they frequently failed was the witholding of the armored divsions from the initial attack. That is the infantry armys led while the mechanized corps followed. As the situation clarified late in the first week of the campaign a decision was to made as to the location of the 'Schwerpunkt' and then the armored thrust would be unleashed. Each time this was tried in the map exercises it failed.

                    Interestingly Hitler seems to have been the loudest proponent of holding back the mechanized corps. He is refered to as worrying about a premature commitment being caught by a French counter offensive.

                    Its not clear from my sources if the January version of Yellow was to commit to a schwerpunkt from the start, or later.
                    Guderian mentions this in Panzer Leader. He says he always pushed for the mechanized units to lead rather than the infantry, but the High Command wanted the infantry to lead.

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                    • #11
                      Skiming back thru the text its clear the debate went both ways within the 'high comand'. Even Hitler seems to have waffled sometime in the winter favoring a early schwerpunkt commitment, then reverting back to caution.

                      Note that Guderian in that book remarks on a meeting with Manstein in November & lecturing him on mechanized tactics & operations. Something Manstein apparently does not mention in his writing.

                      My books say very little about Rundstedts attitude, but I notice that as Mansteins commander of Army Group A he endorses most or all of the memos Manstein wrote concerning the schwerpunkt and fowards them on up.

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