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Could the Germans have conquered France in Fall/Winter 1939?

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  • Could the Germans have conquered France in Fall/Winter 1939?

    Hey guys!

    Here's a questions I've not seen here (maybe I just missed it?), so here goes:

    Could the Germans have sh!tstomped France in October-December 1939, in the cold and snow and such? If not, why do you not believe so? I understand that the 1940 operation was something of a miracle to begin with, but let's assume that same role of the dice is possible.

    And assuming Germany overran France before January 1940, what would be the ramifications? Would Russia's neighbors have appealed to the Fuhrer to defend them against Stalin's designs? Would this have fallen on deaf ears, or was Hitler capable of parlaying the crisis into a true Anti-Communist crusade? And what would have been the reaction around the world?

    I know that's a lot of speculating, but hell, this is what the forum's for. Thanks!
    How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
    275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

  • #2
    The Wehrmacht generals were not at all optimistic about it. They gamed their plans out in map exercises numerous times and the results were 'bad'. Field exercises and tests that winter had poor results as well. In simplistic terms they spent the entire winter and better part of the spring working up to a solution that would give a chance of decisive victory and the skill level required. Even then all were uncertain about the odds, but waiting made things worse and the other plans of attack were judged even less likely.

    Several details that bothered the Wehrmacht & Luftwaffe leaders, and Hitler:

    Shortage of artillery ammunition. The artillery development had been a low priority and ammo manufactoring fell far short of requirements for a war. It had been expected a general war would not occur until a few years later and emergency measures had to be taken in the fall of 1939 to make up part of the shortage.

    Reorganize & retrain the panzer waffe. The 'light' divsions were a hybrid of horse cavalry, tanks, and mortized support units. they were a failure in the Polish campaign and badly needed to be changed over to the armored divsion organization. There were also some serious deficiencys in the tactics and trainig revealed in the armored divsions.

    The same training and tactics improvement applied to the rest of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. Actual combat always reveals poor training, unqualified leaders, and stupid tactics. Three weeks of battle in Poland was not nearly enough time to truly asorb the harsh leassons and correct the problems acros the board.

    In mid October over half the Wehrmacht was either not yet or just partially mobilized. Personnel and equipment shortages plagued a large part of the ground and airforces. The Polish campaign made the German military look better than it really was. While the French or Belgians were not better prepared there was a distinct possiblity of the Germans tripping over their own feet in a Fall 1939 attack.

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    • #3
      I would surmise the German military was too weak in late 39 to do the sort of job on the French army that it did in May 1940. However, if anything the French are weaker than they were in May as well so a collapse could occur even more easily. I doubt Gamelin would have tried the Dyle Plan. Instead it is likely that the allies would have advanced only to the Escaut but the French front would still eventually collapse (probably in the same sectors held by 2nd and 9th armies).

      The Germans would be hurt by their own logistical weaknesses but could compensate by adopting a slower pace than 1940,...the French were still not going to be able to react fast enough. The BEF in this period is little more than a corps and is also short of equipment so it will be of little help.

      The biggest question would be the weather. By mid-winter the weather was the worst in decades with bitter (by west European standards), however, by Dec-Jan I would hazard the guess the French would be a long way toward being defeated so it may not play a major role in the end.
      The Purist

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

      Comment


      • #4
        Could this rapid victory have rendered the invasion of Denmark, Norway, and possibly Holland? Would the Germans have been in a place to attack the Soviet Union in spring 1940? Would Hitler have wanted too?
        How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
        275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

        Comment


        • #5
          OKH was against it.

          and many panzers divisions were beeing overhaued after their not as great as dvertised performance in Poland. Plus many infantry units showed that they required training as their perf in poland also showed.

          in one training winter exercise a panzer division lost 120 of its 200 tnks in snow due to mechanical failure and accidents... in 1939/1940's cod winter an attack on Frnce would see german bitzkrieg be much slower and thus France would war a war that it did prepare to fight - slower movement, contact, then massive artillery to destroy the enemy and then send tank-supported infantry. not a bad strategy in fact. french morale would have been strong as well... so not sure frnce would collapse.

          what about Norway in this what if?
          "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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          • #6
            There is still the option to fight in Norway. The Geman attack there was triggered by the belief that the British and French were about to occupy Norway. If the battle stalemates in the winter the both side will be tempted to move into Norway to gain the various stratigic advantages. maybe there would have been fewer French soldiers sent, but the German and British could still squeeze out a few regiments for the task.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Wolery View Post
              Could this rapid victory have rendered the invasion of Denmark, Norway, and possibly Holland? Would the Germans have been in a place to attack the Soviet Union in spring 1940? Would Hitler have wanted too?
              If France rapidly collapses & a armistice is sought before winter is over, then it is in theory possible for a attack on the USSR. However the Wehrmacht wont have the ten or eleven months to prepare as it did in 1941. While the overall strength of the ground forces will be slightly less there wont be time for another full scale training cycle as there was in early 1941. The Luftwaffe wont have time to replace it losses completely, which in the winter weather are likely to be larger than in the summer of 1940.

              On the Soviet side a thousand or so ultra modern T34 & KV tanks will not be built yet, and a large number of conscripts will neither be called up or trained. This will be offset by the presence of 8,000+ older and current model tanks, and the experinced Officers/NCOs wont be spread as thin over a bunch of newly formed units. Neither will the fortifications along the old Soviet/ Polish, Baltic nations border be dismantled yet.

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              • #8
                I agree with Carl.

                A winter victory over France would leave the Germany army unable to move against Russia. The panzer army would likely be heavily worn down and the Luftwaffe weakened as well. The German infantrty would also be weaker and the overall size of the army smaller.

                There is also a possibility that England may made a peace deal as it is unlikely that the Chamberlain government would have collapsed.

                On the upside,...with the BEF only being the size of one corps the army in Britain may have been stronger and the risk of invasion in 1940 totally nullified by spring or summer. Overall though, the British would have to look to home defence quite seriously in 1940 but a few more troops might be spared for Egypt. Norway is still an option for both sides that spring and the Brits might move first to deny the port of Narvik to the Germans and thus complicate the iron ore issue.
                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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                • #9
                  Germany hadn't replaced it's armor casualties from the Polish invasion before the historical French campaign opened. Fewer tanks would be available, and more so, more Pz I's and II's would be used to replace the missing Pz III's and IV's in a winter campaign.
                  If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by FS
                    Germany hadn't replaced it's armor casualties from the Polish invasion before the historical French campaign opened. Fewer tanks would be available, and more so, more Pz I's and II's would be used to replace the missing Pz III's and IV's in a winter campaign.
                    Hmmm,...I'm not too sure about that FS as most of the write-offs from Poland were the older Pz I and Pz IIs. In Poland, for example, the Germans had only 59 of the new Pz 38t and the Skoda works were producing more every week. The amount of Pz IIIs in Poland was only 96 and these continued to increase each month as well as the newer Pz IVC and D models. Of the 112 Pz 35t, 106 survived the campaign to fight with the 6th Pz Div in France.

                    So, while the total number of tanks may have shrunk, the overall quality was better in October than it was in September.

                    Perret's "Knights of the Black Cross" puts permanent German losses at:

                    Pz I - 89
                    Pz II - 78
                    Pz III - 26
                    Pz IV - 19
                    Pz 35t - 6
                    Pz 38t - 0

                    Total: 218

                    These totals do not take into account "retired" vehicles or those knocked out but recovered and returned to service. Total losses were probably in excess of 400 - 450 vehicles. I am not sure if Jentz has more exact numbers.
                    The Purist

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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Purist View Post

                      Perret's "Knights of the Black Cross" puts permanent German losses at:

                      Pz I - 89
                      Pz II - 78
                      Pz III - 26
                      Pz IV - 19
                      Pz 35t - 6
                      Pz 38t - 0

                      Total: 218

                      These totals do not take into account "retired" vehicles or those knocked out but recovered and returned to service. Total losses were probably in excess of 400 - 450 vehicles. I am not sure if Jentz has more exact numbers.
                      Jentz adds seven 38ts and five IIs to your figures. Five command tanks were also lost.
                      Signing out.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Full Monty
                        Jentz adds seven 38ts and five IIs to your figures. Five command tanks were also lost.
                        Ah,...well, yes, then. Silly me.
                        The Purist

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

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've had homework lately (I'm attending college now) but I'll try to do some digging to support my claim.
                          If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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                          • #14
                            Pardon me for gravedigging, but it is pertinent to what I want to ask.

                            Two years ago, we more or less established it WAS possible for the germans to overrun France in the Fall of 1939. I asked this originally for the Damnable Story I keep working on (I got the first chapter done, yah!), and I've nailed some details for the opening moves of WWII.

                            My basic timeline is that the Polish campaign is over six days, the time the Germans need to reach the outskirts of Warsaw, with three weeks of mopping up/sieging Warsaw. The Wehrmacht is better at replacing it's infantry losses, and the tank corps takes almost no losses (you'll read it and see...I hope).

                            But Hitler demands an attack before winter. He's actually going to war with the Soviets in 1940, and hopefully in supporting the countries threatened by Stalin he comes out looking like the defender against Bolsheviks. Attacking later is naked aggression. Yes that's an early Hitler caginess, but not beyond him.

                            My picture of this fight is an eight week struggle with similar casualties to the historical campaign. Holland is ignored for many reasons, the military one being that the Germans are much more confident that the bases in Liege can be compromised.

                            No Scandinavian adventures as Norway (including Greenland and Iceland) are a part of Sweden, which precludes and quick war in Scandinavia. Denmark is spared by default.

                            The French capitulate in the second week of December, Chamberlain falls a week earlier, the hawks (namely Winnie) accede to power because the UK is confederated with the Dominions, and bowing out almost assures the 'British Federation' will dissolve. Operation Catapult is launched the 26th of December, with "Vichy" France declaring war on the 28th.

                            I haven't figured out if there's gonna be a Battle of Britain, because while Hitler wants people to think he's bent on England, in truth he wants then to make peace so he can rebuild for next summer's eastern offensive. But he doesn't want to lose a lot of planes doing it. Besides, I believe it would be May before Sealion could be attempted, and Hitler is painfully aware the RN is too big to neutralize in one season.

                            So given what I want to do, are there any comments. Namely the kind that I should keep X or Y in mind as I factor in putting it together? It sounds like except the last two weeks of the French campaign, the weather will be fine. I would suspect quite overcast, but I've never been in France in the fall. Or ever for that matter. Anyway, all posts appreciated.
                            How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
                            275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Wolery View Post
                              Pardon me for gravedigging, but it is pertinent to what I want to ask.

                              Two years ago, we more or less established it WAS possible for the germans to overrun France in the Fall of 1939.
                              Actually I think Tooze's work Wages of Destruction proves that it was not possible for the Germans to attack France in fall of 1939. He has an entire section on how the Polish campaign consumed the Wehrmacht's entire stockpile of ammunition leaving none for offensive operations. It took 6 months to rebuild the sto ckpile. IIRC he further goes on to say that the French campaign consumed that entire rebuilt stockpile as well. If the French campaign had lasted longer the Germans would have run out of ammunition.

                              IIRC it was all about steel allocation in the German economy. Not enough steel was allocated to ammunition production since it was going to weapons and planes.


                              Also I've reviewed the thread and I don't think the conclusion was that the Germans could overrun France in the Fall of 1939 after Poland.
                              Last edited by AdrianE; 07 May 10, 14:07.

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