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Details about  France : Summer 1940 by John Williams (1970, Softcover)

France : Summer 1940 by John Williams (1970, Softcover)

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Item specifics

Condition:
Very Good: A book that does not look new and has been read but is in excellent condition. No obvious damage to ... Read moreabout the condition
ISBN-10:

0345018842

Format:

Trade Cloth

ISBN-13:

9780345018847

Publication Year:

1970

Author:

John Williams

Language:

English

ISBN:

9780345018847

Detailed item info

Product Identifiers
ISBN-100345018842
ISBN-139780345018847

Key Details
AuthorJohn Williams
Number Of Pages158 pages
FormatHardcover
Publication Date1970-01-01
LanguageEnglish
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group

Additional Details
Copyright Date1970
IllustratedYes

Classification Method
LCCN76-016390
LC Classification NumberD761.W553
Dewey Decimal940.542/1
Dewey Edition18

Certain data records © 2014 Bowker. Rights in cover images reserved by owners.

Battle of France

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Battle of france)
Battle of France
Part of the Western Front of the Second World War
Battle of France collage
Clockwise from top left: German Panzer IV tanks passing through a town in FranceGerman soldiers marching past theArc de Triomphe after the surrender of Paris, 14 June 1940; column of French Renault R35 tanks at SedanArdennes; British and French prisoners at Veules-les-Roses; French soldiers on review within the Maginot Line fortifications.
Date10 May – 22 June 1940 (1 month and 12 days)
LocationFrance, Low Countries
ResultDecisive Axis victory
Replacement of French Third Republicby Vichy France
Belligerents
France France

 Belgium
 United Kingdom
 Netherlands
 Canada
 Poland
 Czechoslovakia
 Luxembourg

 Germany
 Italy (from 10 June)
Commanders and leaders
France Maurice Gamelin(until 17 May)
France Alphonse Georges(until 17 May)
France Maxime Weygand(from 17 May)
France Charles de Gaulle(from 17 May)
Belgium Leopold III  (POW)
United Kingdom Lord Gort
Netherlands Henri Winkelman (POW)
Nazi Germany Hermann Göring
Nazi Germany Gerd von Rundstedt
Nazi Germany Heinz Guderian
Nazi Germany Fedor von Bock
Nazi Germany Wilhelm von Leeb
Nazi Germany Erich von Manstein
Nazi Germany Erwin Rommel
Nazi Germany Hermann Hoth
Italy Umberto di Savoia
Units involved
Strength
Allies: 144 divisions[1]
13,974 guns[1]
3,383 tanks[1]
2,935 aircraft[2]
3,300,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
~150,000 French
Germany: 141 divisions[1]
7,378 guns[1]
2,445 tanks[1]
5,638 aircraft[3][4]
3,350,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
300,000 Italians
Casualties and losses
360,000 dead or wounded,
1,900,000 captured
2,233 aircraft[5]

Total: 2,260,000 casualties
Germany: 157,621 casualties[nb 1]
1,236[6]–1,345[10] aircraft destroyed
323[6]-488 aircraft damaged[10]
795 tanks destroyed[11]
Italy: 6,029[nb 2]


Total: 163,650 casualties

In the Second World War, the Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, defeating primarily French forces. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes to cut off and surround the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. When British and adjacent French forces were pushed back to the sea by the highly mobile and well organized German operation, the British government decided to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as well as several French divisions at Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.

After the withdrawal of the BEF, Germany launched a second operation, Fall Rot (Case Red), which was commenced on 5 June 1940. While the depleted French forces put up stiff initial resistance, German air superiority and armoured mobility overwhelmed the remaining French forces. German armour outflanked theMaginot Line and pushed deep into France with German forces arriving in an undefended Paris on 14 June. This caused a chaotic period of flight for the French government and effectively ended organized French military resistance. German commanders finally met with French officials on June 18 with the goal of the new French government being an armistice with Germany. Chief among the new government leaders was Marshal Philippe Pétain, newly appointed prime minister and one of the supporters of seeking an armistice with Germany.

On 22 June, an armistice was signed between France and Germany, which resulted in a division of France whereby Germany would occupy the north and west, Italy would control a small Italian occupation zone in the southeast, and an unoccupied zone, the zone libre, would be governed by the newly formed Vichy governmentled by Marshal Pétain. France remained under Axis occupation until the liberation of the country after the Allied landings in 1944.

Contents

  [show

Prelude[edit]

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 (which started the Second World War in Europe), a period of inaction called the Phoney War("Sitzkrieg" or "Drôle de guerre") set in between the major powers. Adolf Hitler had hoped that France and Britain would acquiesce in his conquest and quickly make peace. On 6 October, he may have made some type of peace offer to both Western powers. Even before they had time to respond, on 9 October, he also formulated a new military policy in case their reply was negative: Führer-Anweisung N°6, or "Führer-Directive Number 6".[12]

German strategy[edit]

Hitler had always fostered dreams about major military campaigns to defeat the Western European nations as a preliminary step to the conquest of territory inEastern Europe, thus avoiding a two-front war. However, these intentions were absent from Führer-Directive N°6.[13] This plan was firmly based on the seemingly more realistic assumption that Germany's military strength would still have to be built up for several more years and that for the moment only limited objectives could be envisaged. They were aimed at improving Germany's ability to survive a long, protracted war in the West.[14] Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries to be executed at the shortest possible notice. This would stop France from occupying them first, and prevent Allied air power from threatening the vital German Ruhr Area.[15] It would also provide the basis for a long-term air and sea campaign against Britain. There was no mention in the Führer-Directive of any immediate consecutive attack to conquer the whole of France, although as much as possible of the border areas in northern France should be occupied.[13]

Hitler first proposed beginning the invasion of France on 25 October, but accepted that the date was likely unrealistic. On 5 November he proposed attacking on 12 November to Commander-in-chief of the Army Walther von Brauchitsch. The general replied that the military had not recovered from the Polish campaign; the motorised units had to recover, repairing the damage to their vehicles, and ammunition stocks were largely depleted. Von Brauchitsch offered to resign if Hitler did not change his mind; his resignation was refused but two days later Hitler postponed the attack, giving poor weather as the official reason for the delay.[16][17]:42–43

German armed forces structure[edit]

The overall command for all the German armed forces was the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (usually contracted to OKW). This was sometimes used by Hitler as an alternative army planning staff, but the direction of the offensive on the western front was the responsibility of the Oberkommando des Heeres or OKH, the Army supreme command. The commander in chief of the Army was von Brauchitsch, but the main responsibility for planning belonged to the Chief of Staff, Franz Halder. Under OKW, the other service commands were the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe or OKL, led by Hitler's close political colleague Hermann Göring, and theOberkommando der Marine or OKM, led by Admiral Erich Raeder.[citation needed]

Similarity to Schlieffen Plan[edit]

On 10 October 1939, the British refused Hitler's offer of peace; on 12 October, the French did the same. Franz Halder presented the first plan for Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow") on 19 October. This was the pre-war codename of plans for a campaign in the Low Countries: the Aufmarschanweisung N°1, Fall Gelb ("Deployment Instruction No. 1, Case Yellow"). Halder's plan has often been compared to the Schlieffen Plan, which the Germans attempted to execute in 1914 in the opening phase of the First World War.[18] It was similar in that both plans entailed an advance through the middle of Belgium, but while the intention of the Schlieffen Plan was to gain a decisive victory by executing a rapid encirclement of the French Army, Aufmarschanweisung N°1 envisioned a frontal attack, sacrificing a projected half million German soldiers to attain the limited goal of throwing the Allies back to the River Somme. Germany's strength for 1940 would then be spent; only in 1942 could the main attack against France begin.[19]

Hitler was disappointed with Halder's plan and initially reacted by deciding that the German army should attack early, ready or not, in the hope that Allied unpreparedness might bring about an easy victory. This led to a series of postponements, as commanders repeatedly persuaded Hitler to delay the attack for a few days or weeks to remedy some critical defect in the preparations, or to wait for better weather. Hitler also tried to alter the plan which he found unsatisfactory, without clearly understanding how it could be improved. This mainly resulted in a dispersion of effort; although the main axis would remain in central Belgium, secondary attacks would be undertaken on the flanks. Hitler made such a suggestion on 11 November.[20] On 29 October, Halder let a second operational plan,Aufmarschanweisung N°2, Fall Gelb, reflect these changes by featuring a secondary attack on the Netherlands.[21]

Hitler was not alone in disliking Halder's plan. General Gerd von Rundstedt, the commander of Army Group A, also disagreed with it. Von Rundstedt recognised that it did not adhere to the classic principles of the Bewegungskrieg ("manoeuvre warfare") which had guided German strategy since the 19th century. A breakthrough would have to be accomplished that would result in the encirclement and destruction of the main body of Allied forces. The most practical place to achieve this would be in the region of Sedan, which lay in the sector of von Rundstedt's Army Group. On 21 October, von Rundstedt agreed with his chief of staff,Generalleutnant Erich von Manstein, that an alternative operational plan had to be arranged that would reflect these basic ideas, making Army Group A as strong as possible at the expense of Army Group B to the north.[22]

Manstein Plan[edit]

Further information: Manstein Plan
The evolution of German plans for Fall Gelb, the invasion of the Low Countries. The series begins at the left upper corner.

Whilst von Manstein was formulating new plans in KoblenzGeneralleutnant Heinz Guderian, commander of the XIX Army Corps, Germany's elite armoured formation, happened to be lodged in a nearby hotel.[23] At this moment, von Manstein's plan consisted of a move directly north from Sedan against the rear of the main Allied forces in Belgium. When Guderian was invited to contribute to the plan during informal discussions, he proposed a radical and novel idea.[21] Not only his army corps, but most of the Panzerwaffe should be concentrated at Sedan. This concentration of armour should subsequently not move to the north but to the west, to execute a swift, deep, independent strategic penetration towards the English Channel without waiting for the main body of infantry divisions. This might lead to a strategic collapse of the enemy, avoiding the relatively high number of casualties normally caused by a Kesselschlacht ("annihilation battle"). Such a risky independent use of armour had been widely discussed in Germany before the war but had not been accepted as received doctrine. The German General Staff, however, doubted such an operation could work.[24] Von Manstein's operational idea won immediate support from Guderian. Guderian understood the terrain, having experienced the conditions with the German Army in 1914 and 1918.[25]

Von Manstein wrote his first memorandum outlining the alternative plan on 31 October. In it he carefully avoided mentioning Guderian's name and played down the strategic part of the armoured units, in order to not generate unnecessary resistance.[26] Six more memoranda followed between 31 October 1939 and 12 January 1940, each becoming more radical in outline. All were rejected by the OKH, the German Army's headquarters, and nothing of their content reached Hitler.[25]

Mechelen Incident[edit]

Main article: Mechelen Incident

Germany's attack west was now planned to begin on 17 January 1940.[17]:43 However on 10 January, a German Messerschmitt Bf 108 made a forced landing outside the Belgian town of Mechelen-aan-de-Maas, north of Maastricht along the Meuse river, in what is referred to as the "Mechelen Incident". Among the occupants of the aircraft was Luftwaffe Major Hellmuth Reinberger, who was carrying a copy of the latest version of Aufmarschanweisung N°2. Reinberger was unable to destroy the documents, which quickly fell into the hands of the Belgian intelligence services.[27] It has often been suggested that this incident was the cause of a drastic change in German plans, but this is incorrect; in fact, a reformulation of them on 30 January, Aufmarschanweisung N°3, Fall Gelb, conformed to the earlier versions.[28]

Adoption of Manstein Plan[edit]

On 27 January, von Manstein was relieved of his appointment as Chief of Staff of Army Group A and appointed commander of an army corps in Prussia, to begin his command in Stettin on 9 February, a move instigated by Halder to reduce von Manstein's influence.[29] Von Manstein's indignant staff brought his case to Hitler's attention. Hitler had, without any knowledge of von Manstein's plan, suggested an attack focused at Sedan but had been persuaded to forget the idea as it was too risky. On 2 February, von Manstein's plan was brought to his attention. On 17 February, Hitler summoned von Manstein, Generals Rudolf Schmundt(the German Army's Chief of Personnel) and Alfred Jodl, the Chief of Operations at the OKW (the German armed forces' supreme command), to attend a conference. In the end, he agreed to all of von Manstein's suggestions.[30] The next day, he ordered the plans to be changed in accordance with von Manstein's ideas. They appealed to Hitler mainly because they offered some real hope of victory.[31] Hitler recognised the breakthrough at Sedan only in tactical terms, whereas von Manstein saw it as a means to an end. He envisaged an operation to the English Channel and the encirclement of the Allied armies in Belgium, which, if carried out correctly, could have a favourable strategic outcome.[32][33]

Halder had no intention of deviating from established doctrine by allowing an independent strategic penetration by the seven armoured divisions of Army Group A.[34] Much to the outrage of Guderian, this element was at first completely removed from the new plan, Aufmarschanweisung N°4, Fall Gelb, issued on 24 February.[21] However, Halder went through an "astonishing change of opinion".[35] Halder was criticised in the same way he had attacked von Manstein when he first suggested it. The bulk of the German officer corps was appalled by the plan, and they called him the "gravedigger of the Panzer force".[36]

Even when adapted to more conventional methods, the new plan provoked a storm of protest from the majority of German generals. They thought it utterly irresponsible to create a concentration of forces in a position where they could not possibly be sufficiently supplied, while such inadequate supply routes as there were could easily be cut off by the French. If the Allies did not react as expected, the German offensive could end in catastrophe.[37] Their objections were ignored. Halder argued that, as Germany's strategic position seemed hopeless anyway, even the slightest chance of a decisive victory outweighed the certainty of ultimate defeat implied by inaction.[38]

Blitzkrieg[edit]

Main article: Blitzkrieg

The strategy, operational methods and tactics of the German Army and Luftwaffe have often been labelled "Blitzkrieg" (Lightning War). The concept is controversial and is connected to the problem of the precise nature and origin of "Blitzkrieg" operations, of which the 1940 campaign is often described as a classic example. An essential element of "Blitzkrieg" was considered to be a strategic, or series of operational developments, executed by mechanised forces which led to the total collapse of the defenders' armed forces. "Blitzkrieg" has also been looked on as a revolutionary form of warfare. In recent years,[when?] its novelty and even its very existence have been disputed.[39][40]

Rapid and decisive victories had been pursued by armies well before the Second World War. In the German wars of unification and First World War campaigns, the German General Staff had attemptedBewegungskrieg (Movement War), similar to the modern perception of "Blitzkrieg", with varying degrees of success. During the First World War, these methods often succeeded in achieving tactical breakthroughs, but the operational exploitation took time as armies lacked motorisation, could not move quickly, and sometimes failed to achieve a decisive victory altogether. The development of tanks, aircraft, and more importantly, motorised infantry and artillery, enabled the Germans to implement these old methods again with new technology in 1940. The internal combustion engine solved the problem of operational level exploitation.[41]

When dealing with "Blitzkrieg" as a concept, things become complicated. It is seen as an anomaly and there is no explicit reference to such strategy, operations or tactics in the German battle plans. There is no evidence in German military art, strategy or industrial preparation that points to the existence of a thought out "Blitzkrieg" tendency.[42][43] Evidence suggests that the German Reich was preparing for a long sustained war of attrition, not a quick war of manoeuvre. Hitler's miscalculations in 1939 forced him into war before he was ready, and under these circumstances the German General Staff reverted to attempting to win a quick war, before the economic and material superiority of the Allies could make a difference, although this was not their original intention.[44] It was only after the defeat of France in 1940, that the German military pursued a "Blitzkrieg"-kind of warfare to achieve its ambitions in Europe. German historian Karl-Heinz Frieser explained:

"The campaign in the west was not a planned campaign of conquest. Instead, it was an operational act of despair to get out of a desperate strategic situation. What is called "Blitzkrieg thinking" did not develop until after [author's emphasis] the campaign in the west. It was not the cause but rather the consequence of victory. Something that in May 1940, had come off successfully to everyone's surprise, was now to serve the implementation of Hitler's visions of conquest in the form of the secret success.[45]

Allied strategy[edit]

Early actions[edit]

In September 1939, Belgium was still neutral, having ended the Franco-Belgian Accord of 1920 in 1936. The country did not allow the French to inspect its defenses until March 1940, when a single French brigadier in civilian clothes received permission and viewed their weak state from his automobile.[17]:56 The Netherlands was also neutral, but had made contacts in secret with the Entente (as the Allies were still widely called) for future cooperation should the Germans invade. The Supreme Commander of the French Army, Maurice Gamelin, suggested during that month that the Allies should take advantage of the fact that Germany was tied up in Poland by using the Low Countries as a spring board to attack Germany. This suggestion was not taken up by the French government.[46]

Just after the 1 September 1939 invasion of Poland, French soldiers advanced along the Maginot Line 5 km (3.1 mi) into the Saar which was called the Saar Offensive. France had employed 98 divisions (all but 28 of them reserve or fortress formations) and 2,500 tanks against German forces consisting of 43 divisions (32 of them reserves) and no tanks. They advanced until they met the then thin and undermanned Siegfried Line. The French army would easily have been able to penetrate the mere screen of German forces present had they continued with the offensive, but they preferred to force the Germans into the offensive role and withdrew to their own lines in October.[47]

Dyle Plan[edit]

Further information: Dyle Plan

Strategic reasons dictated the Allied decision to advance and fight on Belgian territory when the German attack came in the west. The British government insisted that the Flemish coast remain under Allied control so as not to threaten British naval supremacy.[citation needed] The French determined that the German offensive had to be contained as far east as possible, to keep the battles off French territory. Finally, and for him personally, the most cogent argument for advancing and fighting on Belgian territory was that Gamelin did not consider the French army capable of winning a mobile battle against the German army in the wide operational theatre France would present. Belgium presented a far narrower front to contain German formations. He also argued that advancing to the Dyle river and preparing an entrenched front there would prevent most of Belgium's industrial regions from falling into German hands.[48]

Gamelin did not have the personality to simply impose his will. The first step he took was to propose the "Escaut" variant as an option for Plan D, the code for the "Dyle plan".[49] This would include an advance by the French onto Dutch territory.[50] The powerful French 1st and 9th Armies would hold the line in Belgium, from Wavre to Givet. The French 7th Army would hold the line on the Scheldt and link up with Dutch forces. TheBelgian Army would hold the Ghent-Antwerp line. They would be reinforced by the British Army, which would hold the section of the line east of Brussels, from Wavre to Louvain.[51]

Gamelin made the reasonable assumption that the Germans would try to attempt a breakthrough by concentrating their mechanised forces. They could hardly hope to break the Maginot Line on his right flank or to overcome the Allied concentration of forces on the left flank.[52] That only left the centre, but most of the centre was covered by the river Meuse. Tanks were limited in defeating fortified river positions. However, atNamur the river made a sharp turn to the east, creating a gap between itself and the river Dyle. This 'Gembloux Gap', ideal for mechanised warfare, was a very dangerous weak spot. Gamelin decided to concentrate half of his armoured reserves there, sure the main German thrust would be on the Belgian-Dutch plain.[52] Gamelin reasoned that the Germans might try to overcome the Meuse position by using infantry, but he was confident in the Belgians' ability to hold the line and believed that while it was possible for the Germans to cross the Meuse, it would take a long time to achieve. Gamelin made no study in the event of a German breakthrough in the south, and as a consequence, did not make preparations to extricate Allied forces from Belgium.[53]

Gamelin continued with his plans despite repeated criticism from his subordinates. Gaston Billotte (the commander-in-chief of the First Army Group) and Alphonse Joseph Georges (commander-in-chief of the North-Eastern front which included the First and Second Army Groups) were particularly critical. Georges pointed out the decisive problem. He suggested that Gamelin was too sure the German plan involved the battles, or main effort, being fought in the Netherlands and Belgium. He argued that it seemed as if Gamelin was allowing himself to be drawn into the Low Countries. He even suggested that an attack in Belgium might be a diversion. In this case, if the main forces were sent into Belgium and "the main enemy attack came in our centre, on our front between the Meuse and the Moselle, we could be deprived of the necessary means to repel it".[54]

The development of Allied strategy was exclusively in the hands of the French. The British, recognising they were the smaller partner in the alliance, agreed to French proposals.[55]

Allied intelligence[edit]

In the winter of 1939–40, the Belgian consul-general in Cologne had anticipated the angle of advance that Von Manstein was planning. Through intelligence reports, they deduced that German forces were concentrating along the Belgian and Luxembourg frontiers. The Belgians were convinced that the Germans would thrust through the Ardennes and to the English Channel with the aim of cutting off the Allied field armies in Belgium and north-eastern France. They also anticipated that the Germans would try to land airborne and glider forces behind the Allied lines to break open Belgian fortifications. Such warnings were not heeded by the French or British.[56]

In March 1940, Swiss intelligence detected six or seven Panzer Divisions on the German-Luxembourg-Belgian border. More motorised divisions had also been detected in the area. French intelligence were informed that the Germans were constructing pontoon bridges partially—about halfway—over the Our River on the Luxembourg-German border through aerial reconnaissance. The French military attaché in the Swiss capital—Bern—warned that the centre of the German assault would come on the Meuse at Sedan, sometime between 8 and 10 May. The report was dated 30 April. These reports had little effect on Gamelin,[57] as did similar reports from neutral sources such as the Vatican, and a French pilot's sighting of a 100 kilometres-long line of German armored vehicles inside Germany to the Luxembourg border.[17]:53

German forces and dispositions[edit]

Strength[edit]

Germany had mobilised 4,200,000 men of the Heer, 1,000,000 of the Luftwaffe, 180,000 of the Kriegsmarine, and 100,000 of the Waffen-SS. When consideration is made for those in Poland, Denmark and Norway, the Army had 3,000,000 men available for the offensive on 10 May 1940.[58] These manpower reserves were formed into 157 divisions. Of these, 135 were earmarked for the offensive, including 42 reserve divisions.[59]

The German forces in the West in May and June deployed some 2,439 tanks and 7,378 artillery guns, including matériel reserves committed.[60] In 1939–40, 45 percent of the army was at least 40 years old, and 50 percent of all the soldiers had just a few weeks training.[61] Contrary to what the blitzkrieg legend suggests, the German Army was not fully motorised. Just 10 percent of the Army was motorised in 1940 and could muster only 120,000 vehicles, compared to the 300,000 of the French Army. The British also had an "enviable" contingent of motorised forces.[61] Most of the German logistical tail consisted of horse-drawn vehicles.[62]

Only 50 percent of the German divisions available in 1940 were combat ready,[61] often being more poorly equipped than their equivalents in the British and French Armies, or even as well as the German Army of 1914.[63] In the spring of 1940, the German army was semi-modern. A small number of the best-equipped and "elite divisions were offset by many second and third rate divisions".[63]

Army operational deployment[edit]

The German Army was divided into three army groups. Army Group A commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt, composed of 45½ divisions including seven armoured, was to execute the decisive movement, cutting a"Sichelschnitt"—not the official name of the operation but the translation in German of a phrase after the events coined by Winston Churchill[64] as "Sickle Cut" (and even earlier "armoured scythe stroke")—through the Allied defences in the Ardennes. It consisted of three armies: the 4th12th and 16th. It had three Panzer corps; one, the XV, had been allocated to the 4th Army, but the other two, the XXXXI (Reinhardt) and the XIX (Guderian) were united with the XIV Army Corps of two motorised infantry divisions, on a special independent operational level in Panzergruppe Kleist (officially known as XXII Corps).[65]

Army Group B under Fedor von Bock, composed of 29½ divisions including three armoured, was tasked with advancing through the Low Countries and luring the northern units of the Allied armies into a pocket. It consisted of the 6th and 18th Armies. Army Group C, composed of 18 divisions under Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, was charged with preventing a flanking movement from the east, and with launching small holding attacks against the Maginot Line and the upper Rhine. It consisted of the 1st and 7th Armies.[66]

Communications[edit]

The real trump card for the Germans was the radio.[67] The Panzers all had radios that allowed voice communication with other units. This enabled German armour to respond rapidly to a constantly changing battlefield situation. It allowed for last minute changes in tactics and improvisations to be formed far more quickly than the enemy. Some commanders regarded the ability to communicate the primary method of combat.[67] Radio drills were even considered more important than firing accurately.[67] Communication allowed German armour to coordinate their formations, bringing them together for a mass firepower effect in the attack or defence. This offset the French advantage in numbers and equipment, which was deployed in "penny-packets". The French also lacked radios and orders were passed from mouth to mouth. The opposing systems would give the Germans a decisive edge in battle.[67]

The radio network went beyond tank to tank commands. The system also permitted a degree of communication between air and ground forces. Attached to Panzer Division was the Fliegerleittruppen (tactical air control troops) which were given wheeled vehicles.[67] There were too few Sd.Kfz. 251 command vehicles to make this a uniform facility throughout the army, but the theory allowed the army in some circumstances to call upon the Luftwaffe units, while either on the ground or airborne, to support an attack that army artillery could not deal with. It is said that Guderian's Corps' dash to the channel never had to wait more than 15–20 minutes after making such a call, for the Luftwaffe to appear over the target.[67] A specific Junkers Ju 87 group (VIII. Fliegerkorps), which was to support the dash to the channel should Army Group A break through in the Ardennes, kept one Ju 87 and one fighter group ready for immediate take-off. On average, they could arrive to support armoured units within 45–75 minutes of orders being issued.[68]

Army tactics[edit]

The main tool of the German land forces was combined arms combat. In contrast to the Allies, they relied on highly mobile offensive units, with balanced numbers of well trained artillery, infantry, engineer and tank formations, all integrated into Panzer divisions. They relied on excellent communication systems which enabled them to break into a position and exploit it before the enemy could react. Panzer divisions could carry out reconnaissance missions, advance to contact, defend and attack vital positions or weak spots. This ground would then be held by infantry and artillery as pivot points for further attacks. Although their tanks were not designed for tank-versus-tank combat, they could take ground and draw the enemy armour on to the division's anti-tank lines. This conserved the tanks to achieve the next stage of the offensive. The units' logistics were self-contained, allowing for three or four days of combat. The Panzer divisions would be supported by motorised and infantry divisions.[69]

The German Army lacked a formidable heavy combat tank such as the French possessed. In armament and armour, French tanks were the stronger designs and more numerous (although the German vehicles were faster and more mechanically reliable).[70][71] But while the German Army was outnumbered in artillery and tanks, it possessed some critical advantages over its opponents. The newer German Panzers had a crew of five men; a Commander, gunner-aimer, loader, driver and mechanic.[67] Having a trained individual for each task allowed each man to dedicate himself to his own mission and it made for a highly efficient combat team. The French had fewer members, with the commander double-tasked with loading the main gun, distracting him from his main duties in observation and tactical deployment. It made for a far less efficient system.[67]

Even within infantry formations, the Germans enjoyed an advantage through the doctrine of Auftragstaktik (Mission command tactics), by which officers were expected to use their initiative to achieve their commanders' intentions, and were given control of the necessary supporting arms.

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