The Battle of France, 1940

The Battle of France, 1940

The Battle of France, 1940

The Battle of France, 1940

Excerpt

What happened in 1940? What was the cause of the collapse which cancelled out a victory which had cost the French nation so much blood, the blood of 1,500,000 who had fallen in vain? Only twenty years after their sacrifice, France was completely invaded and brought under the heel of those who had been vanquished in 1918.

The French people have only seen the hideous spectacle of disaster, and have been told that the tragedy was predestined, logical, inevitable, and that no one was responsible unless it were the country as a whole.

On this sad 1940 campaign we only have, in fact, the memoirs of defeated generals: the successive commanders-in-chief, the Chief of Staff of the North-east Front, army and corps commanders, and lesser generals. But these commanders were not able to foresee the coming of the "lightning war" based on the use of tanks and aeroplanes; they had neither mastered it nor could they adapt themselves to it. How should they now be able to raise themselves above their defeat and recognise its causes? Their writings are, in general, special pleadings pro domo, even though the writers have often, involuntarily, criticised themselves.

They claimed that the French defeat was not a military one and that the army leaders could not be held responsible. They preferred to find metaphysical causes for it. They saw in it a kind of punishment from above. "It was caused", declared Marshal Pétain in his message of June 25, 1940, "by our moral laxness and our pleasure-seeking." Doubtless that is a part of the truth; but it was not the nation's "pleasure-seeking" which forced the Command to cling to a doctrine which was out of date, to work out an erroneous plan of campaign, to adopt faulty general dispositions, and finally to allow itself to be constantly out-manœuvred by the enemy without attempting the least . . .

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