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Rising Sun*
12-31-2013, 05:52 AM
WWII Japanese military internal doctrine, including medical services, emphasised the importance of 'spirit', which enabled the Japanese soldier to overcome insurperable obstacles by, to borrow from a still very impressive Nazi propaganda film title, a triumph of the will.

Or was there a bit of chemical assitance?

I've come across some brief references to methamphetamine use by Japanese soldiers during WWII.

Apparently meth was unregulated in civil society and sold over the counter under brand names of Philipon and Sedrin, and issued (generously?) to soldiers and others in the armed forces http://books.google.com.au/books?id=F0mUte90ATUC&pg=PA478&lpg=PA478&dq=japanese+army+wwii++philopon&source=bl&ots=f5RzwaEsLu&sig=d8ybUtpSEms1kKLAlkLNHG2Ku2g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kKrCUsz-O8LSkAX7o4GQBw&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=japanese%20army%20wwii%20%20philopon&f=false,
http://www.tofugu.com/2012/04/10/japan-land-of-the-rising-crystal-meth/
as indeed it or similar drugs were issued to German and Allied forces, notably aircrew on long flights to ward off sleepiness.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to have close contact with a meth addict knows that, among other things, they are prone to unpredictable and unreasoning violence. Which fits in with the unpredictable and unreasoning violent treatment of Allied POWs by the Japanese.

I can't find anything which specifies the issue for a unit and the entitlement / accessibility for Japanese soldiers / POW guards / Korean POW guards which might allow some or all of them to become meth addicts.

Anybody got any ideas on sources to follow this up?

Chunky
01-02-2014, 02:16 PM
This one new to me, I came across this:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/crystal-meth-origins-link-back-to-nazi-germany-and-world-war-ii-a-901755.html

JR*
01-07-2014, 04:54 AM
The reference to "liters of coffee" makes me wonder slightly about the quality of the "alertness" imparted by this drug. When I was studying for my professional legal qualification, I was working full-time, so exam time inevitably involved heavy cramming and little sleep. I "fuelled" this with strong coffee, and this generally seemed to work reasonably well. However, one night I overdid it - and went into the exam very "alert", but totally unable to remember most of what I needed to remember to pass the exam. Only one I had to repeat. I wonder whether all those soldiers and (Gods help us) pilots, high on meth, were really in a good state of mind to face the enemy ? Best regards, JR.

pdf27
01-07-2014, 06:00 AM
Hardly unique to the Japanese though, which rather undermines the theory. The Germans were all on Pervitin (same stuff basically) when invading France, and unless you were a Black soldier that was a relatively clean campaign.

Nickdfresh
01-07-2014, 08:30 AM
Hardly unique to the Japanese though, which rather undermines the theory. The Germans were all on Pervitin (same stuff basically) when invading France, and unless you were a Black soldier that was a relatively clean campaign.

There were some large scale massacres of British troops by the SS (at Le Paradis?) at the end and likely some that will never be known (the aforementioned one is only known because a couple survived and were treated by regular Heer after capture and repatriated prior to the end of the war. perhaps six weeks was not enough to push many over the edge?

forager
01-13-2014, 03:58 PM
Some recon guys used some pharmaceuticals to stay awake On extended missions.
Not a great idea and mixed results, but more good than bad.
I think "Green Hornets" was one name.
It was definately a grey area in terms of official sanction.
I know it was not an all day every day thing and guys using it had time out periods to clean up.

pdf27
01-15-2014, 01:09 AM
There were some large scale massacres of British troops by the SS (at Le Paradis?) at the end and likely some that will never be known (the aforementioned one is only known because a couple survived and were treated by regular Heer after capture and repatriated prior to the end of the war. perhaps six weeks was not enough to push many over the edge?
Both SS and Heer carried out massacres of British troops, but the number of massacres and the number killed was pretty small. The murders of black troops were an order of magnitude larger, and certainly weren't confined to the SS.

Rising Sun*
01-15-2014, 02:08 AM
The murders of black troops were an order of magnitude larger, and certainly weren't confined to the SS.

I don't know anything about this.

Could you expand on it?

JR*
01-15-2014, 05:05 AM
There were, certainly, instances of black prisoners of war being killed by the Germans - both in relation to French colonial troops in 1940 and Americans in 1944-'45. It has been alleged that such killings were "racist", based on the belief in black "racial inferiority" inculcated in the German population by the Nazis, and this was probably true in some cases. One should be wary of generalisations, however. History (written primarily by, or under the influence of the winners) have emphasized war crimes committed by the Germans and the Japanese against prisoners of war. However, with the passage of time, it has become increasingly clear that everybody committed such crimes (at least in the field) to some extent against everyone else. Even where such crimes were committed against non-Caucasian prisoners, to say that the subset committed by the Germans were always "racist" would represent an excessive generalization unsupported by evidence. This area has, at least until recently, received little or no attention from researchers, and some of the few examples of research so far are subject to the suspicion of polemicism. I, too, would like to know more about this. Best regards, JR.

Rising Sun*
01-15-2014, 06:36 AM
There were, certainly, instances of black prisoners of war being killed by the Germans - both in relation to French colonial troops in 1940 and Americans in 1944-'45. It has been alleged that such killings were "racist", based on the belief in black "racial inferiority" inculcated in the German population by the Nazis, and this was probably true in some cases. One should be wary of generalisations, however. History (written primarily by, or under the influence of the winners) have emphasized war crimes committed by the Germans and the Japanese against prisoners of war. However, with the passage of time, it has become increasingly clear that everybody committed such crimes (at least in the field) to some extent against everyone else. Even where such crimes were committed against non-Caucasian prisoners, to say that the subset committed by the Germans were always "racist" would represent an excessive generalization unsupported by evidence. This area has, at least until recently, received little or no attention from researchers, and some of the few examples of research so far are subject to the suspicion of polemicism. I, too, would like to know more about this. Best regards, JR.

I don't know about French colonial troops, but after D Day the black American soldiers were generally, perhaps exclusively, used as labourers, drivers and in other non-combat roles behind the lines. This usually put them well behind areas where they were likely to be captured by the Germans.

What were the circumstances which allowed them to be captured and executed by the Germans?

If black American troops were singled out for special murderous treatment by the Germans, at least they'd have been prepared for it by their treatment by their own side.


When Black Soldiers Were Hanged: a War's Footnote
By FRANCIS X. CLINES
Published: February 07, 1993

As the role of black soldiers is documented in the history of World War II, J. Robert Lilly is trying to fathom one more distinction of that American fighting man: the fact that almost four times as many black soldiers as whites were executed in Europe after military courts-martial, even though blacks made up less than 10 percent of the troops.

"This needs to be sorted out and made right," Professor Lilly said in a recent interview at Northern Kentucky University, where he teaches sociology and criminology. The professor, who is white, stumbled on to what he suspects is a little-known chapter of American racism in doing research in England on prison punishment.

First, he heard about Albert Pierrepoint, England's official hangman during the war, and some of the hangings he carried out for the American Army at Shepton Mallet prison near Somerset. American soldiers were executed at the prison for the murder and rape of English civilians.

This set Professor Lilly looking for official records. Eventually, with the help of Frederick M. Kaiser, a senior research associate at the Congressional Research Service, he uncovered a 1946 summary of court-martial discipline dispensed in the war's European theater. In this he found enough racial data to bolster what he had picked up anecdotally in England: Black soldiers paid for capital crimes disproportionately at the gallows in the segregated military of that time. 55 Blacks Executed

With black history month being celebrated around the nation, Professor Lilly is intent on getting all the details of the executions and spreading the information. The professor, rich with curiosity but short on money, is planning to write a book about these military executions.

By his accounting, 70 soldiers were executed after courts-martial in Europe during the war, 55 of them black and 15 white. About 70 more executions were carried out elsewhere in the American military, but so far no breakdown on racial data has been obtained. "It was very clear that blacks were being punished in almost all instances a hell of a lot more for their behavior, proportionate to their presence, than the white soldiers were," Professor Lilly said.

"There's no question that in most instances the crimes committed were horrendous," he said. "But we don't know whether whites got away with the same acts, particularly the rapes."

The military data he has gathered in Europe show that blacks (or "colored," as the military referred to them then) made up 79 percent of the soldiers executed in Europe, as against 21 percent for whites. Death Sentences for Rape

The rate of execution for black soldiers was even higher for the rape of civilians, for which 25 blacks (87 percent) and 4 whites (13 percent) were put to death. In 28 murder convictions, 22 blacks and 6 whites were executed. Of the 12 executed for murder and rape, 8 were black and 4 were white. The other execution was that of Eddie Slovik, a white, for desertion. The United States Army Center of Military History in Washington says very little information is available on the subject. But one historian there, Russell J. Parkinson, was able to confirm the basic data that Mr. Lilly is using. "There's clearly a black preponderance," Mr. Parkinson said, after reviewing the execution records and finding Mr. Lilly's quest a worthy avenue for scholarship.

There were about 700,000 black soldiers in the United States forces in World War II out of a total of more than 10 million men and women who served. Mr. Lilly said about 160,000 black soldiers passed through England to the European theater, compared with several million whites.
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/07/us/when-black-soldiers-were-hanged-a-war-s-footnote.html



Abstract: Data came from the executed soldiers' trial transcript files in the National Archives. The research focused on the crimes, defendants, victims, and details of the executions and the burials that followed. Results revealed eight of the crimes were murders, six were rapes, and four were murder/rapes. Black soldiers represented 50 percent of the soldiers executed for murder, 83 percent for rape, and 25 percent for murder/rape. No white soldiers were executed for rape. Sixty-one percent of the victims were females; 94 percent were white. Seventy-eight percent of the victims were civilian; 22 percent were military. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=164076

It's also interesting that in Britain during WWII rape was not a capital crime under British law, yet the British allowed their prisons and executioners to be used to execute American servicemen convicted of rape under American law, which suggests an intentional degree of moral or legal blindness to appease the American forces which was necessary to support Britain's invasion of Europe to defeat the Germans in pursuit of Britain's drive to survive.

Nothing unusual about that in realpolitik, but it doesn't leave Britain with clean hands compared with any Germans who might have executed black American soldiers in pursuit of their own racially motivated or determined political agenda.

JR*
01-15-2014, 10:49 AM
While most of the Negro ground troops sent to Europe were involved in rear area duties (such as providing the labour for road and bridge building and driving lorries), there were certainly limited exceptions. Some Negro combat artillery and infantry units were operating in Italy from about August/September, 1944, and in the North Western theatre perhaps a little later. The conduct of these units sometimes might appear to have justified the long-held fears of the Caucasian military establishment in the US as to the suitability of men brought up in what was seen as US Negro "culture" for combat soldiering (let alone as officers). However, the units concerned generally put in satisfactory performance, and sometimes fought like heroes - much like White units, on the whole. This would clearly have put some American black troops in the way of being captured by the Germans. The latter, of course, would have been much more familiar with French African combat troops. In both World Wars, the French had no hesitation in calling on the services of large numbers of African soldiers in combat. In WW2, the higher quality, more professional French soldiers to fight the Germans in 1940 (in particular, in the course of the battle for Sedan and the subsequent breakout) were in no small number of instances "African" or "Spahi" formations. It has been alleged that some prisoners from these units were singled out for killing by particular German officers and units, and that these outrages were characterized by racism. I do not think that these allegations have been particularly well researched as yet. Best regards, JR.

JR*
01-15-2014, 10:53 AM
A further thought - the nature of the German penetration in the Battle of the Bulge would have resulted in their capturing significant numbers of African-American soldiers, both "rear area" and combat. German propaganda photographs from the Battle (the reference eludes me) demonstrate as much. Best regards, JR.

Nickdfresh
01-15-2014, 11:03 AM
During the Battle of the Bulge, some American infantry units in fact became fully "integrated" as the desperate need for manpower after shortfalls resulted in a call for 'Negro' volunteers. In addition, there certainly were some black combat units including an armored formation that served under Patton, IIRC...

Nickdfresh
01-15-2014, 11:08 AM
The 761st Tank Battalion (The Black Panthers) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/761st_Tank_Battalion_%28United_States%29) served under Patton...

Rising Sun*
01-16-2014, 05:15 AM
JR and Nick,

Thanks for educating me.

I wasn't aware that there was a significant black combat unit such as the 761st Tank Battalion. Found this http://www.761st.com/j25/.

Any info on whether the black combat units, like the Tuskegee Airmen, performed well above equivalent white units?

(I think my first encounter with the Tuskegee Airmen was an autobiography by a white American bomber pilot who was astonished that his Tuskegee escort flew with the bombers the whole way into and out of a heavily defended target, when white fighter escorts invariably, and quite reasonably, peeled off before that.)

Nickdfresh
01-16-2014, 06:53 AM
Off the top of my head, it should be remembered that the Tuskegee airmen were almost all highly educated and and were selected from the cream of the crop of African-American servicemen which I think gave them a sense of being even more elite than most other typical USAAF units. Add into that the motivation of having something to prove, I think you get a very cohesive and effective combat wing...

Rising Sun*
01-16-2014, 08:29 AM
Off the top of my head, it should be remembered that the Tuskegee airmen were almost all highly educated and and were selected from the cream of the crop of African-American servicemen which I think gave them a sense of being even more elite than most other typical USAAF units. Add into that the motivation of having something to prove, I think you get a very cohesive and effective combat wing...

Does that produce the reverse where a rear area unit composed of black Americans used to being oppressed, exploited and discriminated against and looked down on both personally and officially by the white soldiers and white officers discouraged them from doing more than was expected, being a fairly unintelligent labour source not fit for combat and generally somewhat sub-human compared with white Americans? Which does have an ironic relationship with the white Americans fighting the Nazis and their repugnant view of Jews and others as sub-human.

These and other ironies about why black Americans would, or would not, want to fight for America are explored in
http://w3.gre.ac.uk/~da07/6-Research/my_writing/Negro%20Soldier/negro_soldier.htm

Racial stereotypes and prejudices about black men's unrestrained sexual impulses in that era go some way to explaining the disproportionately large number of black servicemen executed for rape. And those disproportionate executions then reinforced racial stereotypes and prejudices about black men being sexual brutes.

Talk about a no win situation!

Rising Sun*
01-16-2014, 08:55 AM
Off the top of my head, it should be remembered that the Tuskegee airmen were almost all highly educated and and were selected from the cream of the crop of African-American servicemen which I think gave them a sense of being even more elite than most other typical USAAF units. Add into that the motivation of having something to prove, I think you get a very cohesive and effective combat wing...

And perhaps a unit more acceptable to white America, which is not said to detract from the airmen's achievements.

The more people are like us, the less likely we are to think poorly of them.

Which was exploited in The Negro Soldier, linked above.


The class bias of The Negro Soldier is relentless in its portrayal of black life as exclusively middle class. Such a narrow and distorted view serves an important purpose in conveying the army’s intended message of black achievement while, at the same time, helping allay possible fears on the part of white middle-class America. The vast majority of African Americans, as share croppers, landless labourers, factory hands, and domestic servants, and their achievements under adversity, are airbrushed out of the picture. Instead we see a comfortable, middle-class congregation set in a northern city. But this congregation is far from a typical gathering of African Americans, the great majority of whom were southern, rural and poor. The congregation we see behaves in a dignified and restrained manner with none of the emotional exuberance of lower-class church services, while the preacher points to financiers, doctors, judges, school principal, and orchestra conductors as examples of black success. http://w3.gre.ac.uk/~da07/6-Research/my_writing/Negro%20Soldier/negro_soldier.htm

pdf27
01-16-2014, 01:02 PM
Sorry for the delayed reply, I'm recovering from surgery at the moment and excessively tired.

The massacres I'm referring to were of Black French soldiers during the invasion of France in 1940. Several examples below:
http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/tata-chasselay-france-a-ww2-cemetery-on-french-soil-for-massacred-senegalese-troops.html
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24173
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_N'Tchoréré (French version of Wiki is much better on this if you speak the language)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=23970

Rising Sun*
01-17-2014, 07:16 AM
Sorry for the delayed reply, I'm recovering from surgery at the moment and excessively tired.

The massacres I'm referring to were of Black French soldiers during the invasion of France in 1940. Several examples below:
http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/tata-chasselay-france-a-ww2-cemetery-on-french-soil-for-massacred-senegalese-troops.html
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24173
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_N'Tchoréré (French version of Wiki is much better on this if you speak the language)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=23970

Thanks.

Hope you recover fully and quickly from your surgery.

Rising Sun*
01-17-2014, 07:37 AM
The massacres I'm referring to were of Black French soldiers during the invasion of France in 1940. Several examples below:
http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/tata-chasselay-france-a-ww2-cemetery-on-french-soil-for-massacred-senegalese-troops.html
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24173
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_N'Tchoréré (French version of Wiki is much better on this if you speak the language)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=23970

I had no idea this had occurred, and so early in the war.

The second link seems to me to offer the best and most cohesive overall explanation for it, but the references to the Ruhr Occupation and African colonisation suggest some of the origins of negative attitudes towards blacks arose independently of Nazi racist ideas. Or maybe those racist ideas were in part informed by the Ruhr Occupation and African colonisation. And it was hardly unique to Nazis or Germans in that era to have negative attitudes towards blacks, even to the extent of killing them out of hand, as many Negroes in the South of the United States of America well knew.

The other side of the coin is enemy propaganda directed to, or against, black American troops, which is covered through several wars at http://www.psywar.org/race.php .

Chunky
01-17-2014, 10:21 AM
Hi pdf27

I wish you all the best, in your recovery.

Chunky

PS, Mod's, please don't put this post down as counter. thank you.

Nickdfresh
01-17-2014, 12:16 PM
Sorry for the delayed reply, I'm recovering from surgery at the moment and excessively tired.

The massacres I'm referring to were of Black French soldiers during the invasion of France in 1940. Several examples below:
http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/tata-chasselay-france-a-ww2-cemetery-on-french-soil-for-massacred-senegalese-troops.html
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24173
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_N'Tchoréré (French version of Wiki is much better on this if you speak the language)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=23970


Thank you for these links. I think as mentioned by JR, this topic suffers from perhaps a lack of scholarship...

pdf27
01-18-2014, 12:47 AM
Thank you for these links. I think as mentioned by JR, this topic suffers from perhaps a lack of scholarship...
Probably unsurprising - 1940 is an era the French really, really want to forget given the utter disaster that it was (and the more digging I do into it, the more I realise that the Germans only won through utter French strategic incompetence). That makes it hard to find out much about German war crimes of the time, simply because it's an era people want to forget and so don't talk about much. Add in the fact that the crimes would only have been recorded should the Germans have held courts-martial of their own on it (highly unlikely), as the French state in those areas wasn't re-established until 1944 - it was all in the occupied zone, rather than Vichy. All in all, we're doing well to have as much as we do.

Rising Sun*
01-18-2014, 03:15 AM
the more digging I do into it, the more I realise that the Germans only won through utter French strategic incompetence

Bearing in mind that my knowledge in this area is fairly superficial, would you like to educate me by expanding on the main features of French strategic incompetence?

What impact do you think the Belgian surrender had independently of French incompetence? It seems to me to have come at exactly the wrong moment for the French / British forces.

Where do the British efforts up to the Belgian surrender fit into this? British incompetence, or victims of French incompetence, or neutral effect?

Nickdfresh
01-18-2014, 07:32 AM
Bearing in mind that my knowledge in this area is fairly superficial, would you like to educate me by expanding on the main features of French strategic incompetence?
...

I've read a few books on the subject and I guess the answer is, "where does one start?" :mrgreen:

I'll take a stab at it later. A nice, but very flawed starting point for those interested would be Alistair Horne's To Lose A Battle. I think he overly plays up French incompetence while ignoring some very endemic flaws in the British planning and TO&E...

But I will give a quick example in this post. If you happened to be a French soldier that was unlucky enough to be seriously wounded, you most likely were in for a hellish existence or death. The French Army's medical corp completely broke down during the six week campaign because it entire foundation was designed on the premise that war was a very localized, slow moving thing. And that they would have ample opportunity to set up intricate field hospitals near the battle with a minimum of mobility required. The result was a collapse of all medical planning and a very high death rate of the French wounded in ratio to those who recovered because the hospitals were often over run or by-passed by the incomprehensibly rapid Heer advance. I think this is emblematic of the inability of the French to modernize their operational planning and training in conjunction with the modernizing automotive technology now making rapid advances possible and avoiding the a static, stable frontage of WWI (at least initially).

While it's often said that the French were merely trying to re-fight the war they won in the First World War, I think this is a vast oversimplification. They learned all the wrong lessons of that war may be a better explanation and there is great irony is this. For it was the French Army that used Parisian taxi cabs to reinforce and prevent the fall of Paris during WWI. It was also the French Army that had a large advantage in logistical mechanization when it came to the sheer numbers of trucks the French had in their Army over the Heer. It was the Germans attempting an improbably massive envelopment using foot soldiers marching at a frantic pace. The French Army made many mistakes in WWI, such as attacking Germany headlong in futile, bloody frontal assaults nearly leading to the collapse of their Army early on. But the pace of slow moving combat dictated by soldiers' marching pace enabled them to recover. With the speed of the desperate German gamble that was Fall Gelb with 40,000 Heer vehicles improbably rushing through four primitive logging roads in the Ardennes, there would be no such second chances afford a French Army for foolishly rushing headlong into Belgium...

pdf27
01-18-2014, 08:08 AM
Bearing in mind that my knowledge in this area is fairly superficial, would you like to educate me by expanding on the main features of French strategic incompetence?

What impact do you think the Belgian surrender had independently of French incompetence? It seems to me to have come at exactly the wrong moment for the French / British forces.

Where do the British efforts up to the Belgian surrender fit into this? British incompetence, or victims of French incompetence, or neutral effect?
At the very top level, the French plan required them to commit almost all of their reserves at the start of the battle (i.e. before they found out what the Germans were planning), and relied on the Belgian army holding the Germans for about a week on the Albert Canal line - at a time when all the military discussions between the two countries were entirely informal and the formal discussions were totally cut off. Changing this alone (i.e. adopting the original Eschaut plan, which Gamelin replaced with the Dyle-Breda plan over the objections of his staff and deputy) might have been enough alone to stop the German advance before it reached the sea. Certainly the disaster that we saw would not have happened.
Moving on from that, we have the fact that Gamelin failed to really do anything after the Germans attacked until it was far too late, and the orders he did give took an average of three days to reach the units expected to carry them out. Weygand really wasn't any better, and most of the more junior officers were either inept or more concerned about protecting their reputations and "honour" than hurting the enemy.

The British weren't a lot better, but were flattered by the fact that as very much the junior partner in the alliance and so didn't actually have to make any major decisions. If they had been put in the same situation I don't doubt they would have made some of the same mistakes (as well as some original ones all of their own), but that doesn't really forgive Gamelin's blunder.

Incidentally, the rapid conquest of Holland was in large part due to the Dyle-Breda plan. The Moerdijk bridges could have easily been demolished by the Dutch in the face of the German airbourne assault, but the commander of the defence had been ordered to keep them intact no matter what to enable the French tanks to reinforce the Netherlands. As such he had ordered the demolition charges removed - meaning the Germans could capture the bridges and then drive Panzers across them to complete the conquest of Holland. If the Dutch weren't expecting the French to come to them, it would have been demolished when the Fallschirmjaegers arrived, and the rump of Holland would probably have held out behind the Water or Grebbe Line.

The more you look at the Dyle-Breda plan, the more it becomes apparent that not only was it a really bad plan, but that everything that could go wrong in it actually did. Gamelin was genuinely unlucky in that, but at the same time it was asking for trouble. Any general of that seniority who comes up with a plan that relies on the enemy doing exactly what they are expected to and promises disaster if they do not is not one I can ever hold in high regard, particularly given the stakes Gamelin was playing for.

To Lose A Battle is pretty good, as is The Fall of France by Robert Jackson. I haven't got Julian Jackson's book of the same title.

Rising Sun*
01-18-2014, 09:00 AM
At the very top level, the French plan required them to commit almost all of their reserves at the start of the battle

That does tend to undermine the purpose and usefulness of a reserve.


(i.e. before they found out what the Germans were planning)

That does tend to exacerbate the stupidity of committing all one's reserves before one knows the critical point to, and moment at, which to apply them.


and relied on the Belgian army holding the Germans for about a week on the Albert Canal line - at a time when all the military discussions between the two countries were entirely informal and the formal discussions were totally cut off.

Don't know anything about those details, but it seems reminiscent of the informal, inadequate and ultimately disastrous "combined" (i.e. loosely organised with primacy given to each nation's interests rather than a coherent combined plan of operations, or even much of a plan) between the American, British, Dutch and Australian governments and forces in the domino collapse post-Singapore in WWII which led to a similar rout of Allied forces, which Allied forces probably could have slowed and perhaps even stopped the Japanese advance if the Allied forces had been better co-ordinated and more aggressive in the face of the initial Japanese attack upon Malaya instead of waiting for the Japanese to envelop them.


Moving on from that, we have the fact that Gamelin failed to really do anything after the Germans attacked until it was far too late, and the orders he did give took an average of three days to reach the units expected to carry them out.

A telephone and R/T set or three in his HQ could have overcome that.

It is said that a great commander has a picture of the battlefield in his mind, but the speed of war in the 20th century required the commander to update that picture frequently. What possessed Gamelin to isolate himself from rapid communications?


Any general of that seniority who comes up with a plan that relies on the enemy doing exactly what they are expected to and promises disaster if they do not is not one I can ever hold in high regard, particularly given the stakes Gamelin was playing for.

Variously translated, and stating the bleeding obvious for anyone with the faintest knowledge of military history, von Clausewitz said: "No plan survives the first contact / battle.".

Thanks for educating me.

Nickdfresh
01-18-2014, 09:59 AM
It's been awhile since I've read anything on the subject, so everything is memory here. I have Julian Jackson's book but not Robert Jackson's. I would also recommend something of the "official" German after action report (or the closest thing politically possible to one) in Karl-Heinz Frieser's The Blitzkrieg Legend. It's an excellent work from the German perspective (he was/is a Colonel in the Heer), but I think he overestimates some of the French military's abilities (he insinuates that the French Armée de l'Air was roughly equivalent to the Luftwaffe in combat power in terms of numbers, but I think that's a bit absurd when a quality comparison is done)...

Nickdfresh
01-18-2014, 11:03 AM
...
Moving on from that, we have the fact that Gamelin failed to really do anything after the Germans attacked until it was far too late, and the orders he did give took an average of three days to reach the units expected to carry them out. Weygand really wasn't any better, and most of the more junior officers were either inept or more concerned about protecting their reputations and "honour" than hurting the enemy.

....


I agree with almost everything you say, but I think the categorical dismissing of the entire French junior officer class in wholly unfair. Weygand was in fact not much better than Gamelin, he was no doubt a better commander and more realistic even if less capable then Gamelin in pure intellect. And while Gamelin comes off as a fool who essentially became catatonic in the face of the unfolding disaster, I think he is overly demonized for the prewar planning as some of his moves did make sense and were only obvious as failures with the benefit of hindsight. But no question that he was an absolute disaster as the Allied generalissimo. The problem is that either man was at the top of the French command system to begin with as both were the typical geriatric fossil that was indicative of the French senior officer cadre. The career of more capable men such as de Gaulle were routinely slowed if not outright blocked by men in their 70's that had no business being in command of troops --commands based solely on their records and associations from WWI.

It should be noted however that Weygand, for all his many failings, did devise a system that slowed the German "Blitzkrieg" called the hedgehog defense of fortifying towns and natural areas and provisioning them for long sieges frustrating the German tactic of bypassing strong points and just leaving them for the infantry to mop up. Gamelin made bad decisions often, but his overall plan made sense in that he wanted to avoid a pitched battle against the operationally superior German Heer and hope that the Germans would conveniently wear themselves down in battles like the ones that took place at Hannut and The Gembloux Gap. Unfortunately those French tactical victories were wasted and they were forced to retreat. Gamelin also envisioned a "Grande Offensive" later in 1940 or 1941 that required them holding the Netherlands (similar to Market Garden). Also, one thing we tend to fail to appreciate was the political nature of things in 1940, not just the cold military situation. France was essentially bound to defend Belgium, even if it was only a token defense, and losing Belgium to the Germans without any attempt to aid them early would have been a political disaster. Unfortunately, the Dyle Plan turned into a military disaster for a myriad of reasons.

French Army officers were poorly trained for the rigors of modern, mobile warfare and were indoctrinated into a systemic failure of the doctrine called "Methodical Battle." A presumption that modern war was a very slow, complex ballet of combined arms focusing on very localized breakthroughs in a gradual war of attrition that would inevitably favor the Allies. French officers were trained to stay away from direct combat and run the war from beyond visual range in command posts. The idea was that they would make better military decisions out of logic rather than emotive ones based on the gore and casualties of combat. The typical Heer or SS officer was trained in a completely antithetical tradition of 'Auftragstaktik' ("mission-to-tactics") meaning they led from the front and were far more ably to make actual military judgements made out of situational awareness. German officers also used this really neat thing called the radio to talk to each other whereas the French preferred to write up intricate, detailed orders and deliver them personally by driving around to each other, out of some bizarre OPSEC phobia. Often times of course, their orders were to defend lines already overrun and bypassed by the Heer. Often because French planners were basing their assessments of the German advance not on the actual reality, but on the average marching paces for men --not tanks! Auftragstaktik also provided commanders like Rommel, Guderian, and Beck a neat if completely disingenuous excuse to ignore and violate halt orders they found to be silly in the face of the rapid collapse of the French in the Sedan region originating from worry warts in Berlin...

Nickdfresh
01-18-2014, 11:30 AM
That does tend to undermine the purpose and usefulness of a reserve.



That does tend to exacerbate the stupidity of committing all one's reserves before one knows the critical point to, and moment at, which to apply them.

Yes, but suffice to say, the French attempted to defend everywhere using the Maginot Line as a lynch pin. And if trying to defend everywhere, they "defended nowhere."


A telephone and R/T set or three in his HQ could have overcome that.

It is said that a great commander has a picture of the battlefield in his mind, but the speed of war in the 20th century required the commander to update that picture frequently. What possessed Gamelin to isolate himself from rapid communications?

See my post above. A combination of a irrational fear of Abwehr SIGNIT intercepting his communiques and a completely unrealistic 19th century view of war as a slowly unfolding "methodical" exercise that belied the advances in automotive technology from the previous war which saw tanks transformed from crude tractor boxes almost as hazardous to their crews as the enemy to reliable machines capable of sustained operations and long range. The same is true for trucks with pneumatic tires, etc. Though that doesn't explain everything. For instance, both French and German planners assumed that it would take German forces at least 10-12 days to cross the Meuse River even if they did attack through the Ardennes, and that would give the French plenty of time to react and pull back from Belgium if the Sedan proved to be the German "Schwerpunkt" or point of attack/emphasis. So instantaneous radio and telephone communications were thought of as superfluous to an extent. It was believed that the Germans would of course have to move up heavy artillery to smash the somewhat formidable French fortifications as classic military dictum before enforcing a river crossing. The Germans instead used an ad hoc combination of heavy Luftwaffe air support and tank cannons to achieve the river crossing in a matter of hours. The Germans were simply much better trained operationally for modern war and to adapt on the fly --even if their senior leaders often shared the same dogma as the French commanders...

pdf27
01-19-2014, 02:43 PM
but I think he overestimates some of the French military's abilities (he insinuates that the French Armée de l'Air was roughly equivalent to the Luftwaffe in combat power in terms of numbers, but I think that's a bit absurd when a quality comparison is done)...
Actually, if he's talking about combat power available as opposed to committed to the battle I don't think he's far wrong. Take a look at http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1985/sep-oct/kirkland.html , paying particular attention to sortie rates. The RAF committed a higher fraction of their fighters to the Battle of France than the AdA did, and the AdA sortie rates were very low (0.9 sorties/day for the fighters, dropping to 2 sorties per squadron per week for the reconnaissance aircraft - the Germans were averaging 4 sorties per day at this point). Then on the 17th of June they withdrew the cream of the AdA (which as I understand it had been largely kept out of the action to this point) to North Africa. Overall it looks to me like their priority was postwar inter-service bunfights rather than beating the Germans.


I agree with almost everything you say, but I think the categorical dismissing of the entire French junior officer class in wholly unfair. Weygand was in fact not much better than Gamelin, he was no doubt a better commander and more realistic even if less capable then Gamelin in pure intellect. And while Gamelin comes off as a fool who essentially became catatonic in the face of the unfolding disaster, I think he is overly demonized for the prewar planning as some of his moves did make sense and were only obvious as failures with the benefit of hindsight. But no question that he was an absolute disaster as the Allied generalissimo. The problem is that either man was at the top of the French command system to begin with as both were the typical geriatric fossil that was indicative of the French senior officer cadre. The career of more capable men such as de Gaulle were routinely slowed if not outright blocked by men in their 70's that had no business being in command of troops --commands based solely on their records and associations from WWI.
There are a couple of things going on here. Gamelin was one of the defendants at Riom and kept his mouth shut there while Daladier and Blum did the "it wasn't me, it was him" trick, pointing at Gamelin. That will always affect his reputation.
As for De Gaulle, he made the mistake of getting deeply involved in politics prewar, ostensibly to argue for more tanks. The problem is, the French army was the most heavily armoured in the world and the other thrust of his argument was for a professional army. That went down well with the right wing in France (with whom De Gaulle was very cosy - witness Reynaud appointing him Under Secretary of State for National Defence & War), the Left were terrified by the prospect of a professional army after the experience of the Communards. Immediately before the war there were annual processions to the Communards' Wall in the Père Lachaise cemetery, with the record being 600,000 people led by Blum and Thorez in 1936. In that atmosphere, a politically connected general arguing for a professional army is career suicide - if anything it's remarkable he was promoted as high as he was.


It should be noted however that Weygand, for all his many failings, did devise a system that slowed the German "Blitzkrieg" called the hedgehog defense of fortifying towns and natural areas and provisioning them for long sieges frustrating the German tactic of bypassing strong points and just leaving them for the infantry to mop up. Gamelin made bad decisions often, but his overall plan made sense in that he wanted to avoid a pitched battle against the operationally superior German Heer and hope that the Germans would conveniently wear themselves down in battles like the ones that took place at Hannut and The Gembloux Gap. Unfortunately those French tactical victories were wasted and they were forced to retreat. Gamelin also envisioned a "Grande Offensive" later in 1940 or 1941 that required them holding the Netherlands (similar to Market Garden). Also, one thing we tend to fail to appreciate was the political nature of things in 1940, not just the cold military situation. France was essentially bound to defend Belgium, even if it was only a token defense, and losing Belgium to the Germans without any attempt to aid them early would have been a political disaster. Unfortunately, the Dyle Plan turned into a military disaster for a myriad of reasons.
Oh, I'm not arguing with the logic. The problem is, his battle plan didn't match the resources he had available - indeed, it reminds me of Napoleon's quip when shown a map with all the forces to defend France spread out along the borders. He asked if it was intended to stop smuggling - and the same applies here, as it sacrificed all of the advantages of mass and concentration ensuring that no matter where they attacked the Germans could attain numerical superiority.


French Army officers were poorly trained for the rigors of modern, mobile warfare and were indoctrinated into a systemic failure of the doctrine called "Methodical Battle." A presumption that modern war was a very slow, complex ballet of combined arms focusing on very localized breakthroughs in a gradual war of attrition that would inevitably favor the Allies. French officers were trained to stay away from direct combat and run the war from beyond visual range in command posts. The idea was that they would make better military decisions out of logic rather than emotive ones based on the gore and casualties of combat. The typical Heer or SS officer was trained in a completely antithetical tradition of 'Auftragstaktik' ("mission-to-tactics") meaning they led from the front and were far more ably to make actual military judgements made out of situational awareness.
The thing is, if implemented well there is actually a fair amount to recommend this. The problem is not only that it was badly implemented, but that the troops were poorly trained and suffering from low morale (which can IMHO as much as anything be blamed on their officers - comparing the way the British and French soldiers were treated over the winter of 1939/40 is instructive here) and so needed leadership on the spot rather than direction by telephone or more likely courier. Where the French were in good defensive positions this seems to have worked reasonably well (for example at Monthermé, where the Madagascan troops stopped the Germans dead for several days), but as soon as the Germans broke through it was disastrous. With the BEF of 1914, for instance, it would probably have been very effective.


German officers also used this really neat thing called the radio to talk to each other whereas the French preferred to write up intricate, detailed orders and deliver them personally by driving around to each other, out of some bizarre OPSEC phobia. Often times of course, their orders were to defend lines already overrun and bypassed by the Heer. Often because French planners were basing their assessments of the German advance not on the actual reality, but on the average marching paces for men --not tanks! Auftragstaktik also provided commanders like Rommel, Guderian, and Beck a neat if completely disingenuous excuse to ignore and violate halt orders they found to be silly in the face of the rapid collapse of the French in the Sedan region originating from worry warts in Berlin...
Thing is, they were assuming marching speeds from 1914. The Germans invaded Poland largely by foot, and managed significantly larger daily distances by dint of using active duty soldiers who were trained and fit, rather than recalled reservists. Even without the rapid speeds achieved by the Panzers, the French command would still have radically underestimated the rate at which the Germans could move.

JR*
01-22-2014, 05:04 AM
The general lack of mobile forces and reserves in a French army devoted to the idea of linear defense (of which the Maginot Line was a manifestation set in stone and steel), combined with the chaotic French system of command and control, played a large part in their defeat in 1940. They were simply overwhelmed by the speed and flexibility of the German assault forces. Even so, the risks inherent in German operations - and in the Blitzkrieg approach in general - should not be overlooked. At one point, the German armoured/motorized spearhead was almost totally isolated from the marching infantry required to hold the flanks of its "corridor". This was proceeding behind by way of forced march, but it obviously could not keep up. Wegand, in particular, was not off the mark in his intention of cutting off the German spearhead by means of co-ordinated attacks from north and south. However, by the time he came to this conclusion, the required French and British forces were significantly degraded, there was a lack of force available in the critical area (much of what was available having been left behind in the east, behind the Maginot Line or in the now-secondary Sedan area), and the communications issues and lack of precision in planning resulted in the officers responsible for proposed attacks receiving unhelpfully vague orders after three days - by which time the hard-pressed German marching infantry had arrived to fill the "gaps". Arguably, the 1940 campaign in the West was not a real test of the validity of the Blitzkrieg concept overall; at a number of points, slightly better French disposition of forces, and better command, control and communications systems, might have produced a very different outcome. But ... what was, was. I am not a great believer in "if". Too much uncertainty there ... Best regards, JR.

Nickdfresh
01-25-2014, 07:07 AM
Actually, if he's talking about combat power available as opposed to committed to the battle I don't think he's far wrong. Take a look at http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1985/sep-oct/kirkland.html , paying particular attention to sortie rates. The RAF committed a higher fraction of their fighters to the Battle of France than the AdA did, and the AdA sortie rates were very low (0.9 sorties/day for the fighters, dropping to 2 sorties per squadron per week for the reconnaissance aircraft - the Germans were averaging 4 sorties per day at this point). Then on the 17th of June they withdrew the cream of the AdA (which as I understand it had been largely kept out of the action to this point) to North Africa. Overall it looks to me like their priority was postwar inter-service bunfights rather than beating the Germans.

In numbers perhaps, but certainly not in the quality of technology or doctrine. The French made the unfortunate error of modernizing their Air Force just prior to the inception of the Luftwaffe putting them a generation behind in aircraft almost overnight. They never really caught up. They had a massively outdated tactical bomber force and only about 200 or so Dewoitine D.520's capable of meeting the Me109 on somewhat equal terms. They also faced the logistical nightmare of many different parts as they relied on the American machines like the capable, but second-line Curtis P-36 Hawk increasingly to meet their shortfalls in modern tactical aircraft. In addition, the rapid German advance severally disrupted planning. I should say also that the British RAF deployed one of the worst God awful aircraft ever deployed in a combat zone in the Fairey Battle -which basically served to improve the gunnery skills and score counts of German Flak crews- and kill brave, expensively trained aircrews. I also believe that before one incriminates the French for bunfighting after losing, one must account for the fact that the French also recriminated the British gov't for hoarding fighters and not committing it's reserve as well, as sensible as that was at the time since Churchill realized the onslaught to come. There was also serious losses suffered by the Luftwaffe, which when combined with the attrition of the Polish Campaign largely thwarted what chance Germany had of decisively defeating the RAF later. And 200 D.520's isn't really much "cream." Furthermore on this point, there was serious intention by Reynaud to continue the fight from those colonies until his cabinet narrowly defeated the proposal and collapsed into Vichy Petain's arms, IIRC...

That being said, a concerted effort to penetrate the Luftwaffe fighter screen over the Ardennes and Army Group B could have wrought havoc on the "Blitz". But Gamelin and is staff of nursing home candidates missed the opportunity and dismissed their reconnaissance pilots --who were often visibly shaken by the panzer columns they saw below and the sheer numbers of Me109's overhead...


There are a couple of things going on here. Gamelin was one of the defendants at Riom and kept his mouth shut there while Daladier and Blum did the "it wasn't me, it was him" trick, pointing at Gamelin. That will always affect his reputation.
As for De Gaulle, he made the mistake of getting deeply involved in politics prewar, ostensibly to argue for more tanks. The problem is, the French army was the most heavily armoured in the world and the other thrust of his argument was for a professional army. That went down well with the right wing in France (with whom De Gaulle was very cosy - witness Reynaud appointing him Under Secretary of State for National Defence & War), the Left were terrified by the prospect of a professional army after the experience of the Communards. Immediately before the war there were annual processions to the Communards' Wall in the Père Lachaise cemetery, with the record being 600,000 people led by Blum and Thorez in 1936. In that atmosphere, a politically connected general arguing for a professional army is career suicide - if anything it's remarkable he was promoted as high as he was.

I mostly agree here. Nevertheless, the French were still pushing towards their versions of "panzer divisions" within the DLM's even in the confines of a mobilized conscript army and certainly a massed, armored counter punch from a reserve, reaction army was more than plausible. Even the original Dyle Plan was only 10 divisions of mostly infantry to bolster the Belgians and serve as a a delaying force against the Germans. The plan was later reinforced to 30 divisions with the cream of French mobile armored forces to plug the gaps between the Maginot and the Belgian fort systems to keep the Germans as far east and out of industrial Belgium -and hence France- as possible...


Oh, I'm not arguing with the logic. The problem is, his battle plan didn't match the resources he had available - indeed, it reminds me of Napoleon's quip when shown a map with all the forces to defend France spread out along the borders. He asked if it was intended to stop smuggling - and the same applies here, as it sacrificed all of the advantages of mass and concentration ensuring that no matter where they attacked the Germans could attain numerical superiority.

Well, I won't apologize for Gamelin. :mrgreen:


The thing is, if implemented well there is actually a fair amount to recommend this. The problem is not only that it was badly implemented, but that the troops were poorly trained and suffering from low morale (which can IMHO as much as anything be blamed on their officers - comparing the way the British and French soldiers were treated over the winter of 1939/40 is instructive here) and so needed leadership on the spot rather than direction by telephone or more likely courier. Where the French were in good defensive positions this seems to have worked reasonably well (for example at Monthermé, where the Madagascan troops stopped the Germans dead for several days), but as soon as the Germans broke through it was disastrous. With the BEF of 1914, for instance, it would probably have been very effective.

It wasn't just their officers, it was problems endemic to raising a large conscript army long before actual conflict. The French Army soldiers suffered from low pay and often worked in agriculture to supplement their pay. Also, problems with training arose because they were often too busy digging works to actually train as units. Also factor in a tedious training system of schools that often plucked soldiers out of the line, sent them to service schools, then dumped them in completely different units and there is no cohesion whatsoever. The French reserve system of segregating men largely by age and training I think was also counterproductive. I think mixed age units may have been a better solution to dumping overage men in single "C" formations or whatever. Although, some "overage" units actually performed well if they were composed of WWI vets...


Thing is, they were assuming marching speeds from 1914. The Germans invaded Poland largely by foot, and managed significantly larger daily distances by dint of using active duty soldiers who were trained and fit, rather than recalled reservists. Even without the rapid speeds achieved by the Panzers, the French command would still have radically underestimated the rate at which the Germans could move.

I agree that Poland was largely an infantry and artillery battle, not "The Blitzkrieg" that sort of was developed on-the-fly in France as a solution to logistical problems largely relating to unexpected success. But there were serious issues of training even with the German Heer in Poland and this was brought to Hitler's attention by both Brauchitsch and Halder upon his optimistic orders to invade France in Oct.-Nov. of 1939. They may not have been reservists, but there were certainly numbers of 30-40 year olds serving in the ranks of the Heer even in Poland as foot-soldiers. Not that I'd like to think I wouldn't make a decent foot soldier if in shape, but I recall the Wehrmacht having a high reliance on them due to the still fairly recent expansion of forces..

Nickdfresh
01-25-2014, 07:31 AM
The general lack of mobile forces and reserves in a French army devoted to the idea of linear defense (of which the Maginot Line was a manifestation set in stone and steel), combined with the chaotic French system of command and control, played a large part in their defeat in 1940. They were simply overwhelmed by the speed and flexibility of the German assault forces. Even so, the risks inherent in German operations - and in the Blitzkrieg approach in general - should not be overlooked. At one point, the German armoured/motorized spearhead was almost totally isolated from the marching infantry required to hold the flanks of its "corridor". This was proceeding behind by way of forced march, but it obviously could not keep up. Wegand, in particular, was not off the mark in his intention of cutting off the German spearhead by means of co-ordinated attacks from north and south. However, by the time he came to this conclusion, the required French and British forces were significantly degraded, there was a lack of force available in the critical area (much of what was available having been left behind in the east, behind the Maginot Line or in the now-secondary Sedan area), and the communications issues and lack of precision in planning resulted in the officers responsible for proposed attacks receiving unhelpfully vague orders after three days - by which time the hard-pressed German marching infantry had arrived to fill the "gaps". Arguably, the 1940 campaign in the West was not a real test of the validity of the Blitzkrieg concept overall; at a number of points, slightly better French disposition of forces, and better command, control and communications systems, might have produced a very different outcome. But ... what was, was. I am not a great believer in "if". Too much uncertainty there ... Best regards, JR.

I agree with the chaotic command structure comment, but I disagree with the notion that the French lacked mobile forces. The French simply chose not to have a mobile reserve by expending it into Belgium in the first hours of battle. They in fact outnumbered the Germans in terms of armor and vastly out-equipped them in motorized transport. The problem was there was never a coherent French armored doctrine, but they were slowly gravitating towards a more realistic one and may have matched the Germans had they extended a battle of attrition for a few months. Gamelin was trying to avoid an all out armored confrontation with the Germans that he correctly saw as operationally superior and blooded after the Battle of Poland. Ironically, he created the situation that was most dreaded and permitted a strategic penetration by springing at "the cloak" in Belgium as the matador's "sword" jabbed through the Ardennes and flooded into the Sedan. The tank favoring terrain and relatively small space of France was no place to make strategic errors. There was simply too few many miles between the Sedan and the Channel for the French to recompose themselves after the fatal error of the Dyle-Breda Plan --essentially blowing their wad in the first few minutes of the game. Of course, all that being said, it should be noted that French tanks were not conceived or designed properly for the rigors of extended long range combat sorties (i.e. small petrol tanks, one-man turrets, etc.) and many of their numbers were wholly obsolete designs like the FT17. But that being said, the Heer also had large numbers of obsolete Pz Mk I's and tanks that lacked proper guns...

herman2
04-29-2014, 06:18 PM
ARE you serious? The Japanese were disciplined and strong. i think your comments about them being sdrug addicts brings disrespute to the vitality of their spirit. Your picking at STRAWS and you know it.