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Thread: Perfidious French?

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    Default Perfidious French?

    perfidious
    adjective
    deceitful and untrustworthy.
    "a perfidious lover"
    synonyms: treacherous, duplicitous, deceitful, disloyal, faithless, unfaithful, traitorous, treasonous, false, untrue, double-dealing, dishonest, two-faced, Janus-faced, untrustworthy

    France was undoubtedly placed in a difficult position in WWII, especially after its defeat.

    The Allies (i.e. Britain in the years that mattered most, the French having ceased to be an Ally due to Petain and Co throwing in their lot with the Nazis) were faced with the major concern of the French using the substantial French naval forces in various parts of the planet in support of the Nazis with whom the Vichy government had more or less aligned itself.

    The complexity of France's situation, and the perfidy of its major ministers, is best illustrated by Frances's senior naval officer, Francois Darlan, who was also No.2 in the Petain government. Darlan was a major supporter of the Vichy alignment with the Nazis, yet he promised Britain that no French ships would transfer to Germany, and they didn't.

    Despite being a prominent collaborator with the Nazis as part of the Vichy government, when captured by the Allies in the Algerian invasion in late 1942 he promptly switched sides, although this was regarded as unsatisfactory by the local French militia and the Free French Forces under de Gaulle.

    Darlan's surrender and his orders to French forces to join the Allies, as do many other things in many other cases, rather gives the lie to the claims that vastly lesser actions would expose the families of such people to terrible action by the Nazis which forced such people to behave poorly.

    Darlan was assassinated a couple of months later by a Frenchman opposed to his conduct and the Vichy government, which again illustrates the complexity of the situation of the French.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    I just want to why De Gaulle looked so mad all the time. Every pic I see of him he looks ticked off and unhappy. And it seems that all he did was give the British and US a hard time when they were getting D-Day ready. Its hard for me to think much of him from what I have read and how he looks in most of the pics I have seen of him. Was he really a pain to the Allies ? Ron

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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Answering off the top of my head, yes, de Gaulle was an irritant to the Allies. He was a strong believer in the power, glory, and prestige of France. IIRC, he was passed over for leadership of the Free French in the planning for Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa). The Americans and British viewed him as less-known among his countrymen, less experienced and less reliable than the alternatives, as well as being demanding and more than a little arrogant and egotistical. The personality of de Gaulle was one which did not take slights kindly, so bad feelings were mutual. I would say history has some justice to both sides' views.

    One of my favorite stories about de Gaulle is from the post-war period, and perhaps illustrates both his brusqueness and diplomatic insensitivity. Trying to remember it as best I can: He was flying for hours to visit the Soviet government on some matter, accompanied by a Russian translator. As they neared Moscow, the translator was discussing the war as de Gaulle studied the terrain out the window. Finally the translator pointed out the window, indicating the point that indicated the German's furthest advance. The old general exclaimed passionately: "A great people! An amazing people!"

    The translator smiled and nodded vigorous agreement. "Oui, les Russes..."

    "No, no!" de Gaulle snapped. "The Germans -- that they could have come so far...."
    Last edited by Ardee; 08-07-2014 at 11:21 PM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    One of my favorite stories about de Gaulle is from the post-war period, and perhaps illustrates both his brusqueness and diplomatic insensitivity. Trying to remember it as best I can: He was flying for hours to visit the Soviet government on some matter, accompanied by a Russian translator. As they neared Moscow, the translator was discussing the war as de Gaulle studied the terrain out the window. Finally the translator pointed out the window, indicating the point that indicated the German's furthest advance. The old general exclaimed passionately: "A great people! An amazing people!"

    The translator smiled and nodded vigorous agreement. "Oui, les Russes..."

    "No, no!" de Gaulle snapped. "The Germans -- that they could have come so far...."
    Probably apocryphal as there are various versions which differ with the people present and occasion, but de Gaulle's wife is said to have been asked what she liked most about her husband / their future, to which she replied: "A penis."
    One of the others present replied along the lines "In English, we pronounce the H. I think you mean 'happiness'"
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    de Gaulle was in a very small minority of French leaders and people who resisted Germany from the outset and at all opportunities even when facing defeat, and especially afterwards in the dark days of 1940-43/4 when it appeared that Germany had conquered Western Europe.

    Unlike the Dutch, who maintained a government in exile which never surrendered an inch of territory to the Axis powers, the Vichy government surrendered France to Germany and pretty much collaborated with the Germans, and effectively surrendered Indo-China to Japan without firing a resisting shot, thus giving Japan the springboard to invade Malaya and defeat the British without which Japan's southern thrust and strategy would have been usefully impeded.

    Unlike the legitimate Dutch government in exile, de Gaulle's self-appointed government is exile existed in tandem with the Vichy government. Vichy was widely and probably properly regarded by the French as the legitimate successor of the previous French government, particularly by most of the French armed service commanders who by training and oath were conditioned to follow the orders of their government. de Gaulle, as the self-appointed leader of the Free French Forces, was largely irrelevant to the French in France who were comfortably continuing pretty much their pre-war lives under the defeatist and collaborationist Vichy government. He had no legal or constitutional authority to command French armed forces, other than those who wished to place under him their loyalty to France and determination to oust its German conqueror above legalistic notions of which was the legitimate government. But if adherence to law and constitution were the hallmark, everyone in the brave French Resistance would, under contemporary and current standards, have been regarded as terrorist insurgents and executed after the war for their armed resistance to the Vichy government and its alliance with the Germans. That they weren't illustrates the fact that legal niceties had no part to play in a struggle for national survival against an invader.

    Unlike the ships in the Dutch national and merchant navies which moved to Britain after the German victory in the Netherlands to fight with Britain, and later those Dutch navy and crucial merchant ships which escaped the Japanese advance and thereafter played a significant part in defeating Japan, the French held their capital and other ships in port as potential threats to the Allies (which by that stage no longer included France apart from a tiny element under de Gaulle). Britain, by that stage not an Ally but the only nation together with its Commonwealth fighting the Nazis, was unable to tolerate the risk of the French navy throwing in its lot with the Nazis like the obviously pro-Nazi Vichy government. Which led to, among other things, the destruction by the British of significant elements of the French fleet at Mers el Kebir. Which, ironically in light of the title of this thread, was perceived by the French as another example of perfidy by the British (‘perfide Albion’).

    Had the French naval commanders had the guts and determination of the Dutch to resist the Germans and brought their ships into alliance with the Royal Navy, the war would have developed very differently in the Mediterranean and North Africa which at the time were the main battlefields for Britain.

    However, unlike the Dutch government which had evacuated to Britain, the seat of French government remained in metropolitan France.

    Nonetheless, in the circumstances leading to armistice / surrender there was, for practical purposes, little difference between Petain as the recently appointed Prime Minister and General Henri Winkelman as the recently appointed ‘government in lieu’ of the recently departed Dutch Queen and cabinet. Petain, with French forces facing defeat, did an armistice deal with the Germans to preserve France and remained in collaborative government with them. Winkelman, with Dutch forces facing defeat, surrendered to the Germans to preserve the Netherlands, but as a loyal soldier and Dutchman he refused to acknowledge that he would not in future resist Germany, so he spent the rest of the war as a POW. Comparing the two, Petain could be described as a pragmatist without personal or military honour. Winkelman, as with most of the Dutch compared with most the French, was the opposite.

    The circumstances of France and the Netherlands weren’t that different, but France, and most French people inside and outside France and inside their army and navy, threw in their lot with or at least chose not to oppose the Nazis so life could continue much as before, albeit with the export of Jews to Nazi concentration and death camps and other minor inconveniences which didn’t affect the average French person. The Netherlands and most Dutch didn’t.

    de Gaulle was the leader and spirit of determined French resistance to Germany in the Churchillian model. He could be a *****ly [why does this idiotic naughty word robot prevent prikkly with a 'ck' instead of 'kk' but not penis, for Christ's sake?) character (as could, for example, Churchill, Montgomery, and Patton) but it’s hardly surprising when he was in the tiny minority of French people utterly loyal (despite him being sentenced to death for treason by the Vichy government) to France and unwilling to submit to the Nazis when most French people supported, or at least didn’t oppose, the easy out by the Vichy government.

    de Gaulle, as a commander fighting the Germans and then as a cabinet minister in the French government, was resolutely opposed to surrender and left France to purse his war to liberate France from the Germans. His spirit was the same as Churchill’s, in refusing to surrender and fighting on against all the odds. If all other commanders in France, notably in the navy, had had his spirit following Petain’s surrender, much of the naval and land conflict by the British and Commonwealth forces against the French in the Mediterranean and North Africa would not have occurred. Much of the bitterness on both sides about the perfidy of the other would have been avoided. And much greater forces would have been brought to bear against the Germans through the French fleet in what was essentially a sea war, which would have brought the North African conflict to an earlier end by defeating Germany on sea and land.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 08-08-2014 at 08:36 AM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Probably apocryphal as there are various versions which differ with the people present and occasion, but de Gaulle's wife is said to have been asked what she liked most about her husband / their future, to which she replied: "A penis."...
    de Gaulle was definitely fit the bill...

    I can't remember who it was, but I think it was the American ambassador to France was summoned by the ministry under de Gaulle's gov't to inform him that the U.S. military was no longer welcome in France and all the G.I.'s would have to leave. I believe the good Ambassador said something to the effect of "would you like us to dig up the ones in the graveyards at Normandy, too?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    de Gaulle was definitely fit the bill...

    I can't remember who it was, but I think it was the American ambassador to France was summoned by the ministry under de Gaulle's gov't to inform him that the U.S. military was no longer welcome in France and all the G.I.'s would have to leave. I believe the good Ambassador said something to the effect of "would you like us to dig up the ones in the graveyards at Normandy, too?"
    It was another example of French perfidy.

    My previous laudatory comments about de Gaulle notwithstanding, he pursued selfish French aims after the war to which, in the total scheme of things, his Free French forces made a slightly useful but not critical contribution. After the war he happily shat upon the British and American Allies which fought the war which freed France from the Nazis and enabled him to return in triumph to his perfidious nation and ambitions.

    I think the quote you mention was by Dean Rusk when de Gaulle was withdrawing France from NATO in the early 1960s (in marked contrast to, say, Britain's contribution to defending France in 1939-40 to its own cost) so he could position France to come to a separate peace with Moscow if it rolled into Western Europe (yeah, like Moscow would have been likely to do that after rolling up rather more effective NATO forces between it and Paris!). The version I know is that when de Gaulle said he wanted all American troops out of France, Rusk replied along the lines " "Does that include all the American troops who are buried here?"

    Nice to note that after the Soviet threat was long past, France rejoined NATO a few years ago.

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    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 08-08-2014 at 11:26 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    ...was summoned by the ministry under de Gaulle's gov't to inform him that the U.S. military was no longer welcome in France...
    I guess someone was still reading Machiavelli's The Prince.

    A good story, as was the Happiness tale.

    RS*, while I agree with much of what you wrote, I think you are also not considering that the Netherlands was wholly occupied by the Germans, and so didn't really have much choice about moving its government and assets. France's leadership, however, still had a significant portion of their country and citizenry to consider. Are you suggesting France's government should have just abandoned them?

    The situations are not really analogous. And certainly on the psychological level, France was in no condition to keep fighting, and no one yet knew the full scope of Nazi depravity towards occupied populations or its generic brutality. At least in that limited area, I think 20/20 hindsight is clouding your vision.
    Last edited by Ardee; 08-08-2014 at 11:34 AM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    RS*, while I agree with much of what you wrote, I think you are also not considering that the Netherlands was wholly occupied by the Germans, and so didn't really have much choice about moving its government and assets.
    The Dutch Queen and government left before the surrender, and before German occupation. They, like the French, had plenty of choice about moving their government. The Dutch chose to go to London and carry on in exile, resolutely opposed to the Axis powers. The French did the exact opposite.

    The Dutch government refused to cede the Netherlands East Indies and its crucial oil to Japan and fought to defend them to the last, unlike Vichy France letting the Japanese into Indo-China. If Vichy was truly independent of, or not aligned with, Germany as an Axis power it would not have allowed the Japanese into Indo-China. But it did, so either it was aligned with the Axis powers or effectively occupied by and or under the control of the Nazis, which puts it in much the same position as the Dutch except that the Dutch government wasn't in German occupied territory because it chose to go into exile to fight the Nazis while the French government chose to stay in France and accommodate the Nazis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    France's leadership, however, still had a significant portion of their country and citizenry to consider. Are you suggesting France's government should have just abandoned them?
    France's leadership didn't have a significant portion of its county and citizenry to consider. It had all of them. Petain was faced with exactly the same choices as the Dutch leadership under Winkelman. They both surrendered (although technically France had only an 'armistice'). The difference is that France cosied up to Germany, and the Netherlands didn't.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    The situations are not really analogous. And certainly on the psychological level, France was in no condition to keep fighting, and no one yet knew the full scope of Nazi depravity towards occupied populations or its generic brutality. I think 20/20 hindsight is clouding your vision.
    So far as the choices facing the French and Dutch leaderships on the verge of defeat are concerned, they weren't analogous but identical. Come to terms or surrender. The French effectively did both, and retained nominal political control under German dominance at the cost of their pride. The Dutch surrendered, and retained their dignity.

    France was in a very good condition to keep fighting so far as numbers of troops and armaments were concerned, except it lacked the basic elements of committed troops and effective leadership.

    So far as 20/20 hindsight is concerned, you're partially correct. Had I been in charge of France's army, I'd at least have had a telephone in my headquarters and, even more radically, would have been in close and constant contact with my army and divisional and other commanders so that I could see the whole battlefield unfolding. I would also have been rather closer to the front. And, unlike the detached French high command, I would have been out with my troops and sharing their rations and privations instead of engaging in fine dining in my remote chateau, which would have allowed me to see at first hand their woeful morale in many instances so that I gained rather better insight into what was happening and our poor prospects of defeating the Germans than getting outdated reports by runners from the distant front.

    Regardless of foreknowledge of Nazi depravity (which apart from the East was not towards occupied populations but towards specific elements of them, notably, Jews and Gypsies as racial (I use the idiotic Nazi classification of Jews as a race) groups and other groups such as homosexuals (itself laughable given the predilection in senior and other Nazi ranks for homosexual activity), the Vichy government was an enthusiastic assistant in Nazi depravity towards French Jews http://content.time.com/time/world/a...880118,00.html , although that is merely consistent with European persecution of Jews over many centuries.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    So far as the choices facing the French and Dutch leaderships on the verge of defeat are concerned, they weren't analogous but identical.
    I respectfully disagree. Besides the differences in timing and scale, there are quite a few differences.

    The Dutch Queen and government left before the surrender, and before German occupation.
    The Dutch government may have left before (by the thinnest of margins) the surrender and occupation, but not before the defeat. IIRC, the government had authorized the Army to surrender “when it thought best,” and did so just hours before it fled the country. Neutral Holland had little military capability to start with, and its position was totally untenable once the flaws in its scheme of planned flooding were exposed. Rotterdam demonstrated the country’s total inability to defend itself or its citizens, and continued resistance would have meant slaughter. You mentioned naval and mercantile resources in your initial post, condemning the French and praising the Dutch: yet France was in a position to try to hold onto its naval assets, while Dutch ability to do so was much more tenuous. I’m trying to recall: where there any significant Dutch colonies closer than the Pacific? If the Dutch couldn’t get the ships there, what could they do with them, other than scuttling or giving them to the Allies?

    France in contrast could still resist militarily; indeed, it had excellent military forces before the Battle of France started (leadership aside). While regaining the initiative by France seems “unlikely,” it certainly still had the capacity to deny ground except at a price the Germans might not care for. Unlike Holland, France had lost, but was not yet totally defeated. It *could* retain some territorial sovereignty. How can it be condemned for trying to do so? What nation in similar dire circumstances wouldn’t have tried to do the same?

    The difference is that France cosied up to Germany, and the Netherlands didn't.
    Or, put another way, the French government stayed with its citizens to suffer the consequences of defeat, while the powerful in Holland fled its soil and citizens to try and fight another day. Which is the more noble action? I don’t think there’s a cut and dried answer. France’s post-Fall actions and policies regarding defense, collaboration, and treatment of its citizens are other issues, and ones we likely agree on.

    Also of note, there are stories the Dutch royal family had made their evacuation plans well in advance of the invasion, which if true may put a different complexion on things. Certainly France had no pre-existing plans to evacuate its leadership. Indeed, since France had what many thought of as the world’s best army, such plans were never likely even imagined before the actual moment of crisis.

    Since you seem to be condemning France for the fighting it didn’t do, why not the Dutch? The damage to be inflicted by the Dutch might have been marginal, but it would have tied down appreciable German forces, with unknowable results. You condemn the French as perfidious, suggesting they betrayed the Allies, yet the Dutch surrender also had consequences. No, I am not faulting the Dutch or suggesting they should have done more: just pointing out a perceived logic gap in “what might have been” situations. Right or wrong, what I’m sensing is that you condemn France for what might have been if it had continued fighting, or if it had diverted vital resources to England. But if you apply such logic to France, why aren’t you condemning the Dutch for not fighting to its last and bitterest dreg? Their surrender freed up the German forces in Holland, allowing those forces to press Belgium, hastening Belgium’s collapse, and thereby contributing to Dunkirk, the Fall of France, etc. Indeed, the Dutch knew there would be consequences to its surrender: they delayed surrender as long as they did specifically to buy more time for the Allies. I can’t clearly recall French thinking at the time of their own surrender, but it seems quite possible they thought – as did the Germans – that French surrender meant the end of the war, that the UK would negotiate a peace agreement, despite any denials by London. Certainly, France’s demise was in an entirely different geo-political/military environment than when the Dutch surrendered. JMHO, but I don’t think you can in any way call things “identical.”
    Last edited by Ardee; 08-08-2014 at 10:02 PM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Besides the differences in timing and scale, there are quite a few differences.
    The biggest difference which informs my comments on France compared with the Netherlands is that France chose to go to war with Germany but the neutral Netherlands was invaded by Germany. Yet the Netherlands pretty much exhausted its scarce military resources before surrendering while France came to a negotiated surrender reasonably favourable to it, or technically signed an armistice, and inimical to its former ally Britain long before exhausting its relatively abundant military resources.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    You mentioned naval and mercantile resources in your initial post, condemning the French and praising the Dutch: yet France was in a position to try to hold onto its naval assets, while Dutch ability to do so was much more tenuous. I’m trying to recall: where there any significant Dutch colonies closer than the Pacific? If the Dutch couldn’t get the ships there, what could they do with them, other than scuttling or giving them to the Allies?
    Sorry for the lack of clarity. I had in mind primarily the very substantial and critical contribution made by the Dutch in 1942-43 with the naval and, more critically, merchant ships they kept from the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies, without which merchant ships MacArthur’s (essentially Australian at that stage) land campaigns could not have succeeded.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    France in contrast could still resist militarily
    See my opening paragraph in this post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    indeed, it had excellent military forces before the Battle of France started (leadership aside).
    I’m far from sure that France had excellent military forces at that time.

    France had very good army equipment, but the army it put up against the Germans had many recent conscripts who were poorly led at all levels and who had little or no commitment to laying down their lives for Poland. See, for example, the diaries of Alan Brooke, the commander of II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force where he recounts dismay at slovenly, undisciplined, sullen and generally most unimpressive French soldiers, and their complete breakdown in discipline (to the extent of murdering one of Brooke’s senior officers) in disorganised retreat. No doubt there were excellent French units which performed consistently well and even under the worst circumstances, but I suspect that the army as a whole fell well short of excellent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    While regaining the initiative by France seems “unlikely,” it certainly still had the capacity to deny ground except at a price the Germans might not care for. Unlike Holland, France had lost, but was not yet totally defeated. It *could* retain some territorial sovereignty. How can it be condemned for trying to do so? What nation in similar dire circumstances wouldn’t have tried to do the same?
    Britain, under Churchill. There were others in Britain who would have done the same as France. Lucky for France that Britain was under Churchill, or they’d still be occupied by the Germans.

    I don’t have a problem with France trying to salvage something from the ashes of almost certain defeat. My problem is with France abandoning Britain in the interests of its own survival and creating strategic problems for Britain in continuing the war France and Britain had both embarked upon in the expectation that both would stay the course. For example, the terms of the armistice allowed the Germans to occupy northern France for the specific purpose of prosecuting Germany’s war against Britain, while the Vichy government ensconced itself safely in the south.

    ARMISTICE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND OF THE ARMED FORCES AND FRENCH PLENIPOTENTIARIES, COMPIÈGNE, JUNE 22, 1940
    ARTICLE III.

    In the occupied parts of France the German Reich exercises all rights of an occupying power The French Government obligates itself to support with every means the regulations resulting from the exercise of these rights and to carry them out with the aid of French administration.

    All French authorities and officials of the occupied territory, therefore, are to be promptly informed by the French Government to comply with the regulations of the German military commanders and to cooperate with them in a correct manner.

    It is the intention of the German Government to limit the occupation of the west coast after ending hostilities with England to the extent absolutely necessary.

    The French Government is permitted to select the seat of its government in unoccupied territory, or, if it wishes, to move to Paris. In this case, the German Government guarantees the French Government and its central authorities every necessary alleviation so that they will be in a position to conduct the administration of unoccupied territory from Paris.
    My emphasis
    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/frgearm.asp

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Or, put another way, the French government stayed with its citizens to suffer the consequences of defeat, while the powerful in Holland fled its soil and citizens to try and fight another day. Which is the more noble action? I don’t think there’s a cut and dried answer.
    No, there’s no cut and dried answer, but on balance I think the Dutch did better.

    The Vichy government abandoned its citizens in the occupied zone. It had the best of both worlds: surrendering but staying in France to govern part of it. The Dutch government can equally be said to have abandoned its citizens and, unlike Vichy, all of them in the Netherlands, but it did so in the face of defeat rather than, like Vichy, negotiating a deal to preserve itself in France and give up fighting before it was defeated in the field. The Dutch government never surrendered and continued to fight. I think it was a more noble action than what Petain did but, then again, the Dutch didn’t have a choice. However, Petain did, and he chose the path of least resistance, which I would probably have endorsed if I was in France and didn’t want the war to continue to no ultimate advantage to France. But I’m looking at it more from the wider perspective of the strategic consequences of France’s actions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    France’s post-Fall actions and policies regarding defense, collaboration, and treatment of its citizens are other issues, and ones we likely agree on.
    We likely do. But it becomes problematic when we compare the French and Dutch on the Holocaust. At an individual and community level the Dutch were often heroic in resisting what became the Holocaust, but the Netherlands was also highly efficient in exporting Jews to the concentration and death camps and, IIRC, much more so than France in the proportions of their respective populations. But the comparison again is between different circumstances as the Dutch had a German government imposed upon them while the French didn’t, at least while Vichy existed.

    Continued ....
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 08-09-2014 at 11:26 AM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Since you seem to be condemning France for the fighting it didn’t do, why not the Dutch? The damage to be inflicted by the Dutch might have been marginal, but it would have tied down appreciable German forces, with unknowable results. You condemn the French as perfidious, suggesting they betrayed the Allies, yet the Dutch surrender also had consequences.
    The Dutch surrender in Europe had no major consequences for the eventual result of the German campaign in Western Europe and none for the further conduct of the war outside Europe.

    The Vichy surrender had major and far reaching consequences for the German campaign and the ability of Britain to fight Germany. The Netherlands had no obligation to fight at all, apart from the imperative of national survival which (as you mention) was impossible to do when confronted by a vastly superior invader, nor did the Netherlands have any obligation to turn over any of its forces to Britain to continue resisting Germany.

    Conversely, there is a reasonable argument that France as an ally of Britain (which for the purposes of this post includes its Commonwealth) which together had initiated a war with Germany had an obligation before surrendering to transfer as much of its forces as possible to Britain to continue the fight Britain and France had initiated. The Vichy armistice (really a surrender) left those retained forces potentially threatening France’s former ally on land and sea, whether under the French flag or with ships transferred to or commandeered (albeit in breach of the armistice terms) by the Germans .

    ARTICLE VIII.
    The French war fleet is to collect in ports to be designated more particularly, and under German and/or Italian control to demobilize and lay up—with the exception of those units released to the French Government for protection of French interests in its colonial empire.

    The peacetime stations of ships should control the designation of ports.

    The German Government solemnly declares to the French Government that it does not intend to use the French War Fleet which is in harbors under German control for its purposes in war, with the exception of units necessary for the purposes of guarding the coast and sweeping mines.

    It further solemnly and expressly declares that it does not intend to bring up any demands respecting the French War Fleet at the conclusion of a peace.

    All warships outside France are to be recalled to France with the exception of that portion of the French War Fleet which shall be designated to represent French interests in the colonial empire.
    The result of France’s surrender was that Britain was forced to provide for the risk of the French fleet and military forces coming under German control, or even Vichy allying itself with Germany, which prevented Britain concentrating its sparse forces against the Germans and Italians. For example, in mid-1941 at a crucial phase of the North African conflict Britain was fighting the Vichy French army in Syria and Lebanon at the same time it was trying to relieve Tobruk and heavily engaged with Rommel on the other side of Egypt.

    France’s separate peace was quite understandable and acceptable viewed from the imperative of national survival in the face of military defeat, but unlike the Netherlands’ surrender for the same reason it left France’s ally in the lurch in prosecuting the war on its own.

    It can be argued that France had no obligation to transfer its naval forces to Britain, but the problem with that argument is that France chose to evacuate about 100,000 of its troops at Dunkirk less than a month before the armistice, which implies an intention to keep fighting with and from Britain. That, of course, did not happen as most of the French troops chose to return to France after the armistice, which contradicts some fanciful post-war French hagiography of French soldiers and citizens universally choosing to resist Germany despite its army being valiantly defeated in the field.

    In the face of defeat France chose to send a very large number of its troops to its current ally through Dunkirk. Why not send its ships, much more capable of making a major contribution to fighting Germany, at the same time, or at any time before signing the armistice? Clearly they weren’t going to be used by the Vichy government to continue any fight against the Germans. So why retain them, apart from a desire to retain in defeat as much as possible of the Third Republic and its assets, without regard to the serious strategic distraction this caused to Britain?

    The Netherlands, on the other hand, refused to cede the critical oil rich Netherlands East Indies to Japan and fought to the end to defend them. Which is more than Petain ever did in metropolitan France.

    I can understand the Petain government’s actions at all stages in pursuing its own (as distinct from all of France’s and combined French / British – anti-German) interests, but that does not require me to approve of them.

    So far as the overall course of the war was concerned, France’s armistice with Germany was the worst action by a supposed ally in undermining the ability of Britain to sustain its lone fight against Germany as the only hope of freeing the world from Nazism until America entered the war eighteen months later.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    RS* -- we are to some degree talking crossing purposes. I am looking at things from a pragmatic and realpolitik point of view, in terms of France's options (as I understand them). I am dealing only with the decisions up to an including the French surrender. I am not addressing any actions after that, including nothing to do with later events involving Japan, by either the French or the Dutch. By the very title you gave this thread, you suggest the French were perfidious, or "deceitful and untrustworthy" to repeat the definition you provided. The actions of the Vichy government is another topic, at least so far as I am concerned. You are often bringing up subjects and events that I'm not debating.

    In your original post, you acknowledge the complexity of France's situation. You do bring up Vichy, etc., as well as saying they were no longer allies with Britain: "...the French having ceased to be an Ally due to Petain and Co throwing in their lot with the Nazis...." If they are no longer allies, you can't complain about their treachery. Might the creation of Petain's Vichy itself count as treachery? I don't recall/know enough about what folks knew when to make that kind of judgment (versus how much developed after the government was formed, when practical options were much more restricted).

    What I was reacting to were some statements such as:

    Had the French naval commanders had the guts and determination of the Dutch to resist the Germans and brought their ships into alliance with the Royal Navy, the war would have developed very differently in the Mediterranean and North Africa which at the time were the main battlefields for Britain.
    I am not sure if this is the comment to which you referred with:

    Sorry for the lack of clarity. I had in mind primarily the very substantial and critical contribution made by the Dutch in 1942-43 with the naval and, more critically, merchant ships they kept from the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies, without which merchant ships MacArthur’s (essentially Australian at that stage) land campaigns could not have succeeded.
    But if so, this comment would also fall outside of the time I'm discussing, though your reference to North Africa and the Mediterranean in the first quote suggests we're still talking about different things.

    I had open my previous post with an observation about differences besides timing and scale; you stated what informed your opinion, but you can hardly argue the surrender of the Dutch would have as much impact as the surrender of France, that the two events happened at greatly different points in the course of events, or that the military forces involved with France where proportionately and empirically far greater than those of the Netherlands. One can argue, as you do, that the surrender of the Dutch played no role in the outcome:

    The Dutch surrender in Europe had no major consequences for the eventual result of the German campaign in Western Europe and none for the further conduct of the war outside Europe.
    But - we may be entering the realm of semantics here. I understood that the Belgians had re-formed a solid line on the 14th, including their "KW Line," with appreciable anti-tank defenses and concrete fortresses. But on May 15, when Holland collapsed, and the German 18th Army was freed to come down on the Belgians. Heavy fighting followed, on the Belgian lines and elsewhere. If things had gone differently, the only thing we can say with certainty is they would have been ... different. The Belgian army, while not on par with the armies of England and France, was notably better and more effective than that of the Dutch. In a situation where time and stabilization were critical, my crystal ball doesn't allow me to say what might or might not have happened. It was at this time the BEF got chewed up, perhaps setting the stage for Dunkirk. If the 18th Army was still in Holland...? For want of a nail, the shoe, the horse, the rider, etc., etc.

    Since, I believe, France was in good communication with London, and certainly did not dissemble about it's intentions to cease hostilities when the situation arose, I do not see how the idea of perfidious treachery attaches. You actually admit you see no foul from a France's own survival point of view. You are instead blaming France from a wider point of view:

    ...chose the path of least resistance, which I would probably have endorsed if I was in France and didn’t want the war to continue to no ultimate advantage to France. But I’m looking at it more from the wider perspective of the strategic consequences of France’s actions.
    Since I'm sure you won't argue that all consequences are foreseeable, I'm not sure how fair it is to damn a nation as "perfidious" for acting in its own self-interest in convoluted circumstances. It sounds, as I noted in my initial post, like 20/20 hindsight.

    Damn Vichy all you like -- I view that as a different entity from pre-Fall France. But I will repeat my belief you can not label as identical the surrender of a small, militarily ill-prepared nation that probably had pre-established evacuation plans and thoughts about disposition of its resources, to the fall of the major land power of an alliance, a power that had certainly never contemplated such a swift disaster, and had probably not spent any time planning for defeat before it was upon them, forcing decisions to be made in periods of confusion, stress, defat, and despair.

    To insist on judging France by your "wider perspective" sounds more like an expectation of national suicide. It was not defeated, but it had lost. England's army was destroyed at Dunkirk, keeping many of its men but losing the vast bulk of its equipment and resources. It couldn't assist the French. Even if England had had resources, what would it do: reinforce defeat? There's a military axiom about that, one I daresay the British would be highly aware of. In reality, France could only fight, if it fought, alone -- knowing it had already lost. Even the Dutch had ordered their Commander to avoid unnecessary slaughter of her soldiers. The alternative to fighting would be wholesale desertion of France by her Army, abandoning it citizens by crossing the channel -- a strategy that if implemented would probably just lead to mass desertion of French soldiers from that Army, based on some of the very morale issues you raised.

    What, exactly, is the bold strategy that France should have followed, given such dire circumstances, that would not have been military suicide, and without even the faintest hope that a British army could be re-equipped and reconstituted in time to take meaningful advantage of the sacrifice?
    Last edited by Ardee; 08-09-2014 at 04:54 PM.
    "...we have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo (Walt Kelly)

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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    RS* -- we are to some degree talking crossing purposes. I am looking at things from a pragmatic and realpolitik point of view, in terms of France's options (as I understand them). I am dealing only with the decisions up to an including the French surrender.
    To confine the discussion to your terms, the fact remains that France had the opportunity before its surrender to transfer its considerable navy to, or in alliance with, Britain as well as releasing its forces elsewhere, as in Syria and Lebanon, from metropolitan control. This would have usefully altered the course of the war in Britain’s favour and to Germany’s disadvantage. Vichy’s leaders chose to retain those forces under Vichy control, which they were well aware aided Germany and disadvantaged Britain. I do not regard this as the act of a loyal ally resolutely committed, or committed at all, to the eventual defeat of Germany. Nor do I regard it as an act calculated to increase the chances of France being liberated by Britain continuing the war (which Britain at great cost to itself continued on its own for the next eighteen months or so and without which France would not have been liberated from Germany). Petain threw in the towel without regard to anything but salvaging what he could for his version of France. Which is fine from your realpolitik viewpoint, but rather undermines the original purpose of France getting involved in the war in the first place to resist German exapansion if it wasn’t prepared to commit all its resources to Germany’s eventual defeat, including the future liberation of France.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Since, I believe, France was in good communication with London, and certainly did not dissemble about it's intentions to cease hostilities when the situation arose, I do not see how the idea of perfidious treachery attaches.
    Read Alan Brooke’s diaries, as I have recently, and you’ll find that as the British commander in France he didn’t find out about the French surrender until after the event, with the French leaving the remaining 145,000 or so British armed services people in France to fend for themselves in a country in which the German enemy was now in control. Coming to terms of surrender with the common enemy without having the courtesy even to inform your ally in the field that you have done so, and leaving them to the mercy of your formerly common enemy in your own land when you are happily freed of that threat because of your separate peace, strikes me as perfidy in any of its meanings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    England's army was destroyed at Dunkirk, keeping many of its men but losing the vast bulk of its equipment and resources. It couldn't assist the French. Even if England had had resources, what would it do: reinforce defeat? There's a military axiom about that, one I daresay the British would be highly aware of.
    Britain’s army wasn’t destroyed at Dunkirk, but the BEF was certainly gravely reduced and, as you say, especially by the loss of equipment left in France. That didn’t discourage Churchill from wanting to send substantial reinforcements to France after Dunkirk, from which fortunately he was dissuaded by his military advisers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    What, exactly, is the bold strategy that France should have followed, given such dire circumstances, that would not have been military suicide, and without even the faintest hope that a British army could be re-equipped and reconstituted in time to take meaningful advantage of the sacrifice?
    I’m not proposing any bold strategy by France. All I’m saying is that it could have made a major contribution to the war against Germany had it transferred its forces to or with Britain before concluding its separate peace upon terms all to France’s advantage and all to Britain’s disadvantage. The only reason I can see for not doing so is that Petain & Co wanted to hang on to all that was French in surrender, rather than make any future contribution to the war France had started in alliance with Britain. It was a complete desertion of its former ally.

    So-called realpolitik actions such as France’s surrender are usually understandable from the viewpoint of the selfish actor. They, like France’s surrender, are rarely commendable from any viewpoint which considers the interests of anyone other than the realpolitik actor.

    We won’t agree on this as you take the narrow realpolitik view considering only France’s interests as understood by Petain & Co and I take the wider view of France’s actions in the context of the whole war, as reasonably foreseeable by Petain & Co in contemplating the terms of surrender and as those terms of surrender played out.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 08-10-2014 at 11:11 AM.
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    So-called realpolitik actions such as France’s surrender are usually understandable from the viewpoint of the selfish actor. They, like France’s surrender, are rarely commendable from any viewpoint which considers the interests of anyone other than the realpolitik actor.

    We won’t agree on this as you take the narrow realpolitik view considering only France’s interests as understood by Petain & Co and I take the wider view of France’s actions in the context of the whole war, as reasonably foreseeable by Petain & Co in contemplating the terms of surrender and as those terms of surrender played out.
    Yet isn't realpolitik exactly the perspective from which virtually all governments operate?

    I believe it was certainly "coloring" French thinking. And from a realpolitik point of view, the war was lost, and Britain would soon negotiate peace. Why should France give away its resources to an ally who would soon surrender (and maybe keep it dear-bought ships)? Why, when the history of Europe was recurring war, and France herself might need those assets against Germany or others? Leaving out the UK, I believe there was considerable naval rivalry between France and an avaricious, "stabbing her neighbor in the back" Italy in the Mediterranean. Was France to leave herself and her colonies prostrate before other future aggression? And why should Italy or Germany be the only worries?

    I’m not proposing any bold strategy by France. All I’m saying is that it could have made a major contribution to the war against Germany had it transferred its forces to or with Britain before concluding its separate peace upon terms all to France’s advantage and all to Britain’s disadvantage. The only reason I can see for not doing so is that Petain & Co wanted to hang on to all that was French in surrender, rather than make any future contribution to the war France had started in alliance with Britain. It was a complete desertion of its former ally.
    Re: Transferring Forces, and aside from naval resources, I'm not sure that is true. The French Air Force was tattered. Its been a while since I've read of the Battle of France, but were not the logistics of supplying their own forces already under considerable strain? Re Petain & Co's thinking, I provided one reason above, not to mention how Germany's terms for France might devolve proportionately to any transfers.

    Read Alan Brooke’s diaries, as I have recently, and you’ll find that as the British commander in France he didn’t find out about the French surrender until after the event, with the French leaving the remaining 145,000 or so British armed services people in France to fend for themselves in a country in which the German enemy was now in control. Coming to terms of surrender with the common enemy without having the courtesy even to inform your ally in the field that you have done so, and leaving them to the mercy of your formerly common enemy in your own land when you are happily freed of that threat because of your separate peace, strikes me as perfidy in any of its meanings.
    I haven't read the diaries, so forgive the inadequacies of my reply. It certainly sounds despicable, though I might wonder how intentional the communication failure was: everybody thought somebody was doing it, so nobody did? Inexcusable, but *if* it was done without intent to deceive, not treachery. I *can* see how a realpolitik approach could have led up to such a situation deliberately. I can also see how general confusion and chaos could have the same result. As stated, I believe the national governments were talking: why hadn't London advised Brooke? I am also not clear if this is pre- or post-ascension of Vichy.

    Governments take realpolitik views because they have to: it is a matter of survival, sometimes for the governments, sometimes of the state and people. I am curious if you can find historical instances where a major power and nation-state acted with the nobility and self-sacrifice you are expecting of France --and if so, with what final results. Perhaps there was something in antiquity, or the age of chivalry -- but I can't think of any in the age of a modern nation state. You admitted you would "probably have endorsed (the surrender/armistice) if ...in France" back then. The UK was likewise acting in realpolitik mode, trying to keep France fighting, proposing dual-citizenship and national merger. I don't recall world leaders of the time decrying the French surrender as treachery. Your larger strategic view seems to consider only the concept of a single, larger war, and at a single point of time -- not the real world in which decisions are made: a world of multiple real and imagined threats, the all-but-certain potential of future war, and the reality of more than one bad guy or group of bad guys to deter.

    I'll agree we don't seem to stand much chance of changing the other's mind. I've asked some questions, so its fair to let you respond if you chose, and I may respond again, but I'm not sure what "progress" will be made.
    "...we have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo (Walt Kelly)

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