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Thread: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

  1. #16
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Reopening this thread as I'm a bit older and wiser now....

    I agree with most of the following post, but will reply to it as a restarting point...

    Quote Originally Posted by Grishnak View Post
    C in C of germanys Western front in September 1939, Colonel general Willhelm Ritter von Loeb had about 800.000 men for the defence of the siegfried line, no tanks, no aircraft to speak of. The defences was not finished and where most exposed against attack from the Dutch and Belgian frontiers. Von Loebs orders was to sit tight and avoid provoking the French, he knew they could get through if they wanted with 2 million men and 2500 tanks at their disposal.
    I'm unsure what the numbers were without checking at the moment, but 800,000 German soldiers sounds a bit on the high side. But many were second, even third rate troops hastily mobilized (much like the French Army facing them actually).

    The French Army definitely had the advantage here in armor, artillery, and tactical support aircraft. But it should be noted that the "two million" figure of the French forces would include under-trained reservists called up only a couple of weeks prior....

    Fortunately for the Germans, france had no plans to attack Germany via Belgium or Holland, since they where neutral.
    True in 1939, but not entirely true. The French were in fact contemplating a full invasion through the advanced Belgian and Dutch road networks in a 'Grand Offensive' slated for sometime around the summer of 1941. This was one of the reasons for the abysmal Dyle Plan and the sending the best, most mobile armored parts of the French Army galloping into Belgium in May of 1940. Generalissimo Gamelin actually was generating a plan not dissimilar to the Market Garden plan of 1944 to force a crossing of the Rhine --once the French Army had achieved strategic superiority over the Heer and full war production had peaked corresponding with a blockade of Germany. Belgian neutrality notwithstanding. However, the French had nothing more than a few nominal incursion plans in 1939, and the Saar region was a poor one for an offensive featuring motorized forces as it was basically a depression with a poor road network...

    On the night of 7-8 September, the French Fourth Army`s 11 Infantry Division crossed the Saar, suprised and took a few Germans as prisoners.
    Then they ran into minefields and booby traps. They dident have any mine detectors with them so drove cattle over the minefields or poked at the mines with poles, it was slow going. They got about 3 miles inside Germany before they decided that it was time to pull back.
    The French returned on the 12th of september when about 150.000 soldiers overran the first line of the siegfried line and the town of Saarbrucken (which had been evacuated by the Germans). The Germans was not worried as their fortificatins was at its strongest where the French was attacking. The French also realised this and decided that they had done enough by taking some 80 square miles of Germany.
    They Artillery fired a barrage of shells at the Siegfried line all this time, but without delayed-action fuses the effect was spectacular but ineffecive.
    The french army suffered the following casualties in the attack: 98 officers, 78 NCOs and 1578 soldies. The air force lost 32 aircraft.
    And that was that, the french relised that they would need to commit a large portion of their army for a real attack and they dident want to risk that. Much safer to hide behind the Maginot line.
    A good synapses. However, I would contend the French weren't just hiding behind the Maginot but more so thought they, with the British, would have a massive strategic advantage in production and resources and the risk of getting bogged down in Germany --then facing experienced Heer Panzerwaffe units pulled out of Poland in a mobile battle they weren't as prepared for-- might have tempered French aggressiveness...

    But I think the "Saar Offensive," halfheartedly launched to fulfill a promise of offensive action to Poland per treaty, is one of the War's great "what ifs"...
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 11-14-2010 at 01:52 PM.

  2. #17
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    It's a myth that the Maginot line ended at the Belgian border. It was connected to the Belgian fortification system. The Germans broke through at fort Eben-Emael. The fort surrendered in less than two days, allowing the invasion of France.

  3. #18
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Quote Originally Posted by ced381 View Post
    It's a myth that the Maginot line ended at the Belgian border. It was connected to the Belgian fortification system. The Germans broke through at fort Eben-Emael. The fort surrendered in less than two days, allowing the invasion of France.
    It did, but to be fair they were attacked in a manner that was never envisioned - from above.

    While now it seems obvious to attack a fort in this manner, in 1940 the idea of using a gliderborne attack was utterly novel and, in many circles, an impossibility.

    It was one of Hitler's mad ideas that actually had some viability and Student ran with it. Add to this the new hollow-charge explosives, specifically designed for the operation, a unit trained for the express purpose of attacking the fort, and you have a violent mix that took the Belgians utterly by surprise. That said it was still a hard fought engagement but the Germans on the fort roof quickly put several key locations out of service and effectively pinned the defenders in the fort. One of the side effects of the attack was that the the air purification system stopped working and the fumes that polluted the fort were thought to contribute greatly to the ability of the defenders to keep up resistance. Two of the Fallschirmjager who ventured into the fort to secure a scetion of it withdrew when nearly overcome by fumes.

    It was a superb military venture that showed a new way forward in military thinking.

  4. #19
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    My friend, you said it all. Thank you.

  5. #20
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Quote Originally Posted by ced381 View Post
    It's a myth that the Maginot line ended at the Belgian border. It was connected to the Belgian fortification system. The Germans broke through at fort Eben-Emael. The fort surrendered in less than two days, allowing the invasion of France.
    The attack on Eben-Emael only indirectly "allowed" the invasion of France. The main German emphasis, or Schwerpunkt, was not through the Belgian frontier, but through the Ardennes at the Sedan sector. The attack on Belgium was more or less a deception to insure the best, most motorized parts of the Allied armies would drive into Belgium, as German planners knew they would do, and be strategically outflanked via "Sickle Cut," and that in sending their best divisions, the French were hardly counting on Belgian fortifications for holding the Germans at bay. It should also be stated that many of the Maginot Line fortifications nearest Belgium were at best unfinished, if not completely inadequate hollow shells...

  6. #21
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Don't be bad with the french! jokes apart, the french just know of the german big military power, so I think they had fear that suddenly the whole german army apears and smash'em.

  7. #22
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Quote Originally Posted by StalingradK View Post
    Oh, I thought they didn't build it on grounds that Belgium was an allied nation, and it would be an "insulting" act to build it on the border.
    That was true until Belgium wouldn't allow French troops to advance through the country (Belgium didn't want Germany offended by allowing French troops access to the Belgium/German line as and be seen as a act of aggression by the Germans, but it didn't matter anyways because Germany was coming eventually) so the French tried to hasten continuation of the line to the ocean on there border, and it was way too late by then.


    P.S.... Ahh zombie threads where someone says "it's been discussed, use the search button!" and then after you use it the next person says "OMG a Zombie thread."
    I came across this thread by looking up info on the Saar Offensive. Most people are unaware that France invaded Germany first.. I love propaganda lol.

  8. #23
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    We call it Necro posting, and it's not forbidden to do so as long as it is a genuine response, and Germane to the Thread's subject. Welcome aboard Burchfield, Enjoy looking around.

  9. #24
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Quote Originally Posted by Burchfield View Post
    That was true until Belgium wouldn't allow French troops to advance through the country (Belgium didn't want Germany offended by allowing French troops access to the Belgium/German line as and be seen as a act of aggression by the Germans, but it didn't matter anyways because Germany was coming eventually) so the French tried to hasten continuation of the line to the ocean on there border, and it was way too late by then.

    ....
    I believe Belgium and France had a limited military treaty until the 1930's until Belgium proclaimed neutrality. Of course, there were always contacts between the Belgian and French militaries nevertheless...

  10. #25
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    I might remind the French 'bashers' that prior to WW2, every major Western allied country had copied some aspect of their military system.

    Napolean is still thought of today as historie's greatest soldier.

    We use many military terms lifted straight from the French language, (refuse, envelop, flank, bombardment, barrage, etc etc.)

    Prior to the Great War, every major Western allied power had uniform styles with French influence. Regiments during the american civil War were dressed "French style" as light attacking "ZOUAVES".

    The French, in concert with the British, pioneered the concept of the Armoured Fighting Vehicle, although French production values were a little inferior, and their idea of an assault gun was a little ahead of it's time.
    The American army in 1916 had no tank production at all. They purchaced, (or were lent to keep, one of the two) French Renault tanks, of which George S. Patton, commander of the very first American trained tank unit, was one of the few people in the US that could actually drive a tank. Patton had to unload every vehicle when it arrived for use with his command.

    French soldiers pioneered far too many technical innovations to list, including the breach loading "sleeve", a pattern for modern artillery still used.

    Up until WW2, the reputation of the French military really was second to none.

    They went through more governemnts between the wars than most peasants had drunk bottles of expensive wine.

    further, by surrendering in 1940, they not only saved their capital and other cities and countryside from German damage, they paved the way, (unwittingly) for a genral decision making process in German circles over Russia. The Germans were thoroughly convinced in their own minds that their tactics were ultimately invincible, their strategy was superior, their weapons systems were world beaters, and that they had The Greatest Military Commander of All Time, or GROFAZ for the German acronym.

    Further to that, the Allied bomber offensive and the push across France for Overlord did far more damage to France and Frenchmen than the Germans did in 1940.

    A French friend of mine, Jean Claude, was a child during the Occupation, and he told me straight out that the Germans, incredibly, had a measure of respect for French culture, (even if it was diminishing), and their occupation of France was, in the main, very 'correct'.

    Juan Claude said further, very clearly, "When the Americans arrived, they simply destroyed everything. French civilians were not part of their considerations for artillery attacks in particular."

    further, over 1,500 German aircraft were lost during the invasion of France. Think of what that meant for the Luftwaffe when fighting the Battle of Britiain.

    You French bashers don't know half of it. If it wasn't for French Revolutionary principles and the sacrifice of ordinary French people, you would not have half the democratic freedoms you do today, America would probably still be controlled by Britain, as Canada still is nominally, espeially their armed forces with their loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen.

    Go on say it..."Cheese eating surrender monkeys", and prove how ill judged a comment like that can be, and how ridiculous you can look for making a comment like that.

    Modern French people despise many fellow westerners these days for their slavish return to a modern form of fuedalism, where those with money or bloody celebrities mean everything,. They feel that people in western countries have it far too good, and would not have the 'balls' to begin a revolution against the rich even if the circumstances were favourable. Far too many people only acting when their comfort 'zone' is infringed. No-one acting from intellectualisms or on moral principle at all.

    Jeremy 'Clarkson'.
    Last edited by Clarkson; 01-09-2016 at 01:10 AM.

  11. #26
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    I would add that it was General Weygand that came up with the "hedgehog strategy" to slow down and stop the panzers. His tactics at the end of the battle were effective and certainly would have hindered the German invasion far more than the Maginot line did. Whether this was politically possible is another question as would be the foresight of developing such tactics prior to an attack. His tactics were desperately employed far too late as there was no French armored reserve left to counterattack. But they certainly influenced NATO's tactics of forward defense during the Cold War, and were copied to one extent or another in all theaters...

  12. #27
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    Default Re: The French "Invasion" of Germany: The Saar Offensive

    Neutrality was a vexed issue for Belgium from the very inception of the Belgian state in the early 19th century. Belgium was a "frontier country", not between French and Germanic cultural groups, but between religious loyalties. The southern part of the Netherlands was Roman Catholic; the northern part was Protestant, mainly represented by a bewildering assemblage of Calvinist Congregational sects. The variety of Congregationalist sects was, in fact, so fractious that it threatened the survival of the northern Netherlands as a distinct Protestant state; the (at least nominal) leader of the northern Netherlands, William ("the Silent) of Orange-Nassau had on one occasion to wait some eight days to initiate military action while Congregationalist divines argued over the theological aspects of the northern Dutch union, notwithstanding the fact that a large Spanish Habsburg army was, at the time, threatening to sweep across southern Holland. In any event, Holland survived, but at the cost of severe "ethnic cleansing" of Protestants from the southern Netherlands, marked in particular by Philip II of Spain's leading general, the Duke of Alba, and his "purge north" of the Protestants of Antwerp. The events of this period have marked Belgium and Holland ever since.

    The modern Belgian state arose from an uprising against Dutch rule over the southern Netherlands, an outcome of the post-Napoleonic "settlement". It carried into the 19th century a version of its frontier status, albeit in a modified form. The new Belgian state, a constitutional monarchy with democratic institutions, could not avoid the question as to whether it should pursue survival through alliances, or whether it should preserve itself through strict neutrality. As the Kingdom's democratic institutions emerged, they became increasingly dominated by bourgeois interests (a phenomenon of the times). The bourgeois politicians were disinclined to invest much in the "muscular military" that would have been necessary to take the "alliances" course, as much for financial reasons as for a perception of the futility of taking a "forward" position between the emerging military superpowers of France and Germany. This resulted in ongoing tensions between the government and King Leopold ("Congo") II, who favoured substantial increase in armament and who, to a considerable extent, had the personal resources (if not the power) to finance Belgian up-armament. In the event, neutrality became the "default position" for Belgium, even after the events of the Franco-Prussian War clearly indicated that a refusal to take sides would leave Belgium with a seriously compromised capacity to defend itself as a frontier state.

    This dilemma still had a critical effect on the events of the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Belgium dithered between maintenance of strict neutrality and alliance (implicit or explicit) with France against the obvious threat of German invasion. The French appear to have believed that, in the end of the day, following Belgium's experience at the hands of the Germans in WW1, the Belgians would opt for some form of military arrangement with France. It did not, but dithered on the point into the mid-1930s. This influenced the development of the Maginot Line, which was based on the assumption that it would be possible for the French to preserve a relatively open flank towards Germany involving the location of, for example, French advance supply dumps and French-advised "forward" fortifications in Belgium. When it became obvious that the Belgians were not going to co-operate with this scenario, the French began to extend the Maginot Line across the Belgian frontier towards the sea. However, by this stage, there was neither the time nor the money to install more than a scrappy, patchy, minimal series of fortifications on this line. It is interesting that memoirs of German commanders recall the fact that, where such fortifications were encountered, they did pose a difficulty for the Germans not unlike those posed for them on the few occasions on which they encountered French heavy tanks. In any event, the fact that these defences were incomplete and non-continuous meant that they could be outflanked, surrounded and bypassed by the Germans. The "extended" Maginot Line was, in reality, something of a chimera. How the situation of summer, 1940 might have developed had Belgium solved its neutrality dilemma in favour of some form of French alliance is a matter of speculation ... Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 01-11-2016 at 10:28 AM.

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