mercredi 7 mars 2012

Munich 1938: Democracy, Truth and Defense of the Nation must be associated (Enriched 03 / 14 / 2015)



A failure of all Allied intelligence agencies


As certainly you know, during the Summer of 1938, Hitler who had successfully made the Anschluss between Austria and Germany, some weeks ago, threatened again to go at war.

He said he will attack the Czechoslovakian Republic to unite some German speaking people with his Vaterland.


The Czechoslovakia mobilized her excellent Armies while Mussolini suggested a Peace conference in which the Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not invited (!). 

Feverishly, this so-called Peace conference opened the September, 29, in Munich.

Two week before, the September 15, Mr. Neville Chamberlain flew to Berchtesgaden to make his famous (but, in fact, infamous) arrangement with the German dictator.

Unfortunately, the French premier, Mr Daladier, was not able - for a lot of psychological reasons - to withstand to his British colleague.

Doing that, the British premier was sincerely convinced he avoided the war for his country.


Nevertheless, at the exception of the German HQG, it is doubtful that everybody among the British and French deciders had in their mind that the young Czechoslovakian republic was loosing all its fortifications (built thoroughly as another Maginot line). 

The door was open for Hitler to have all the excellent Czech weapon's plants to his disposal, that was a major asset to anybody wanting to make war.



You prefer the most compliant generals ? You will lost the next battles



The neurotic instability of the French 3rd Republic played a major role in such a drama. 

French pacifists, full of their inclination to "peace at all costs" and lacking from any common sense, were backed secretly, but efficiently, by nazi agents who were also numerous in Great Britain. 

French and British politicians were completely outmaneuvered by the German dictator.

OK, the French Président du Conseil (= Prime Minister in the 3rd and 4th French Republic) have asked the chiefs of the Army's advice. 

Who were these important French military deciders? 
  • General Gamelin, supreme commander of all French military forces and top general of the Land Forces, 
  • Admiral Darlan, commanding all the French fleets, 
  • General Vuillemin, commanding all the French Air Forces.

All have been chosen, at first, not because they were excellent strategists (as it was falsely told later) but because they were very quiet from a political point of view! 

At this very moment, the hideous spectra of a new World War had arisen, such a choice was very strange.

For example, Admiral Darlan was the son of a former Minister of the 3rd Republic, a close friend of the Minister of Marine Georges Leygues who made him his personal adviser from 1926 to 1934.  

This had incredibly boosted his career: Rear-admiral in 1929, vice-admiral in 1932. 

As usual, he used his administrative functions to create a friendship network.


One may say he was very late to understand the importance of the radar / sonar in warships as he did not understand the role of the aircrafts for a navy (maybe this last point may be linked to his rivalry with Admiral Jean de Laborde).


General Gamelin was said as a good second of generalissimo Joffre during the beginning of the WW I. 

{Many Frenchmen interested in WW I know that general Joffre was not a good choice, the Marne Battle of 1914 was triggered by the general Gallieni.}  

Gamelin was too much convinced that a strong political backing was absolutely needed. 

He demonstrated a complete inability to taking into account all the advances in tanks and aerial warfare. 

A generalized opinion about him was that he was very clever... May be, this statement has be popularized in France by the German staff!

For your own evaluation of his strategic capacities, remember, at the beginning of the WWII, after the Molotov-Ribentrop pact, General Gamelin really planed an aerial offensive against the Bakou petrole, in order to disrupt the fuel supplies of the German army! 

For that reason, general Weygand, former leader of the French Armies, was sent in Lebanon. But such a "strategy" looked like suicidal, as it implied a war against USSR with a front being at 4000 km from France! 

French armies, but Gamelin, never forget the lessons learned during the Russia Campaign they have experienced in 1812.


For the Air staff, after the disastrous firing of General Pujo in 1936, in order to give his command to general Féquant, who was only a political friend of Pierre Cot, the Minister of Air, the Armée de l'Air was in bad mood. 

Féquant was responsible of refusing to order the Nieuport 161 fighter, the Bréguet 462 and the Amiot 340 bombers which were good performers and soon well perfected. He was also responsible of the choice of the bad performing Morane 406 fighter and the totally not perfected Lioré & Olivier 451 bomber.

So, the new Minister of Air, Guy La Chambre fired Féquant and chosen General Vuillemin, an very experimented bomber pilot and an ace (yes!) during the previous war. He always demonstrated a great courage and a real interest about some technical questions. 

Nevertheless, at the arrival in his new function, he seemed unable to have any strategical nor tactical conceptions. 

During the 1938 year, he appeared completely overwhelmed by the rising power of the Luftwaffe, but, since the summer of 1939, he seemed more adapted to do the job. 

But the time wasted from 1937 to 1938 was never recovered.



1938, the lost chance


If he had not been deceived during his visit to the Luftwaffe, may be he had time for some meditations. 

OK, after some bad choices, like the choice of the poor Morane 406 as standard fighter, the Armée de l'Air was not at its best. 

However, with an outbreak of war in October, the Luftwaffe could not be as powerful as it was possible in dry and hot weather. 

During the Fall, statistically, the Western Europa is crossed by atmospheric disturbances, with a lot of huge clouds, with frequent icing conditions, no ceiling and strong winds. 

These conditions were not very good to launch any aerial offensive.



The French Bombers: More capable in 1938 than in 1940



Moreover, if the French bombers like the Bloch 200, Amiot 143 and the Bloch 210 were outdated, but they were sturdy, reliable and the Bloch could fly 2000 m higher than the Messerschmitt Bf 109 B, C or D.

The Bloch 210 was the subject of a strong denigration campaign after several crashes caused by the poor qualities of their engines and air-screws (which induced devastating vibrations). 

After engine changes, this bomber became safe and served fairly during the Battle of France. 

They were less outdated in 1938 than in May 40, isn't?


Regarding the fighters, the Jagdwaffe was the most impressive fighter army in the World in September 1938, with 600 Messerschmitt Bf 109 C or D (the half of the amount available in May 1940, with 100 kph less top speed than the E variant!).

However, during the whole July month, only 50% of the German fighters were airworthy, owing they experienced a lot of teething troubles. 



The French Air Force had 15 Morane 405 and, at best, 10 Potez 630 twin engined fighters, all of these 25 planes being equivalent, or even better, to the actual best German products.

The awareness of this accountancy was obviously very clear in the mind of general Vuillemin. But it was not the good one.


Fighters of the preceding generation (Dewoitine 500, 501, 510, Spad 510, Loire 406) were not defenseless against the Bf 109. 

OK, a Dewoitine D 500 was 90 kph slower than a Bf 109 D, but she had a very better climbing ability (about 3' faster to reach 6000 m) and a service ceiling 2000 m higher.

They had a possible way to escape a German fighter attack and to oblige them to fight at very high altitude, where they were slower and not maneuverable.

Do you think really that was worst than the 115 kph deficit, the loss of 3' to reach 5000 m and the at least 1000 m lower ceiling of the Morane 406 against the Bf 109 E?


Simultaneously, Czechoslovakia had up to date fortifications (à la Maginot line), a very excellent set of tanks and antitank guns, several hundreds of Avia 534 fighters, as fast as the D 510, but better in climb and maneuverability and manned by exceptional pilots.


Soviet Union had some possibility to attack the IIIrd Reich by sea or by air in order to stop the iron supply from Sweden.


If Hitler wanted to attack France first, he did not have the power he had 2 years later, by far. 

His only armored vehicles were the Panzer I and 2, with a rather thin armor and weak guns. 

He would lack all of the ~700 medium and heavy tanks he benefited later in 1940.

So, my opinion is that Hitler had no chance to win such a conflict.

The problem that Edouard Daladier experienced, was he did not step back about his own generals. 

The RAF had, actually, about 200 modern fighters but they cannot be added to fight against Hitler, as the Britisch Prime Minister Chamberlain did not want at all to go to war against the nazis.

That was a vicious circle. 

As many French politicians, Daladier did not proceed to a complete analysis of the strategic problem. 

His first concern seemed not to found the best way to stop Hitler, but to avoid the disintegration of his own government.

Yes, he had a good sight on Hitler real aim, yes, he knew the war was unavoidable - as Churchill too - but, as  all other French politicians of the third republic, he had eliminated all officers who had a real strategic view, as he did against the genius Charles de Gaulle.

The Democracy is a very difficult exercise: The People must be educated - without propaganda - and then, you must tell him the Truth.

How obtain war funds when you have been elected after an ultra pacifist campaign?

Moreover, any war is always horrid. 

But, before rejecting that bloody way, one must wonder if peace is the real solution: In 1938, it was not the case at all. 

The following events demonstrated this.


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