The most senior French military commander during the Battle of France, 1940, General Gamelin, is a figure not well understood, the man being a non-entity as far as the history books are concerned.
The speed, the rapidity, the apparent ease of German victory - - 1940, came as a decided and VERY unexpected shock to the democracies of the western world? Within SIX WEEKS the Germans had accomplished what they had been unable to do during the FOUR YEARS of the Great War [1914-1918]. AND, again - - did so with what seemed to be "apparent ease"
THE FRENCH JUST SEEMED TO COLLAPSE!
"Maurice Gustave Gamelin . . . was a French general. Gamelin is best remembered for his unsuccessful command of the French military in 1940 during the Battle of France and his steadfast defense of republican values."
"The generalissimo of the French armed forces in World War II, Gamelin was viewed as a man with significant intellectual ability. He was respected, even in Germany, for his intelligence and 'subtle mind', though he was also viewed by some German generals as stiff and predictable . . . his command of the French armies during the critical days of May 1940 proved to be disastrous"
Disastrous and humiliating in the extreme. So much so that it has been suggested that Gamelin was either very incompetent or A TRAITOR. Furthering German victory by lackadaisacal response, indecisiveness, etc. PERHAPS EVEN DESIRING A GERMAN VICTORY!
From the book "The Ultra Secret" by F.W. Winterbotham:
"Despite all the information available, the full appreciation of where the armoured thrust to come appears to have ignored by the French High Command, and even when the French tank patrols finally met the German tanks in the forest of Ardennes, there was still no air reconnaissance, ordered. It seems almost impossible to believe that General Gamelin, the French command-in Chief [generalissimo], had so staked his reputation on his assessment that the Germans could not and would not attack through the the Ardennes that he refused to change his mind or his strategy. It is difficult to say more without accusing Gamelin of treason."
And from another source, that Gamelin was not so much traitorous as grossly incompetent. Treason emanating from another direction:
"The traitors began their work by undermining the Army, by denying it the funds necessary to operate and innovate, and by ensuring that the Army maintained a pacifist, defensive mentality [Maginot Line] . . . It also served their cause to have in place a weak and incompetent Army chief, General Gamelin. Despite overwhelming evidence of his incompetence, Gamelin stayed in power . . . his weak and misguided military strategy undermined the Army’s power and ability to fight a modern war."
Gamelin, during the Great War [WW1], did display some panache', competence, ability! A commander whose record was excellent! And a man who did prescribe to French Republican democratic ideals when large portions of the French electorate were in a ferment, far-right and far-left both!!
Those French and English general officers, during the various earliest stages [1939-1940] of the Second World War [WW2] - - at least to my way of thinking - - have the appearance of someone whose entire mentality and perception of warfare had NOT GONE BEYOND THE MANNER OF COMBAT AS EXPERIENCED IN 1918!! Appearances might be deceiving - - but these guys JUST LOOK OLD - - were out of place!! AND, then Gamelin was relieved of command, his replacement - - Weyand, was five years the senior of Gamelin! So you had failure reinforced by failure. There was no vigor or dynamism? Or am I being too harsh here?
"The 68 year-old Gamelin was replaced by the 73 year-old Maxime Weygand who immediately tried to launch counter-attacks but by then it was too late."
Gamelin in the aftermath of 1940 was placed on trial by the Vichy French, but maintained his decorum - - not availing his captors, maintaining his dignity, even in defeat.
Gamelin - - more incompetent that a traitor? This seems to be the case!
Generalisations, conspiracy theories, cliches and much cutting and pasting from various sources.
"English general officers" may have looked old but they weren't out of place and they did not lead using combat philosophies of 1918. Lord Gort looked old; he was old but his vision saved the BEF. This ended up saving Europe as Hitler was not able to cross the Channel.
Perhaps do some research and see if the French Air Force was capable of conducting reconnaissance flights over the Ardennes. Maybe ask the question why the French had next to no air force.
Easy for us to hypothesise today but without understanding the mindset of post WWI France ....
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