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What if 10/4

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by JJWilson, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Hello everyone! I like most of you I'm sure, am fascinated with alternate Histories. When it comes to WW2 alternate histories and What if's, I love them! Today's what if I'm sure you have heard before, but I would love to here your input on what could have happened.

    Germany Invaded Poland on September 1st 1939 to start WW2 in Europe. Britain and France had promised Poland prior to the invasion they would come to their aid if attacked by Germany.............That aid never came. From what I understand, and have read, the British and French easily outnumbered the German Army in terms of personnel. What I'm not overly clear on is whether the British or French were even capable of mobilizing fast enough to actually help Poland out at all. But For this What if? I'm curious what you guys think would happen if the British and French did in fact help Poland and faced off against the Germans, and maybe even the Russians? Many historians believe if the Allies were willing and able to help the Polish, WW2 could have ended right then and there. What are your thoughts? Any and all responses are appreciated :)
    -Wilson
     
  2. ColHessler

    ColHessler Member

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    If the French had invaded western Germany, and kept going, then they have to withdraw from Poland and fight in the west, since most of the Wehrmacht was facing east.
     
  3. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Do you think the French could have mobilized an effective fighting force in time to potentially divert German attention away from the East? Or would have the Soviets finished off the Poles anyway?
     
  4. ColHessler

    ColHessler Member

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    I'm thinking like Patton, in that a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. If the French threw in what they had right now, and mobilized from there, Hitler would have had to pay attention.
     
  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    German forces in the Saarland were ten divisions of 1. Armee. The French had twelve. The Germans were defending in fixed fortifications. The French attacked, made minor penetrations, and then withdrew as the Germans continued to mobilize (seven more divisions were mobilizing and assigned to 1. Armee). That was about all that could be expected of them; in effect they did throw in what they had "right now", but it was nowhere near enough.

    The problem for the French was that the Germans mobilized in the spring crisis and then only partially demobilized, then began mobilization on 26 August, The French began mobilizing at midnight 1 September. The Germans had a week jump and never relinquished that initiative. By 19 September, the Germans were transferring trrops from the Polish front to reinforce the western borders of the Reich, when the French had mobilized 83 of their 86 divisions.
     
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  6. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    I guess the greater question here is even though the French attacked with all they had, it seems they didn't put a whole lot of thought into the offensive. This makes sense considering the situation of course, but what if they attacked in the lightly defended German areas 25-30 miles Southwest of Freiburg near the German-Swiss border making a flanking motion, much like the Germans did a couple months later to the French. I would imagine the French would only have to have a decent sized foothold in German territory to cause the Germans to divert their attention, allowing time for the BEF and commonwealth forces to prepare for a larger assault a few weeks later. However I believe Poland would fall regardless, but would probably manage to buy time for evacuations. Hopefully all of that made sense!
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Because, to start with, the Franco-German frontier southwest of Freiburg was not necessarily any more lightly defended than the rest of the border. The roughly 40 miles - as the crow flies - from Karlsruhe to opposite Strasbourg was defended by 7. Armee with four divisions, one of them a fully mobilized 1. Welle division, one other a 2. Welle division, and the other two Welle 3. All about as well-equipped, manned, and trained as any of the infantry divisions operational then (only the 4. Welle divisions were still mobilizing and less capable). The remaining 60 miles to the Swiss border was the zone of Generalkommando der Grenztruppen Oberrhein (renamed XXV AK on 17 September) with a 1. Welle Division defending from Strasbourg to Freiburg and then a Landwehr division defending opposite Muhlhausen. It may look weaker, but for the entire length of that line any French attack necessarily would be an opposed river crossing of one of the most formidable rivers in the world - the Rhine. The Rhine frontier included fixed defenses of the Westwall as well and the Oberrhein forces were reinforced with and infantry regiment from the 2. Welle division further north, three motorized MG battalions, seven artillery battalions, and SS-Regiment "Der Führer". Worse, any such attack after crossing was left with the options of attacking northeast up the narrow corridor between the Rhine and Schwarzwald or directly through the Schwarzwald - neither a good choice.

    Meanwhile, the BEF initial deployment was complete on 19 October, but was just two corps with four divisions (1st-4th). The 5th Division deployed 19 December, but it was January 1940 before the first three 1st Line Territorial divisions arrived, while the last two arrived in April along with the three 2d Line Territorial divisions (which were so ill-equipped and untrained they were deployed as LOC units).
     
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  8. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Thank you Rich for the information, this makes it a lot clearer to me! From German military maps on the French border (dating around the time of the Invasion of Poland) It looked to me like the German defenses were weaker in the south, although still formidable for any attacking army. I also did not take into account some of the major geographical obstacles (such as the Rhine) the French would have to deal with. The only other thing I can think the French could do is go through neutral Switzerland, which now that I think about it is really not such a good idea at all :p. As for the BEF I think you are right when you say they would be far from ready to help in an assault situation (Not that the French would fare better being equally green) straight into Germany.
     
  9. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I think part of the problem about evaluating such speculations is that people tend to confuse the armies of May 1940 with the armies of September 1939. For the French, the Division Cuirassée de Réserve (DCR) did not even exist; they were not formed until January 1940. The German Panzer division organization was in flux. British armored forces were in flux. All armies were re-equipping and introducing new armament. However, the biggest factor was mobilization. The Germans had a jump on the French and British because they only party demobilized after the spring crisis and all the "active army" (1. Welle) infantry divisions were at nearly full strength...IIRC only the 4% or so of Landwehr and a small percent of the Reserve I and II personnel in them had been released and they were all recalled c. 1 August. The general mobilization of the 2. Welle and 3. Welle began on 26 August and was essentially complete by 1 September. The 4. Welle divisions also began mobilization on 26 August, but since they had no active army component (they comprised about 21% Reserve I, 46% Reserve II, and 24% Landwehr personnel) they took longer to mobilize and many were not ready until mid-September.

    The most problematic for the German defense of the Oberrhein was probably 14. Landwehr Division, which was the sole Landwehr division mobilized during the war. It consisted of four three-battalion infantry regiments, a single artillery battalion, and a signals battalion, all comprised of Great War veterans. However, it was "stiffened" with units from the active army 35. ID, 4. MG-Batallion, the strong SS-Verfügungstruppe-Standarte "Der Führer", and miscellaneous artillery and other units. It is unlikely that a French attack across the Rhine would have been any more successful than their attack into the Saarland.

     
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  10. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Fantastic points, and stats Rich. I have a much better understanding of the situation, and I like the French underestimated the German forces on the Border! May I ask where you got such detailed info?
     
  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I am not so sure the French underestimated anything in that respect? They knew their own capabilities were limited and that the Germans would be defending in well-prepared positions. That explains very well the limited reconnaissance in force they actually undertook. I think it demonstrated that time was on the German's side and the collapse of Poland meant the weight of the German forces would be in the west shortly. thus, the French decided to complete mobilization and wait for their allies to get in place, so that the burden of attack would then be on the Germans. They reasoned that would mean they could fight the defensive war they planned for nearly 20 years. It also allowed the moribund French armaments industry to come up to speed, but the modern aircraft, artillery, and other weapons wouldn't be available in any quantity until spring 1940. It was very well reasoned, but ultimately futile given the initial allied response to the new German doctrine.

    Thirty-odd years as an adult working in operations research and analysis, about twenty years spent prior to that as a young adult and wargamer spent in reading military history, an unhealthy enjoyment at collecting order-of-battle information for all of those fifty-odd years, and a fairly mild obsessive compulsive attitude when it comes to digging into the nitty-gritty of why things work. The internet has facilitated things, since there are any number of excellent websites into which you can lose yourself in primary-source materiel, albeit for the German side it helps if you have at least some understanding of the language. A good start is Axis History and Lexikon der Wehrmacht
     
  12. JJWilson

    JJWilson Active Member

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    Once again Richard, you do not disappoint in the info department, and thank you for the sources, I'll have to look at those!
     

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