Interesting Facts About France During WWII

In a quest to defend its territory, France had to put up a spirited fight against the Nazis in the WWII. Though the country had one of the best modern and motorized army in the region, plus a bountiful of allies on her side, it was not going to be a walk in the park. The war had to be won through the proper mix of physical and intellectual power. As guns blazed there are various interesting facts that unfolded as highlighted below.

Germany Used France Own Strength to Beat Them

Despite having more than 1000 tanks with better armor and powerful main guns, Germans managed to silence France in less than a month into the war. Germans identified gaps especially in the south Ardennes to be specific and mount a fierce attack from there leading to the capture of Meuse. Interestingly, France had been preparing to protect the Meuse for years but dismissed any slight chance of the region being used as an entry point by the enemy owing its difficult terrain.

Meuse River today

Meuse River today

Arrogance by One Man Caused All the Mayhem

France never prepared itself accordingly even after seeing what had happened to Poland where Germany unleashed lightning attacks code-named ‘blitzkrieg’.  Instead, General Charles Huntziger blushed off Germans preparedness as a mere exercise and thought his massive armies scared them off. He could later pay heavily when he found Germans felling his forces, crossing the Meuse River and finally France surrendering to them.

The Only Time Cowards Were Allowed To Lead A Battalion

Another interesting fact is the presence of nervous leaders whose courage could vanish when needed most making them retract, coil and wonder helplessly as battles got tougher.

This was best captured by the Frenchman Marc Bloch who was a staff officer in 1940 at the height of WWII. In the book Strange Defeat he mentions of a sight which was to haunt him for many years to come. At one point when he was sent to Attiches, he saw a French general sitting in tragic immobility, frozen. He could do nothing; even utter a word just holding a map shaking terribly. Bloch was sent there to coordinate action with the British army and felt really taken aback by leadership collapse of the French army.

How could a General suffer such nervousness yet he’s supposed to remain brave so he can command and inspire his men to achieve rigorous tasks?

Vichy France Was another Lie On The Face Of Coward Leaders

Personal flag of Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France

Personal flag of Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France.

Vichy France became a German puppet state when the Germans captured the southern part of France, and had its laws amended to conform to German’s. Interestingly, Germans didn’t occupy this state with the hope that by not doing so, French would cooperate and help them and which happened, how comes that the French were always playing in the German’s cards? But Germany would cancel the agreement in 1942 and occupy the state which was partly spurred by the French allies’ invasion of French North Africa.

When the war ended General Philippe Petain, the leader of Vichy France who helped reach an agreement with the Germans for the occupation of Vichy would find himself convicted of treason. He was sentenced to death but later ruled to serve a life sentence.

France’s Own Soldiers Could Not Have Managed the Fight

Fifth French president Charles De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle

Another interesting fact is that majority of French forces during the WWII were not French nationals, they had come from its colonies. The bulk of them came from Algeria, Morocco, Tahiti, and Senegal and they comprised almost two-thirds of the entire forces. It was probably very difficult for France to recruit from its home at a time when it was already under enemy occupation, this forced De Gaulle to search for troops from far.

Failed Honesty Even After Being Helped

But the bad thing is that in 1959 the French government froze pensions for soldiers who had originated from its colonies- too bad indeed.

You should also know that French never lost all of the WWII battles; they managed to counter the Nazi offensive in the North winning the battle of Gembloux Gap in May 1940.

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