There’s a lot that goes through the mind when France and WWII are mentioned, and it disturbs to realize that a country that had advanced so much in military composition would come to surrender to the German’s after getting crushed. France had more army officers than Germany, had invested heavily in modernizing and rebuilding its military soon after the WWI, and had many allies some of whom were superpowers like Britain. Besides, it had many colonies- probably second from Britain in terms of number of colonies. On the other side Germany was deprived of resources and had few allies to her side and who were weak but other factors beyond military and financial power contributed to her ability to trounce France.
Looking at the military sophistication of France, it’s evident there are several other reasons that contribute to the success of battles beyond the availability military installations and foot soldiers.
Modernization and Motorization
French was at an advanced level in the motor industry in the 1920s; earlier on during the WWI French motor production and employment had succeeded very much leading to the military embark on campaigns to studying and implementing its motorization. Looking at the destructive power of their tanks in the WWI the military had confidence they were on the right path and therefore they commissioned developments for more tanks. Actually by 1940 when it went to war with the Germany, France tanks combined with those of Britain numbered a thousand more.
Char B Heavy Tank
They had designed some of the best tanks in the world the Char B heavy tank which would carry a 75mm and a 47 mm gun, one of the best tanks at the moment. France tank development technology was the first to fit cast turrets on tanks together with a sophisticated steering system making the best in the era. The presence of good guns, good motorization together with several other armored and motorized divisions put France ahead when it came to military power at around 1940.
The war minister Edouard Daladier created a new department mandated with the manufacture of armaments in 1933 which would receive orders for the manufacture of military equipment and tools from the divisions. This probably explains the reasons for availability of cutting-edge military tools though it was not all free flow as there were several complaints relating to supervision hitches and delays in equipment development and production.
In the 1920s France had come up with the idea of half-trucks which were likable due to their maneuverability. Some of the countries where they were really liked included the Germany and which through German’s Maffei Company came to license systems for their manufacture in 1927 and later starting production in 1930. But France came to stop on their development in 1933 as it continued on a modernization route.
Other developments like the passing of the law to nationalize the armament industry in July 1936 were aimed at helping the country reach its goals of having modern cutting-edge equipment of war. This gave the country the much-needed break as before then many army installations were decentralized which was hampering a collective strategy for developing and evaluating new technology.
Fast Battleships, Powerful Cruisers and Destroyers
France is blamed for not using its sophisticated military technology effectively rather choosing to surrender and hence occupation of Vichy France. France also goes on record for having two of the most modern fast battleships during WWII, added to this were several other powerful cruisers and destroyers all which would have been utilized to silence its enemies.
It could have used this fleet to evacuate its army when Ardennes came under heavy attack by the Germans. Evacuation would have given the army a chance for regrouping and re-strategizing for a counter attack.
Military sophistication is not the only thing that matters when it comes to success in the battlefield, leadership traits, courage and motivation also counts.