The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H206: The French Are Falling, The French are Falling!

In May 1940 the German military conquered France in a matter of weeks. The new blitzkrieg doctrine was able to accomplish what they had been unable to do despite hundreds of thousands of lives lost in four years of World War I. Was the new German military doctrine that good? Or, was the French internal political disunity, inability to exercise military command and leadership, poor understanding of new technologies and sub-standard small unit training so profound that they “lost” the battle for France more than the Germans won it?


December 16, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. The Fall of France was the byproduct of a combination of German ingenuity, French myopia, and sheer inevitability from the post World War I reparations. The German ingenuity manifested on the battlefield with superior technology and doctrine compared to the French. German national will and political funding established a limitless resource for capturing the land initiative and exploiting opportunity. The Germans were able to control the tempo while shaping the conflict in accordance with German intent. Conversely, the French were relegated to a defensive posture therein ceding the initiative and reaping the likely results.

    The French were indeed victims of sub-par technology and doctrine. Furthermore, they were constrained in ways the Germans were not due to a politically diverse nation with variable requirements apart from war. The failure of France was ceding the initiative and choosing a war of response. When the Germans employed blitzkrieg they showed the French the antiquity of the French communications and mission doctrine. Ultimately, the French were still adhering to a crawl doctrine while the Germans were in full sprint.

    The Fall of French should be attributed not only to German ingenuity and French myopia but also to the inevitability of post World War I reparations inherent to the Versailles Treaty. The differing perceptions of the Versailles Treaty’s purpose and scope ultimately established a pressure cooker mentality in Germany promulgating the Nazi rise to power and the eventual resumption of hostilities in World War II. Instead of encouraging peace, the Versailles Treaty only exacerbating issues and forced Germany to adjust the global paradigm in order to survive into the 1940s. Unfortunately this adjustment took the form of an invasion of Poland and the commencement of World War II.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | December 19, 2015

  2. Please excuse the typos. I am sitting in an airport typing on my phone.

    I believe the French failure in the onslaught of the German Blitzkrieg was combination of two movements within the France. The first movement that lead to the success in France by Germany came in the form a false belief that no country wanted war on the scale of that of WWI. This idea gave birth to the Maginot Line. This was France’s inexpensive way to defend themselves. This gave a false sense of security. France’s second failure came in their inability to embrace the evolution in military equipment. Although France lead in the evolution of the tank in WWI, they failed to continue that evolution. This lead to French leaders endorsing the Maginot Line. I cannot deny the fact that the French did have a limited amount tanks, however they did not conduct joint fire exercises to increase proficiency in deploying tanks on the battlefield. The combination of these two factors contributed greatly to the success of the German Military and there invasion of France.

    Comment by Van, CGSOC 15, 7A | December 20, 2015

  3. The success of the Germans can be attributed to both the ingenuity of German tactics and the failure of the French. The Germans effectively employed their mechanized force through Blitzkrieg doctrine to achieve operational surprise. The Germans could also better manage a higher tempo of operations with their system of mission command.

    In contrast, the French were preparing for the last war, with their concept of a “methodical battle” and the use of static defenses, like the Maginot Line. This made the French unprepared to deal with the German’s Blitzkrieg tactics. At that time, the French were also suffering from political turmoil and were a divided society and this further reduced their ability to defend against a strong German attack

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG19B | January 20, 2016

  4. It was a combination of the German’s ability to innovate and the French Army’s inability to innovate. The French remained rigid in doctrine and expected that the opposing forces would remain rigid as well. This left the French completely exposed and unprepared when facing an innovative force and the results were quick and drastic. The French were caught up in the general revulsion to war as were other countries and this hindered their ability to innovate and utilize new technologies.

    Comment by MAJ Pangallo | February 11, 2016

  5. I believe it was a little of both. The Germans were able to capitalize with their blitzkrieg doctrine and overwhelm the French. The French failed to innovate during the interwar years and concentrated on their southern defense. They made bad assumptions and thought the Germans would not come through the Ardennes. The French continued to build upon the Maginot line and in essence it was successful. But the Germans circumvented the defense by going around it through the north.

    Comment by James Stall | February 11, 2016

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