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?


January 30, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. While the German doctrine, integrated with emerging technology played an important role in the German’s swift defeat of the French, the French national culture of “defense” played a larger role in the German victory. After WWI, the French military and political culture reflected a national sentiment that abhorred offensive tactics and doctrine. Offensive doctrines led to aggressive foreign policies that invited the mas-slaughter and human wreckage of WWI. Consequently, despite having the most resources available during the interwar period, the French chose to invest heavily in “defensive” doctrine and capabilities that aligned with national anti-war sentiments. Out of these investments came the Maginot Line- a state of the art and incredibly expensive network of defensive fortresses aimed to buffet and repel a German invasion.

    However, the French’s singular and myopic focus on the defense enabled the aggressive and free-flowing German tactics (guided by Auftragstaktik) to easily roll over the French’s defensive investments and out maneuver their forces. Therefore, while the Germans deserve credit for integrating technology and doctrine to improve WWI tactics, the French more than did their part by neglecting offensive military tactics

    Comment by Scott Harr | January 31, 2017

  2. I agree with Scott, forming an offensive that is designed specifically to defeat France works extremely well when you understand what is necessary to defeat France. Combine this with the fact that France, being wary of a German attack, focused on defensive operations and you end up with the perfect disaster that was the swift victory of Germany in the beginning of WWII. However, it cannot be overlooked that the combination of technology and doctrine was a huge factor in Germany’s success. Ultimately, I would say that Germany was able to exploit the weaknesses of France in their swift victory due to the fact that their army did exactly what it was designed to do.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | January 31, 2017

  3. Conversely, I would like to give a little more credit to the German doctrine. With the limitations the treaty of Versailles placed on Germany they had to focus on doctrine as a way to move forward into the next form of war. While the French focused on defensive tactics that were used in WWI the Germans were using the new technology that came out of WWI (tanks, airplanes) to develop new and unique ways to conduct warfare. Once the Germans stopped following the restrictions and building up their military they had a solid base of doctrine to build on. This was the reason they beat the French.

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | January 31, 2017

  4. The German military invasion of France was successful because of several reasons. From my perspective, The new blitzkrieg doctrine was the main reason that enabled the Germans to accomplish what they had been unable to achieve in four years of World War I. The new German military doctrine surprised the French and made them lose this war very fast. However, the French internal political disunity, inability to exercise military command and its poor understanding of new technologies were also another reason that made it easier for the German to win. The French system concentrated on defense and did not think about the offense. Thier decrease for the military budget gave a great advantage for the Germans forces which enabled them to rapidly win. The Germans won this battles because of their new blitzkrieg doctrine because it was new and it surprised French. In addition, it was proper for the Germans capabilities but it failed in Russia because it was already known and it was not proper for the size of the Germans forces in comparing with Russia size.

    Comment by mohamed ibrahim | February 9, 2017

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