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La description du livre

Les Grandes Batailles (coffret 5 DVD) / Jean-Louis Guillaud, Henri de Turenne et Daniel Costelle

En réponse à -2
-1De délégations de pouvoir en délégations de pouvoir au GQG de Serge Desbois

Le General Georges depressif? Je ne le pense pas. de Ralph de Butler le dimanche 24 octobre 2004 à 23h40

Bonsoir:
le General Georges n'etait pas a ma connaissance depressif.
J'attache un texte en Anglais de Geoffrey Bernard Regan qui donne une bonne idee de l'etat des lieux.
Il ya a en effet de quoi etre depressif...
"In his influential book Achtung-Panzer!, Guderian examined the successes and failures of Allied tank strategy in the First World War, concluding that the Allies had failed to attack in sufficient depth or support their breakthroughs with the use of mobile reserves. By failing to disrupt the enemy staff and reserves behind the front they left themselves open to counterattack and thus the breaks in the continuous front were sealed. Obviously if tanks were to be linked to horse-drawn vehicles for fuel and supplies, while their support infantry moved on foot, they were never likely to make effective, deep penetrations. Moreover, they must not be used in "penny packets" as had happened too often in the past-notably on the Somme in 1916-but in powerful concentrations supported by mobile firepower in the form of dive-bombing planes rather than artillery bombardment. All this was to form the basis of German blitzkrieg warfare and yet, incredibly, Guderian's book was translated into neither English nor French, nor even studied by Allied military staff. By 1938 Guderian was the commander of mobile troops in Germany, and by reducing the number of tanks in each division from 433 to 299 he was able to create the nine Panzer divisions that faced France in May 1940.

With hindsight it is easy to wonder how the French commanders in the late 1930s could have failed to foresee what German tactics would be in 1940. It is true that they were dominated by a doctrine that saw no strike function for tanks and aircraft, yet it would be wrong to suggest that no one in France was following developments in Germany. In February 1935, the Deuxiéme Bureau informed the French High Command of the existence of the first Panzer division in Germany and more or less what its function was expected to be. Paul Reynaud and his young protégé, Charles de Gaulle, who challenged existing French views on armored warfare in his book Vers L'Armée de Metier and was struck off the promotion list for that year as a result, encountered opposition from most French military thinkers. Gamelin told de Gaulle: "Our doctrine is correct. You cannot hope to achieve real breakthroughs with tanks. The tank is not independent enough. It has to go ahead, but then must return for fuel and supplies."

De Gaulle encountered opposition at the tactical as well as the political level. He found that he needed to counter the argument that there was danger for France in too great a concentration on mechanized forces. France was particularly dependent on oil imports, which, in wartime, could be cut back, while the French arms industry was, by the 1930s, only slowly recovering from a period of comparative neglect. Nor could he easily dismiss the significant developments in anti-tank guns. Gamelin and Daladier based their opposition to the tank on what they had seen of the Spanish Civil War, in that they said that tanks had failed. To Gamelin the defeat of Franco at Guadalajara, in that he had used large numbers of Italian armored vehicles, showed the supremacy of the anti-tank gun. In the future, he believed, tanks would be useless unless they were supported by artillery and would need to be scattered among old-style infantry corps. Unfortunately for France, Gamelin had reached entirely the wrong conclusion.

The development of French tanks reflected a failure to understand the independent role that the tank was to have in the German army. The cavalry origins of the Division Legere Mecanique dictated that French tanks should emphasize a scouting and reconnaissance role, while the medium tank designed by Estienne was intended to support a breakthrough by the infantry so that its speed was linked to the speed of an infantryman. The doctrine behind this development of mechanized forces owed little to de Gaulle or indeed to the British military philosophers, but to a belief in "mobile defense", in that tanks would be used to "plug the gaps" in the continuous front. As such, French doctrine was hopelessly out of touch with contemporary awareness of the tactical possibilities of armored warfare. In 1937 a new army instruction "Tactical Employment of Major Units" was issued, framed by General Georges and signed by Daladier, containing the astounding opinion that technical progress had not appreciably modified, in a tactical sense, the essential rules laid down in previous directives, namely that the infantry was entrusted with the principal duty in battle, protected by its own guns, to conquer ground, occupy it, organize and hold it. This was no more than a nostalgic glance back to the glorious sacrifice of 1916 and reflected a total failure to understand how far technology had transformed warfare. German preoccupation with building light and medium bombers was a sign, to anyone who wished to read it, that her air force was envisaged as an offensive one, designed to operate in conjunction with the army. The Allies, typically, overlooked the tactical significance of the Stuka dive-bomber as a ground support weapon and concentrated their attention on the threat posed by the Heinkel He-111 medium bomber which, it was feared, would devastate heavily-populated areas, causing an expected 1.8 million casualties in six months in London alone.

So concerned was the French High Command with its own strategical appreciation of the situation in 1940 that it gave little thought to what the Germans might be planning themselves. To Gamelin the existence of the Maginot Line cut down the German options, leaving them with no choice but to reenact the Schlieffen Plan of 1914, that the French would counter by advancing into Belgium to meet them. Gamelin refused to listen to air force general Armengaud, who returned from Poland with an alarming account of how German tactics worked in practice:

It would be mad not to draw an exact lesson from this pattern and not pay heed to this warning. The German system consists essentially of making a breach in the front with armor and aircraft, then to throw mechanized and motorized columns into the breach, to beat them down to right and left in order to keep on enlarging it, at the same time as armored detachments, guided, protected and reinforced by aircraft, advance in front of the supporting divisions....in such a way that the defence's maneuvrability . . . is reduced to impotence.

Armengaud warned Gamelin that he expected the Germans to strike the centre of the French front and fan out behind using aircraft and mechanized troops. To Gamelin, however, the answer was simple: "We are not Poles, it could not happen here." For his advice Armengaud was relegated to an administrative post, while all the inspector-general of tanks, General Keller, could say about the Polish experience was that it had changed nothing and that the role of the tank remained that of assisting the infantry.

The supreme irony of the fall of France was that the ultradefensive mentality of the Maginot Complex imposed on the French High Command a need to meet the German armies as far into Belgian territory as possible in order to save the sacred territory of France from a repeat of the dreadful attritional struggle of 1914 - 18. However, this necessitated a rapid, almost reckless, advance by the cream of the French army and the committal of much of its mobile reserve strength. It was not a static, passive French army that the Germans encountered but a force impelled by an urgency close to panic, whose morale was very brittle.

The Allied plan, "Instruction Number Eight," proposed that British and French forces should advance into Belgium to the Dyle Line, from Antwerp to the river Meuse, yet Gamelin, the commander-in-chief, wanted to e xtend this advance to Breda, almost twice as far from the French border as from the German. Georges, to whom Gamelin had entrusted the command of the northeastern sector, considered this unwise and, showing unerring prescience, commented:

The problem is dominated by the question of available forces . . . There is no doubt that our offensive maneuvre in Belgium and Holland should be conducted with the caution of not allowing orselves to commit the major part of our reserves in this part of the theater, in face of a German action that could be nothing more than a diversion. For example, in the event of an attack in force breaking out in the centre, on our front between the Meuse and Moselle, we could be deprived of the necessary means for a counterattack.

Gamelin was undeterred and, on March 20, 1940, issued a new directive that involved the implementation of the Dyle Plan, with the addition of the Breda Variant, and this was agreed to by both the French and British governments. Instead of committing only ten French divisions with the BEF, Gamelin now proposed to use thirty French divisions, including two of the three new armored divisions, five of the seven motorized divisions and all three light mechanized divisions. The cream of the French army was going to be used in Belgium, with Giraud's 7th Army, originally planned to form part of Georges's mobile reserve, to be on the extreme left of the French front, nearest the sea. Far from being dominated by a purely "defensive mentality" the French army was going to move at full speed into a trap that could have and should have been avoided.

The weakest elements in the French front, Corap's 9th Army and Huntziger's 2nd Army, would be left to hold the front along the Meuse, from where the river runs through the Ardennes, south of Namur, to Sedan and then to the Maginot Line. The removal of the 7th Army from the reserve destroyed France's capacity to launch an effective counterattack if the front was pierced at any point. Moreover, Gamelin's use of thirty divisions to back up the troops in the Maginot Line was the height of folly, for the battle would be lost before any of these troops could be effectively used. The entire French front would be only as strong as its weakest point and it was pitifully weak in the center, where Armengaud had warned that the Germans might well strike.

Along a hundred miles of the Ardennes, the line was held by just for light cavalry divisions, some still equipped with horses, and ten mediocre infantry divisions, behind whom there were no reserves at all. Facing them, across the Meuse, was Rundstedt with forty-five infantry and ten Panzer armored divisions. On the condition of Corap's 9th Army, General Brooke wrote:

I can still see those troops now. Seldom have I seen anything more slovenly and badly turned out. Men unshaven, horses ungroomed, clothes and saddlery that did not fit, vehicles dirty, and complete lack of pride in themselves or their units. What shook me most, however, was the look in the men's faces, disgruntled and insubordinate looks and, although ordered to give "Eyes Left," hardly a man bothered to do so. After the ceremony was over Corap invited me to visit some of his defenses in the Forest de St.Michel. There we found a half-constructed and very poor anti-tank ditch with no defences to cover it. By way of conversation I said that I supposed he would cover this ditch with the fire from anti-tank pillboxes. This question received the reply: "Ah bah! on va les faire plus tard-allons, on va dejeuner."

Hitler had already summed up the French army for himself:

Firstly I place a low value on the French army's will to fight. Every army is a mirror of its people. The French people think only of peace and good living, and they are torn apart in Parliamentary strife. Accordingly, the army, however brave and well-trained its officer corps may be, does not show the combat determination expected of it. After the first setbacks, it will swiftly crack up . . . .

What is so surprising is that Gamelin refused to see what everyone else could see so clearly, that the center of the French line, around Sedan, was shockingly weak. In March 1940, after a parliamentary inspection of the front, Deputy Pierre Taittinger told Gamelin that in the Sedan sector France risked disaster and added ominously, "These are sinister battlefields for our arms." Gamelin's only response was to reinforce the area around Givet with a single extra battalion and to begin the construction of a line of maison fortes, built of masonry with a concrete ceiling and quite incapable of resisting Stuka bombing or heavy shells.

In any case, as the Germans could see, less than half were completed by May 10; and those were lacking steel doors or armored shields for the gun embrasures and were equipped with sandbags as an alternative. At Sedan there were no concrete installations for command posts or artillery and when work was begun on these in December 1939 the cold weather prevented the pouring of concrete, as well as wrecking ten miles of slit trenches, that the 71st division had to remake.

To prevent the outflanking of the Maginot Line at Longwy, Huntziger had placed his strongest divisions on the right with his weaker ones on the left where they linked up with Corap's weak divisions at Sedan. This was an unfortunate mistake because it provided a soft centre to the French line, consisting of three 'B' divisions at Sedan, the 55th, 71st and 53rd, of whom Grandsard
commented, "Nonchalance was general; it was accompanied by the feeling that France could not be beaten, that Germany would be beaten without battle...the men are flabby and heavy . . . the men are older, the training is mediocre." The 55th had only twenty regular officers out of four hundred and fifty, while the 71st, from Paris, was of very poor quality, ill-disciplined and feebly led by the ailing General Baudet. On May 10, over seven thousand of its men were missing through illness or on leave. While the defenders along the Meuse lacked modern AA guns and anti-tank weapons, the best equipment was in Belgium with the 1st and 7th armies. Too much weight was being attached by Gamelin to the impenetrability of the Ardennes to protect this obvious weak point, that is difficult to understand in a commander whose belief in the continuous front was sacrosanct.

Having spent so much money on the building of the Maginot Line, with the consequent cutbacks in other areas of military spending, France had committed herself to a lengthy war of attrition designed to blunt the offensive strength of the German army. To leave the line at Sedan so weakly protected was therefore the height of incompetence, equivalent to the householder fitting safety locks on all his windows but leaving the front door open all night.

It was not as if the Ardennes had proved impenetrable in the past. British historian, Alistair Horne, has pointed out that between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries the Ardennes had been penetrated on at least ten occasions by invasion forces while, astonishingly, during the 1938 French military maneuvers an attack by General Pretelat exactly paralleled the German attack of May 1940. Using seven divisions, including for motorized and two armored, he broke through the forests and completely overran the defenders. The results were so shocking that it was decided to suppress them in order not to damage morale. The complacent Gamelin merely observed that it could never happen in a real war because reserves would have been available to parry the blow. The British Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Ironside, added his weight to a growing body of opinion that believed that the Germans might try to attack through the Ardennes, but Gamelin refused to be convinced.

By 1940 aerial reconnaissance was playing an increasingly important part in military intelligence and the Germans had used it to observe the weaknesses of the Meuse defenses. Gamelin, on the other hand, had made no effort to detect the massive concentrations of German armor in the Ardennes. He had built up a scenario in his own mind and was unwilling to accept any unpalatable information that might challenge his decision to concentrate his forces in Belgium. The French military intelligence, the Deuxiéme Bureau, was progressively building up a picture of German intentions that was quite different from that of Gamelin. From the end of March they had monitored a growing interest on the part of German intelligence in road conditions along the Sedan-Abbeville axis, that could only presage heavy military commitment to that area.

Moreover, French intelligence had managed to locate all the German Panzer divisions and the three motorized divisions, and all indications pointed to the Ardennes as their target. Any reader of Guderian's book, Achtung-Panzer! would have realised the strong possibility that, with Guderian in charge of armored forces, a concentration on a weak point-like that at Sedan-was a virtual certainty. From Swiss sorces the French learned of the construction of eight military bridges across the Rhine between Bonn and Bingen, again indicating that the spearhead of the German attack would not be intended either in the south against the Maginot Line or in the north against Belgium. The French military attaché in Berne even informed the French commanders that he had strong evidence to suggest a German strike at Sedan, beginning some time between May 8 and 10. However, with all this accumulation of evidence suggesting Sedan, Gamelin refused to alter his view that the main German strike would come in Belgium.

As the heavy German columns moved toward the French border on May 10 they presented a perfect target for air attack. Admittedly, the reassuring presence of the Luftwaffe was overhead but such dense concentrations of armored vehicles-Guderian's advanced units alone had ten thousand-without room to maneuver on the narrow r oads would provide easy victims for Allied bombers. General von Kleist's column was so long that when its van had reached the Meuse its rear had scarcely crossed the Rhine. The Ardennes provided the French with ideal country for delaying the German advance, with many gorges and small villages that could have provided cover for determined troops to fight rearguard actions. Yet little of the sort was attempted, nor were the Germans much troubled from the air.

Through administrative muddles the whole of Group d'Assaut 1/54 failed to come into action during May 10 and 11, while the mass of Allied air strength was used in the north to support Giraud at Breda, leaving only thirty-seven planes in support of the 2nd and 9th armies. Even then the British and French pilots committed to the Ardennes were ordered to avoid bombing in built-up areas, that placed a burden on pilots already heavily outnumbered by several to one. The Germans could hardly believe their luck.

By the morning of May 11 General Georges was coming to realize that the Germans were carrying out a strike in the area of Sedan, so he ordered up the 2nd and 3rd armored divisions, 3rd motorized and the 14th, 36th and 87th infantry divisions to cover the threatened sector. However, this was not 1918 and the French were to be denied the time they needed to assemble their reserves. Meanwhile, the Allied air effort continued to be concentrated in the north, leaving Huntziger entirely without air support until May 24.

The French commanders might have been "forged in the fires of Verdun" in 1916 but for some their military education had ended there. At sixty-two, Corap was frankly out of his depth in an age of armored warfare and rapid deployment and could not appreciate how fast the German tank commanders could think and move. His time schedules were those of an earlier war and he still believed that the Germans would not attempt a crossing of the Meuse until they had brought up their heavy guns to support their tanks. All of this should take between four and six days. The devastating effect of the Stuka dive-bombers acting in support of the motorized divisions was something new to him, even though reports from Poland had been widely available of their effect on the morale of troops.

Nevertheless, Georges shared his view that matters would develop slowly "by reason of the poor rail and road communications." In contrast to the pedestrian pace of the French, the German armor had been instructed by von Kleist, "not to rest or relax; to move forward night and day, looking neither left nor right, always on the alert; the group must exploit its initial surprise and the enemy's confusion; take him everywhere unawares and have only one aim in mind: to get through."

By the evening of May 12, Guderian's troops had reached the Meuse and taken part of Sedan. It was on Huntziger's 2nd Army that the greatest blow would fall, particularly on the B divisions at Sedan, that were deficient in anti-tank guns, possessing no more than eight to each mile of front, and having quite inadequate blockhouses. In addition, by an amazing oversight, the 2nd Army had been equipped with fewer anti-tank mines than even those divisions sheltering behind the Maginot Line, that were unlikely to encounter German tanks at all. This oversight assumes greater significance when one considers the position of the 2nd Army as the hinge of the entire French front, which, should it be broken, might allow the British and French forces to the north to be cut off and encircled. The planning blunders of the French were now becoming apparent. The Ardennes had certainly not proved impenetrable, nor had it taken the Germans nine days to reach the Meuse; three had been enough"
Cordialement,
Ralph

*** / ***

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1 Santé du général Georges de Serge Desbois 07 août 2005 07h57
1 1/54 de Chantal 18 févr. 2008 21h26
2 Les Sacrifiés de Bertrand H 18 févr. 2008 21h58

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