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The French Invasion of Germany

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Trivial incidents of wars are often more important than the unfolding chain of events. For example:

This raid on the night of May 11 1940, although in itself trivial, was an epoch-marking event since it was the first deliberate breach of the fundamental rule of civilised warfare that hostilities must only be waged against the enemy combatant forces.”

Even the better informed of us need reminding that the first conflict between France and Germany was not the Reich invasion of May 10, 1940 but France’s invasion of Germany eight-months earlier. This occurred on September 7, 1939. On this date the French launched 40 Divisions, with 4,700 artillery pieces and 2,400 tanks at Germany’s Western borders.

Map showing the positions of the German territory hold by the French troops during the Saar Offensive

For the French invaders the invasion should have been a walk in the park. The German defence forces could muster only 22 Divisions and a mere 100 military pieces.

9th September 1939: French soldiers of the 42th infantry division in the German village of Lauterbach

One of the reasons given for the French invasion was to draw the Germans away from the on-going Polish campaign. However, the French were so hapless that the German defence found it quite unnecessary to distract their comrades in Poland who were otherwise engaged.

This is where it really gets embarrassing: The French did penetrate German territory and sure enough French troops occupied German towns and villages. The resourceful Germans in the meantime pulled back to the Siegfried Line and left behind only unoccupied booby-trapped properties. It never occurred to the French to bring mine detectors.

After penetrating German territories the French formations came into artillery distance of the Siegfried Line. For the French things went from bad to worse. The German defensive wall built to deter French and British aggression was impregnable. Despite their superior firepower the French guns failed to penetrate the German defences.

Maurice Gamelin, French Commander in Chief in 1939

The French 155mm shells weren’t heavy enough to penetrate the concrete bunkers. Surely things would improve when the French then trundled up their 220mm and 280mm shells. Not really for these shells lacked the essential delayed fuses. Rather than penetrating the outside casements first before detonating the shells exploded on impact.

The British arrived to offer a helping hand on September 12 but by that time it was realised that Poland was a lost cause. One week later the Soviets invaded Poland and the French invasion of the Workers Reich spluttered out in ignominious retreat.

Mike Walsh is author of Witness to History

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2 replies »

  1. As someone who took history, I honestly don’t recall them ever bringing this up in our discussion about WWII or “those evil Germans” As always, I really enjoy the stories you publish on this site, Mr. Walsh. Wish the majority of our people knew the truth and knew they were being lied to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These facts are never revealed in court historian narratives of World War Two. Everything starts in the middle of a campaign with these propagandists. One of the worst was William Shirer with his God-Awful ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich.’ Another is William Manchester and there are hundreds if not thousands more. When a decent historian comes along, such as David Hoggan, (The Forced War, When Peaceful Revision Failed,’ and David Irving, ‘(Hitler’s War and Churchill’s War) they are demonized and painted as anything but truthful. Unfortunately, something has happened to Irving. I bought his Himmler Biography and though some of it is very good, he makes assumptions about mass murders in the Action Reinhardt camps which cannot be backed up through archival documents or forensically. A rather new revisionist historian on the scene today is John Wear, (Germany’s War) and he is very good.

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