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Joseph Kaminski

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October 14, 2019

World War II: France vs Germany

September 1st, 1939 — World War II begins.

In 1938, all of Europe proclaimed that war was a crime against human nature. The countries of Europe were still very aware of the consequences of World War 1, known as The Great War. However, one man, and one party, decided to go against the entire continent. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party of Germany decided to tear up the Treaty of Versailles and redraw the maps themselves — through force. On August 23rd, 1939, German foreign administrators flew to Russia to sign pacts with the Soviets. The idea of a duel front war terrified Adolf Hitler at the time, but soon he would be dealing with one himself. 

On September 1st, 1939, sixty three German divisions and over 2,000 planes advance into Poland. The German’s armor make them entirely unstoppable. London and Paris are entirely furious at Hitler’s advancement. The ideas of the Treaty of Versailles and the laws set down after The Great War had been ignored. On September 3rd, 1939, war is declared against Germany — although the assemblies were not unanimous towards the idea of war at the time. The atmosphere wasn’t as enthusiastic as the first war during these assemblies. According to many, the people of Britain and France were concerned with what was happening before their eyes.

France goes into war — but she holds back as much as she can. The French government claim that they had been forced into war. Many people who volunteered to fight in the second war had also fought in the first, so they knew very well what could possibly happen. France, however, was not prepared for war. Although the government attempted to encourage and assure French men to “make history for the love of honor and liberty”, the full heart wasn’t in the war yet. French men didn’t really feel excited for fighting for what happened in Poland. But, if there was one thing the French soldiers had, it was confidence.

Hitler, meanwhile, crushes Poland. In six days, the German troops reach the boundaries of Warsaw. The capital of Poland resists for a week, despite the daily air strikes and massive destruction, but by October 1st, it is clear that everything is over for Poland. German troops enter Warsaw, and Hitler is triumphant in the first step of his war.

At this point, Poland no longer exists. Only 200 German soldiers were killed during the attacks.

The French army, by this point, became defensive — but only halfheartedly. This lack of encouragement and large amounts of overconfidence would be a lost chance to France’s success. Defenses soon spread across the French border, and the German attacks were awaited. The Maginot Line, an uninterrupted wall of defense from Switzerland to Luxembourg, soon went up. The walls were over three hundred miles long, but they could not be extended by the Belgian border due to King Leopold III’s will to keep neutrality.

Ironically, French generals were quoted as saying “If the Germans attack through Belgium, it doesn’t matter. We will corner them like rabbits.” in 1935.

Hitler, impressed with his success in Poland, decided to attack the west as soon as possible. Returning from Warsaw, he demanded that fifty divisions be sent back from Poland — the attack would continue on October 20th. Hitler’s generals knew this plan lacked preparations, and they spent over two weeks trying to change the fuhrer’s mind. Some German officers wanted a coup d’etat.

And on November 8th, while celebrating the anniversary of his 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. The Gestapo were sent to hunt down the officers who initiated the failed assassination. The officers were forced to abandon their plans to end the madness.

The Summer of 1939 ended, and people across the border began to think that the war would end before it even began. People started to come up with a new name for this “Second Great War.” For quite some time, people called it “The Phony War.” Moral continued to increase as this stalemate went on. Germany attempted psychological warfare — they began calling out, “French soldier, you are fighting for Britain!”

People of France began to get incredibly paranoid. Treasures from the Louvre were removed in fear, and the gas mask became a fashionable piece of clothing. Outdated and obsolete French planes flew over Germany to drop leaflets. The original idea was to inform Germans of the war — not to bomb them.  The Winter of 1939 was one of the coldest France had seen in a long time. The waiting continued. In Britain, the end of the year was greeted joyfully. Parties went on as if nothing was wrong.

In 1940 — French factories began making tanks. Three hundred tanks poured out of factories each month, yet the French government imported planes from America. French factories began creating modern aircraft eventually, manufacturing 350 in March 1940 and 500 in April.

Meanwhile in America, President Roosevelt wanted to enter the war. However, his country was divided. Celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy admired Adolf Hitler and isolationism. Joseph Kennedy’s son, JFK, however, preached for democracy.

In March 1940, however, France had a change in government. Propaganda changed it’s tone from “fight for liberty” to “we will win because we are stronger.” The French soldiers gained even more overconfidence. However, weaknesses in the French Army were easy to see through. The French had not kept pace in war strategies and ideas. They continued to use and accept strategic plans formulated from the first World War.

Eventually, Germany would accelerate their advance and take down Denmark in four hours. Germans, with advanced aircraft superiority, took control of Norway in 48 hours.

The British government soon realized that supremacy in the sea was nothing without supremacy in the air. The real war had finally begun; this was no longer a “Phony War.”

On Saturday, May 7th, 1940, Hitler sent eighty divisions to the west; three times more than what Germany had sent in 1914 during the first world war. Holland and Belgium, both neutral countries, were attacked. For the first time in history, enemies fell from the sky in parachutes. The mission given by Adolf Hitler had been accomplished.

By May 11th, armored land troops had met with the paratroops. The road was open, and the Dutch became desperate. The Queen of Holland fled to London as 2,500 buildings were burned to the ground. Belgium, on the other hand, resisted for 24 hours before explosives were involved in the attack. Germany was going to attack France through the neutral country of Belgium. The German military covered eighty miles within two days to reach their target.

France resisted, and the Germans were in fact halted for some time. However, superior air control won this battle for the Germans. By May 15th, the battle is over, and the French forces are broken. Germany is as close to total victory as it possibly could be — and this is merely one of the first steps in French territory.

The Second World War is in full swing.

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