The Saar offensive (1939)

All aspects including lead-in to hostilities and results.

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Depth Charge
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The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Depth Charge » 2 months 1 week ago (Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:07 am)

I would like to discuss and unearth as much detail as possible about the French 'Saar Offensive' in September 1939. This was a planned invasion of Germany, months before the German invasion of France.

It appears that this has been airbrushed from conventional western history and if mentioned at all, is covered with sophism, with words such as 'offensive' (an appeal to a description of the tactical, rather than strategical). But this operation was comprised of 40+ divisions. To compare, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with 2 divisions.

This does not include probable supplementary forces such as Polish formations to the west (18+ divisions) and the creeping British Expeditionary Force (10+ divisions?).

The French crossed the German border with 30 out of their 40 divisions and entered a quagmire of minefields and mission creep. This was an invasion, by anyone's standards. And I wouldn't even call it a cancellation, rather a temporary retreat.

With that it mind, the German response is completely logical by today's 'western standards', i.e. regime change in a hostile state...



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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 1 week ago (Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:27 pm)

From Wikipedia:
The pre-emptive mobilization was started in France on 26 August and on 1 September, full mobilization was declared.

French mobilization suffered from an inherently out of date system, which greatly affected their ability to swiftly deploy their forces on the field.[4] The French command still believed in the tactics of World War I, which relied heavily on stationary artillery
Timeline, from tidbits from Wiki:

August 1939: Talks over Danzig break down between Germany and Poland
August 26: France mobilizes to invade Saarland (!)
August 31, evening: Himmler stages "false flag" provocation on Polish-German border.
September 1, pre-dawn: German assault on Poland begins.
September 1: France fully mobilizes to invade Saarland.
September 3: France declares war on Germany.
September 7: "Eleven French divisions, part of the Second Army Group, advance along a 32 km (20 mi) line near Saarbrücken, against weak German opposition." In the next days the French advance eight kilometers and "capture about 12 towns and villages."
September 8: First German armored unit reaches outskirts of Warsaw.
September 12: "[T]he Anglo French Supreme War Council gather[s] for the first time at Abbeville in France. It [is] decided that all offensive actions were to be halted immediately."
September 13: German forces begin assault on Lvov, Poland.
September 17: Soviet Union invades eastern Poland.
September 19: German forces have full control over western Poland; Warsaw is encircled; the Polish government has fled and ordered the Polish Army remnants to break contact and flee to Romania (around 15% of pre-war Polish Army troop strength, 150,000 men, escape Poland and fight on with France and Britain)
September 21: "General Maurice Gamelin order[s] French units to return to their starting positions on the Maginot Line."

There is something odd with this timeline, in that France mobilized to invade Saarland six days before the invasion of Poland... :? There are various possible way to interpret this...

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Depth Charge » 2 months 5 days ago (Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:15 am)

August 31, evening: Himmler stages "false flag" provocation on Polish-German border.


Of course, Gleiwitz was not a 'false flag'. Border crossing and firing on government buildings, other than Gleiwitz, by Polish commandos, has been confirmed. America and England have invaded other countries for less.

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 5 days ago (Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:09 pm)

Depth Charge wrote:
August 31, evening: Himmler stages "false flag" provocation on Polish-German border.


Of course, Gleiwitz was not a 'false flag'. Border crossing and firing on government buildings, other than Gleiwitz, by Polish commandos, has been confirmed. America and England have invaded other countries for less.

CODOH-Forum thread on the Gleiwitz Incident: viewtopic.php?t=7282

Carlos Porter says:
The "Gleiwitz radio station" was NEVER MENTIONED AT ANY TIME IN 1939. The claim, therefore, is that for six years, nobody knew what the whole war was about, until 1945, when somebody named "Alfred Naujocks" signed an "affidavit" at Nuremberg, and disappeared forever! He never appeared as a witness for cross-examination. It is obvious that this tale was invented to obfuscate or conceal the real causes of the war. Why fake a trivial incident if you're never going to mention it when you go to war? This is a typical example of Nuremberg "evidence".

I see no contradiction between Himmler (or whoever) staging an incident, amid real incidents, to help the path to war.

One way or another, the French mobilization for the Saar Offensive began several days before that, if the above timeline is accurate, which demands an explanation. Who was committed to war and when?

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Depth Charge » 2 months 5 days ago (Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:23 pm)

French preparations for war began well before even August 1939. British too. Their military buildup began years earlier for one express purpose. Poland was the naive fall guy, a role they seem keen to flirt with again as of late.

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 4 days ago (Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:25 pm)

Depth Charge wrote:French preparations for war began well before even August 1939. British too.

It might be pointed out, 'German too," and "Soviet too." The only major player not preparing years before August 1939 may be the USA.

It seems like what you are getting at in this thread may be a smaller-scale French version of the Suvorov thesis (claimed by top NS officials themselves, of course, at the postwar trials) that the Soviet Union was preparing a Communist Liberation campaign that was preempted by Barbarossa in June 1941.

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Kingfisher » 2 months 1 day ago (Tue Jul 25, 2017 3:14 pm)

It is not strange that France should have started mobilisation for an invasion of Germany in the final week of 1939, as a German attack on Poland began to appear inevitable, and no doubt the Poles were counting on such a move; they could hardly have thought they could hold off Germany on their own and France and Britain had given them a guarantee, that we now see to have been worthless.

What is puzzling is that this invasion was called off, given that most of the German army and air force were tied up on the Eastern front. These possibilities come to mind:
1. Uncertainty as to whether they had the strength in depth to follow through and to defeat Germany.
2. Uncertainty as to what final outcome they wanted or could reasonably hope to achieve assuming military success.
3. Hope that a phoney war stalemate would provoke regime change in Germany.
4. Did they have advance intelligence of the Soviet invasion of Poland and fear having to confront Germany and the Soviet Union combined?
5: Doubts about Poland's ability to tie down enough forces for long enough in the East.

Whatever their motivation, did they really believe they could fight Germany more successfully alone on a single front than in combination with Poland in a two front war?

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 2 months 6 hours ago (Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:16 am)

Kingfisher wrote:5: Doubts about Poland's ability to tie down enough forces for long enough in the East.

It seems likely that this is the case. I tried, above, in the Timeline post, to narratively weave the Saar Offensive and the Polish campaign (won, essentially, in 18 days). Only once the total defeat of Polish arms was evident did the French finally call off any forward action into Germany.

It also seems the French, frankly, did not "have their hearts in it" anyway. Were France's war aims, in September 1939 (1) clear, (2) inspiring in any way, to the French military itself (bottom to top)?

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Kingfisher » 2 months 18 minutes ago (Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:51 pm)

The word August was of course missing from my post before 1939. Sorry. I think it was clear what I meant though.

Thanks for your comments, Sannhet. I think you are right that France's war aims were unclear. Were Britain's any better? Regime change in Germany, but had they any idea how they planned to achieve it?

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Mortimer » 1 month 4 weeks ago (Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:04 pm)

It also seems the French, frankly, did not "have their hearts in it" anyway. Were France's war aims, in September 1939 (1) clear, (2) inspiring in any way, to the French military itself (bottom to top)?


Marcel Deat came up with the the slogan "Why Die for Danzig?" in a May 1939 article he wrote. Maybe more Frenchmen than was previously thought wondered why they were fighting in the first place ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Die_for_Danzig%3F

Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof in his book 1939 The War That Had Many Fathers makes the claim that the Anglo-French leadership asked Stalin to change sides after the invasion of Poland and go to war against Hitler. It is possible that after Stalin rejected this offer the French withdrew from the Saar.
https://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=7456

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 1 month 4 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:00 am)

Worth mentioning here: An argument against the idea that France's principal war aim was "offensive war into Germany to accomplish a regime change": the Maginot Line itself.

The Maginot Line, it turns out, is a pre-Hitler idea. After proposals in the 1920s and some 'experimenal' construction in 1928, the final approval (vote and appropriation of funds to build it) came in December 1929. Construction began in earnest by 1930 and continued through the 1930s. The idea and early construction phases were pre-Hitler, then. (See History of the Maginot Line wiki.)

By 1932, as a regime headed by Hitler seemed possible, the remaining commitment to building/maintaining the Maginot Line, at great cost, still represents thinking on the strategic defensive. In other words, as they say: Generals always prepare to fight the last war.

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Sannhet » 1 month 4 weeks ago (Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:39 am)

Kingfisher wrote:I think you are right that France's war aims were unclear.

A few interesting little notes on the wiki entry for Paul Reynaud (presumably no relation to Vincent Reynaud), the French head of government (Prime Minister) March 1940 to June 1940:

The French Right was ambivalent about the war in late 1939 and early 1940, feeling that the Soviets rather than Nazi Germany were the greater long-term threat.[1]

[Previous Prime Minister] Daladier [April 1938 to March 1940] regarded the war with Germany as the greater priority and so refused to send aid to the Finns, who were under attack from the USSR, then loosely allied to Germany, in the Winter War. News that the Finns had sued for peace in March 1940 prompted Flandin and Pierre Laval to hold secret sessions of the legislature that denounced Daladier's actions; the government fell on 19 March. The government named Reynaud Prime Minister of France two days later.

[...] [T]he Chamber of Deputies elected [Reynaud] premier by only a single vote [on March 21, 1940] with most of his own party abstaining; over half of the votes for Reynaud came from the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) party. With so much support from the left, and opposition from many parties on the right, Reynaud's government was especially unstable; many on the Right demanded that Reynaud attack not Germany, but the Soviet Union.[1]:524

So what was it like, the French domestic political situation in 1938, 1939?

Snapshot of election results:

French Election of May 1932 [Wiki]:
Left-wing bloc: 179 seats [29.5%]
Center-Left bloc: 175 seats [28.8%]
Center-Right bloc: 176 seats [29.0%]
Right-Wing bloc: 83 seats [13.7%]

French Election of May 1936 [Wiki]:
Left-wing bloc: 256 seats [42.0%] [!!]
Center-Left bloc: 130 seats [21.3%]
Center-Right bloc: 111 seats [18.2%]
Right-Wing bloc: 113 seats [18.5%]

The 1936 election is often said to be the turning point -- it produced a Jewish Prime Minister, Leon Blum, and Socialist ascendancy, and ideological confrontation with Germany (?). As you can see, the left-wing vote total increased from 29.5% to 42.0%. The largest party thereof was Blum's Socialist Party. The left-wing bloc included hardline Communists (the Communist Party constituted a substantial 18.6% of the Blum governing coalition's seats after 1936).

This domestic political situation in France meant that late 1930s confrontation with fascist Germany was presumably certain; it meant that a policy of provoking war against fascist Germany could be an option... (The next general election, scheduled for early May 1940, was not held due to war.)

Why did France turn to the left in 1936?

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Kingfisher » 1 month 3 weeks ago (Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:52 pm)

Have a look at the Wikipedia article on the Front Poulaire and the linked articles on the Cartel des Gauches and the riots of February 1934.

The Front Populaire resulted from a decision of the Comintern to cooperate with democratic socialist parties against the rise of fascism.

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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Kingfisher » 1 month 2 weeks ago (Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:26 pm)

Sannhet wrote:
Kingfisher wrote:5: Doubts about Poland's ability to tie down enough forces for long enough in the East.

It seems likely that this is the case. I tried, above, in the Timeline post, to narratively weave the Saar Offensive and the Polish campaign (won, essentially, in 18 days). Only once the total defeat of Polish arms was evident did the French finally call off any forward action into Germany.

It also seems the French, frankly, did not "have their hearts in it" anyway. Were France's war aims, in September 1939 (1) clear, (2) inspiring in any way, to the French military itself (bottom to top)?

This is covered pretty well on this site: https://m.warhistoryonline.com/featured ... -1939.html

I don't want to post a wall of text so here is just a brief extract:
The French did not want to violate the neutrality of Belgium by taking armed forces across its territory. As a result, they could only attack Germany along a limited front. This front had been defined 125 years earlier, during the peace process following the Napoleonic wars, when the rest of Europe was concerned with containing French aggression. It gave the Germans the advantage of the defensive high ground.

Still, the French had made a promise to Poland, and they lived up to it. On 7 September they invaded Saarland with a limited force, which was due to be followed by a full-scale invasion a few weeks later. Forty divisions were sent in, with 4,700 artillery and 2,400 tanks. Facing them were 22 divisions and less than 100 artillery pieces of the German 1st Army.

The French advanced five miles into Germany, taking a few towns and villages. The Germans had evacuated this territory, pulling back to the prepared defences of the Siegfried Line. They left behind minefields and booby-trapped houses to slow down and damage the advancing French. The French came unprepared, lacking mine detectors.

Part of the problem was the French mobilisation plan. They had been expecting to face an attack by Germany and were prepared for this. But despite their commitment to the Poles, they lacked an adequate plan for taking the war to Germany...

[snip]

...On 12 September, the British and French met. They already believed that Poland was a lost cause, and so decided to halt all operations while a long-term plan was developed. Advancing troops stopped short of assaulting the Siegfried Line. The Poles, who had not been consulted on the decision, were told that the full assault on the western front was delayed until 20 September.

On 17 September, the invasion of Poland by Russian forces ended any small hope that remained for the Poles. French forces withdrew from Saarland, leaving only a small holding force. The full assault was cancelled.


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Re: The Saar offensive (1939)

Postby Hektor » 1 month 1 week ago (Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:07 am)

Sannhet wrote:Worth mentioning here: An argument against the idea that France's principal war aim was "offensive war into Germany to accomplish a regime change": the Maginot Line itself.

The Maginot Line, it turns out, is a pre-Hitler idea. After proposals in the 1920s and some 'experimenal' construction in 1928, the final approval (vote and appropriation of funds to build it) came in December 1929. Construction began in earnest by 1930 and continued through the 1930s. The idea and early construction phases were pre-Hitler, then. (See History of the Maginot Line wiki.)

By 1932, as a regime headed by Hitler seemed possible, the remaining commitment to building/maintaining the Maginot Line, at great cost, still represents thinking on the strategic defensive. In other words, as they say: Generals always prepare to fight the last war.


Germany had an equivalent to the Maginot line: The Westwall / Siegfried-Linie.

The Blitzkrieg-strategy was however offensive in its very nature. The reasoning there is that a pure defensive strategy would ultimately only extend the war increasing losses and problems.


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