Courtesy Reuters



WE know in fairly accurate detail the attitude of the French and the British Governments in the long period of waiting before war at last broke out again in Europe. We know that they did not really decide to defend themselves until eighteen months after Germany had uprooted the first frontier markers, until the balance of military power in Europe had been changed seriously to their disadvantage. But the activities of the French High Command in the decisive years between the summer of 1935 and the summer of 1939 have been left in obscurity. It had the supreme responsibility of evaluating, at each successive moment, the chances of military victory. The time has come to make an examination of its policy.

On March 7, 1936, the date when the German Reichswehr marched into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland, General Gamelin had been Commander-in-Chief of the French Army for fourteen months. On this occasion he gave evidence of caution. He did not refuse, as has been reported, to occupy the Saar. But he was unwilling, if he was expected to carry out that movement, to accept Premier Sarraut's suggestion that no more than the three most recent classes of the French trained reserves need be called up. He said that if any military action were taken, the French Government must be ready to carry it through to the limit; and that the Government therefore must be prepared, if necessary, to proceed to a general mobilization. The French military machine was rigid; no risks should be run of breaking it by setting certain parts of it in operation without the others. For the first time we learnt the inconveniences of a lack of elasticity -- a lack we were to pay for so heavily in 1940. Meanwhile, however, Gamelin also made plain that if the machine were used under proper conditions he had every confidence that it would prove unbeatable.

Early in September 1938, at the time of the Nuremberg Congress, General Gamelin showed his hand again.

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