Courtesy Reuters

The Defeat of the French Air Force

IT is commonly thought that France's defeat was due exclusively to the weakness of her air force. This is an exaggeration. France was conquered more by Germany's armored divisions than by her aerial divisions. What is true is that the success of the motorized troops would have been impossible without the work of the German air force. The same thing happened in Poland. Thus the first lesson to be drawn from the war on the Continent is the importance of a close collaboration between the armies on land and the armies in the sky.

Nobody, until now, has seriously studied the reasons of the defeat of the French air force. They were many. But most of them flowed from the mistake of French military leaders in underrating the importance of aviation in modern warfare. Let us begin by examining the factors which made German aviation superior to French aviation.


Germany's superiority in the air derived less from quality than from quantity. All the evidence so far collected seems to establish the fact that every time French aviators met German aviators, one against one, or even one against two, the French were the victors.

This proves, first, that in morale and training the French crews were equal or superior to the German crews. Secondly, it establishes that French matériel was, on the whole, good. At the outbreak of the war we had two excellent types of pursuit and combat planes, the Morane 405 and the Potez 63. These machines became somewhat outclassed in the course of the winter by new German planes. But in the spring we began to receive the Dewoitine 520, the Bloch 17 and the V.G. 33, which, in turn, were somewhat superior to the German machines. Meanwhile, the American planes sold to France did a wonderful job. Our pilots appreciated them particularly because of their motors, which were superior to the French motors and gave a sense of great confidence.

Furthermore, Germany did not enjoy any

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