France

Full Name French Republic
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Entry into WW2 3 Sep 1939
Population in 1939 41,700,000
Military Deaths in WW2 212,000
Civilian Deaths in WW2 260,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 100,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

With 1.4 million people dead and countless acres of land lay in ruins at the end of World War I, France suffered dearly. When she eventually emerged victorious, she sought revenge on Germany after the eventual victory. In addition to placing an immense reparation on Germany, France also occupied the industrious Saarland, dictated Rhineland as a military-free buffer zone, and successfully argued for limiting German military in the post-WW1 era. What the French leaders, along with many contemporary leaders of other European nations, did not realize was that by placing Germany in such a shameful position, they were brewing for the next major conflict instead of ending the current one.

To prevent Germany from easily invading again, France established an elaborate system of defenses along the Rhine river christened the Maginot Line after Minister of Defense André Maginot. At the cost of 3 billion French Francs, the series of strong points, anti-tank obstacles, cement positions for machine gunners and grenadiers, heavy artillery positions, and other defense structures connected by tunnels and railroads made the eastern border "impenetrable". At least so the French believed. With such a strong defense, the French Army could easily hold any German invasion in the future, and use the line as a pivot for a counter offensive.

Politically, France made intricate moves in the diplomatic arena. By entering in mutual defense pacts with Poland and Czechoslovakia, the French leaders thought they had Germany surrounded.

The plans did not turn out so well for France. Czechoslovakia fell as European leaders, including those in Paris, appeased Adolf Hitler by doing nothing. When Germany invaded Poland, the French debated for days before enacting the mutual defense pact, but even then they failed to attack Germany when the Germany military was preoccupied in the east. The final test came in May 1940 when Germany finally turned her military might on France, and the Maginot Line failed. French military leaders failed to prepare for modern warfare involving fast moving armor and aircraft, while having the bulk of the French Army pinned down at the Maginot Line made effective reaction with the main Germany attack through Belgium impossible. On 24 Jun 1940, France surrendered. The Vichy-French government was formed and cooperated with the Germans until its end, fighting against Allied forces particularly early in the war in battles at Mers-el-Kébir and Dakar.

That was not to say that the French people as a whole collaborated with Nazi Germany, however. The small number of those fled out of the country formed Free French forces that eventually all came under the command of Charles de Gaulle, fighting in several major campaigns. Many remained in France, too, fought the Germans by forming cells of saboteurs that were collectively as the French Resistance.

The liberation of France began in Jun 1944 when the Allied cross-channel invasion of Normandy commenced. General Philippe Leclerc entered Paris on 25 Aug 1944, dramatically boosting the morale of Frenchmen in the resistance against the German occupation.

When the European War ended, France once again demanded a large reparation for lives lost, infrastructure damaged in battles, and industrial capacity pillaged by Nazi Germany.

Source: Wikipedia.

People

Albert, MarcelGamelin, MauriceMarquis, André
Auphan, GabrielGensoul, Marcel-BrunoMuselier, Émile
Barjot, PierreGiraud, HenriPétain, Philippe
Baudouin, PaulGodfroy, René-ÉmileRue, Joseph
Bloch, DeniseHenry-Haye, GastonWeygand, Maxime
Daladier, ÉdouardHuntziger, Charlesde Gaulle, Charles
Darlan, FrançoisKahn, Louis-Lazarede Laborde, Jean
Decoux, JeanKœnig, Pierrede Lattre de Tassigny, Jean
Dentz, HenriLaval, Pierre
Flohic, FrançoisLe Gloan, Pierre

Events Taken Place in France

The Treaty of Versailles28 Jun 1919
Churchill's Tour of the Maginot Line16 Aug 1939
Invasion of France and the Low Countries10 May 1940 - 22 Jun 1940
The French Resistance22 Jun 1940 - 28 Aug 1944
Bombing of France and the Low Countries1 Jul 1940 - 7 May 1945
Meeting at Hendaye23 Oct 1940
Raid on Saint-Nazaire28 Mar 1942
Attack on Dieppe18 Aug 1942 - 19 Aug 1942
Scuttling of the French Fleet27 Nov 1942
Normandy Campaign, Phase 16 Jun 1944 - 24 Jul 1944
Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945
Normandy Campaign, Phase 225 Jul 1944 - 22 Aug 1944
Brittany Campaign1 Aug 1944 - 11 May 1945
Invasion of Southern France15 Aug 1944 - 15 Sep 1944
Liberation of Paris25 Aug 1944
Battle of the Bulge16 Dec 1944 - 28 Jan 1945
Advance to the Rhine20 Jan 1945 - 25 Mar 1945
Paris Peace Conference29 Jul 1946 - 15 Oct 1946

Aircraft

130Bre.19F.220LeO 451MB.210
143D.500GL-812 HYMB.150MS.406
351/354D.520GL-832 HYMB.200Potez 630

Ships

AlgérieDuguay-TrouinGloireLorraineStrasbourg
BretagneDunkerqueJean BartMarseillaiseSuffren
BéarnDupleixJean de VienneMontcalmTourville
CasabiancaDuquesneJeanne d'ArcPrimauguetÉmile Bertin
ColbertFochLa GalissonnièreProvence
De GrasseGeorges LeyguesLa Motte-PicquetRichelieu

Vehicles

AMC 35 SAMR 33Char B1H35
AMC 35AMR 35FT-17R35

Weapons

155 mm GPF Field GunCanon de 75 CA modèle 1940 Schneider Anti-Aircraft GunHotchkiss 13.2 mm Machine Gun
25 mm Hotchkiss Anti-Aircraft GunCanon de 75 modèle 1897 Field GunLebel M1892 Handgun
Canon de 105 modèle 1930 Schneider Field GunCanon de 85 modèle 1927 Schneider Field GunMAS M1935A Handgun
Canon de 155 C modèle 1917 Schneider Field GunFM 24/29 Machine GunMAS M1935S Handgun

Territories, Possessions, and Nations Under the Influence of France

AlgeriaFrench MoroccoFrench West Africa
French Equatorial AfricaFrench SomalilandMadagascar
French IndochinaFrench Syria and LebanonTunisia

Facilities

Drancy Concentration CampPrison Camp
Maginot LineFortification
Merville Gun BatteryFortification
Toulon Military PortNaval Port

Photographs

Battleship Bretagne at Toulon, France, 1919Béarn in port at Toulon, France, 1936Émile Bertin at Toulon, France, Jan 1939German soldiers with a 7.5cm le.IG 18 infantry gun, Maginot Line, France, May 1940
See all 148 photographs of France in World War II

Maps

Map of Normandy assault routesGraphic chart of Allied advance in France, from Fiscal Years 1944-1945 Biennial Report of Army Chief from Staff General George Marshall to the US Secretary of War, Aug 1945






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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    29 Feb 2012 08:01:11 AM

    horible little information
  2. Mike Embrey says:
    22 Oct 2013 05:59:25 AM

    My Father PFC Carl Embrey of Patton,s 3rd was involved in a battle in Brette France. Unfortunately due to a fire in 1971 at the archive Headquarters all his and other Military service records were distroyed. Upon his death I discovered he was awarded the Silver Star Award for saving 2 Comrads under intense fire. I would love to know any info available and perhaps trace his steps. The Embreys adopted me in 45 from a Childrens Home in Illinois. Dad was a fantastic family man and wonderful Father, very modest, and rarely spoke of the war. I know very little. Any info would be appreciated. respectfully, Mike Embrey Glenwood IN 46133

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Battleship Bretagne at Toulon, France, 1919
See all 148 photographs of France in World War II



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"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?"

Winston Churchill, 1935