The Forgotten Reason Hitler Seemed Unstoppable During Early World War II

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Warfare History Network

Security, Europe

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H26258 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

In the early years of World War II, Allied leadership was in a desperate struggle to match Nazi Germany’s political and military command.

In May and June of 1940 the attacking Germans had a supreme authority, Hitler, and an army that—if skeptical, even in places traitorous—was subdued and followed orders with astonishing competence. The Allied leadership who faced this tested and, in Poland, victorious combination of political leader and masterful military could not muster a winning one of their own.

Military Hopes Placed In Gamelin

They had, of course, four languages and four governments to deal with. They placed their military hopes in General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin (1872-1958), about whom his former subordinate, Charles de Gaulle, said, “This man, in whom intelligence, subtlety and self-control reached a very high level, had absolutely no doubt that, in the approaching battle, he was bound eventually to win.”

Gamelin served as Joffre’s Chief of Staff during the First Battle of the Marne. He then successively commanded in combat a brigade, a division, and a corps. In the 1920s he pacified the Druze tribes of the Middle East. In 1931 he was named Chief of Staff of the French Army, and four years later was appointed Commander-in-Chief-Designate (in the event of war) upon the retirement of General Maxime Weygand from that post.

During 1939-1940 Gamelin’s title was Chief of Staff of National Defense and C-in-C Land Forces. Under him was his C-in-C Northeast Front, General Joseph Georges (1875-1951), with whom Gamelin didn’t get along particularly well. In effect, Gamelin was the Generalissimo of an unwieldy structure that included neither the Air Force of General Joseph Vuillemin nor the Navy of Admiral Jean Darlan.

Allies Faced Muddy Political Structure

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