Cover image for The fall of France : the Nazi invasion of 1940
The fall of France : the Nazi invasion of 1940
Jackson, Julian, 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 274 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
'We are beaten' -- Uneasy Allies -- The politics of defeat -- The French people at war -- Causes and counterfactuals -- Consequences.
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D755.2 .J23 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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On 16 May 1940 an emergency meeting of the French High Command was called at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris. The Germans had broken through the French lines on the River Meuse at Sedan and other locations, only five days after launching their attack. Churchill, who had been contacted by PrimeMinister Reynaud the previous evening to be told that the French were beaten, had rushed to Paris. The mood on the French side was one of panic and despair: earlier in the day the French government had discussed the possibility of evacuating Paris. As the meeting proceeded, thick smoke rose from thegarden outside the window as officials feverishly burnt papers to prevent them falling into German hands. Churchill asked Gamelin, the French Commander in Chief, 'Where are your reserves?' 'There are none', replied Gamelin.This exciting new book by Julian Jackson, a leading historian of twentieth-century France, charts the breathtakingly rapid events that led to the defeat and surrender of one of the greatest bastions of the Western Allies, and thus to a dramatic new phase of the Second World War. Using eyewitnessaccounts, memoirs, and diaries to bring the story to life, Julian Jackson both recreates the intense atmosphere of the six weeks in May and June leading up to the Vichy regime, and unravels the historical evidence to produce a fresh answer to the perennial question of whether the fall of France wasinevitable.

Author Notes

Julian Jackson is Professor of French History at the University of Wales, Swansea.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his thorough monograph, University of Swansea historian Jackson (The Dark Years) begins with pre-war developments-French military innovations and battle strategy; Germany's plan to invade Belgium and France-before recounting the German breakthrough and defeat of British and French forces in May 1940. The second chapter opens with General Weygand taking command of the French army later that month, then provides background on France's position in Europe before the war, particularly its relations with Great Britain: the failure of attempted British-French-Soviet alliance in early 1939, and the so-called Phony War on the western front September 1939-April 1940. He tracks French attempts to halt the German onslaught and the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, leading to the June 1940 surrender, then cuts back to analyze French internal politics during the 1930s and its effect on French foreign policy. Another chapter gets devoted to the French people circa 1940, including pacifist society following World War I; soldiers' reactions to the German invasion and recollections of the mass exodus of WWI refugees from the advancing Germans are also covered. The final chapters provide a historiography of the campaign itself and the effects of the defeat on France, focusing on the collaborationist Vichy government that followed the defeat, the rise of De Gaulle's movement, and a treatment of how the defeat is viewed today. Designed for the academic rather than the casual reader, this presentation is careful and measured, and seems likely to find its way onto college history syllabi. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In May 1940, the German army punched through the Ardennes Forest and in less than a month's time swept aside two French armies and shoved the fumbling remnants of the British and French forces into the English Channel at Dunkirk. It was a staggering defeat for the Allied cause and gave impetus to Hitler's drive for world domination. Writers ever since have been trying to explain this monumental defeat. None does it better than Jackson (history, Univ. of Swansea). Through an exhaustive analysis of diaries, memoirs, public documents, and every secondary work on the subject, Jackson challenges conventional explanations for the French army's collapse. He contends that France's humiliating defeat was not the result of deep systemic factors, a theory favored by such authors as William Shirer. Instead, it was the boldness of a tactical strike that the Germans happened to aim at the weakest link in the Allied defenses. An extreme version of this theory was first offered in Ernest May's Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France, but Jackson offers a far more in-depth analysis. This book is a fitting introduction to Jackson's critically acclaimed France: The Dark Years 1940-44 and belongs in every academic and public library.-Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The fall of France in 1940 and the ramifications of this catastrophe form the subject of Jackson's powerful book. In 1940, the speed and totality of the collapse of the French armies puzzled contemporaries. Jackson (Univ. of Swansea) examines this military defeat and its causes and consequences for France and for the world. He argues that the fall of France was an event of global consequences, turning a limited European conflict into a global war. Mussolini was emboldened to declare war on France, and the Japanese moved into Indochina. Even Joseph Stalin realized the significance of the French defeat. Germany's victory destroyed not only a political system but also an alliance. Jackson argues that Germany's great advantage was not blitzkrieg but surprise; in particular, launching an attack through the Ardennes. France also suffered a massive failure of military intelligence, even though the nation was better prepared for war in 1940 than in 1914. Jackson makes excellent use of memoirs, diaries, and private papers in presenting a riveting account of the history of this world-shaking defeat. A necessary addition to every WW II collection. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/collections. K. Eubank emeritus, CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xii
List of Mapsp. xiv
Brief Chronologyp. xv
Abbreviationsp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Part I The Story
1. 'We Are Beaten'p. 9
16 May 1940: Churchill in Parisp. 9
The Mysterious General Gamelinp. 10
'Ready for War': Tanks and Gunsp. 12
The Air Forcep. 17
French Military Doctrine: 'Retired on Mount Sinai'?p. 21
Fighting in Belgium: The Dyle Planp. 25
The Matador's Cloakp. 30
The Allied Order of Battlep. 33
10-15 May: Into Belgiump. 37
10-12 May: Through the Ardennesp. 39
13 May: The Germans Cross the Meusep. 42
14-15 May: The Counter-attack Fails: The Tragic Fate of the Three DCRsp. 47
17-18 May: The Tortoise Headp. 55
19-20 May: 'Without Wishing to Intervene...': The End of Gamelinp. 58
2. Uneasy Alliesp. 60
21 May 1940: Weygand in Ypresp. 60
Looking for Allies: 1920-1938p. 62
Elusive Albion: Britain and France 1919-1939p. 66
The Alliance That Never Wasp. 71
Gamelin's Disappointments: Poland, Belgium, Britainp. 74
Britain and France in the Phoney Warp. 79
10-22 May: 'Allied to so Temperamental a Race'p. 85
22-25 May: The 'Weygand Plan'p. 88
The Belgian Capitulationp. 93
26 May-4 June: Operation Dynamop. 94
After Dunkirk: 'In Mourning For Us'p. 97
3. The Politics of Defeatp. 101
12 June 1940: Paul Reynaud at Cange (Loire)p. 101
The French Civil Warp. 106
'Rather Hitler than Blum?'p. 112
April 1938-September 1939: The Daladier Governmentp. 116
Daladier at Warp. 120
Reynaud v. Daladierp. 123
Reynaud at Warp. 125
25-28 May: Weygand's Proposalp. 129
29 May-9 June: Reynaud's Alternativep. 134
12-16 June: Reynaud v. Weygandp. 135
16 June: Reynaud's Resignationp. 138
4. The French People at Warp. 143
17 June 1940: Georges Friedmann in Niortp. 143
Remembering 1914p. 145
A Pacifist Nationp. 146
Going to War: 'Something between Resolution and Resignation'p. 151
Phoney War Bluesp. 152
Why Are We Fighting?p. 155
The French Army in 1940p. 158
Soldiers at War I: 'Confident and Full of Hope'p. 161
Soldiers at War II: 'The Germans Are at Bulson' (13 May)p. 163
Soldiers at War III: The 'Molecular Disintegration' of the 71DIp. 167
The Exodusp. 174
Soldiers at War IV: 'Sans esprit de recul' (5-10 June)p. 178
Part II Causes, Consequences, and Counterfactuals
5. Causes and Counterfactualsp. 185
July 1940: Marc Bloch in Gueretp. 185
Historians and the Defeatp. 188
Counterfactuals I: 1914p. 197
Counterfactuals II: Britain's Finest Hourp. 200
The Other Side of the Hill: Germanyp. 213
Explaining Defeat: 'Moving in a Kind of Fog'p. 219
Army and Societyp. 224
6. Consequencesp. 228
June 1940: Francois Mitterrand at Verdun: 'No Need to Say More'p. 228
Vichy: The Lessons of Defeatp. 232
'Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century'p. 235
Gaullism and 1940p. 239
National Renewal after 1945p. 243
1940 and Colonial Nostalgiap. 245
1940 Todayp. 247
Guide to Further Readingp. 250
Notesp. 257
Indexp. 265