Learning From Nazi Victory In 1940: Foolhardy Can Work

War determines history. To learn from history, then, is to learn from war. War is full of surprises, because surprises are what makes attacks possible. A democracy can be defeated at a stupendous speed in a surprising attack, by a wound in the heel, like Achilles. The most enlightening defeat is that of France by Hitler in 1940. Because the factors in the French defeat show that it could happen to democracy again, just way worse. Lunatics like Xi and Putin could push the button: their minions won’t stop them.

In May 1940, in a completely unlikely fashion, the Nazi army defeated by surprise the French Republic. It would be a bit as if the Chinese dictatorship of Xi defeated by surprise the United States of America. It made little sense, when looking at the forces, and should not have happened. If any of several extraordinary technical factors and calamitous decisions had not be present, and they should not have been present, the Nazis would have suffered a crushing defeat.

One myth about World War Two is that German genius came up with an amazing plan, what later Churchill called a “sickle” strike. That’s true in a way, but the plan was adopted in despair, and worked, thanks to a number of miracles operating in concert with colossal incompetence of one man, general Gamelin, who had dictated to the french army for 9 years. 

Hitler was the one who approved this extremely foolhardy plan which could work only by miracle. And that plan came to be known as “Blitzkrieg”, lightning war… instead of its proper name, Bewegungskrieg (movement war, French: guerre de mouvement)… That particular attack of May 1940. instead of being called foolhardy, which it was, came to be considered a proof of genius. 

So later Hitler thought he was a genius who could make miracles… forgetting 50,000 of the most elite Nazi soldiers died in 6 weeks of rude combat in France… And that Gamelin was Hitler’s most precious collaborator. Hitler was no genius, and couldn’t make miracles: next time Hitler tried something like that, in Crete, the nearly entire Nazi paratrooper corps won, indeed, but also (nearly) all died.   

So Germany did NOT “see it coming a mile away” that the French would know how the Nazis would attack, and thus the Nazis divised a completely foolhardy plan to defeat the French army, which was more formidable than the Nazi army.

Instead  god operated a miracle. A plane with the Nazi plans crashed in Belgium! The officers on board tried to destroy the plans by burning them after the crash. But the plan burning was partly unsuccessful before they were taken prisoner. This Mechelen incident forced the OKH (German Army High Command) to revise their entire strategy now that they knew that the Allies knew their plan. That was too bad, because the initial plan, Fall Gelb, had indeed been fully anticipated by the French (and thus would have been crushed). 

So Hitler ordered to change the plan… and knowing they would otherwise lose, the Nazi general Von Manstein came up with a completely crazy plan: two-thirds of the German army and armor was to go through three mountain roads of Belgium and Luxembourg. It helped that the British Inspector of the Allied Forces ex-King Edward VIII sent a note to Hitler telling him where to strike (at Sedan). The note was kept by Albert Speer…Guderian, head of the Panzer at Sedan got nearly killed by a boar head which fell from the wall from the shock of a French bomb from a plane. He called the OKH and told it that they couldn’t get through, French defenses were too lethal to cross the Meuse river. Guderian was told to attack and breakthrough, no matter what. Guderain sent suicidal Nazi engineers  with exploding backpacks. Four top elite Nazi formations, including three armored divisions (Panzers), plus the entire Luftwaffe were facing one “crocodile” (wrinkled men) reserve French infantry B division… The 55th division, which had only one anti-aircraft battery (reminiscent of the very few anti-air systems which the democratic West had in 2022).

The crazy plan of getting the German army through the Ardennes worked through sheer luck, not believing some French and British pilots who saw the immense, 200 kilometers traffic jam, and possible betrayal of a few French generals, and, or, their amazing incompetence in denial of millennia of basic strategy… The French C in C sent the seven divisions of the French armored reserve to the Netherlands… By itself, those seven divisions had roughly the same power and speed as the entire Nazi armor. 

Nazi ardor should not be underestimated: the French command estimated that it would take the huge mechanized force of tanks, armored and reconnaissance vehicles a week to cross the Ardennes. But, without significant Belgian resistance… Belgium was “neutral” just before that!… it took the Nazi army just a day…

The fact that the Nazis had trained in war conquering Spain for three years helped them (radio in tanks, communications with planes, need for decisive speed). By the time France and Britain learned how modern war was fought, a week after the German breakthrough at Sedan, all the best French armies and the British expeditionary force had been surrounded and cut off from fuel and support.

Many other exceptional factors played a role in disservice of the cause of democracy in May-June 1940, including the facts the US refused to deliver its “guarantees” to the French Republic, and, instead, negotiated with the Nazis (little known fact). One goes away with the ill feeling that Washington didn’t mind if a few Jews and French got injured in this American experiment to let the Nazis rule Europe…

It is worth repeating this story.

The huge mistake the democracies made before 1940 was not to fight Hitler in 1936, when he invaded the West Bank of the Rhine and militarily invaded and attacked the Spanish Republic. Without the Nazi intervention, the fascist coup by part of the Spanish army would have failed, because the Spanish Navy did not betray the Republic.

If France had intervened militarily in 1936 and fought the Nazis, the French army would have learned a few tricks it needed to learn, and the French government would have had all the reasons if needed to fire the Chief of Staff Gamelin (who got to that position in 1931, so was entrenched)… which was correctly suspected of incompetence and Nazi sympathies… But  French Jewish PM Blum of 1936 was not going to fire him, notr attack the Nazis in Spain while Britain and the USA disapproved… etc…

Second best, an all-out French offensive in 1939 would have shown to French politicians that something was so wrong with the French command, that it needed to be replaced immediately (French politicians had been inclined to fire C in C Gamelin for several years already).



That mistake, of not fighting the genocidal tyrant early, is not repeated in Ukraine: the democracies have understood the danger, and stand united, whereas in 1939-1940, the USA stayed deliberately in a position which de facto supported the fascist regimes. For example US capitalists provided Japan with the oil it needed to pursue its genocide in China.

In the 1930s and in 1940-41, the US practiced “divide and rule” on the grandest scale, helping the fascists to defeat democracies, because those democracies were rivals and in the way of the USA. 

Some will object to this analysis, and tell me that I am confusing the US government and its revolving door of US capitalists accessing the lever of powers of said government…  Chinese analysts would understand perfectly wel what I mean: they use the effect themselves at this point in the hope of controlling the world, for example by having Chinese enterprises buying most of the large mines in Congo.  

In 2022, de facto, Ukraine has become part of NATO. The total defense and security assistance  provided to Ukraine by Western nations in the current year stands, on November 1, 2022 at EUR 41.3 billion, which is 86% of the military budget of the aggressor power, the Russian Federation.

By getting militarily involved, the West is learning to fight a modern war. Armageddonic threats from the nuclear dictator, reminiscent of those of Hitler, have been correctly ignored: one cannot let madmen decide the fate of humanity. Let them rage. The Russians have to understand as soon as possible that their tyrant will only bring them ruin… A notion, the self-destruction brought by tyrants, which crept forward too slowly with Hitler and Mussolini…

And one thing that the democracies are learning is that they are insufficiently defended.

Three Nazi Panzer divisions (plus the elite Gross Deutschland regiment, not shown, on the left flank of the 10th Panzer) converged on the 55th B Reserve French divisions to cross the Meuse river). The foolhardiness of the German nazis was made possible not just by the stupidity of the French C in C, but also Belgian neutrality, which prevented the building of the Maginot line through Belgium, thanks to US diplomatic intervention, and, then, in 1939-40, prevented the presence of the French army in the Belgian Ardennes… which, at the very least, would have acted as a trigger wire…

Attackers win by breaking the balanced state of things, thus by using surprise, most of the time. If one sees that a rattle snake is going to strike, one will avoid it, that’s why rattlers have rattles, and know how to use them… even though their brains are really very small. 

In his despair, Hitler tried something very foolhardy in 1940. In his arguably even greater despair, Putin may try something even more foolhardy in 2023, when he realizes that his frigid plan to freeze Europeans in general and Ukrainians most particularly, is not working. Thankfully, subsequent to my essay (which was sent to Biden), Biden alerted the world to Putin’s Armageddon solution, going nuclear big time, and by surprise. Since then, rumors and open critiques, even in Russian state media, have been preparing the information groundwork to think the previously unthinkable: not nuclear war, but the simpler solution of removing Putin…

In his despair, Hitler tried something very foolhardy in 1940, and it worked. But, after that Nazi foolhardiness didn’t work anymore (although it seemed to work in the first four months of Babarossa; after that Guderian observed that the Russians had learned Nazi Bewegungkrieg…) The Japanese high command, in its despair, running out of oil suddenly cut by the suddenly not friendly Americans, imitated Hitler’s foolhardines in December 1941, by “awakening the sleeping giant” (as Admiral Yamamoto put it)… just when the Nazis started to freeze in sight of the Kremlin’s golden roofs… So the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor, foolhardiness seemed to work, but within a few months, they found themselves defeated at the Coral Sea battle (which prevented the complete conquest of New Guinea and thus, Australia), and then crushed at Midway (where Japanese naval aviation went to rejoin the bottom of the sea). 

Foolhardiness works sometimes… But, in the nuclear age, it’s not a risk humanity should tolerate. However, here we are: Russian military chiefs discussed the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Another reason to do without desperate tyrants. It’s no accident that Western stories vilains are often called “desperados”. “Desperados” will do foolish things… By being foolish, they got desperate. By being foolish, they surprised some people and encountered some success. But one can’t fool all people all the time…

Patrice Ayme



6 Responses to “Learning From Nazi Victory In 1940: Foolhardy Can Work”

  1. D'Ambiallet Says:

    Not a lesson people like to learn. But it needs to be heard


  2. Chris Snuggs Says:

    Will have to read this again, so full and dense – and convincing. 1936, and the Nazi Rheinland militarization was a disastrous miscalculation, as was the failure to declare war on Assad when he used chemical weapons. Tyrants ONLY respect force.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Chris, I appreciate this, especially from you!
      It is indeed when Assad was allowed to survive from Obama’s disastrous, last second decison, as French pilots were already strapped in their bombers which enabled Assad’s survival and the rise of super Putin, the one who knew he could take the West head-on.
      On the French side was president Hollande, a sort of political gouda who shrank from all and any non PC decision. Hollande torpedoed the French nuclear industry, by announcing it would close down much of it, and reactors didn’t need maintanenace anymore (so he could give fortunes to illegal immigrants form the most destitute Africa…)

      …and his banker poodle Macron started to actively bury the French nuclear industry… before reversing himself a few month ago, as nuclear tyrant Putin started to prepare for war. Macron closed and dismantled two reactors, now sorely missing as France, always before an electcity importer, has become an electricity importer (from German coal electricity).

      Let’s notice that Britain has been remarkable in its efforts to support Ukraine, second only to Biden’s US. Supposedly left wing “Democrats”, showing their true infamy, have been abominable, writing a letter to Biden to stop weapons and surrender to Putin…


  3. Gmax Says:

    This is what Putin”s calculation was all along


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