Char B1 bis Tank

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D5CAV
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Char B1 bis Tank

Postby D5CAV » Thu Jun 09, 2016 5:51 am

I've always wondered how the Germans rolled over the French so rapidly when the French Char B1 bis tank (the predominant and latest Mark of tank in the French Army) seemed pretty good compared to the Panzer IIIs and IVs that the Germans had early in the war. The Char B1 bis had 60mm of frontal armor, a 75mm gun and could go 25 kph.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Char_B1

As Patton said, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."

Captain Pierre Billotte was one dog that had plenty of fight in him when he took on a German Panzer company with one tank (his tank) in the little French town of Stonne on May 16, 1940.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Billotte

His kill count:
2 Panzer IVs
11 Panzer IIIs
2 anti-tank guns

This was while taking 140 hits on his tank, none of which penetrated his armor, which was about twice as thick as the armor on a Panzer III.

One German officer who managed to survive from beginning to end in WW2 was suitably impressed from being on the receiving end of Captain Billotte. He said, "There are three battles that I can never forget: Stonne, Stalingrad and Monte Cassino."

Luckily for the Germans Captain Billotte didn't have a lot of brothers.

Maybe his mother was German.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby MiddleAgedKen » Thu Jun 09, 2016 11:00 pm

French tanks had the reputation of being short-legged (not much range), and were deployed in "penny packets," as it were.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby toad » Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:19 am

I remember reading somewhere that the Germans had a lot more radios to co-ordinate tank movement. The French had flares, signal flags, and finger pointing.
Also Stalin's Pets in the Comintern had pretty well infiltrated the French Military. Of Course Hitler "betrayed" Stalin and invaded Russia after he had France and Poland. Socialist betray each other, it's their nature.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby PawPaw » Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:23 am

I've always wondered how the Germans rolled over the French so rapidly when the French Char B1 bis tank (the predominant and latest Mark of tank in the French Army) seemed pretty good compared to the Panzer IIIs and IVs that the Germans had early in the war. The Char B1 bis had 60mm of frontal armor, a 75mm gun and could go 25 kph.

Maneuver. By and large, the French were still tied to a doctrine of fixed defenses.

It really is that simple. Tactics trumps doctrine, and fixed defenses are a testament to the folly of the military mind. Basically, the Germans got inside the French OODA loop.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Jered » Fri Jun 10, 2016 1:05 am

PawPaw wrote:
I've always wondered how the Germans rolled over the French so rapidly when the French Char B1 bis tank (the predominant and latest Mark of tank in the French Army) seemed pretty good compared to the Panzer IIIs and IVs that the Germans had early in the war. The Char B1 bis had 60mm of frontal armor, a 75mm gun and could go 25 kph.

Maneuver. By and large, the French were still tied to a doctrine of fixed defenses.

It really is that simple. Tactics trumps doctrine, and fixed defenses are a testament to the folly of the military mind. Basically, the Germans got inside the French OODA loop.


If I can expand...

1) The French expected to fight World War 1 again. I don't think that they expected Germany to violate Belgium's neutrality again, though.

2) The French did not effectively concentrate their armored units. They deployed their tanks in relatively small units in order to support the infantry. They did not concentrate their armor into large relatively mobile striking forces as the Germans did. If my memory serves me correctly, the Germans pulled most or all of the motor transport from the rest of their army in order to make several motorized divisions. The rest was horse-drawn.

3) The Germans also had radios in every tank. The French did not, which meant that, if one uses the illustration of a body, the Germans could literally think faster than the French and more quickly adapt to changing circumstances. The Germans also had relatively close coordination between their various service branches.

Strict, centralized control by the core and the
army, with little room for initiative of junior
commanders

I found this paper. That sentence shows that the French army discouraged initiative



Contrast that with Truppenfuehrung:
(9)[...] Independence of action within acceptable boundaries is the key to great success.
(10) [...] The emptiness of the battlefield requires soldiers who can think and act independently, who can make calculated, decisive, and daring use of every situation, and who understand that victory depends on each individual.
(27) Great success requires boldness and daring, but good judgement must take precedence.
(37)[...]The commander must allow his subordinates freedom of action, so long as it does not affect his overall intent.[...]
(75) Orders may only be valid as long as they relate to the situation and conditions[...]


Those are verbatim quotes from the German manual for unit command during World War 2. The German Army, by contrast, tried to move initiative as low as possible in the chain of command.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Greg » Fri Jun 10, 2016 1:53 am

German tanks also had enormously better crew arrangements.

3 man turret > 1 man turret. (Iirc the French had relatively huge numbers of tanks, but most of them were lighter vehicles with one man turrets.)

If you're fighting inside a town or in other terrain where the enemy is very channeled in how he can get at you, with thick enough (frontal) armor you can last forever.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Jericho941 » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:58 am

It's really interesting that basically only the US and Germany (and to some degree the Brits) got the "radios are pretty great for tanks" memo.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Greg » Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:13 pm

Jericho941 wrote:It's really interesting that basically only the US and Germany (and to some degree the Brits) got the "radios are pretty great for tanks" memo.


Everybody else was too poor, didn't have good enough radios, or both. The Germans sucked up the expense because they'd worked out in advance that it was worth it- their doctrine demanded it. We were just ridiculously rich.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby randy » Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:48 pm

Greg wrote:
Jericho941 wrote:It's really interesting that basically only the US and Germany (and to some degree the Brits) got the "radios are pretty great for tanks" memo.


Everybody else was too poor, didn't have good enough radios, or both. The Germans sucked up the expense because they'd worked out in advance that it was worth it- their doctrine demanded it. We were just ridiculously rich.


Interesting side note (which I think I mentioned here before). When the Germans were developing their radio communications during the 20's and 30's, they chose what is now called the 10 Meter band (around 28MHz) for optimum performance of range for Panzer formations without going too far. Thing is, they developed those radios during a dip in the solar sunspot cycle.

In 1942 and 43, American ham radio operators and shortwave listeners started picking up German transmissions on the 10 Meter band. Turns out they were tactical plain speech comms from the Afrika Korps. The sunspot cycle was on the upswing and what had been medium range comms now reached across the Atlantic. It took a bit of convincing to get official notice, but eventually operators in the US were copying the traffic of German units and passing it to Allied forces in North Africa.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Langenator » Sat Jun 11, 2016 2:43 am

Jered wrote:
PawPaw wrote:
I've always wondered how the Germans rolled over the French so rapidly when the French Char B1 bis tank (the predominant and latest Mark of tank in the French Army) seemed pretty good compared to the Panzer IIIs and IVs that the Germans had early in the war. The Char B1 bis had 60mm of frontal armor, a 75mm gun and could go 25 kph.

Maneuver. By and large, the French were still tied to a doctrine of fixed defenses.

It really is that simple. Tactics trumps doctrine, and fixed defenses are a testament to the folly of the military mind. Basically, the Germans got inside the French OODA loop.


If I can expand...

1) The French expected to fight World War 1 again. I don't think that they expected Germany to violate Belgium's neutrality again, though.


The French expectation of a repeat of WWI actually extended to the operational-strategic level. They DID expect the German army to come through Belgium again - basically, the Son of Schlieffen. (And in fairness, that was the original plan submitted by the German General Staff.) To counter that, they sent the bulk of their mobile forces north, into Belgium, to block the expected deep flanking maneuver by the German right wing.

But the attacks across the Belgian frontier - including the celebrated glider attack at Eben Emael - were, more or less, a feint. Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), the brainchild of future Field Marshall Erich von Manstien, brought the Schwerpunkt armored spearheads erupting out of the Ardennes and drove to the Channel coast, isolating the French and British forces in Belgium and northern France from the rest of France. So, not only were the French organization, tactics, and command and control (and equipment for same) inferior to the Germans', but the French army had to turn around 180 and fight back the way they had come, with the Germans attacking into Belgium coming from the other direction, AND largely cut off from their base of support.

That's not to say the French didn't fight - they took over 200,000 casualties, including 85,000 dead.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Cobar » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:19 am

I was under the impression that politically the French were already in bed with the NAZIs and were not all that interested in actually defeating the Germans.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Mike OTDP » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:55 pm

Cobar wrote:I was under the impression that politically the French were already in bed with the NAZIs and were not all that interested in actually defeating the Germans.

No. The French may not have fought with good strategy, but they didn't lack courage or will.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby randy » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:06 pm

Mike OTDP wrote:No. The French may not have fought with good strategy, but they didn't lack courage or will.


Despite all the (funny IMHO) jokes out there, the problem with the French military has never been at the individual or small unit level. It's been in the senior military and political leadership.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Cobar » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:29 pm

That is what I meant, not the troops out there fighting, but the politicians and political brass that were already lining up for their place in the Vichy government.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby BDK » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:47 pm

It does seem like they might have been bought and paid for - similar to the Austrian government, I think.

The Hapsburgs were pushed out, and shortly thereafter the replacements rolled over for the NAZIs - the Hapsburg supporters and the Hapsburgs carried on a fairly serious resistance campaign.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Langenator » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:32 pm

randy wrote:
Mike OTDP wrote:No. The French may not have fought with good strategy, but they didn't lack courage or will.


Despite all the (funny IMHO) jokes out there, the problem with the French military has never been at the individual or small unit level. It's been in the senior military and political leadership.


Even the Maginot Line actually worked, after a fashion - after all, it was formidable enough that the Germans didn't even try to attack it. The problem for the French was that their strategic plan lacked the flexibility to deal with the German attacking somewhere else (somewhere else that wasn't Belgium.)

Ironically, the German breakthrough in 1940 centered on Sedan - the same place as the battle that doomed France in 1870.

The big French problem, in 1914 and 1940, was not that they failed to learn from the last war, it was that they learned the wrong lessons. After 1871, they decided that attack was the way to go, and suffered massive losses from German machineguns and artillery when they tried to attack into Alsace, Lorraine, and the Ardennes. (That France tried to attack Germany, and failed utterly, while the German right wing swung through Belgium is a largely forgotten fact of WWI.) After WWI, they adopted a firepower-centric strategy centered on prepared defenses, and were unprepared for a war of mobility and maneuver.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Cobar » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:02 pm

Always preparing for the last war.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Mike OTDP » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:35 am

It's worth remembering that the First World War was fought with a tremendous dissonance between strategic and tactical mobility. Troops could be moved up and down the lines by rail at high speed, but once they got off the train, thew slogged through the mud on foot. Toss in a trench system anchored on the Swiss Alps and the English Channel, and you had a damn near impregnable defensive position. The smart move would have been to reinforce the Russians.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Vonz90 » Sun Jun 12, 2016 4:45 am

Cobar wrote:That is what I meant, not the troops out there fighting, but the politicians and political brass that were already lining up for their place in the Vichy government.


Without the benefit of hindsight, the Vichy government did not look too bad, at least at first. The peace with Germany was not too bad considering the situation they found themselves in and they mostly expected to have a seat at the table for piece talks with the British soon. I don't think anyone was expecting the arc things followed and if Hitler didn't have a hard on for invading Russia they probably would have been right.

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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby D5CAV » Wed Jun 15, 2016 6:39 pm

Vonz90 wrote:Without the benefit of hindsight, the Vichy government did not look too bad, at least at first. The peace with Germany was not too bad considering the situation they found themselves in and they mostly expected to have a seat at the table for piece talks with the British soon. I don't think anyone was expecting the arc things followed and if Hitler didn't have a hard on for invading Russia they probably would have been right.

This is a bit of a diversion from the original topic, but you are right.

Contrary to their treatment of Russians, the German Army in France was better behaved than the US Army in Germany in the 1980s. Their example of occupying the Channel Islands indicates they would have treated the UK about the same. Basically, they met with the Chief of Police and told him to let them know if there was any trouble, and could he kindly point them to the nearest chocolate shop.

However, the main strategy for AH all along was to defeat the Soviet Union. As I stated elsewhere, until his erstwhile allies, the Japanese, bombed Pearl Harbor, AH thought that Britain and the US were his natural allies in the defeat of the Soviet Union.

Actually, AH considered dropping his alliance with the Japanese after that bone-headed move, but his deal with the Japanese was he would declare war on the US if they would open a SIberian front on the Soviet Union. However, the Japanese had their egos badly bruised by a young Colonel Zhukov (later Marshall Zhukov) in a Manchurian campaign in the early 1930s, so they conveniently forgot about their side of the bargain.

AH's vision for Europe can pretty much be summed up as NATO (including France), the EU (perhaps with slightly more influence by Germany), and a non-communist, emasculated Russia.

Honestly, if AH was alive today, he'd be right there with BHO, spanking the British for "Brexit", and trying to keep Russia from getting too uppity.
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Re: Char B1 bis Tank

Postby Johnnyreb » Sun Jun 26, 2016 5:59 pm

Before Guderian wrote his book about the Blitzkrieg, Charles DeGaulle wrote a book about mechanized warfare. Only a few hundred copies were sold in France, who totally ignored the notion that their motorized pillboxes might be more useful if they moved faster than 3 MPH. The Germans, if I recall right, bought 5 or 6 thousand copies of DeGaulle's book.

And then Guderian published his version.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the British armor pioneers were having to fight the army establishment every step of the way. So they resorted to publishing their work in newspapers and magazines and being scathing in editorials about their opposition. And given how the British had their battalions/regiments that were one's permanent home unit and how promotions worked. The people they annoyed in the 30s saw to it that none of the British armor pioneers commanded an armored division in the war.


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