Sunday, June 14, 2009

War technologies: the Blitzkrieg

If at the end of the First World War, France has a powerful air force, such is not the case in September 1939; inconsistencies in government policies, misunderstanding of aviation's strategic and tactical importance by the high command and insufficient production capacity of national aircraft manufacturers prevents France from rebuilding an air force capable of facing the challenges of the day (T. Vivier, La politique aéronautique militaire de la France, Janvier 1933 – Septembre 1939, Paris , L’Harmattan, 1997). The fighter plane most used by the French Air Force is the Morane-Saulnier 406, inferior to the German Messerschmitt 109. Despite their heroic efforts, French aviators are unable to effectively oppose bombing from the Luftwaffe's (German Air Force) attack aircraft, the drearily notorious Stukas. It is one of the factors that explains the success of the «lightning war» (Blitzkrieg) developed by Hitler's High Command : «The combination of Stuka dive bombers and Panzer [German tank) forces quickly secured victory» (D. Mondey (dir. publ.), J. Liron, J.W. Dennison, K. Munson et P. Pletschacher pour l’édition originale 1977, A. Hérubel (dir. publ.) et J.A. Rabet pour l’adaptation française, Encyclopédie de l’aviation, Compagnie internationale du livre, 1980, p. 151). This is what allowed invasion of Poland in a month and later of France in six weeks.

«Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, it was forbidden for Germany to maintain an air force, but she was entitled to a Ministry of Defence which featured a small air staff. German aircraft manufacturers designed a range of airliners and of training and liaison aircraft which later served as prototypes for bombers, fighters and assault planes. The national airline, the Lufthansa, provided flight training and spirit was maintained through air sports: gliding and motor flight. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he launched a massive rearmament starting with the Luftwaffe» (Ibid., p. 150).

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