Many times I heard that in 1940 France had more tanks than Germany and that French tanks were better than German ones. Is it indeed so? What about airplanes?

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    Wikipedia have articles on the subject, see: Tanks in World War II and Air warfare of World War II, although the information is not specifically limited to 1940. – Semaphore Mar 26 '15 at 19:13
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    The answer boils down to superior German tactics and strategy, as well as, a lack of proper French response from their high command. As an aside, the Armée de l'Air and RAF were inferior to the LuftWaffe in terms of how modern their aircraft were. – BOB Mar 26 '15 at 19:17
  • Technical superiority of tanks and aircraft is a secondary factor. In 1944 Germany has technically superior tanks and aircraft but lost the war. – Alex Mar 27 '15 at 2:51
  • @Alex They had technical inferiority in supplies in 1944, as well as, manpower shortages, as well as, equipment shortages, as well as, experience deficiencies, as well as, training deficiencies. These factors weren't the case in 1940, or if so in a much more limited fashion. – BOB Mar 27 '15 at 13:48
  • @BOB: Yes. My point was only that technical superiority in tanks and aircraft is not so important, compared with these and other factors. – Alex Mar 28 '15 at 1:55

The wikipedia article on the Battle for France should answer most of your questions.

Due to restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, budget constraints and other factors the early German tanks were really bad. They really were no more than mobile, armored machine guns. I saw one early German newsreel showing tiny "tanks" getting pulled across a field by horses; it was pretty funny.

The German aircraft, however, were significantly better and their pilots were much better. This was because aircraft had a higher development priority in Germany than tanks.


When it comes to tank numbers, and even many models - absolutely the French had superiority.

However, the problem was primarily doctrinal. Where the Germans concentrated their armour in large motorised formations, designed to strike the enemies centre of gravity, the French dispersed their armour at the battalion level, so it could never really achieve the kind of critical mass that the Germans did.

Another consideration is that the German armour doctrine included speed as a major consideration. French tanks were heavier and consequently slower. This is pretty much in line with the French expectation of fighting a defensive war along the Maginot line.

The German doctrine was an evolution of the stormtrooper tactics used in the 1918 offensive. Fast, tactical level attacks on many points to overwhelm the enemies communications network, with a major armoured thrust against the enemy's centre of gravity (The Schwerpunkt).

In terms of models, in 1940, really only the Panzer IV was superior to the French tanks - at least in an all round sense. It wasn't heavy as some French models (Char B1). Many of the earlier German Panzers were often little more than armoured cars on tracks.

Whilst the wikipedia page is good, I recall that reading quite a good analysis of the tank production and tank models in 2194 Days of War - which I will quote as my source. However the other commenters are right in that the 1940 campaign is an excellent source of information (and probably the most meticulously kept page on all of wikipedia).

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    An additional doctrinal superiority of German tanks was the greater number of men in the turret, three instead of two. With the roles of Loader and Commander separated, German tanks were able to both react situationally and fire more quickly and more accurately than comparable Allied and Russian tanks. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 27 '15 at 15:33
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    This would have been my answer as well. The Germans developed a brand new tactic of concentrating their armor into special mobile units, where even the supporting infantry had mechanized transport so it could keep up. Then they could exploit any breaks in the front quickly and get deep behind enemy units to cut their supply lines. Most other armies just spread their tanks out amongst their normal units. – T.E.D. Mar 27 '15 at 18:03
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    The Germans also made a point to have all tanks equipped with radios. The French did not have this, so it was harder for them to react. Another facet was the short fuel range of French tanks. They had to retire to be refuelled, and they could not use gas from automobile service stations like the Germans could. – Oldcat Mar 27 '15 at 23:27
  • It's worth noting in 1940 French viewed combined arms in both tanks and aircraft as a subordinate to the infantry advance. Alternatively the Germans used dive bombers (e.g the famous Stuka), mechanised infantry and armour as 'ad hoc solutions to tactical problems'. However this is not to say that the French Army did not consider reforms along the lines of the German Panzer Division - both Weygand and de Gaulle visualised similar concepts to Guderian I think the keyword here is "flexibility" or "adaptability". globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/accp/is7032/… – Anaryl Mar 30 '15 at 4:49

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