There is still considerable controversy on the question of whether Gamelin could have ordered a SERIOUS offensive in the Saar in early September, 1939 with the operation having a decent chance of success. At the time, did everyone in France agree it should be halted, or did anyone at the top think it should continue?

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    Sorry. I was unaware of the rules. I am new here. But I could reword the question to read "Can you think of a sound excuse for Gamelin's ordering an "invasion" of Germany in Sept. 1939 with only 8 or 9 divisions, to proceed only FIVE MILES, at which point, the troops would head on home?
    – John Olsen
    Jun 15, 2022 at 21:44
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    You could ask "Why didn't he" issue such an order. There may be records of the rationale available to draw from for good objective answers. The only other option I can think of to make this on-topic would be to ask what historians say about about said alternate history possibility. I've rarely ever seen anyone pull that one off here, but theoretically it ought to work for a question, if indeed historians have speculated on the topic.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 15, 2022 at 22:14
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    I've changed it to ask if anyone at the time thought it was a mistake to call it off. There's always someone, but would be interesting to know who they were, how many they were, and what their reasoning was. There is also no hypothetical or normative element to that, so should be perfectly kosher.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 15, 2022 at 23:22
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    Voted to reopen. As currently posed there is no alt-history involved.
    – nvoigt
    Jun 16, 2022 at 5:37
  • French Wikipedia article on the Saar offensive says that General Giraud argued for pressing the Saar offensive, though there's no citation nor any mention of it in Giraud's own article, in French or English.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 26, 2022 at 10:42

1 Answer 1


As noted in this source:

However, the more serious problem was that the mobilisation was entirely indiscriminate. There was no effective legislation defining reserved occupations vital to the war effort and exempting those workers from being called up. As a result, there was an immediate dislocation in agricultural output and production from those industries vital to sustain France's war effort; it took months for these skilled technicians and workers to be identified and returned to their civilian roles. This meant that at a vital period of the military build-up, the French armed forces were short of promised new hardware and equipment, had insufficient ammunition and ordnance for many of their weapons and even faced shortages of basic equipment such as uniforms and boots. Hence, it can be seen that France was in no position to honour its agreement with Poland, i.e. that the French Army would start preparations for a major offensive within three days of general mobilisation.

In short, the French mobilization in September 1939 was in such disarray that it was not even in sufficient shape to be called a mess.

An earlier question on the length of time to fully mobilize national armed forces in WW2 covers some additional detail for other combatants.

  • This does not answer the question. The question is not whether the French army was in poor shape or even if an offensive could have succeeded. In any case it's a fallacy to suppose that the bigger, better army always wins. Sometimes the correct strategy is everything.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 26, 2022 at 10:02
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    I think that this is a valid answer. If the French army was in such poor shape that it couldn't continue the offensive then it matters little what the politicians argued for. Jun 26, 2022 at 10:20
  • The French army in 1939 was in much better shape than the Soviet army before its first offensive in winter 1941. If the question is irrelevant, the best thing to do is either edit it, or vote to close it, or ignore it; not answer whatever I think the question ought to be.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 26, 2022 at 11:24
  • Perhaps the issue should be "Could Gamelin have been able to mobilize sufficient forces into Germany in time to send them into Germany on 7-8 Sept 1939?" Which question begs "Assuming 'yes", would he have had the stones to do it?" Which begs "Assuming 'yes', could the units he sent have had a decent chance to break through the Seigfried Line and assault Berlin before German forces from Poland could stop them?"
    – John Olsen
    Jun 27, 2022 at 13:17

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