by Robert Forczyk
Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2017. Pp. viii, 464. .
Illus., Gloss., appends., notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 1472824423
The Battle for France, After Dunkirk
A retired U.S. Army officer, Dr. Forczyk, the author of several works on World War II, has written a detailed operational and tactical study of the Battle of France, one which does justice to the events there during the weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation, which so dominates other accounts of the campaign of 1940.
In the first half of the book, Forczyk looks briefly at the development of the French military from 1918 through the outbreak of World War II, covers the “Phony War”, the German breakthrough on the Meuse and drive across France to bottle up the British and French northern armies against the coast, and the famous Dunkirk operation. This is well done, familiar ground though it is, which, given that his title – “Case Red” was the German plan for the second phase of the invasion of France – might have been covered in less detail, to give more attention to that latter phase. Only about half the book deals with the usually overlooked events that followed Dunkirk.
Forczyk opens with a discussion of Gamelin’s replacement as French generalissimo by Maxim Weygand, a brilliant staff officer who had never command troops. Weygand attempted to rearm the remaining French troops, and tried to form new units out of the many men who had escaped from Dunkirk, but resources were slim. His intention was to continue the fight, with the help of those British formations still in France and possible reinforcements. But the Anglo-French Alliance had become strained, as each side grew wary of the intentions of the other. Churchill wished to reinforce the British troops still in France, despite the strain on the nation's resources, but was overruled. Thus, the Allies had but 49 divisions against Germany’s 90.
Forczyk covers the events of the final three weeks of the campaign well, starting with the major defensive battles on the Oise-Aisne Canal (June 5-6) and the Somme (June 5-7), which proved unsuccessful. As the Germans advanced, French troops, many of them hastily organized into ad hoc units, often turned in outstanding tactical performances, inflicting serious defeats on some German units, but they could never recover the initiative.
As the Germans plunged into the heart of France, the country’s new Reynaud government wrestled with the notion of abandoning France and retiring to North Africa to continue the war from the Empire, but after Mussolini’s “Stab in the back” the government turned to Marshal Petain, who asked for an armistice, an action about which Forczyk raises serious questions. He concludes with a look at the initial phase of the German occupation of France.
This is a good account of the last days of the French Army during the last stage of the 1940 Campaign, though it could have been better.
Note: Case Red is also available in paperback, audio-, and e-editions.
Our Reviewer: Independent scholar Dan David is the author of The 1914 Campaign: August-October, 1914 and numerous reviews and articles. Formerly the manager of Sky Books International, in New York, he is a member of the Board of the New York Military Affairs Symposium, and chairman of the NYMAS Book Awards Committee. His most recent reviews include Monty's Men: The British Army and the Liberation of Europe, The Edwardian Army: Recruiting. Training. and Deploying the British Army, 1902-1914, The Indian Army on the Western Front, Gallipoli: Command Under Fire, The Russian Army in the Great War, Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918, Martial Bliss.: The Story of The Military Bookman, Sevastopol’s Wars: Crimea from Potemkin to Putin, and The Great War and the Middle East.