Figures vary, but from 152 to 331 French and British tanks were claimed as destroyed by Luftwaffe flak. Indeed, according to French sources, only 420 modern fighters and 31 heavy bombers were serviceable when the Germans struck in May. Thus GC I/5 flew seven patrols on May 17 involving 45 Curtiss H75 Hawks, only one of which encountered German aircraft, and on June 12 seven patrols by 21 Hawks resulted in the destruction of a Henschel Hs-126 observation plane whose rear gunner caused so much damage to two of the three attacking Hawks that they had to make forced landings. I’m proud of you.” That sort of thing did not impress senior British officers who had to deal with him. In the opinion of Pierre Cot, who had been the French aviation minister in 1933–34 and 1936–38, “Armée de l’air command bears the shame of having lost the battle without having fought it.” That judgment is probably too harsh. French ground crewmen bomb up an American-supplied Martin 167 Maryland. Thomas, Martin (1997). General François d’Astier de la Vigerie, commanding aviation in the northern army zone, later claimed that “almost every evening” during the May-June campaign he had to telephone the northern zone army commanders to remind them of the availability of air support and to ask, “Have you got a job for them?” The invariable response: “Thanks very much but we haven’t any work for them.”, General Lucien Girier, placed on May 26 in command of a combined fighter/assault bomber force to assist the Seventh Army, never received a single request for aid even when his responsibility was extended to cover the Tenth Army area in June. The twin-engine aircraft, with … Before the war, the French bought several U.S. Army Air Force aircraft, and Vichy squadrons now flew the Cur- tiss Hawk 75A (an export version of the P-36 single-seat fighter), the Martin M&y/and twin-engine light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, and the Douglas DB-7, the export version of Jean François Champollion, French founder of Egyptology who deciphered the Rosetta Stone. Queen Silvia of Sweden (born Silvia Renate Sommerlath); spouse of King Carl XVI Gustaf. Journals. As more fighter units were belatedly brought into action, the tempo of French fighter activity increased. Paul Hornung, pro football player; member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia. The official French strategy for deployment of tactical air units, issued on March 31, 1937, spoke grandly of the Armée de l’air’s ability to choose whether to attack the enemy air force, army or navy, and whether to do so either with or without the cooperation of other arms, and referred to attacks on enemy centers of production and communication, and on military units on the move, including armored formations. Broke with tradition by marrying Michiko Shoda, the first non-aristocrat to join the royal family. Units re-equipping with American Martin 167 and Douglas DB-7 bombers could not be deployed in action until May 22 and 31, respectively, due to delays in fitting their armament. French air power lay in ruins following the end of World War 2 … The French Air Force failed in 1940, not so much because it was stuck in the past, but because it had been seduced by radical and unproven theories on the way air power would develop in the future. It is generally supposed that the Germans also had a major advantage in anti-aircraft guns. With a long border and 16 hours of summer daylight flying time, one or two patrols a day were unlikely to encounter the Germans. Nevertheless, the MS.406 was by no means ineffective in combat. Though brand-new Breguet Br.693 assault bombers were sent into action within hours of being fitted with their bomb-release gear, most French bomber units were held back in expectation of a drawn-out campaign. The most numerous fighter type on the French side was the Morane-Saulnier MS.406. The Belgians and Dutch had an additional 100 or so Bofors and the French 1,152 25mm guns. Facing the U.S. Navy task force headed for Morocco, consisting of the carriers Ranger, Sangamon, Santee and Suwannee, were, in part, Vichy squadrons based at Marrakech, Meknès, Agadir, Casablanca and Rabat, which between them could muster some 86 fighters and 78 bombers. Northern region (RAN: Région Aérienne Nord. Up to 300 bombers sortied, destroying 16 French aircraft on the ground (plus 17 shot down by escorting Me-109Es), damaging several railway stations that were quickly repaired but causing a major fire in the Citroën automobile plant. In other words the Allies had about the same number of 20–25mm anti-aircraft guns, at least four times as many in the 37–40mm class and nearly four times as many heavy anti-aircraft guns as the Germans. List of French Air and Space Force bases Active bases Metropolitan France. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. This French Air Force NCO Dirk is similar to the example shown in the Berger book on page 108, except it is the NCO version, having a blue grip instead of a white grip. The French took active interest in developing the air force from 1909 and had the first World War I fighter pilots. The last major battles against the Allied forces, in which the Vichy French air force took part, took place during Operation Torch, launched on 8 November 1942 as the Allied invasion of North Africa. Bob Kahn, computer scientist and engineer; co-developed the Transmission Control Protocol that web browsers use to connect to servers on the World Wide Web. A number of attacking aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft fire, and during the afternoon of May 10 German bombers that were supposed to strike the airfield at Dijon-Longvic mistakenly dropped their bombloads on Freiburg in southwest Germany 140 miles away, killing 57 civilians and injuring 101 more. The "Military Factory" name and logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images). The figures given by Alistair Horne in his book To Lose a Battle: France 1940 are often quoted: 2,600 88mm heavy anti-aircraft guns and 6,700 37mm and 20mm light automatics. Nevertheless, some units were evidently carrying out more than one mission a day while others were flying none. Why Did the French Air Force Fail in 1940? Van Haute's PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE FRENCH AIR FORCE, Paul Camelio's ARMEE DE L'AIR and Barry Ketley's FRENCH ACES OF WORLD WAR 2 provide some Vichy Air Force material but a … NOTE: Free France was adviced by the ministry of the air force, Martial Valin that every Air Group should have at a french province name, thus, all of the french squadron has a french province name. DURING the Battle of France in May-June 1940, French Army commanders complained that German aircraft attacked their troops without interference by the French Air Force. On May 17, for example, 30 63.11s were made available from training schools for use by combat units, and though the crews were stationed nearby, the order for these aircraft to be handed over still had not been issued a month later. In any case, the French army, in the person of General Maurice Gamelin, overall commander of the French armed forces, insisted, “There is no such thing as air battle, only battle on land.” General Joseph Vuillemin, head of the Armée de l’air, probably agreed with him and toyed only briefly with a scheme to detach aviation units from a zonal organization linked to the army’s defensive zones and to establish a unified strategic command structure. At the same time the Luftwaffe attributed about 14 percent of its own aircraft losses to Allied anti-aircraft gunners, who also seemed quite adept at shooting down aircraft on their own side: French anti-aircraft guns allegedly downed five British planes on the first day of the German attack alone. English Historical Review. The military participation of the French ground armies, navies and air forces on the Allied side in each theater of World War II (1939–1945) before, during and after the Battle of France, even though it was on various degrees, secured France's acknowledgment as a World War II victor and allowed its evasion from the US-planned AMGOT; even though after World War II USAF bases were maintained in France until … Later on, as German spearheads moved deeper into France and Belgium, the Luftwaffe flak units proved better at getting in the German army’s way than at being in the right place to defend it, and showed themselves to be as keen to shoot at things on the ground as in the air. During the war the air force, consisting of approximately 145,000 personnel, had been attached to American, British, and Soviet flying units. Trying to find the Luftwaffe in the air by patrol­ling was almost useless. The French, Belgian and Dutch also had between them more than 50 heavy anti-aircraft guns and nearly 800 75mm anti-aircraft guns. Units equipped with the new Lioré et Olivier LeO.451 still had problems with its overly complex hydraulic, electrical and pneumatic systems, exacerbated by a shortage of spares. Watching For Germany Air Force Further reading: The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West, by Karl-Heinz Frieser with John T. Greenwood. 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(Popperfoto via Getty Images). Vichy Air Force at War: The French Air Force that Fought the Allies in World War II. The German attack on France, Belgium and the Netherlands in May 1940 has gone down as the classic example of Blitzkrieg (lightning war). As with the armored formations in the ground fighting, overall numbers were evidently less important than the use made of what was available. Allied ground units on the move suffered in most cases little disruption from enemy bombing (“noisy but comparatively inaccurate,” as one British officer noted) despite the Germans’ superior numbers. During the first few days, in the expectation of a very rapid conquest of the Netherlands, the Luftwaffe concentrated 180 Me-109Es and 62 Me-110Cs against 29 Fokker D.XXIs and 23 Fokker G.Is of the Dutch army aviation brigade. The Luftwaffe’s biggest single raid in the May-June campaign was on aerodromes, railway stations and factories in the Paris region on June 3. Meanwhile, the leading French ace, Edmond Marin la Meslée, though also officially credited with 16 victories, had actually shot down only four on his own, the other 12 being shared with colleagues but, in accordance with French practice dating to World War I, counted each as a single victory for each of the participants. Continue Scrolling to See Additional Entries. The French air force’s subordination to the army command was actually cited by British critics of what they regarded as the excessive autonomy of the RAF, but in practice nobody had quite figured out what that subordination was to consist of. The destroyed aircraft were quickly replaced from reserves, as were the few fighters lost by various units. There are a total of [ 101 ] WW2 French Aircraft (1939-1945)entries in the Military Factory. And the delay in deploying imported American bombers was due in part to holdups in the delivery of machine guns, bomb racks, radios and intercom gear from French factories. Air bases in Metropolitan France. During the first week of their offensive the Ger­mans assembled impressive concentrations of flak at the Meuse River crossings at Maastricht and west of Sedan, but that was because they knew where to expect Allied aerial activity. I already have such an abundance of artillery I can hardly deploy it.” Of course after the battle the army generals were not slow to attribute the completeness of their defeat to the “inferiority of our aviation.”, A Luftwaffe officer examines a crash-landed RAF Hawker Hurricane. IT is commonly thought that France's defeat was due exclusively to the weakness of her air force. By early June a flood of replacement aircraft was reaching French frontline units, though most of them were lacking vital equipment and could not be flown. Emperor Akihito, Emperor of Japan. Air Forces, Allies, Armed Forces, Armies, WW2 / October 10, 2020 October 11, 2020 / Leave a Comment / By Kretaner / 1939, france / 2 minutes of reading Strength, organization, equipment and divisions of the French Army and aircraft of the l’Army de l’Air in September 1939. The German attack on France, Belgium and the Netherlands in May 1940 has gone down as the classic example of Blitzkrieg (lightning war). Where the French were weak was in combat aircraft, though the deficiency in numbers was perhaps less significant than sometimes claimed. Heavy bombing of French positions at the Meuse River crossing in the Sedan sector on May 13 gave little practical assistance to German troops forcing the river crossing, and at Dinant, farther north, Erwin Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division crossed without any help from the Luftwaffe. Barely a month after the French capitulation, the Luftwaffe, emboldened by its largely illusory success against weaker opponents, embarked on a new air superiority campaign over southern England, and this time the weaker side prevailed. Both GC I/5 and GC II/5 reported instances of group attacks on single unescorted Do-215 bombers that were able to escape when the French fighters used up all their ammunition. The French government had however begun a restructuring program that could have proved worthwhile. The most numerous French fighter of the short war, the MS.406 was by then regarded as obsolescent. Girier had to send out attack missions on his own responsibility and on the basis of intelligence supplied only by personnel under his direct command. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft. French bombardment groups were even more behind in introducing new types than were the fighter groups. On June 4, when the Tenth Army launched an attack on the German bridgehead at Abbeville, Astier de la Vigerie proposed a preliminary aerial bombardment at dawn, but the army staff had already scheduled the attack for 4 a.m. and refused to make the slight postponement a dawn attack would have required. It was regarded as obsolescent and three groupes de chasse (fighter groups) were in the process of changing over to newer types during the May-June campaign. A.D. Harvey taught at the Universities of Cambridge, Salerno, La Réunion and Leipzig before becoming a full-time writer. This feature originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Aviation History. What is true is that the success of the motorized troops would have been impossible without the work of the German air force. That it was not employed in greater numbers (suffering even more losses) was due to the astonishing confusion that prevailed in the French air force administration. (Mary Evans Picture Library). 112 … These MS.406s sport the national emblem of their Polish refugee pilots in March 1940. non-commissioned officers. Robert Williame of GC I/2 was flying one when he shot down three Me-109Es on the morning of June 8 and followed up by shooting down three Junkers Ju-87B dive bombers that afternoon. For their western campaign the Germans had available about 1,000 Messerschmitt Me-109E single-engine and 250 Me-110C twin-engine fighters, compared to a total of fewer than 800 modern French, British, Belgian and Dutch single-engine and 120 Dutch and (mainly) French twin-engine fighters. "After Mers-el-Kébir: The Armed Neutrality of the Vichy French Navy, 1940–43". They officially ceased to hold this title from 1943, with the merger of Free French Forces with General Giraud's anti-German forces, but were still commonly known by the title until the liberation of France in 1944, when they became the regular French Air Army. When Astier de la Vigerie raised the matter with Tenth Army commander General Robert Altmayer, he responded: “What shall I do with all this aviation? Thanks for watching our video, please don't forget like, subscribe and share! Aug 24, 2019 - Explore Owen Latini's board "French Air force WW2" on Pinterest. Yet many histories cite the poor performance of the French air force, the Armée de l’air, as a major reason for France’s defeat. It is doubtful, however, whether the Ger­mans obtained much benefit from their numerical superiority in bombers. Confusion in administrative arrangements was paralleled by lack of clear thinking with regard to how best to employ air power. Sous-officiers - sub-officers, i.e. All the Allied fighters were slower than the Me-109E, but they were also more maneuverable. The major Allied effort to destroy the Meuse crossings west of Sedan on May 14 consisted of 109 sorties by the British Royal Air Force and 29 by Armée de l’air bombers. Jan 28, 2019 - Explore Epic's board "Free French Airforce WW2", followed by 168 people on Pinterest. The 63.11 nevertheless achieved the distinction of being shot down in greater numbers than any other French type. The jammed-up German advance had been reported in good time by the crew of an Amiot 143 night bomber, but the French were unable to respond on short notice. France was conquered more by Germany's armored divisions than by her aerial divisions. The French could either ignore the Luftwaffe altogether and concentrate on direct intervention in the ground fighting, or find some other means of engaging the Germans above the battlefield. France has used many military aircraft both in its air force, the Armée de l'Air, and other branches of its armed forces.Numerous aircraft were designed and built in France, but many aircraft from elsewhere, or part of joint ventures have been used as well. The French Air Force hastily rigged up aerial radars to two Dassault MD 315 Flamant transport planes and rushed them into service. This is an exaggeration. As is the case with the French Officer … Wrecked Morane-Saulnier MS.406s and an RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. On May 17 French air force bombers carried out six sorties and French navy dive bombers 20. Their employment on May 10, the first day of the battle, to attack Allied aerodromes yielded disappointing results typical of their performance during the campaign as a whole. From May 10 to 21, 2,675 fighter sorties were flown (an average of 223 a day), while from June 4 to 10 more than 2,000 were flown (say 286 a day). is brought to you by Historynet LLC, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. Perhaps the only time a decisive deployment of France’s admittedly inadequate resources might have made a difference was during what has been described as “the hitherto biggest known traffic jam in Europe,” a line of military traffic, headlights full on, stretching back for 60 miles through the Ardennes and into Germany during the night of May 12-13. The Franco-GermanArmistice of 22 June 1940 divided France into two parts. litter a captured French airfield as German soldiers inspect the damage and a Messerschmitt Me-109E comes in for a landing. The ignominious collapse of the French army in June occurred despite the fact that it possessed more tanks and better anti-tank guns than the Wehrmacht. Thirteen of the Belgian air force’s 49 fighters were destroyed on the ground but only 31 first-line French airfields out of 91 were attacked (along with 16 aerodromes without combat aircraft) and just two army observation units and a squadron of V-156Fs were put completely out of action. On the 23rd the air force managed just two bombing sorties and the surviving navy dive bombers six, with Latécoère 298 floatplanes based at Cher­bourg carrying out a further 18 bombing missions south of Boulogne. Later it was reported that though 20mm ammunition for the French cannon-armed fighters had been coming from factories at the rate of a million rounds per month, only 80,000 rounds had been fired off in the whole six-week campaign. The Free French Air Forces were the air arm of the Free French Forces during the Second World War from 1940. Madame C. J. Walker, first female African American millionaire. Perhaps the chief result of the air combat in May and June 1940 was to persuade the Luftwaffe that it had won an air superiority campaign when it hadn’t: The level of French (and British) air activity actually increased as the campaign progressed. In the end the peak French bomber effort in the campaign was 126 sorties against various targets on June 5. Although some French fighters had been equipped for ground attack, it was not until June 5 and 8 that they struck German tanks in any strength, suffering heavy losses from flak. On the Allied side the British Expeditionary Force alone had more than 250 heavy anti-aircraft guns and 300 40mm Bofors. To subscribe, click here! New Zealander Edgar “Cobber” Kain (left) and Frenchman Edmond Marin la Meslée were among the fighter pilots who participated in the battle. The Luftwaffe did have an overwhelming superiority in bombers: nearly 1,200 Heinkel He-111, Dornier Do-17 and Do-215 and Junkers Ju-88 twin-engine bombers and 340 Ju-87 Stukas against about 400 Allied bombers, including 38 Vought V-156F and Loire-Nieuport LN.411 dive bombers of the French navy. Shortages of aircraft and pilots are often cited, but a lack of leadership and misunderstanding of how best to employ air power were the root causes. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.