Jump to content

Why were the Free French Armies never assigned a beach for D-Day?


Recommended Posts

I don't get it. The FFA was quite large by then, almost half a million strong, especially after the liberation of Northern Africa. And also well equipped with US weapons, and set up along the US Army lines. Given that this was their own homeland that was being liberated on D-Day, you would imagine De Gaulle begging and pressuring Ike for a beach to assault. Or did De Gaulle just keep quiet and let the Brits, Canadians and Americans die in the assault wave? I am sure there were FFA embarked in the invasion fleet, but that is not the same as actually getting your own beach and landing on it. For sure, taking one beach away from the Americans and assigning it to the French would have resulted in lesser American casualties. But why did this not happened?

Vexed in Vancouver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They did play a considerable role in the invasion of Southern France in absolute fairness.

You would be better to ask Rick, but I get the impression there was a big enough corp structure to warrant their own beach.Maybe it was just a simple decision that say, an American Army, would find it easier to feed follow on forces into the battle, whereas a French, or even Polish Army, that would have follow on forces from another nationality, might not find it so easy to feed them in?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

47 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

They did play a considerable role in the invasion of Southern France in absolute fairness.

You would be better to ask Rick, but I get the impression there was a big enough corp structure to warrant their own beach.Maybe it was just a simple decision that say, an American Army, would find it easier to feed follow on forces into the battle, whereas a French, or even Polish Army, that would have follow on forces from another nationality, might not find it so easy to feed them in?

 

I think you mean Rich, who has forgotten more about military history than I will ever know. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, On the way said:

I don't get it. The FFA was quite large by then, almost half a million strong, especially after the liberation of Northern Africa. And also well equipped with US weapons, and set up along the US Army lines. Given that this was their own homeland that was being liberated on D-Day, you would imagine De Gaulle begging and pressuring Ike for a beach to assault. Or did De Gaulle just keep quiet and let the Brits, Canadians and Americans die in the assault wave? I am sure there were FFA embarked in the invasion fleet, but that is not the same as actually getting your own beach and landing on it. For sure, taking one beach away from the Americans and assigning it to the French would have resulted in lesser American casualties. But why did this not happened?

Vexed in Vancouver

The Free French forces were a one shot force before the invasion, they had no way to get replacements and were committed to Italy already, with just one French armored division in Britain (talking from memory here). Moreso, they were divided between former Vichy generals and De Gaullist (not to speak about the multiple force that made up the resistance). After Dragoon, the French forces in Italy were redeployed to France and the African divisions were "whitened" with local replacements, while new units were created from left overs to keep the Germans pocketed in the U boat ports.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, On the way said:

I don't get it. The FFA was quite large by then, almost half a million strong, especially after the liberation of Northern Africa.

Yep, and except for the 2d DB in England, everything was based in the Med. It took considerable effort to move seven British and American divisions from the Med to England for the invasion, now you want to move seven more French divisions? Shipping resources were not unlimited. Add to that about two-thirds of the force were native North and sub-Saharan Africans, unused to a European and especially British climate. 

Nor did any of the British or American political and military leadership want a strong French force in England prior to the invasion, it was difficult enough dealing with De Gaulle without having an entire French army in England for him and the Allies to wrangle with, given the French command was by no means monolithically behind Deux Metres.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, RichTO90 said:

Yep, and except for the 2d DB in England, everything was based in the Med. It took considerable effort to move seven British and American divisions from the Med to England for the invasion, now you want to move seven more French divisions? Shipping resources were not unlimited. Add to that about two-thirds of the force were native North and sub-Saharan Africans, unused to a European and especially British climate. 

Nor did any of the British or American political and military leadership want a strong French force in England prior to the invasion, it was difficult enough dealing with De Gaulle without having an entire French army in England for him and the Allies to wrangle with, given the French command was by no means monolithically behind Deux Metres.

I am not talking about moving seven french divisions from Africa to the GB to prepare for the D Day Invasion. Just one or 2, and I would think that every Frenchman wants to land on Normandy and fight for his homeland. The thought that tens of thousands of Canadians have to travel across the Atlantic to attack French beaches when there were French forces within the theater of operations is ludicrous.  I think all the FFF would be in favour of taking over a beach, say Utah from the Americans. I don't think they care who leads them, whether its De Gaulle or someone else. And De Gaulle or any other French general who says no to that would be committing political suicide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, On the way said:

I am not talking about moving seven french divisions from Africa to the GB to prepare for the D Day Invasion. Just one or 2, and I would think that every Frenchman wants to land on Normandy and fight for his homeland. The thought that tens of thousands of Canadians have to travel across the Atlantic to attack French beaches when there were French forces within the theater of operations is ludicrous.  I think all the FFF would be in favour of taking over a beach, say Utah from the Americans. I don't think they care who leads them, whether its De Gaulle or someone else. And De Gaulle or any other French general who says no to that would be committing political suicide.

The Canadians had been in England preparing for the invasion since 1940.  They hadn't just been transferred in a few months before.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Because Ike wasn't worried about the political as much as he was about the following:

SHAEF, JUNE 7, 1944

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold, and I have withdrawn the troops.

My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.

The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.

If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

--Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I gather the Americans were not enthusiastic about the French as a ally. It was not the same relationship as between France and Britain, where they were formally agreed allies via treaty. I gather the American relationship with the UK could be described as co belligerants, not formal allies. So its hardly any surprise that the French were viewed as somewhat superfluous to requirements.

Besides, we are overlooking the contribution of the French Airmen who took part in the invasion. I think Closterman claims to have landed in Normandy less than a week after the invasion. So we probably shouldnt get hung up on ground troops.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, On the way said:

I am not talking about moving seven french divisions from Africa to the GB to prepare for the D Day Invasion. Just one or 2, and I would think that every Frenchman wants to land on Normandy and fight for his homeland. The thought that tens of thousands of Canadians have to travel across the Atlantic to attack French beaches when there were French forces within the theater of operations is ludicrous.  I think all the FFF would be in favour of taking over a beach, say Utah from the Americans. I don't think they care who leads them, whether its De Gaulle or someone else. And De Gaulle or any other French general who says no to that would be committing political suicide.

Most frenchmen wanting to do that were in France. Proper frenchmen (and a bunch of legionnaires...) formed just 2 divisions, the 1st Infantry and the 2nd Armored, one was in Italy, the other in the UK. Out of the 104.000 men in the Italian front, 59.000 where Arabs. By August 1944, numbers were 267k and 130k respectively, so there just wasn't enough forces to create an assault force of French divisions. 

And there were Frenchmen in the 1st wave of the invasion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1er_Bataillon_de_Fusiliers_Marins_Commandos

 

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armée_française_de_la_Libération

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

I gather the Americans were not enthusiastic about the French as a ally. It was not the same relationship as between France and Britain, where they were formally agreed allies via treaty. I gather the American relationship with the UK could be described as co belligerants, not formal allies. So its hardly any surprise that the French were viewed as somewhat superfluous to requirements.

Besides, we are overlooking the contribution of the French Airmen who took part in the invasion. I think Closterman claims to have landed in Normandy less than a week after the invasion. So we probably shouldnt get hung up on ground troops.

 

The Americans were more than happy to work with the French, just not with De Gaulle, they tried promoting other alternatives, but dessertions from the former Vichy units eventually forced them to accept that it was De Gaulle or nothing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was more talking about the politics than the actual military forces. I gather it took a major personal effort by Churchill to Roosevelt to treat De Gaulle as the leader of the French. I understand Roosevelt really couldnt see why the needed him. After all, we didnt really take  that much interest in the political leadership of the Polish Free Forces.

And of course, De Gaulle never forgave the British for being so helpful...

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, On the way said:

I am not talking about moving seven french divisions from Africa to the GB to prepare for the D Day Invasion. Just one or 2, and I would think that every Frenchman wants to land on Normandy and fight for his homeland. 

I'm fairly sure that the operational requirement was to assign a corps per beach. An "orphaned" division wouldn't fit into that. 

As far as shipping shortage goes, IMO the others rather understated that and weren't the landings in southern France supposed to coincide with Overlord? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Markus Becker said:

I'm fairly sure that the operational requirement was to assign a corps per beach. An "orphaned" division wouldn't fit into that. 

As far as shipping shortage goes, IMO the others rather understated that and weren't the landings in southern France supposed to coincide with Overlord? 

Operation Dragoon (which did include several french divisions) was supposed to coincide with Overlord, that is correct, but it got delayed for various reasons.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, On the way said:

I am not talking about moving seven french divisions from Africa to the GB to prepare for the D Day Invasion. Just one or 2,

How do you expect to get them there then? Anyway, as Retac pointed out, they were already there. So figure out how to do an amphibious assault with 2 DB.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was French speaking army units that landed on the beaches of Normandy. They were part of the Canadian Army, Régiment de la Chaudière, Régiment de Maisonneuve, Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the 27th Armoured Regiment (Fusiliers de Sherbrooke).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, RETAC21 said:

Most frenchmen wanting to do that were in France. Proper frenchmen (and a bunch of legionnaires...) formed just 2 divisions, the 1st Infantry and the 2nd Armored, one was in Italy, the other in the UK. Out of the 104.000 men in the Italian front, 59.000 where Arabs. By August 1944, numbers were 267k and 130k respectively, so there just wasn't enough forces to create an assault force of French divisions. 

And there were Frenchmen in the 1st wave of the invasion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1er_Bataillon_de_Fusiliers_Marins_Commandos

 

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armée_française_de_la_Libération

 

That one company of French troops got more attention in the film of The Longest Day than the beach full of Canadians who were barely mentioned, if at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Allan Wotherspoon said:

Weren’t there some French commando units that landed on D-Day?

Yep. In Sword, right flank, only beach we did not visit during the last Euro I&I.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._10_(Inter-Allied)_Commando#1944

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Kieffer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, MiloMorai said:

There was French speaking army units that landed on the beaches of Normandy. They were part of the Canadian Army, Régiment de la Chaudière, Régiment de Maisonneuve, Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the 27th Armoured Regiment (Fusiliers de Sherbrooke).

It seems the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment was Anglophone.  RdeChaud landed on 6 June with 3 Div, but the RdeMais and FMR landed with 2 Div on 7 July.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, R011 said:

That one company of French troops got more attention in the film of The Longest Day than the beach full of Canadians who were barely mentioned, if at all.

Playing to the French audiences I guess. The book 'D Day, then and now' by After the Battle Publishing suggests that the way it was portrayed on film was rather overdone. It was a fairly small engagement apparently.

Thinking about it, I cant remember an awful lot in the book about Canadians on D Day either, im not sure why.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/8/2021 at 12:04 AM, RETAC21 said:

Most frenchmen wanting to do that were in France. Proper frenchmen (and a bunch of legionnaires...) formed just 2 divisions, the 1st Infantry and the 2nd Armored, one was in Italy, the other in the UK. Out of the 104.000 men in the Italian front, 59.000 where Arabs. By August 1944, numbers were 267k and 130k respectively, so there just wasn't enough forces to create an assault force of French divisions. 

And there were Frenchmen in the 1st wave of the invasion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1er_Bataillon_de_Fusiliers_Marins_Commandos

 

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armée_française_de_la_Libération

 

There were 177 men in the Bataillon de Fusiliers that landed on D day, hardly a contribution at all compared to the tens of thousands of other allied troops. The French should be shameful of their contribution to liberating their own country on D Day

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Come on, there was a lot more French Airmen flying over the Normandy bridgehead. And there was to be fair a lot of Frenchmen (and Women) as resistance launching attacks on the German lines of communication.

  I like to goad the French now and again, but this is unfair on them. For a nation under occupation they did as much as could be reasonably be expected.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, R011 said:

It seems the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment was Anglophone.  RdeChaud landed on 6 June with 3 Div, but the RdeMais and FMR landed with 2 Div on 7 July.

The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment was a Second World War Canadian armoured regiment created in 1940 with officers and men from two Militia regiments in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The name is a blend of Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke, a francophone infantry unit, and the Sherbrooke Regiment, an English-speaking machine gun unit. The armoured corps lineage of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment is carried forward by the present-day The Sherbrooke Hussars.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...