17 Chapters
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1. Introduction

Anthony Clayton Indiana University Press ePub

ARMY COMMANDERS AT ANY LEVEL from general to lieutenant do not like woods or forests. No one knows for certain who or what may be concealed among the trees: ambushes, regiments preparing for a sudden flank attack, stay-behind special forces or other units tasked to strike at an advancing army’s rear guard, lines of logistic support, or just simply concealed observation posts watching and reporting their adversary’s movements from the forest’s edge. Until very recently, inside a forest all the advantages have lain with the defender even if his force is much smaller, provided he has made a careful plan and pre-positioned and concealed his men. An attacker is likely to find it exceedingly difficult to reconnoiter, and later to retain control of his men, particularly if the forest has thick undergrowth; his attack will lose vital momentum. Perhaps as few as one hundred yards into a wood, soldiers may lose sight of one another and their officers, sometimes also losing their own sense of direction. Traditional fire and movement tactics become impossible to control and coordinate. When brought under fire soldiers will run for cover, no longer keeping in line. Some, in fright, may well decide not to advance any farther or to retreat to safety. Terrifying noise may prevent shouted or even bugle orders from being heard. Among trees, radio signals equipment may deaden or not function at all. Flat trajectory weapons fired by either side will be deflected, malfunction, or send splinters flying dangerously. If forests are large, maintaining basic food and water supplies for an attacking army can soon become a serious problem, especially in extreme cold or heat. Unless there are roads, tracks, or beaten paths, the use of wheeled vehicles from chariots to tanks is nearly always impossible in woods; horses may be of more use. Tracks can also be easily blocked. Most frightening of all is the sudden unnerving appearance of enemy soldiers from behind trees or from undergrowth inflicting heavy casualties, perhaps encircling small groups of attackers.

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3 Versailles, Warsaw, Syria, 1919–24

Anthony Clayton Indiana University Press ePub

Accompanying Foch in November and December 1918, Weygand visited the devastated areas of France that had been occupied by the Germans. He saw wanton German destruction of towns, villages, and farms and talked to surviving inhabitants about the suffering that they had endured. The impressions that he formed were strong and to be recalled in the 1930s: this must never be allowed to happen again, and his country, France, must play the lead role in ensuring that it did not. The impressions were to last his life, especially in May 1940. In these views he followed Foch, who saw French security as the prime issue in the peacemaking. This belief was only strengthened by the events in Germany in late 1918 and early 1919: the German army’s triumphal march through Berlin on December 19, the salute taken by the chancellor, Friedrich Ebert, and the rhetoric of the army returning unbeaten from the field of battle, soon to be extended to that of Dolchstoss, a stab in the back by politicians. Further, following the Russian Revolution, it seemed clear that France would not expect any massive support on an eastern frontier, while Austria would join Germany.

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4. The Eighteenth Century: New Irregular Challenges

Anthony Clayton Indiana University Press ePub

THE EIGHTY YEARS BETWEEN the ending of the War of Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic Wars were to see a slow but steady growth in combat between bodies of men not formed in lines or columns but scouting, skirmishing, harassing, or fighting, often in or from woods and forests. In the major European wars—the War of Austrian Succession, that part of the Seven Years War fought in Europe, the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars—the major engagements still essentially followed traditional patterns by using forests to their advantage on a battlefield; the art of harassing armies by irregulars from the flanks either in battle or on the march grew. Even the greatest field commander of the era, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, found his armies harassed, and later in life, in response, formed his first Jäger units. In North America, however, forest combat was opening whole new chapters in the history of warfare. Finally, at the end of the era, irregular and semi-irregular combatants operating from forests in Russia played a lead, arguably the lead, role in the destruction of one of the largest military forces up to that time assembled in European history, Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

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6 Minister for National Defense, June–September 1940

Anthony Clayton Indiana University Press ePub

Among the new ministers, Weygand was to be minister for national defense, with Huntziger as minister for war.1 Most of the other ministers, however, reflected the policy aims of Marshal Philippe Pétain, now eighty-four years old, the hero of Verdun, the general who had restored the morale, discipline, and self-respect of the French Army after the “mutinies” of 1917, the only one of the First World War marshals still on his feet, but a man whose mental clarity of vision and analysis was already noted by observers as declining during the course of the day.2 He was no friend of Great Britain; in the bitterness of defeat he saw Britain as simply trying to use France to suit British needs. He had been much influenced by the Spanish Civil War, which confirmed his belief that social order and some form of firm moral regeneration were needed in France. The pattern for this was to be that of the new national slogan, Travail, Famille, Patrie. Youth organizations and schools would be restructured along very authoritarian lines, as would labor and agriculture. These changes would take shape later in the institutions of the “National Revolution,” the semimilitary youth organization Chantiers de la Jeunesse, the Secours National, the Corporation Paysanne, and the Légion Française des Combattants, and in institutionalized anti-Semitism.

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8 Final Misfortunes and Final Years, 1941–65

Anthony Clayton Indiana University Press ePub

Following his dismissal Weygand was soon joined by Renée and his son Jacques, both also banned from staying in North Africa. His long-time military secretary, Commandant Gasser, and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant de Leusse, were allowed to return to Algiers. His biographer records that on bidding them farewell Weygand remarked, obviously with de Gaulle’s forces’ activities in Syria and Africa in mind, “Listen my loyal helpers, I will never order Frenchmen to open fire on other Frenchmen, I will never take such a responsibility. I do not have the right. I am not French, I am not French.” Whether this comment was made in not unreasonable emotion, made deliberately for the record, or possibly both will never be known.1

The first roof over the Weygand family’s head was the villa owned by the Count and Countess de Leusse family, known critics of any form of collaboration. The family soon moved to the Parc-Hotel at Grasse, where his aides quickly noticed they were continually watched by Vichy police agents. There, after Pearl Harbor, Weygand was visited by a diplomat from the American embassy at Vichy, Douglas MacArthur, the nephew of the Pacific War general, bringing both a letter dated December 27, 1941, and a personal message from President Roosevelt.2 The letter spoke of Roosevelt’s continuing respect for Weygand and regret that he had been recalled from Africa and of the successes (soon to be undone) of the British Army in Libya and of the Red Army on the Eastern Front. Roosevelt continued with an assurance that the United States, now at war but not against France, would devote its work to the repatriation of France and French power.

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