NATO 1940

Nineteen Kilo

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With all the talk about NATO in the news of late, and what little country is or isn't pulling their weight, that got me to thinking: What if Belgium, Netherlands (and for argument's sake let's throw in Luxembourg) had not waited to be invaded prior to joining France & Britain but rather had thrown in with the Allies in the Winter of 1939?

For this "what if" let's assume that Britain and France were invited into the Low Lands in the Winter of 39. British and French troops have moved to and dug in on the positions they wanted to occupy, Belgian and Dutch troops are fully integrated into the front lines, and a unified command has been established. Would this have had any impact on the Blitzkrieg in the West?

While I won't argue that everything would have changed, and French troops would have been in Berlin by the Winter of 41, I believe that this "forward disposition" would have made the campaign in the West a much different affair. First and foremost the Allies would not have been in a state of movement with unknowns as to what was in front of them, who is on their flanks, and generally would have been less confused. Forward deployment of the RAF in Holland might have also been a thorn for Luftwaffe operations. And the Germans would have had to cross prepared defenses along the river lines.

It's not inconceivable to me that the Allies may have been able to drag the campaign out for the entire summer and fall of 1940 and casualties on both sides would have been more reminiscent of WW1 with over a million total casualties for both sides. Then in the Winter of 1940 arms purchased from the US are flowing into France. Who knows where the campaign might have gone from there. Allies with a year of experience under their belts, troops and supplies flowing in from both their empires, Italy sitting on the sidelines, it could have been a very protracted affair.

How do you think things would have changed, if at all?
 
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Paul M. Weir

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Something to ponder. Maybe the Point of Departure (PoD) from history would have been the historical straying and subsequent crashing of a German plane in then neutral Belgium carrying early German war plans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechelen_incident). That could have been enough to sway the Belgians, though the Netherlands would have been more difficult, given that they were left alone in WW1.

It's hard to tell what happens once the Germans pounce in '40. Being in position does not guarantee defensive success, increase it, yes, but guarantee it, no. A great part of German success was due to the very unexpected location of the main thrust, the supposedly unpassable Ardennes. Compounding that, decision making in the Anglo-French armies was closer to WW1 timing than the German's WW2 pace. You could well see the Allies not being able to react to the breakthrough in sufficient time to prevent it. While there would not be the same mad scramble to form a defence line, the historical situation of a not in place army meant that some elements got rebuffed and swept to one side rather than pounded, over run and eliminated. Fluidity can cut both ways. Slower German advance vs more (forward) Allied in the bag?

Assuming the Germans advance but can't manage their historical success, then the Allies would respond with their doctrine of methodical battle. That most likely have meant no major Allied offensives in '40. Limited counter offensives and local defensive line tidying, to be sure but nothing major. The Allies did intend to conduct a material intensive series of limited offensives and they did realise that a sufficient material advantage would not bear fruit until '41. So I would see something more like late 1918 rather than 1916, on the lines of their Plan 1919.
 

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Something to ponder. Maybe the Point of Departure (PoD) from history would have been the historical straying and subsequent crashing of a German plane in then neutral Belgium carrying early German war plans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechelen_incident). That could have been enough to sway the Belgians, though the Netherlands would have been more difficult, given that they were left alone in WW1.

It's hard to tell what happens once the Germans pounce in '40. Being in position does not guarantee defensive success, increase it, yes, but guarantee it, no. A great part of German success was due to the very unexpected location of the main thrust, the supposedly unpassable Ardennes. Compounding that, decision making in the Anglo-French armies was closer to WW1 timing than the German's WW2 pace. You could well see the Allies not being able to react to the breakthrough in sufficient time to prevent it. While there would not be the same mad scramble to form a defence line, the historical situation of a not in place army meant that some elements got rebuffed and swept to one side rather than pounded, over run and eliminated. Fluidity can cut both ways. Slower German advance vs more (forward) Allied in the bag?

Assuming the Germans advance but can't manage their historical success, then the Allies would respond with their doctrine of methodical battle. That most likely have meant no major Allied offensives in '40. Limited counter offensives and local defensive line tidying, to be sure but nothing major. The Allies did intend to conduct a material intensive series of limited offensives and they did realise that a sufficient material advantage would not bear fruit until '41. So I would see something more like late 1918 rather than 1916, on the lines of their Plan 1919.
Certainly defense is not solely about position, but the outline I have presented would have produced more set piece battles that I think would have been more in the Allied Command's wheel house. Clearly, fast developing, maneuvering battlefields were not their "thing". :)
 

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With all the talk about NATO in the news of late, and what little country is or isn't pulling their weight, that got me to thinking: What if Belgium, Netherlands (and for argument's sake let's throw in Luxembourg) had not waited to be invaded prior to joining France & Britain but rather had thrown in with the Allies in the Winter of 1939?

For this "what if" let's assume that Britain and France were invited into the Low Lands in the Winter of 39. British and French troops have moved to and dug in on the positions they wanted to occupy, Belgian and Dutch troops are fully integrated into the front lines, and a unified command has been established. Would this have had any impact on the Blitzkrieg in the West?

While I won't argue that everything would have changed, and French troops would have been in Berlin by the Winter of 41, I believe that this "forward disposition" would have made the campaign in the West a much different affair. First and foremost the Allies would not have been in a state of movement with unknowns as to what was in front of them, who is on their flanks, and generally would have been less confused. Forward deployment of the RAF in Holland might have also been a thorn for Luftwaffe operations. And the Germans would have had to cross prepared defenses along the river lines.

It's not inconceivable to me that the Allies may have been able to drag the campaign out for the entire summer and fall of 1940 and casualties on both sides would have been more reminiscent of WW1 with over a million total casualties for both sides. Then in the Winter of 1940 arms purchased from the US are flowing into France. Who knows where the campaign might have gone from there. Allies with a year of experience under their belts, troops and supplies flowing in from both their empires, Italy sitting on the sidelines, it could have been a very protracted affair.

How do you think things would have changed, if at all?
interesting

short answer. I'm not really sure it would have changed anything. Other than Dunkirk itself would have been replaced in history by some Flemish seaside town as the place of escape. The French plan, and why they pushed Britain so hard to invade Norway in early 1940 was to wage the inevitable fight against Germany as far as possible as possible from French soil. Unstandable after ww1. Thus they and the BEF would have been charging east all while still not believing the Germans could or would get through the Ardennes. Thus it is highly likely they merely would have stuck their heads further into the trap Manstein had envisioned and been just as unprepared and unsuspecting of an attack through the Ardennes.
 

Nineteen Kilo

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interesting

short answer. I'm not really sure it would have changed anything. Other than Dunkirk itself would have been replaced in history by some Flemish seaside town as the place of escape. The French plan, and why they pushed Britain so hard to invade Norway in early 1940 was to wage the inevitable fight against Germany as far as possible as possible from French soil. Unstandable after ww1. Thus they and the BEF would have been charging east all while still not believing the Germans could or would get through the Ardennes. Thus it is highly likely they merely would have stuck their heads further into the trap Manstein had envisioned and been just as unprepared and unsuspecting of an attack through the Ardennes.
You and Paul seem to be of one mind that the attack through the Ardennes would still have presented shock and awe to the Allies - quite possible. But you don't think it would have added a week or two to the campaign?
 

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You and Paul seem to be of one mind that the attack through the Ardennes would still have presented shock and awe to the Allies - quite possible. But you don't think it would have added a week or two to the campaign?
actually... to be honest.. I sort of flippantly tossed off my reply. Actually I can see how the campaign might have been very different. Unfortunately the better half roped me into a formal dinner for tonight and I have to get ready. I'll hit this later, and thanks man. While my wife is hobnobbing and rubbing shoulders.. I'll be in my normal place, the bar, drinking and thinking about France 1940 lmao.
 

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It has been forever since I played France 1940 from AH but wasn't that one of the alternate beginnings? In any case, even if it was it would not have made much difference as the entire allied high command had their heads so far up their collectives asses that when they sneezed they gave themselves an enema. They would have needed to completely revise their tactical doctrine and at the least put working radios in all the tanks
 

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You and Paul seem to be of one mind that the attack through the Ardennes would still have presented shock and awe to the Allies - quite possible. But you don't think it would have added a week or two to the campaign?
The combination of unexpected location and quicker action-reaction timing would still have been in the German's favour. So there would still have been a breakthrough in roughly the same place, of that I have no doubt about. While Belgium was fairly well mobilised, a prior Belgian entry into the war would have meant less last minute scrambling on the Belgians part. It's one thing to really expect war and another thing to be at war. Call it psychological inertia. One definite difference is that the Ardennes would have been a solid active front, no tentative probing, no light delaying actions by the Belgians to determine where the Germans were. Much less scope for early infiltration like Operation Niwi, though I suspect the Eban-Emael attack would would have been just as successful.

So I would expect the initial breakthrough to succeed albeit at a somewhat greater cost and possibly a day or two delay. Other than that it's hard to give a good guess.

So we have a breakthrough. Historically the Germans surged ahead and frightened the Berlin boys quite a lot as the felt felt the German dick was going into the sausage maker (Berlin: "Flanks, FLANKS!", Rommel: "What are flanks?"). An initially harder breakthrough likely would have made them more cautious.

On the Allied side having forces in place means somewhat less scope for panic and has the obvious defensive advantages. On the other hand being in place can mean it can be harder to extract and move in reaction to a breakthrough. The defensive and psychological advantage is countered by an increasing chance of more forces being pocketed. Having Allied forces in place means that they will have reserves and supplies in place as well and thus better able to hold out even if partly or fully isolated.

The whole campaign depended upon things going right. A small sample of what could go wrong was at Arras. The Germans did catch some lucky breaks which magnified their apparent success, though I think did not alter the outcome. As it was a new qualitative level of manoeuvre warfare, it was extremely chaotic for both sides but with better communications and decision making on the German side it was a little less on the German side and combined with the fact it was their plan, they held a solid edge. It still was an enormous gamble.

So give an initial smallish delay, a better chance of local delays and rebuffs and Berlin's strong nervousness I would see a chance of forming a huge Northern pocket by the end being delayed by up to a week. Not any one thing, just lots of little things. It might not even happen. If it did there is a good chance of such a pocket not collapsing, at least not soon.

It still would likely have resulted in the Germans holding a large swathe of Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Allies would have regarded it as a very major defeat but it would have not been the historical catastrophe. After that it depends upon what shape the opposing forces were in and what reserves of fuel and ammo each side had and in that the Germans where quite lean to begin with.
 

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I doubt it would have helped The Netherlands. Didn't Britain and France plan to sacrifice most of the low countries in defense?
That was also the Dutch plan, retreat to Fortress Holland. As a piece of trivia Holland is just one of the provinces of the Netherlands, though commonly, in the English speaking world anyway, refers to the whole Netherlands. The Dutch did that in wars against the Spanish, French, etc in previous centuries.
 

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I would like to add a feature to this discussion that hasn't been mentioned so far, and that's air power. Both France and Great Britain held back a large part of their air forces. They lost a third of the battle by not fighting it. WW1 style defenses faced with massed tanks and air control would create the same result, possibly with even worst outcomes. A Belgian evacuation port would have given German planes 10 to 20 minutes extra time over the targets, not much chance for small boats or even heavy cruisers to evacuate anyone. A forced intervention by the main elements of British Navy to save even less of the Army and cause a great deal of battle damage to the Navy might have tempted the Germans to actually launch Sea Lion. Finally with a 2 year or longer land war in Britain, could even Hitler be stupid enough to start a war with the Soviet Union. IMO I'm glad their wasn't a forward deployment, too many chances it wouldn't end the right way.
 

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I would like to add a feature to this discussion that hasn't been mentioned so far, and that's air power. Both France and Great Britain held back a large part of their air forces. They lost a third of the battle by not fighting it. WW1 style defenses faced with massed tanks and air control would create the same result, possibly with even worst outcomes. A Belgian evacuation port would have given German planes 10 to 20 minutes extra time over the targets, not much chance for small boats or even heavy cruisers to evacuate anyone. A forced intervention by the main elements of British Navy to save even less of the Army and cause a great deal of battle damage to the Navy might have tempted the Germans to actually launch Sea Lion. Finally with a 2 year or longer land war in Britain, could even Hitler be stupid enough to start a war with the Soviet Union. IMO I'm glad their wasn't a forward deployment, too many chances it wouldn't end the right way.
Excellent. I like this "counter" thought that things might have been worse had there been a "NATO 1940".

I'll lob the ball back to you & Paul, if the Germans had broken through and reached the coast, with both Belgium & Holland, all their ports, and their capitals at their back, would the BEF truly have been cutoff? i.e. might they have had sufficient support to just stay in Belgium & Holland? And if so, would the Germans who had reached the coast, been out on a limb?
 

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Excellent. I like this "counter" thought that things might have been worse had there been a "NATO 1940".

I'll lob the ball back to you & Paul, if the Germans had broken through and reached the coast, with both Belgium & Holland, all their ports, and their capitals at their back, would the BEF truly have been cutoff? i.e. might they have had sufficient support to just stay in Belgium & Holland? And if so, would the Germans who had reached the coast, been out on a limb?
No, because their supply line back to Germany would still be open.
 

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YES the British would be cut off, I would compare their best chances to Malta convoys and Germans isolated in Curland Pocket. I think France would still have fallen, since the Belgian pocket could be held in check with German infantry divisions. The air battles would harm the British air power even more because damaged planes and their pilots would go down at sea not over their home country. To be honest the longer the 1940 invasion lasted the stronger Germany would have became. Especially if at some point the pocket had to surrender, a disaster like that could have finished even Churchill's government, and ended the war.
 

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YES the British would be cut off, I would compare their best chances to Malta convoys and Germans isolated in Curland Pocket. I think France would still have fallen, since the Belgian pocket could be held in check with German infantry divisions. The air battles would harm the British air power even more because damaged planes and their pilots would go down at sea not over their home country. To be honest the longer the 1940 invasion lasted the stronger Germany would have became. Especially if at some point the pocket had to surrender, a disaster like that could have finished even Churchill's government, and ended the war.
Sounds about right as the entire "pocket" (two countries worth of pocket) would have been within range of the Luftwaffe. With no control of the skies, that pocket would have been a bad place to reside.
 
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Paul M. Weir

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OK. First consider the implications of Belgium and the Netherlands joining, say, early 1940 due the the Mechelen incident. Not only would there have been greater forces in Belgium and Holland, the forces there would not be in a situation where the supply and support elements would be trying to catch up. The British and French forces would have supply dumps and had time to dig in. The British in particular would have had time to establish airfields and the associated infrastructure in Belgium and Holland which they historically did not. They would not be relying mainly on airfields in Northern France. As a result any German thrust would be faced by interdiction from both sides, not just one side. As the breakthrough widens and deepens Allied forces on the Northern shoulder should be able to continue to get air cover despite being on the 'wrong' side of the penetration.

That brings up the question of the effectiveness of Allied air power in '40. Against ground targets their record was brave but miserable, definitely nothing like the capability of the Luftwaffe. However on the flip side they did have the capability of taming the LW attacks on their forces. Any new airfields built in early '40 would have been capable of hosting fighters and the dreadful Battles. The pre-existing Belgian and Netherlander airfields would be capable of handling Blenheims and Wellingtons. Though I'm not sure, I suspect part of the reason the British did not have more aircraft on the continent was airfield space. I'm quite sure the British would have relished having Netherlander airfields for bomber units due to their proximity to places like Wilhelmshaven.

Many of the above posts assumes the Germans were able to reach the coast. As I said in prior posts, the Germans most likely would have managed a deep penetration. I'm not convinced that they could have reached the coast. Between more forces in place, somewhat less fog of war, better supply situation, greater Berlin nervousness and a less effective LW should increase the friction that the Allies would impose on the Germans. My guess is that like the 1914 Schlieffen Plan, despite great success, it would have fallen short by not reaching the coast.

Friction, friction, friction!
 

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I'm thinking that Belgium would have joined allies earlier, but probably not Netherlands. They I think would have tried to stay neutral and not opened lands up to allies. So I don't think there would ever be a two country pocket. From what I recall of the Netherlands military plans in case they learned of a German invasion, was to move most of their army into the area bordering Belgium and co operate at that point with the allies, far too late for real defense. Belgium and the French still would have ignored the area the Germans broke through at, because they just would.. lol. Now the battle to the coast would be more difficult I agree, but the defense of it would depend on majority French forces, Belgian forces, and lastly the British who would mostly be outside the area Germans were attacking through. If Germans lose their will at that point, the allies win; but if Germany throws in the kitchen sink and all the plumbing they will still use their armor to knock France out of the war. French troops in the "pocket" no matter how large or well supplied will surrender, Belgium will join, and the British will be trying to reach Ostend port.. see my other posts for what that would lead too.
 

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I'm thinking that Belgium would have joined allies earlier, but probably not Netherlands. They I think would have tried to stay neutral and not opened lands up to allies. So I don't think there would ever be a two country pocket. From what I recall of the Netherlands military plans in case they learned of a German invasion, was to move most of their army into the area bordering Belgium and co operate at that point with the allies, far too late for real defense. Belgium and the French still would have ignored the area the Germans broke through at, because they just would.. lol. Now the battle to the coast would be more difficult I agree, but the defense of it would depend on majority French forces, Belgian forces, and lastly the British who would mostly be outside the area Germans were attacking through. If Germans lose their will at that point, the allies win; but if Germany throws in the kitchen sink and all the plumbing they will still use their armor to knock France out of the war. French troops in the "pocket" no matter how large or well supplied will surrender, Belgium will join, and the British will be trying to reach Ostend port.. see my other posts for what that would lead too.
For purposes of this hypothetical NATO 1940 it's just a given that the Dutch threw in their lot with the Allies. If it helps you to conceptualize, you can just imagine that Hitler did something dastardly to the Dutch that ticked them off - like interfere in their elections are something. ;)
 

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For purposes of this hypothetical NATO 1940 it's just a given that the Dutch threw in their lot with the Allies. If it helps you to conceptualize, you can just imagine that Hitler did something dastardly to the Dutch that ticked them off - like interfere in their elections are something. ;)
Ok not much different IMO, France and GB would still field the same size Armies, vast majority of Netherlands would not be defended unless allies changed strategy to launch an attack into Germany, and that would be a whole other disaster for them.

Maybe another British dossier bought from Russia?
 

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You and Paul seem to be of one mind that the attack through the Ardennes would still have presented shock and awe to the Allies - quite possible. But you don't think it would have added a week or two to the campaign?
Sorry for the late reply. Been giving this a bit of thought. Yes it could have at a minimum and in regards to my earlier softball toss reply I think the effects could have been profound.

First questions is whether a protacive move by the French and English into the low countries to established defensive postions would have not have higher German strategy in going with the Manstein plan. I don't really see a plausible reason why it would have but it could have influenced it as I'll try to lay here.

The thing to consider with this is the invasion of France was not done in a vacuum. There was already another invasion going on and one whose success was absolutelyvital to Germany and its wartime economic survival. The invasion of Norway. One that was not going to plan and one who had already TWICE nearly drove Hitler to losing his marbles.

Note that invasion was a baby of the OKW and the OKH wanted nothing to do with it and had nothing to do with its planning nor its execution. They thought it was too risky and so this was Hitler's baby and one whose success or failure would be laid directly on HItler. The thing to consider is there was a real power struggle here between Hitler and his generals. One that could go very much in either direction in early May 1940.

I suppose this could turn into a treatise so I won't bore you so I'll summarize where I would go with this.

A Nato 1940 scenario as you brought up would likely lead directly to one result off the bat.

The Germans would have lost Narvik, the 3rd Mountain division, and the whole of northern Norway and likely kept the Norwegians in the war and that front active for much longer than it did historically.

A second point in which that scenario might have changed the historical result. The more I think about it I'm not so sure an attack through the Ardennes would have had the same result. There were only 4 paths Kleist had through there and if the Allies had fully deployed they would have faced the whole of 1st Chausseurs Ardennais which withdrew northward historically after initial blocking actions which it wouldn't have to do in this Nato 1940 case leaving all their roadblocks through the Ardennes undefended thus easily removed, and in addition they would have had to face the French 5th DLC which never made it into the Ardennes but obviously would have in a planned forward deployment.

One might reasonably consider that a attack through the Ardennes in a Nato 1940 scenario would have not had the same historical results.

and the result could have been devastating for the Germans.

a stalemate of sorts there means the French and English do not withdraw from Norway and thus they are faced with a 2 front war. There were two things the Germans needed to wage this war. Iron Ore and Oil. The Allies could have then put pressure on Sweden to kick Germany to the curve and as we know Stalin had his plans to knock out Germany by depriving it of the oil it needed.

A two front war in 1940. Germany would have been screwed for Stalin was coming for Germany and there would have likely been no preemptive attack, Barbarossa, in 1941.
 
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