Canon allemand de 37 mm
PAK 37 antichar
Et très vite, la débâcle.
Inattendue, radicale, monstrueuse,
comme un torrent qui emporte tout.
Depuis ce jour,
je sais que tout peut disparaître
en quelques heures,
que rien n'est jamais impossible." Hélie de Saint Marc
Musée des Andelys
Collection PC FNCV
Ecusson de ceux qui ont appartenu à la 1e Armée française avant le 8 mai 1945
War II : 1939-1945
The Second World War
The « living space » theory
The Second Word War, 1939 - 1945, began on September 1, 1939
when German troops invaded Poland after having annexed Austria
(Anschluss) and entered Czechoslovakia.
Adolf Hitler, then Chancellor of Reich, intended to forcefully
increase the «living space» of Germany and also free
her from the sanctions of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
According to their respective alliance treaties, many other countries
soon joined the war on either distinct military block :
On the one hand, the totalitarian Axis forces and their satellites,
led by the dictatorial regimes of Germany, Italy and Japan, while
on the other, the Allied forces led by the democratic regimes
of France, Great Britain and Commonwealth countries, Belgium,
Holland, Yugoslavia, Norway, Denmark and Greece, who were subsequently
joined by the Soviet Union, the United States and the majority
of Latin American countries.
The « phoney
war » began... The beginning of the war in 1939 and 1940 on French territory
was basically what is known as the « phoney war »,
a period during which both belligerent armies observed each other
over their border fortifications: The Maginot line shielded the
French and the Siegfried line protected the Germans.
Apart from isolated incidents of incursions
and run attacks’’ made by the French, no giant
stride was taken by any of the sides. This period of grace
perfectly dovetailed Hitler's plans, as during this time
he massively mobilized his troops in the East to crush Poland.
In Spring of 1940, the German launched their offensive in
carrying a machinegun
the « blitzkrieg » started.
German troops by-passed the Maginot line, pushed aside the
Belgian army and penetrated into the northern provinces of
The fast manner in which they were gaining ground revealed
the regrettable inferiority of Allied forces and their inability
to ward off the « blitzkrieg » from the powerful
German armoured divisions who were using the tank-plane tandem
Despite their desperate resistance, the French army and her
allies were subdued. British troops, under German gunfire,
were forced to withdraw and re-embark at Dunkirk. Before the
end of June 1940, an armistice was signed.
Then began the long occupation
For four years, France was under the occupation of Axis forces.
Meanwhile, fighting and resistance to the occupation continued
thanks to the determination of General de Gaulle, who all
the way from England where he took refuge, made his famous « Appel
du 18 Juin » (June 18 appeal).
In that appeal, he rejected the armistice, called on the French
to keep up their resistance and to continue fighting alongside
the English, created the Mouvement de la France Libre (French
liberation movement) and rallied the support of French colonies
behind the Allies.
Response to General de Gaulle's appeal was overwhelming:
volunteers came in in their numbers to sustain the resistance.
Some joined the internal resistance while others fought within
the Forces Françaises Libres (French liberation forces),
and the African Army, which was being reconstituted.
Meanwhile, at the east front, French
pilots were engaged in theNormandie-Niemen saga
alongside Soviet forces. Their triumphs in the warfare
against the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) were real exploits.
Les FFL - Londres - 1940
Paulette Steudler, 18 ans,
(devenue Paulette Levalleur)
a répondu à l'appel du 18 juin
du général de Gaulle
Casualty figures of this war are so frightening
especially as civilian victims were so many. The number of
souls estimated to have perished in the war is about 50 000
000, with 7 000 000 of them being prisoners of German concentration
camps drawn from all religious backgrounds.
Among those who died in Europe were: 20 000 000
Soviets, about 6 000 000 Polish (being 20% of the Polish population),
4 500 000 Germans, 1 500 000 Yugoslavs (mostly civilians),
about 550 000 French, 500 000 Greeks , 450 000 Hungarians,
400 000 British, 100 000 Belgians and 100 000 Finns.
Elsewhere, this dismal picture was just as gloomy. The
war claimed the lives of 8 000 000 Chinese, 2 000 000
Japanese, and 300 000 Americans.
Role played by Volunteer Combatants
made to the victory of the Allies by volunteer combatants
who fought from within the Résistance Française
(French resistance), the Forces Françaises Libres
(French liberation forces) and the powerful reconstituted
African army, and who were operating within the provisional
governmental framework put in place by General de Gaulle,
cannot be over emphasized.
It is thanks to the commitment of these
volunteers, and the blood many of them shed, that France,
soon after the Liberation
of Europe in 1945, was able to reposition herself as a world
power like the United States, the Soviet Union and England.