France in the Early Part of the War

Marisa Stohner

The Course of the War 1939-42: Question about France in the Early Part of the War


The Judson Knight article about World War II states, “the French, who relied on the defenses of the Maginot Line (designed to fight a World War I–style conflict of limited movement), surrendered after a nominal resistance effort.”[1]

My question is regarding French strategy.  Assuming the western powers were keeping tabs on the military buildup in Germany, and with that an understanding of the weapons and tactics they were bringing to the table, why did the French look to WWI defenses to be successful against the Germans?  Did the French government believe the League of Nations’ mission of maintaining peace through political discourse would prevail against war, or was it denial that they might have to fight another war so soon and therefore did not prepare an effectively?  Why such a quick decision to sign an armistice?[2]  All I can gather from the readings is that there was political upheaval internally with the new Premier (who signed the armistice), and the Allies were under the impression that the Germans were about to pull another Schlieffen Plan and responded with a run into Belgium.[3]  Was there not enough good intelligence regarding Hitler’s plans and the German military’s strength, were they distracted by Mussolini’s declaration of war, or perhaps it was a combination of all the above?

Forgive my ignorance on the topic, but it is hard for me to understand how they seemed so unprepared.  Professor, could you provide a bit of insight?


[1] Judson Knight, “World War II,” Gale Virtual Reference Library, UMUC Learning Resource, accessed February 27, 2018,

[2]  “US History/World War II and Rise of Atomic Age,” Saylor Foundation, UMUC Learning Resource, accessed February 28, 2018,

[3] “World War II,”  Oxford Reference, UMUC Learning Resource, accessed February 28, 2018,


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