It's a serious book, much deeper that what can be found on the net, based on archives. And published by the very serious publisher Economica;
After studying the balance of forces in the Med in 1940, the plans that the various belligerents had for that region and the tensions existing within the French government between the warmongers (Reynaud and most of the government) vs the ones in favor of an armistice (Petain and Weygand).
So it's not a what if. The author tries to consider how things could have evolved after the decisive date of June 16th 1940; that's the day Reynaud, close to a nervous breakdown decided to resign and left the door open to the defeatists, especially Petain, who replaced him as PM.
Even if the Allies had been defeated in Belgium in May, and that the front had collapsed on the Somme and Aisne after June the 12th, leaving to the French army no more than 40 diminished divisions, the retreat of to the South of Paris was still orderly. The Germans had "only" taken 400,000 POW in Belgium or on the Somme. The real collapse began (in real life) after June 17th, when Petain made his speech on the radio, telling that he asked the Germans an armistice, which was a considerable blow to the morale of the men and gave them 1,000,000 more POWs...
In his book, Reynaud doesn't resign. All the instructions really given before June 16th to ease the evacuation of the government & parliament to Algiers are not canceled. Same for men and equipment.
I've always considered that the resistance in North Africa would have been short lived; there had no industries able to support a war effort. Ammunitions or spare parts would have allowed North Africa to hold no more than 3 or 4 months. But actually, the author provides new facts found his the archives proving that the anglo-french purchasing commission in the US had unintentionally paved the way for the sustainability of the fighting in Africa: the investments made in the US to build factories producing French equipments or ammunitions to relief the metropolitan industry suited the needs of a force of 600,000 men in North Africa. I was aware that factories had been built to produce the HS 404 or Brownings... Not that it came with ammunition factories producing French ammunitions (7,5 mm, 13.2 mm, 37 mm, 47 mm and of course the 75 and 155 mm ammunitions which were already produced since 1917 in the US).
With his presentation of the balance of power existing in the Med on June 1940, you realize that;
-the Italian threat is bigger on the paper than it was in the reality; the combined forces already available on June 25th 1940 on both sides of Libya (Tunisia & Egypt + French reinforcements stationed in Syria) are largely superior to what the Italians have on the ground. Without any hope to reinforce Libya by sea since the Regia Marina would have confronted a force 2 or 3 times larger than it really did against UK alone. And we know that the Regia Marina was very shy, at least in 1940. On the air, since Armée de l'Air would have been evacuated to North Africa, with airplanes having higher performances than what the Regia Aeronautica could field, the balance would have been again in favor of the Allies.
-the German threat being the most serious one would not have been to come in time before the fall of the Italian possessions in Africa; the Germans have to deal with the Battle of Britain, monopolizing its Luftwaffe and a large chunk of the Wehrmacht. Their army was of course unable to cross Spain fast enough before the fall of Spanish Morocco and actually, the author considers Franco would have not moved from neutrality to the status of non belligerent if he would have been certain to not to loose Morocco.
These points have already been discussed here.
Just a few points treated by the author;
*Considering the OOB on June 24th 1940 on mainland France, the resistance could have continued until the first (or at best) the second week of July, in the case of an evacuation centered on the major Mediterranean harbors such as Marseille or Toulon. The Atlantic harbors would have fallen pretty much at the same time they did in real life.
*Considering the tonnage available at that time (the Brits were busy on the Atlantic coast) and the distance between Toulon and Algeria, roughly 80,000-90,000 men could have been evacuated from France. Mostly necessary to form the backbone of a modern fighting force in Africa; technicians, cadres, tank crews (who were abundant but had lost their rides). A hundred of (modern) tanks, same amount of AT guns and half of that of AA guns evacuated as well. Note that in real life, since Weygand was opposed to a continuation of war, he canceled any order to evacuate men or equipment in June 1940. Unlike the chiefs of the air force or the navy, who, since their forces were mobile, tried to move all what was possible to Africa.
*The Armée de l'Air would have been surprisingly the army branch which would have survived the most easily in North Africa; by the spring of 1940, the deliveries of US made airplanes to be assembled in Morocco were satisfactory and hopefully, was decided years ago to purchase thousands of US made engines to put them on French airframes (as a complement). 100% US planes such as the P40, P39, Hellcat, P 38 or B24 would have eventually replaced the attrited French designs. These were rather lower numbers, in comparison to the standards of the European theater, but enough for the Med theater of 1940-42, roughly 700 fighters, 400 medium range bombers and 100 long range bombers in 1st line units.
*The purchases (as a complement) made before May 1940 for automobile equipments would have suited the needs of the forces available in North Africa. The 3,500 75 mm field guns and 1,000,000 rifles shipped by FDR in June 1940 would have really been shared between UK & France for the reequipment of their troops. All of that being short term, before the end of 1940.
*The attack of Libya was a real option of the French staff and it had already been planned since 1938 in cooperation with UK. It was not as cautious against the Italians as it was against the Germans. The offensive would have probably begun by September 1940 with the available forces (the ones existing on june 1940 + the reinforcements provided by evacuated units already available such as the troops evacuated from Narvik). The Allies having roughly 450 modern (real) tanks opposed to 300 CV33 tankettes with no hope of being reinforced by sea.
If you want accurate OOBs or figures, you can ask, I'll check the book. There's just too much stuff to post here.
Edited by GdG**, 01 August 2009 - 1543 PM.