Correcting Frieser : the force ratio in May 1940

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
Posts: 76
Joined: 09 Aug 2017 15:01
Location: France

Correcting Frieser : the force ratio in May 1940

Post by Hiryu- » 05 Aug 2022 14:08

Frieser's Blitzkrieg Legend is regarded as the reference book about Fall Gelb. Frieser indeed makes a lot of good points, but one particular point always irked me : he seems to overestimate the relative strength in men and material of the Western allies against Germany, claming that « Paradoxically, in May 1940, the defenders were numerically superior to the attacker in almost all areas ».



Frieser puts the total manpower of the French army at 6,1 million men in september 1939 reduced to 5,5 millions men in spring 1940. He omits that the latter number includes 960,000 men that were send back to the economy : 710,000 in the industry and 250,000 for the agriculture. This has already been discussed on AHF here: viewtopic.php?f=112&t=248778 Thus French avalaible manpower was closer to 4,385,000. The number of troops deployed on the northeastern front is right though : around 2,230,000.

Frieser overstates the size of the Dutch army : 400,000 when in reality its strength was closer to 280,000 [1]. He also count as deployed on the front the entire Dutch and Belgian forces, when the former aligned only 120,000 men and the latter at best 350,000 (?).

This is a more exact count :
Total manpower : around 7 million Allies vs 5,5 million Germans and not 8,2 vs 5,5.
Total deployed on the northeastern front : 3,2 million Allies vs 3 million Germans and not 3,8 vs 3.

Field artillery

Frieser writes, based on Westfront 1939/40 Erinnerungen des Feindbearbeiters im O.K.H by Ulrich Liss, that Germany had only 7,378 field artillery pieces deployed on the front against 14,000 for the Allies, a large 2 to 1 disadvantage. But, looking at the Heer field artillery piece inventory [2], the Germans had above 13,200 guns. This inventory is not complete though, many types of guns are missing like the 7,7 cm from the Great war or various captured austrian/czech/polish pieces, for a total stock of maybe above 16,000 [3]. To me it's obvious that Liss didn't count infantry guns (like the 7,5 cm IG 18) or the captured weapons in the 7,378 pieces deployed. If the Germans deployed around 75% of their field guns in May 1940 (like the French did), then they had between 9,900 and 12,000 pieces facing 14,000 allies.

Anti-tank guns

Frieser makes no mention of the german superiority in AT weapons : in total 14,257 3,7 cm pieces [2] against around 7,000 25 & 47 mm for the French (4,400 deployed in combat units in metropolitan France) [4]. The Belgians [5] and the Dutch [1] had respectively 750 and 380 47 mm AC guns, the British 850+ guns (?) [6].

[1] ... nt-in-wwii
[2] GatSWW 5-IA, p. 636
[3] ... allemande/
[4] L'armée de Terre française du 10 mai 1940 by Éric Denis p. 175 & 179
[5] ... elgium.htm
[6] ... ld_War_II)

Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”