Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat Essay, Research Paper
Marc Bloch documents the French defeat in World War II, recounting from his own personal experiences as a member in the French Resistance, as well as a soldier in both World Wars. Not only does Strange Defeat detail the French failure in World War II militarily, but also economically, and more important, socially. It provides a unique insight, objectively and informatively, into the manner of the downfall of France
Marc Bloch took part in the French Resistance after the German occupation. He was knowledgeable and experienced in the ways of war having fought in World War I. Therefor, his writings are completely valid; he is not another “outside historian” that is looking into the war, but providing his own personal experiences. Bloch wanted to provide an explanation as to how and why France suffered such a swift and humiliating loss to the Germans, from his experiences “behind the scenes”. He goes on to explain that the French defeat was not solely at the hand of the military but also due to Frenchmen’s outlook towards the war.
Bloch questions where the blame is to be held for the French failure: is it the French government, the military officials, the Army itself, the English? Bloch argues that the majority of the generals and superiors were completely incapable of dealing with the “new and improved” type of warfare. Bloch points out that many of these generals were remnants of World War I. They were not used to the up-tempo rhythm of the war that the Germans were waging. These generals were using the same military tactics and weapons as if they were in World War I. To use Bloch’s own words, this was a “war of intellect”, not just of gung-ho enthusiasm and bravado. These generals needed to have a semblance of imagination and anticipation concerning French military operations. Furthermore, it is necessary to equip one’s army with modern technology. It is not possible to forge and sort of adequate war without new and improved weapons and technology such as the Germans. Also, the overall disorganization of the various war departments was quite apparent throughout the war. The failure of the Intelligence Department to locate the enemy, the lack of communication between departments, the lack of modern technology, and the lack of anticipation of German maneuvers all contributed to military losses.
Bloch also addresses the role of the British and their Allied position with France. Bloch indicates particular instances of French sentiments and animosity towards their English counterparts. The French were floundering through all their campaigns due to the aforementioned reasons, while the British were operating under more tactful military procedures, superior organizational competence, and greater preparation, thus preventing huge military losses. In the eyes of many Frenchmen, it suggested a lack of military aid and became a source of tension between the two armies. The British consequently became the whipping boy for the French failures. As Bloch states, “What better excuse for our failures than the mistakes of others?” The French found it hard to swallow that perhaps the blame could be due to their own delinquencies.
The last chapter, “A Frenchman Examines his Conscience”, Bloch provides more of an insight into human interaction, which was the overall basis of the French defeat. To many, it was the opportunity to exploit their own ventures. For the trade unions, the war was seen as a profit gainer, businesses were hiking up war supply prices for their own gain, analogous to the “carpet-baggers” in the American civil war. Also, the French people did not have a full understanding of World War II. To the common laborer, they did not have full insight into their importance of the war effort. These people were responsible for providing arms to the French army, which were grossly inadequate. Instead, these laborers were worried their own paltry problems, paltry as compared to their own nation under attack and about to collapse. To others, they did comprehend the war, yet it was time for them to volunteer their services, they found any excuse possible to prevent it. A man’s life is no more important than the next, yet businessmen, social elite, fathers, found themselves using their position or profession as a premise to report to their patriotic duty. These sentiments did not involve only civilians, but people in the High Command and in political personnel, the people that one would most expect to offer their services for a patriotic duty. To use the excuse of one’s position is absurd. As Bloch states, they lacked patriotism and “ruthless heroism that is necessary when the country is in danger.
Strange Defeat gives a soldier and a historian’s analysis into the swift demise of France. Bloch is quick to point out that a war is not solely on the shoulders of military officials and soldiers. Yet, much of the responsibility is reliant of nation’s people and their manner. Maybe the government is responsible for this ineptitude, but the majority of the blame should fall on the evolvement of human nature. Generals and civilians alike were selfish, careless, and complacent when war arrived. No intellectual preparations, no immediate armament, no civilian unity; this was the French basis going into war. For the French, World War II was not a complete war; it was a war of French individuals. And never was self- interest so costly as the French people in World War II. It led to the suppression of the French people and of their culture for three years.