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Forty Eight Hours That Changed the World


Forty eight hours that changed the world were a surprising gift given to Hitler by general Maxime Weygand on May 17 1940. It happened when general Weygand was newly nominated Supreme Commander to take over duties from the dismissed general Maurice Gamelin. Weygand arrived on May 17 and started by cancelling the side counter-offensive ordered by Gamelin, to cut off the German armored columns, which had punched through the French front through Belgium at the Ardennes and thus bypassed the Maginot Line.
The flanking attack ordered by general Gamelin was the obvious solution, which earlier was brought up by German General Staff as a reason to oppose the idea of an attack bypassing the Maginot Line through the Ardenes in Belgium. Hitler was an ardent supported of the risky attack through the mountains in Belgium and the successful bypassing of the Maginot Line gave Hitler the prestige and self confidence to act as a Supreme Commander independent of the German General Staff.
The Battle of Poland during the Fall of 1939 was conducted in agreement with the plans and under the supervision of German General Staff. Hitler’s personal success in bypassing the Maginot Line changed German conduct of WWII, especially in Russia, thanks to the fact that Weygand lost two crucial days before finally adopting the obvious solution of his predecessor.
But it was by then it a failed French counter offensive, because during the 48 lost hours, the German infantry had caught up behind their tanks in the breakthrough and had consolidated their gains by also bringing the supplies of fuel, ammunition, etc. .
With most of the Allied forces trapped in Belgium, Weygand complained that he had been summoned two weeks too late to halt the German invasion. After some further vain attempts to contain the enemy offensive, he then joined in seeking an armistice and cooperation with the German occupiers
Weygand was briefly sent to Poland as head of the French military mission in 1920 during the Polish-Bolshevik War. The mission also included French diplomats and the British diplomat Lord Egdar Vincent D’Abernon, w later wrote that the crucial Battle of Warsaw which was fought and won by the Poles was one of 18 crucial battles in the history.

Weygand travelled to Poland in the expectation of assuming command of the Polish army, yet he met with a very disappointing reception. His first meeting with Piłsudski on 24 July 1920 started with Piłsudski's opening question, "How many divisions do you bring?" Obviopsly Weygand had no divisions to offer. On 27 July, he was assigned to act as adviser to the Polish Chief of Staff, general Rozwadowski, but their cooperation was poor as Weygand did not understand the mobile Polish-Soviet war. He was surrounded by officers who did not like him and who spoke in Polish, depriving him not only of a part in their discussions but even of the news from the front.
Weygand’s impractical suggestions were systematically rejected. At the end of July he proposed that the Poles hold the line of the Bug River; a week later he proposed a purely defensive posture along the Vistula River at the time when Poles prepared a major counter offensive.

Weygand was of some assistance to General Władysław Sikorski, to whom he discussed the strategic advantages of the River Wkra. On 18 August 1920, when Weygand again met Piłsudski he was told nothing of the great victory in the battle of Warsaw, but was "entertained instead with a Jewish tale." Weygand was later offended as a "représentant de la France," when he realized what happened.

The battle of Warsaw was won by the Poles and armistice negotiations were beginning; the crisis had passed. Weygand urged other diplomats to pack their bags. General Weygand was depressed by his failure and dismayed by Poland's disregard for the advice given by the Entante. He left Warsaw on 25 August after he was awarded of the medal of Virtuti Militari.

On the 26th at Kraków, he was dined by the city mayor. Two days later at Paris on the 28th, he was cheered by crowds lining the platform of the Gare de l'Est, and kissed on both cheeks by the Premier Alexandre Millerand . Weygand was presented with the grand-croix de la legion d’honneur as the “victor of the battle of Warsaw.” He could not understand what had happened and later he has admitted in his memoirs, that "the victory was Polish, the plan was Polish, the army was Polish." Weygand was the first victim as well as the chief beneficiary, of a legend already in circulation in Paris that he, Weygand, “was the victor of Warsaw.” Weygand legend persisted for more than forty years in Western academic circles.
Forty years later, General Maxime Weygand on May 17 1940 gave a surprising gift to Hitler in form of the forty eight hours that changed the world. It happened when general Weygand was newly nominated Supreme Commander to take over duties from the general Maurice Gamelin. Weygand arrived on May 17 and started by cancelling the flanking counter-offensive ordered by Gamelin, to cut off the German armored columns, which had punched through the French front through Belgium at the Ardennes and thus bypassed the Maginot Line. By then the German tanks were out of fuel and out of ammunition. At that moment, general Weygand gave to Hitler “the forty eight hours that changed the world.”

www.pogonowski.com
28 grudzień 2010

Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski 

  

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