Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Yabbut 50,000 men is a helluva lot to throw away on a gesture.

"Substantial assistance", yes. Aircraft, some troops, naval forces... But once the Japanese have pushed past 17N, and there is no real chance of stopping them - no more troops and evacuate everything possible (including French troops). Even the French have withdrawn their ships.

Also, a large British army being driven into internment like that? Churchill would, with good reason, fear the British reaction to such a debacle.

I suspect a substantial part of that army would have been French.
 
Yabbut 50,000 men is a helluva lot to throw away on a gesture.
It is a gesture, but it's other things besides. I'd argue that OTL actions such as the expedition to Greece, and sending 18th Division to Singapore in January 1942, are comparable (if not in every respect). Even as it is, losing Indochina is going to badly hurt the French government - it would be much worse if malcontented politicians in Algiers can argue that the British stood by and did nothing.
Also, a large British army being driven into internment like that? Churchill would, with good reason, fear the British reaction to such a debacle.
He might fear it to some extent, but by early 1942 he knows his government is secure politically. OTL there was a confidence motion in the House of Commons in 1942, after the disasters and disappointments of the Channel Dash, Singapore, Burma, Gazala and Tobruk. It got 25 votes.
I suspect a substantial part of that army would have been French.
Certainly - possibly a majority. There would also be an exodus of French civilians.
Good point - though if Slim is in command of the whole, as it seems, then BCE troops must be at least half.
Slim I envisage as the corps commander, so not initially in command of all Allied land forces - but became so in practice during the retreat into Cambodia. I didn't phrase that well and will edit.
 
Part 9.1
Part 9. Mitzvah goreret mitzvah

Extract from ch.6, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green

Even before the completion of the conquest of Indochina, the Japanese began increasing the pressure on Bangkok to enter the war. ‘This is a rare opportunity,’ said the Japanese ambassador, ‘to humiliate the arrogance of the enemy, and gain a respected place in the New Order.’ They backed up this talk with numerous armed incursions by land and air.

Phibun’s own preference was to accept this, but almost all Thai opinion was against him. ‘I don’t see this New Order lasting all that long,’ said one diplomat in Washington. His compatriots at home agreed. ‘Phibun proposes to be the Mussolini of Asia,’ said the Regent to one government minister. ‘And look what’s happened to him.’ General Wavell backed this up by commenting on the necessity of Bangkok maintaining a friendly attitude. He was too much the gentleman to note - though he did not need to - that the British now had four divisions and an armoured brigade assembled on Thailand’s borders to south and west, backed by over 300 modern aircraft. The same minister went on to say, ‘The Japanese offers amount to this: that our country become a battlefield, in return for vague promises.’

Phibun’s response to the Japanese overtures was therefore a list of impossible demands, to be fulfilled before a declaration of war. ‘He talks nonsense,’ wrote the Emperor, ‘even though he is the friendliest man we have in Bangkok.’ Tokyo asked General Yamashita if an invasion of Thailand was feasible, but the general disliked the idea. ‘Our formations in Indochina need strong reinforcement to make an invasion worthwhile or even possible,’ he replied in mid-March. ‘All units badly understrength due to casualties and sickness. Very large areas of Indochina, including many major towns, we have not conquered - only bypassed. Many enemy units not destroyed, only dispersed, with their weapons. Experience shows that this paves way for guerilla action on large scale. The job in Indochina is only half done.’ Tokyo was sceptical. ‘Surely we don’t expect much guerilla resistance from Vietnamese?’ asked one Staff officer. But Yamashita was right in this, as events were to prove.

In the same memorandum he noted the effects of attrition on the IJA air power in the theatre. ‘Air units in Indochina report less than 50% serviceable rate. Fuel and spares very short. Now is not the time to take on another large campaign. Value of Thailand to us doubtful.’ There was still a further consideration: ‘some 50,000 enemy troops now in Thai internment for the duration,’ noted Yamashita. ‘If we attack they will immediately become available to strengthen Thai resistance, better for us to keep Thailand neutral under present circumstances.’ This memorandum effectively killed the idea of involving Thailand in the war - as it proved, permanently. However, the fear of the contingencies kept two excellent Allied formations, Indian 5th and British 6th, pinned down in their intimidatory role during March, at a time when they could have been very useful elsewhere…

We must now turn our attention to the central and eastern prongs. With hindsight we can separate them, but decision-makers at the time had to hold several major developments in mind simultaneously.

...‘We have scotched the snake, not killed it,’ said Admiral Cunningham, when asked in early February about likely Japanese intentions around Borneo. Indeed the very next day came news of further Japanese landings in Dutch Borneo and Celebes. ‘Renewed attack on North Borneo only a matter of time,’ Wavell wrote to the Council. ‘We are making all efforts, but our land-based air there only capable of self-defense missions. Enemy have many aircraft based in eastern Borneo - therefore we are already outmatched. Indications are that IJN sending very heavy forces.’

This proved true. The covering force for the second invasion of North Borneo comprised four fleet carriers and four battleships, with three light carriers assigned to a close support of the invasion force itself. By this time, the Allies had fewer search assets available in the South China Sea; most of the US, French and Dutch submarines and aircraft had withdrawn or been destroyed, and the RN’s submarines desperately needed rest. The RAAF Catalina squadron in North Borneo was down to only two serviceable machines. ‘We can feel it coming, but we can’t see it,’ complained one Australian officer. Eastern Fleet would not repeat its exploit of the month before.

On February 7th the blow fell. Two regiments landed in Sabah, and the following day a third reinforced them. The RAF and RAAF Hurricanes in the north fought against heavy odds, but by the end of the second day none were left flying. After that, the Indochina and Philippines story repeated itself, as it was also doing on the eastern side of Borneo. The two brigades of Australian 8th Division that comprised the main defence fought successive defensive actions down the coast, giving time for engineers to demolish the oil wells, though in some cases the demolitions were incomplete. On 24th February the Australians successfully broke contact and retreated south to Kuching, whence the Navy evacuated them over three nights, 28th February to 2nd March. The FAA suffered heavy losses in this operation - out of 120 aircraft aboard the three carriers, over half were lost, along with twenty RAF and RAAF aircraft. ‘One Fulmar squadron wiped out completely,’ noted Cunningham, reporting to the Council. ‘We ask too much of our men. Fulmars cannot serve in front line any longer. We cannot risk carrier operations outside of land-based fighter cover until FAA has better fighter aircraft.’ His precious carriers had escaped serious damage, though a bomb hit on Victorious put her out of action for several weeks. The first Martlet (Grumman F4F) fighters had arrived, but re-equipping the carriers would take time.

‘It came to a choice between getting our men out of Indochina or Borneo,’ wrote Wavell to Curtin. ‘Borneo was much the easier operation, but it still required the full strength of the Fleet. We were very conscious of Australian political sensitivities. Also, with regard to Indochina, there was a humane alternative of internment in Thailand. Nonetheless it was a very painful decision to accept the loss of Indian 4th and British 18th for the duration, together with many splendid French troops.’ Prime Minister Curtin replied, ‘the great efforts of the Navy noted here. We appreciate the enormous difficulties you face and the painful decisions you must take. We have full confidence in your employment of Australian forces.’ The two Australian brigades from Borneo now recuperated in Malaya, while Australian 9th Division went to Java...

By late February the whole of Dutch Borneo and Makassar had also fallen. Wavell was concerned about a possible direct Japanese assault on Malaya from Indochina and Borneo, but the Japanese now considered Malaya too strongly held, and had already decided against this. ‘The enemy now have four divisions there and a large air force,’ noted Admiral Yamamoto. Instead, they opted for an indirect approach. ‘Once Sumatra falls, Malaya must follow, a glance at a map shows this,’ he went on. ‘Therefore our obvious next target is Bali, it has only a weak Dutch garrison.’ Bali was small and had an airfield that, in accordance with the usual Japanese strategy, would provide air cover for their further operations. ‘Once we hold Bali, we can move via Java on Sumatra.’
 
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What are the Japanese expectations TTL? I mean OTL their blitzkrieg across Southeast Asia and the Pacific at least allowed the possibility of bringing the allies to the table, here the calculus is very different and even they should have realized that the US is likely to be ready before they can defeat the Anglo-French forces.
 

Driftless

Donor
What are the Japanese expectations TTL? I mean OTL their blitzkrieg across Southeast Asia and the Pacific at least allowed the possibility of bringing the allies to the table, here the calculus is very different and even they should have realized that the US is likely to be ready before they can defeat the Anglo-French forces.

Shoot first, aim later? (I'm being a bit flippant there, but their historic calculus had a lot of desperate hope, over logic, at several points)
 

Ramontxo

Donor
"He might fear it to some extent, but by early 1942 he knows his government is secure politically. OTL there was a confidence motion in the House of Commons in 1942, after the disasters and disappointments of the Channel Dash, Singapore, Burma, Gazala and Tobruk. It got 25 votes."
Amen. It has been argued that this disasters cost him the postwar election. But in 1942 (and before) the chance in OTL of the British Parliament voting down Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill are limited to, very perverted, wet dreams
 
What are the Japanese expectations TTL? I mean OTL their blitzkrieg across Southeast Asia and the Pacific at least allowed the possibility of bringing the allies to the table, here the calculus is very different and even they should have realized that the US is likely to be ready before they can defeat the Anglo-French forces.
They should have realised it, but they haven't yet, not even at this point of the story. As far as they are concerned, things are not going too badly. They've conquered Indochina, Borneo and Celebes, and inflicted heavier losses (in planes, ships and men) than they have suffered. They don't know about the spectacular, low-cost successes of OTL. It might seem that they have solid assets to set up a negotiation. The level of delusion in Tokyo does not need to be significantly higher than OTL.
Shoot first, aim later? (I'm being a bit flippant there, but their historic calculus had a lot of desperate hope, over logic, at several points)
A fair summary of some key aspects of the IJN/ IJA decision-making processes - and those are the processes that matter, since the Japanese Government is basically just the PR front for the armed forces, at this point.
 
Part 9.2
Report by Admiral Cunningham on operations in the Java Sea, February 24th - 28th 1942

2. In this period the naval challenge was exceptionally complex. My appreciation as of mid-February was that we faced likely need or desire to evacuate Borneo while Japanese forces in the eastern region continued their southward push. I made my dispositions accordingly…

4. ...Two RN fleet oilers arrived at rendezvous point SE of Java early morning of 24th, and Admiral Burrough reported refuelling operations going on satisfactorily. Our submarines saw much activity this day - Talisman sank enemy sub N of Bali, and Triumph detected the Japanese leaving the Makassar Strait. The invasion convoy escorted by four destroyers, covered by strong cruiser and destroyer force. We suspected two capital ships and two light carriers acting as distant cover (exact composition unconfirmed), and enemy submarines known to be present. We therefore concluded this was a major effort, probably against Bali, and coordinated our plans with Admiral Doorman who would command Force J…

6. Force J comprised two Dutch and two US cruisers plus HMAS Perth and HMS Exeter, with six destroyers. This force left Surabaya late on 24th. Enemy detected it by air recon early on 25th. Air cover from Surabaya was intermittent - no cover present during Japanese air attacks in the late morning, and two of our ships damaged.

7. Enemy covering force steamed at high speed to engage Force J. Fierce running fight followed during afternoon & early evening, in which enemy superiority in gunnery and torpedo attacks demonstrated. Force J could not coordinate effectively owing to differences of language, equipment and doctrine. Inherent problem in alliance warfare.

8. HNLMS De Ruyter and HMS Exeter both lost to torpedo attack and all other ships damaged by gunfire. During withdrawal, USS Marblehead had to be abandoned, later being sunk by aircraft, and HMAS Perth damaged. Three destroyers also lost. No damage known to enemy.

9. However by drawing enemy cruisers out of position Force J enabled Force K to make its attack, having passed through the Lombok Strait apparently undetected. Destroyers searched for submarines but found none. Gloucester suffered mechanical trouble and detached, but Birmingham, Newcastle and Southampton, with accompanying destroyers, located the invasion convoy just after nightfall. Previous experience has shown the range and power of Japanese torpedoes, so commander opted to close range rapidly.

10. Engagement lasted some 2 hours, with all enemy transports sunk or left in sinking condition & on fire. Two enemy destroyers also sunk or sinking, for loss of Fearless. Southampton damaged by torpedo. At 0100 on 26th Force K withdrew via the Lombok Strait, reuniting with Gloucester on the way.

11. At 0330 Southampton hit by two torpedoes, presumably from submarine, in the Lombok Strait, and sank quickly. Our total loss in these operations thus came to four cruisers and four destroyers, a heavy loss, though we believe justified by the strategic effect …
 
Allies can afford to lose ships, the IJA can't afford to lose troops
Looks like Japan isn't rolling Sixes here, like OTL
 
A Slugfest! I'm guessing the US won't dictate the course of the war on the Allies' camp as it pretty much OTL. On the other hand Japan won't get the opportunity to inflict it's warcrimes on allies personnel and civilians (whites), so post-war Japan might get away with their behavior more so than OTL.
 
A Slugfest! I'm guessing the US won't dictate the course of the war on the Allies' camp as it pretty much OTL. On the other hand Japan won't get the opportunity to inflict it's warcrimes on allies personnel and civilians (whites), so post-war Japan might get away with their behavior more so than OTL.

It might be the big Four (or Five if China ends up Nationalistic) here, however realistically, France is still a distant third compared to the US and then the UK.
 
Heavy Losses, but absolutely worth it IMO. Those ships can be replaced; Japan's timetable's can't be. Nor can they replace the shipping and the men lost to the waters.
 
Every month that the Japanese are kept from achieving the needed breathing space around the oil fields is 2 months of Oil they are deprived and the sooner they have nothing left. Japan had probably %30 of what was needed to hold the OTL conquests and could not replace what was attrited. In this TL the costs are much higher. It is also worth noting that without the repair facilities in Singapore combat damage needs to go much further for repair.,
 
10. Engagement lasted some 2 hours, with all enemy transports sunk or left in sinking condition & on fire...

11 ...Our total loss in these operations thus came to four cruisers and four destroyers, a heavy loss, though we believe justified by the strategic effect …
Sort of like what the Japanese hoped to achieve at Leyte Gulf OTL.
 
On the other hand Japan won't get the opportunity to inflict it's warcrimes on allies personnel and civilians (whites), so post-war Japan might get away with their behavior more so than OTL.
(cough cough) St. Stephen's College massacre? Bataan Death March? (hasn't happened yet, but Japan will almost certainly conquer the Philippines).

Singapore may be spared, but Indochina is lost. OTL, Japan didn't molest French residents of Indochina, because the Vichy authorities there submitted peacefully to Japanese occupation, as a quasi-ally. (AFAIK. The Japanese seized full control in March 1945, and probably did Bad Stuff then.) But in TTL, France has resisted Japan strenuously, so one can expect the usual Japanese reaction.
 
Allies can afford to lose ships, the IJA can't afford to lose troops
In this case it isn't actually the IJA losing troops. Japanese inter-service rivalry was such that the Navy insisted on keeping its own private army and Air Force - though arguably the western allies did the same - inter-service rivalry is apparently a universal constant. (I suspect this could be made a theme in a science-fiction comedy, if it hasn't been already.) Conversely, the IJA had its own separate Air Force (and even I think had ships under its own control which it jealously kept back from the Navy). The troops lost in the ATL Bali Sea battle were men of the SNLF.
I'm guessing the US won't dictate the course of the war on the Allies' camp as it pretty much OTL.
Not perhaps to quite the same extent, but the US will still do 90% of the heavy lifting in the Pacific, and will dominate the Western allied coalition. That is baked in, and has been since 1940 at the latest.
Heavy Losses, but absolutely worth it IMO. Those ships can be replaced; Japan's timetable's can't be.
Every week of delay imposed on the Southern Operation is worth a cruiser at least. Put another way, the Allies have several more cruiser squadrons, but the Japanese have only a couple of months.
Sort of like what the Japanese hoped to achieve at Leyte Gulf OTL.
Achieved in this case by Force K, the RN's night-fighting experts, last seen in part 3.2. Cunningham evidently brought them with him from the Med. The title of part 9, mitzvah goreret mitzvah, means something like 'good gathers good', the idea of the virtuous circle, or perhaps we might paraphrase it in this context as 'success breeds success'. The point I hoped to make was that the lower attrition of 1941 in the Med means that the RN can maintain more stable teams of ships such as Force K, which makes for the smoother execution of operations, which in turn leads to lower attrition (or at any rate higher enemy attrition). I hope the great Hillel (to whom I believe the phrase is attributed) would consider this a reasonable application of the phrase.
Japan will almost certainly conquer the Philippines
Unfortunately yes, neither the US Pacific Fleet or the RN Eastern Fleet have the strength to take the strategic offensive. Both are at the moment carrying out a kind of guerrilla war at sea, with raids and ambushes.
OTL, Japan didn't molest French residents of Indochina, because the Vichy authorities there submitted peacefully to Japanese occupation, as a quasi-ally. (AFAIK. The Japanese seized full control in March 1945, and probably did Bad Stuff then.) But in TTL, France has resisted Japan strenuously, so one can expect the usual Japanese reaction.
Bad stuff, certainly, summarised here. This is why most French civilians in Indochina (and a lot of their local auxiliaries) have in the ATL fled into internment in Thailand.
 
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Read through this yesterday. Have not read the background FFO & related items, but I'll toss out some comments anyway.

1. There was comment on the US possibly setting up factories in French colonies, specifically NW Africa. That had already been accomplished in two cases. First a final assembly site for the Martin M-167 bomber had been established in Morocco & had been operating since March or April 1940. this site included a school for the aircraft technicians/ground grow and a parts depot. A similar site had been set up by Douglass Aircraft for assembly of the DB-7. Im unsure if that was operating in May 1940. The facility for the H-75 was in Metropolitan France and was lost OTL as the Armistice required its destruction.

2. French colonial naval bases. The site pertinate to this thread for the Mediterranean battles was the modern naval base at Mer el Kibir. This replaced the older facility in Algiers as the French second naval base in the Mediterranean. Toloun being the primary. While it could not support entire French fleet It could provide fuel storage and repair shops for much of it. Other smaller bases existed in Tunisia and the eastern Levant. Initially the French fleet would not be dependent on the British.

3. French tanks made in the US. Last year I had a conversation about this with Rich Anderson - US historian of WWII. He was unable to identify any contracts, plans or discussions of building French designed armor vehicles in the US. This is not to say no one discussed it, but documentation of any plans being made is not surfacing. Further discussion with assorted tank experts and wannabe experts led to identification of numerous technical issues. Bottom line there is manufacturing French designs in the US would have been of questionable practicality. On a related note, the rail road industry did the heavy lifting in US tank manufacturing. Companies like Baldwin had the experience & expertise in large steel casings and super weight vehicles. Later entrants from the automotive industry were dependent on the locomotive industry for the technical knowledge.

4. The BOMB. The French were up to something. In 1939 they persuaded Norsk Hydro to sell the French government all the heavy water production. The last large delivery occurred in March 1940, just a few weeks before German curiosity seekers secured the NH facility. French had also started purchasing large quantities of Yellow Cake Uranium ore from Belgium. Not in small lab bench quantities but in multi ton batches. The French had also been collecting refugee Physicists from across Europe like prize baseball cards. Rhodes in 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' has several paragraphs on this. While some of the physicists were collected by the Brits the records at the Curie Institute and related facilities were not well preserved. Exactly what the French were aiming at and how far along they were is not clear to me. I suspect a Atomic power project of some sort. The USN initiated a Atomic power research program in 1939, so its not ASB some group like the Curie Institute had organized something similar.

The Brits have been accused of letting the question sit in academic debate, thus losing 8-10 months of practical research 1940-41. This is beyond my expertise but worth a look.

What this adds up to is the possibility the French research group is evacuated to Africa & either continues there, or the French work out a earlier collaboration with the US than the Brits did.

5. Frances gold reserves were substantial, as were its foreign currency reserves. Unlike the British Empires 'Sterling Zone' the French banking system was a bit more compatible with the US & placed the French government & a better cash flow with the US. Not all the French Gold reserves were in distant Dakar or aboard the Bearn. In March 1940 two cruisers had been dispatched from France with a large quantity bullion for distribution in the North American banking system as collateral and for further payment on French purchases from US & Canadian industry. This is to say French financial transactions with US banks/industry would have been almost seamless in the post evacuation era, and France could have continued paying cash for a considerable time.
 
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I guess that a good side effect is that 3 million Bengalis in India don't starve as the colonial administration doesn't panic and start the scorched earth policy that they implemented after the fall of Bengal OTL as they panicked after the fall of Burma which doesn't happen ITTL. The successful defense of Singapore and Malaya and large parts of Dutch East Indies means that the British appear to be stronger than they actually are also an impression that the tide is turning so the Quit India Movement is butterflied away and massive butterflies may hit India, maybe even no partition as the Muslim League was still an organization of the elites and they never become the popular organization that they became once the Congress was gutted and its leaders jailed.

In Burma the rise of General Ne Win is butterflied away so another plus for humanity.

What is the reality of the Anglo-French Union other than jointly deciding war plans? It seems to me as a measure to justify the evacuation from the French mainland and continuing the war. It seems that the British Government operates from London whereas the French government operates from Algiers. If they are truly united shouldn't they be based out of London as a single government?

ITTL the British Eastern Fleet or Pacific Fleet whichever is correct operates with impunity from the beginning of the war in the east so the Australian and the New Zealander navies are never forced to operate with the Americans and they are also never forced to request American protection as the British are already doing so. This would probably keep them bound more closely with the British Postwar.

Admiral Cunningham ITTL still does Taranto and sees other action in the Mediterranean before moving onto the Pacific so he becomes more of a hero than OTL maybe the greatest British Admiral of the Century or if luck favors the status of Second Nelson.

Similarly Wavell with quick victories in the Middle East and doing the heavy lifting in the East means that he is already on of the greatest British Generals of the War at least until the ground war restarts in western Europe although much is left to decide his fate.

Edit- Where is Admiral Somerville now that Cunningham is in the East?
 
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