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Things I didn’t know or don’t understand, special edition: France in June 1940

I don’t understand why the French didn’t order their fighter aircraft to fly to England before the French surrender in June 1940.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H25217,_Henry_Philippe_Petain_und_Adolf_Hitler-2

I don’t understand why the French didn’t order their fighter aircraft to fly to England before the French surrender in June 1940.

Even more I don’t understand why the French didn’t ship to England the 400 German pilots they held as prisoners. Those 400 likely played a significant role in the Battle of Britain. Imagine if they had tipped the balance.

I don’t think “French petulance” is an adequate answer.

That said, I remember how stunned I was when I walked around a small town in southern France last spring. I am guessing it had a population of perhaps 300. When I was leaving, I passed a World War I memorial that listed 17 dead from the town. In other words, perhaps all the men in their 20s and 30s.

Photo credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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