How would total Vichy French involvement in the war on the Axis side have affected the war?

I’m curious about how the French navy in particular would have affected the balance of power in the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans. Would French colonial troops have a been a serious threat to British colonies or not really?


Oh that would have been a disaster, near as I can tell. See with Vichy forces fully on Axis side after say, Mers Al-Kabir, it wouldn’t have been TRIVIAL, but fairly easy to reinforce French Syria and flank Middle East Command. The problem with Lybia is that it’s got very low populations and only has two good ports, Tripoli and Tobruk, and no interconnected railway. It’s also got one means of approach to Middle East Command. From Syria, you can strike east into Iraq and south into Palestine. Now if Hilter was decently smart at this point and left the Jews in Palestine alone there’s no native support for the British and the Arabs might regard the Axis as liberators in Jordan, Iraq, etc.

Joining in 1941, a sub-base in Casablanca or even further south in French Morroco it would have been a safe hunting ground for U-Boats cutting off British trade coming around the horn of Africa. Also, if the Germans were smarter, French ports in West Africa offer a means of smuggling goods from Latin America. You ship oil to Brazil, smuggle it more or less from Recife to Dakar, then barge it up.

Also, if the Germans were smart, and they were stupid in naval matters, they could use French Morrocco to assault Gibraltar. I’m not saying the assault wouldn’t be costly, and possibly crippling for German Paratroops and the Italian Navy BUT if you take Gibraltar, the Med becomes sealed from the west, all reinforcements must go around the Horn of Africa, Malta is more or less sure to be abandoned with even moderate pressure on Egypt AND, with the exception of sub-operations you can safely transport the oil or other smuggled goods from Casablanca overland to any North African port and ship it safely to Europe. And this provides Hitler operational latitude with delaying Barbarossa so he can secure the eastern Med and get that sweet sweet Iraqi/Iranian oil, which could be transferred via the Berlin Baghdad railway, which was completed in 1940.

Then Germany wins. Whether or not they can destroy the Soviet Union isn’t all that material, even if they lose that, they’ll stalemate because they can actually stick to the war of maneuver because they have the fuel to continue the fight. And this changes EVERYTHING, especially pilot training in the Luftwaffe mid to late war. You’re not going to have 2/3 of the 88s in Germany for flak because there will be a hardened and effective Luftwaffe and with all those 88s in Russia, deep battle is gonna be difficult at best and impossible on the scale it was conducted in late 43 and 44. And to compound, this German production will go past its 1944 peaks and stay there for a good long time because the factories aren’t being bombed. Stalin will probably peace out in early 1944 because winning is good, maintaining his regime is better. The costs of driving the Germans out are politically unacceptable, not in face terms, but in terms of driving the Soviet people to revolution ala 1917.

Germany will keep more or less everything that they conquered up to May of 1941. Eventually, the German economy would collapse but the German economy was better managed than the Soviet economy at pretty much every stage of the Soviet Union and maybe the Reich would have had a Deng Xiping moment.

I would point to John Keegan’s essay, here

It’s not the essay itself, only the book it’s in.

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