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An Army Reconsidered —Vichy France’s Stubborn Defense of the Levant in the Second World War

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An Army Reconsidered —Vichy France’s Stubborn Defense of the Levant in the Second World War

In June 1941, Allied forces launched one of the least known operations of the Second World War, invading Lebanon and Syria from Palestine to defeat Vichy French forces whom they suspected of aiding Germany in gaining a foothold in the Levant. With no hope for reinforcement or resupply, the French waged a stubborn defense, holding the capital city of Beirut for over a month before the weight of Allied reinforcements, naval, and air superiority finally forced French commanders to seek terms. Although Vichy France’s “Army of the Levant” was ultimately defeated Allied casualties and dashed expectations for a much faster victory stand in marked contrast to the rapid demise of the French Army at the hands of the Germans a year earlier.

The Army of the Levant was for all intents and purposes a miniature version of the same French army that surrendered to the Germans, with commanders trained in the same military schools, practicing more or less the same doctrine. In fact, some Vichy commanders had fought against the Germans in the Battle of France. How is it then that the army best known for crumbling in 1940 was able to account so well for itself just a year later? A comparison of the two battles may provide some redemption to the martial reputation of French soldiers, whose tactical performance in 1940 was undermined by strategic, pre-war decisions that—as we’ll see—had considerably less bearing on the battlefield effectiveness of French soldiers in the Army of the Levant.


An Army Reconsidered —Vichy France’s Stubborn Defense of the Levant in the Second World War - Military Strategy Magazine
 
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