1. What is phoney war?
The term “phoney war” was a phrase refers to a period of World War II. Different people and countries have different names for this period. “Phoney war” came from William Borah, the senator at that time of the neutral United Stated. Because all the warring countries would never use the phrase “phoney war” to define the war they were involved in this period. The specific timeline of the phoney war was from the Battle of Poland in September 1939 to Germany attacked countries in North and West Europe in April 1940. In the period of “phoney war”, the Allies and Germany were militarily confronting each other to a large extent. The two sides concentrated more than 6 million of troops to prepare for the coming war. So in spite of no large-scale conflicts in this period, large-size preparation for the war was conducted.
2. Was it really a phoney war in this period?
The main basis of regarding this period as a phoney war was that there was no large-scale battle in the west line, though the two sides were militarily confronting each other all the time. But we need to analyze the situations of each warring side rather than make rash judgment. As to the Allies, the most criticized was that it failed to launch against Germany in time, resulting in the defeat of Poland. At that time, the ground force of the Allies in the west line was all consisted of the French Army. The French strategy was always to defend, so they invested a plenty of money to build the Maginot Line. Different from Germany, France didn’t wish that a war broke out and would not even prepare and plan for a long time for attacking Germany. The French strategy of focusing on defense was not only because they didn’t want to have a war, but also because France was unable to have a war with Germany alone. Germany had a population twice as much as that of France and its industrial productivity was much better than that of France. If a war broke out between France and Germany, France could only place its hopes on resisting and waiting for assistance from the Allies. In addition, in order to prevent the Allies to launch an attack in the west line, Germany built a firm Siegfried Line on the border. The resources invested by Germany for building this line were even more than the Maginot Line of France. Therefore, when the war broke out, France was not militarily prepared and of course would not take the risk to attack the firm Siegfried Line of Germany. Although someone pointed out that Germany deployed less military forces in the west line, with mobilization capability and transportation efficiency of the country, it was not difficult to form an advantage in troop size compared with France in the west in a short time. Since Germany gained victories rapidly with huge strategy and tactics advantages, it was more impossible for France to take initiative to attack Germany. For Germany, it needed to take military preparation after the Battle of Poland to ensure to launch a fatal attack against France in a short time rather than waiting for the war to become a war of attrition with huge casualties. With no one taking actions, military confrontation was the only situation that would be. So this was not a phoney war. It was a moment of peace before a large-scale war.
3. What was the international situation in the period of the phoney war?
The Allies must face very severe international situation in this period. Compared with the period of the First World War, the situation faced by the Allies this time was much worse. Before World War I broke out, the Allies could form a strategic surrounding state against Germany and Austria in East and West Europe and Balkans. Eventually, because of such favorable strategic state, Italy, originally belonged to the group of Germany and Austria, joined the Allies. In spite of such huge advantages in strategy and troop size, the Allies still was close to being defeated and finally managed to win with the United Stated involved. At the early stage of the Second World War, although Austria-Hungary did not exist, all its core part was annexed and mastered by Germany. Russia and Italy had successively separated from the Allies. They declared neutrality, but actually they kept a good relationship with Germany. All of the countries on the Balkan Peninsula maintained neutral and would not contain Germany in any way. Although Poland joined the Allies, its function in the east line certainly could not be compared with Russia in World War I. Additionally, Poland was quickly defeated and this alliance was lost. Besides, the alliance between Britain and Japan broke a long time ago and Britain needed to keep a lookout on Japan in the Far East. Therefore after the Battle of Poland ended and Hitler proposed peace to Britain and France, it was unexpected that Britain and France would reject his proposal, because Germany obviously as the stronger side proposed peace while the weaker wide chose not to accept it.
4. In the period of the phoney war, the mobilization speed of Britain was very slow. Within 7 months, Britain only dispatched 13 divisions for reinforcement to France. Slow mobilization led to most pressure of ground battles was imposed on the French Army.
5. Although being aware that Germany would start the war without declaration at any time, the Netherland and Belgium still chose to maintain neutral, which resulted that the military forces of 32 divisions in total could not efficiently cooperate with the Allies when the Battle of France broke out.
6. Owing to Italy’s attitude, France needed to transfer some forces to defend the southern area.
7. In the Winter War broke out in the period of the phoney war, Britain and France did not provide military assistance to Finland and was accused for that. The main purpose of the two countries was to avoid starting a war directly with the Soviet Union, which was also the reason that Britain the France did not declared a war against Germany and the Soviet Union when they jointly invaded Poland, because once the Soviet Union publicly joined Germany to fight against the Allies, the Allies must face an enemy with an overwhelming advantage in troop size.
8. The sea blockade implemented by Britain and France against Germany in the period of the phoney war was almost invalid. Germany could continue to obtain material supplies from neutral countries and get a lot of food and raw materials through the agreement with the Soviet Union.