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Saar Offensive (Munich Goes Sour)

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Saar Offensive
Part of the Phoney War of World War II
Saar Offensive 1938 (Munich Goes Sour)
Date 8–17 October 1938
Place Saarland, Western Germany
Result French withdrawal; followed by the Phoney War
France France Nazi Germany Germany
Commanders and leaders
France Maurice Gamelin
France Henri Giraud
(CO; 3rd Army)
France Edouard Réquin
(CO, 4th Army)
Nazi Germany Wilhelm Adam
(CO, Heeresgruppe C)
Nazi Germany Ludwig Beck
(CO, 1. Armee)
First line:
11 infantry divisions
4 North African divisions
2 mechanized divisions
2 cavalry divisions
2 Spahi brigades
Total in Northeastern France:
50 infantry divisions
2 mechanized divisions
3 cavalry divisions
2400 tanks
4700 pieces of artillery
1st Army:
3 infantry divisions
3 Landwehr divisions
~100 pieces of artillery
Casualties and losses
2000 dead, wounded and sick 218 killed
114 missing
368 wounded

The Saar Offensive was a French ground operation into Saarland, Germany, during the early stages of World War II, from 8 to 17 October 1938. The purpose of the attack was to assist Czechoslovakia, which was then under invasion. 11 French division marched eight km into Germany against weak German opposition. The planned all-out assault was to have been carried out by roughly 40 divisions, including one armored division, three mechanised divisions, 78 artillery regiments and 40 tank battalions. However, despite the stiff resistance in Czechoslovakia, the French offensive did not result in any diversion of German troops, and the 40-division all-out assault never materialised. Thus, the offensive was stopped and the French forces eventually withdrew amid a German counter-offensive on October 20.

Objective of the offensive

According to the Franco-Czechoslovak military convention, the French Army was to start preparations for the major offensive three days after mobilization started. The French forces were to effectively gain control over the area between the French border and the West wall (also known as the Siegfried Line) and were to probe the German defenses. The sector was defended by the Wehrmacht's 1st Army, under the command of Colonel General Ludwig Beck. On the 19th day of the mobilization (that is on 18 October), the French Army was to start a full-scale assault on Germany. The preemptive mobilization was started in France on 24 September and on 1 October full mobilization was declared.

French mobilization suffered from an inherently out of date system. While having more and better tanks than the Germans, their doctrines greatly reduced their ability to swiftly deploy their forces on the field. The French command still believed in the tactics of World War I, which relied heavily on stationary artillery, even though this took time to transport and deploy (many pieces also had to be retrieved from storage before any advance could be made).

Order of Battle

France France

3rd Army ()
CO: Général de division Henri Giraud
Unit Commander Garrison

Nazi Germany Germany

1st Army (1. Armee)
CO: Generaloberst Ludwig Beck
Chief of Staff: Generalleutnant Georg von Apell
Unit Commander Garrison
XII. Armeekorps General der Infanterie Walther Schroth Wiesbaden
33rd Infantry Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 104 (I.-III.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 110 (I.-III.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 115 (I.-III.)
  • Artillerie-Regiment 33 (I.-III.)
  • Artillerie-Regiment 69 (I.)
  • Beobachtungs-Abteilung 33
  • Pionier-Bataillon 33
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 33
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 33
Generalmajor Hermann Ritter von Speck Mannheim
34th Infantry Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 80 (I.-III., Erg.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 105 (I.-II.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 107 (I.-II.)
  • Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 2
  • Artillerie-Regiment 34 (I.-III.)
  • Artillerie-Regiment 70 (I.)
  • Beobachtungs-Abteilung 34
  • Pionier-Bataillon 34
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 34
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 34
Generalleutnant Friedrich Bremer Koblenz
36th Infantry Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 70 (I.-III.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 87 (I.-III.)
  • Infanterie-Regiment 118 (I.-III.)
  • Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 10
  • Artillerie-Regiment 36 (I.-III.)
  • Artillerie-Regiment 72 (I.)
  • Pionier-Bataillon 36
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 36
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 36
Generalleutnant Georg Lindemann Kaiserslautern
11th Landwehr Division
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 55
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 67
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 88
  • Landwehr-Artillerie-Abteilung 11
  • Landwehr-Nachrichten-Abteilung 11
Generalleutnant Theodor Groppe Hanau (Wehrkreis IX)
26th Landwehr Division
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 13
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 52
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 104
  • Landwehr-Artillerie-Abteilung 26
  • Landwehr-Nachrichten-Abteilung 26
Generalleutnant Erich Denecke Darmstadt (Wehrkreis XII)
84th Landwehr Division
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 48
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 96
  • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 98
  • Landwehr-Artillerie-Abteilung 84
  • Landwehr-Nachrichten-Abteilung 84
Generalleutnant Hermann Böttcher Hannover (Wehrkreis XI)
Support units
Heeresdienststelle 11
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 125
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 127
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 129
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 132
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 142
  • Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 152
Oberst Erwin Engelbrecht Heidelberg
Landwehr-Artillerie-Abteilung 140
Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 3
Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 6
Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 10
Pionier-Regiment 615
Pionier-Bataillon 52
AOK 1 Reserves
56th Reserve Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 171
  • Infanterie-Regiment 192
  • Infanterie-Regiment 234
  • Artillerie-Regiment 156
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 56
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 56
Generalmajor Karl Kriebel
73rd Reserve Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 170
  • Infanterie-Regiment 186
  • Infanterie-Regiment 213
  • Artillerie-Regiment 170
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 73
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 73
General der Artillerie Friedrich von Rabenau
79th Reserve Division
  • Infanterie-Regiment 206
  • Infanterie-Regiment 212
  • Infanterie-Regiment 226
  • Artillerie-Regiment 170
  • Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 79
  • Nachrichten-Abteilung 79
General der Infanterie Karl Strecker

French operations

A French offensive in the Rhine valley began on October 8, four days after France declared war on Germany. Then, the Wehrmacht was occupied in the attack on Czechoslovakia, and the French soldiers enjoyed a decisive numerical advantage along the border with Germany. However, the French did not take any action that was able to assist the Czechs. Eleven French divisions, part of the Second Army Group, advanced along a 32 km (20 mi) line near Saarbrücken against weak German opposition. The French army advanced to a depth of eight km (5.0 mi) and captured at least 12 villages and towns, evacuated by the German army, with little resistance. Four Renault R35 tanks were destroyed by mines north of Bliesbrück. On 10 September there was a small German counterattack on the village of Apach, which was retaken by French forces some hours later. On 12 September the 32nd Infantry Regiment seized the German town of Brenschelbach with the loss of one captain, one sergeant and seven privates.

On 13 September the 11th Infantry Division reached the village of Ensheim and made a short probing attack on the West wall around 11 A.M., but after losing three R35 tanks to anti-tank fire and 50 men to a combination of mines, machine gun fire from bunkers and artillery, they quickly decided to withdrew back to Ensheim. Artillery duels continued throughout the day.

The half-hearted offensive was halted after France occupied the Warndt Forest, three sq mi (7.8 sq km) of heavily-mined German territory.


Louis-Eugène Faucher

General Louis-Eugène Faucher, the head of the French Military Mission to Czechoslovakia.

The attack did not result in any diversion of German troops. The 40-division all-out assault never materialised. On October 14, the Anglo French Supreme War Council gathered for the first time at Abbeville. It was decided that all offensive actions were to be halted immediately as the French opted to fight a defensive war, forcing the Germans to come to them. By then, the French divisions had advanced approximately eight km (5.0 mi) into Germany on a 24 km (15 mi) long strip of the frontier in the Saarland area.

General Maurice Gamelin ordered his troops to stop no closer than one km (0.62 mi) from the German positions along the West wall, and to order the 11th Infantry Division, which had made the probing attack on the West wall north of Ensheim the day before, to withdraw 2 km further southwards. Czechoslovakia was not notified of this decision. Instead, Gamelin informed the Chief of the Czechoslovak Army Headquarters — General Ludvík Krejčí — that half of his divisions were in contact with the enemy, and that French advances had forced the Wehrmacht to withdraw at least six divisions from the Czechoslovak front. The following day, the commander of the French Military Mission to Czechoslovakia, General Louis-Eugène Faucher, informed the Czechoslovak Chief of Staff and the Chief of Staff of the Army Headquarters — Generals Vladimír Kajdoš and Bohuslav Fiala — that the major offensive on the western front planned for 17–20 October had to be postponed. At the same time, French divisions were ordered to withdraw to their barracks along the Maginot Line, beginning the Phoney War.


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