For want of a crash…

The 1940 offensive into France, which was brilliantly planned and nearly as brilliantly conducted, was a historical accident.  Historically, Germany planned to launch a repeat of the 1914 plan, only moving faster, through Belgium into France.  This was in fact the expected angle of attack.

As luck would have it, a German officer broke the rules and flew in a plane to Hitler’s headquarters.  In one of the little incidents that mark history, the plane crash-landed in Belgium and the crew (and the invasion plans they carried) were captured.  In the confusion that followed, the Germans were forced to change their plans and proceed with the Manstain Plan.

Let’s have that aircraft manage to fly safely to its destination.  Hitler has no reason to change the attack plans, although Norway may still force him to put the date back, and the Germans will prepare for the original plan. 

Now, historically, the French expected and planned for such an offensive.  They had intelligence on the REAL line of attack, but ignored it because it did not jibe with what they thought was coming.  Now, they’re right about the angle of attack, which puts the BEF and the best French army right in harms way.

So let’s assume that Hitler launches his invasion on May 10th, but using the original plan.  The Germans advance into Belgium and start heading for France.  The French, as historically, realize that the wars begun and advance themselves.  The two forces meet somewhere in Belgium. 

The Germans would have had advantages in manovering and command and control.  On the other hand, the battles would have been in a reasonably confined space which would have given the French and British tanks a chance to deploy their heavier firepower.  The Germans would have been short of fuel after a few hours and their air support would have been fighting it’s own battle instead of supporting them on the ground. 

Finally, this is the battle the French have been expecting.  Gamelin won’t have the unexpected punch in the belly (metaphorically) that kept him from reacting properly to the OTL attack.  In ATL, he’s got the consolation of knowing that the Germans are doing as he predicted, and probably less problems with the premier. 

So the Germans will slowly force their way through Belgium and towards Cambri, bleeding badly instead of taking little damage.  The Germans cannot take these losses for long, particularly when the French free up some divisions from the Magnot Line and hurl them into the German flank.  Hitler is apoplectic, relives a few generals, takes personal command himself and issues a ‘stand and die’ order.  German generals ignore it and fall back through Belgium to defensible lines. 

I can think of three possible outcomes from this, although I’m sure that there are many more, so here goes:

One:  Conservative Germans realise that Hitler is leading them to disaster and dispose him.  The new German government opens up peace discussions with the allies and evacuates Norway and most of Poland.  Escencally a return to the 1914 position, but without German colonies (unless they make that part of the peace deal) and with a nominally independent rump Poland. 

Two:  Hitler stays in power in Germany, declares total war and keeps building and innovating.  The allies aren’t eager to continue the war (even with the new sprit of bellicosity), but are forced to invade Germany themselves.  The invasion has such high casutities that the peace deal is much softer than Versailles.  (An alternative to an alternative would be a successful invasion and the Germans crushed.)

Three:  While the Germans are trapped in France, Stalin sends the Red Army across the border and stabs Hitler in the back.  The Germans had very little in Poland at the time, so they’d have to switch forces back as quickly as they could.  The soviets would probably snatch all of Poland before the Germans could react and keep pushing west.  The most likely outcome of this would be a Germany divided between Britain, France and the USSR.