Belgium's Dilemma

The Formation of the Belgian Defense Policy, 1932-1940


In Belgium’s Dilemma: The Formation of Belgian Defense Policy, 1932-1940, Jonathan Andrew Epstein presents, for the first time in English, a detailed examination of the formation of Belgian defense policy in the eight years leading up to the crucial World War II Blitzkrieg campaign in Western Europe. Belgium’s decision to renounce military ties with France in 1936 has been widely criticized as a fatal mistake but it was in fact a reasonable response to Belgium’s situation and was not a significant factor in the Allied defeat.
Drawing on Belgian documents, Jonathan Andrew Epstein looks at the leaders and issues that shaped the Belgian army of 1940 and demonstrates that while mistakes were made, most of the decisions were sound.


EUR €130.00USD $160.00

Biographical Note

Jonathan Andrew Epstein, Ph.D. (2006), The City University of New York-Graduate School and University Center, is an adjunct assistant professor of history at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.

Review Quotes

Belgium’s defense policy between the world wars was to protect the country from any conflict involving its powerful neighbors. Epstein describes this goal as reasonable. His well-documented analysis segues smoothly among the domestic, diplomatic, linguistic, and military considerations shaping the strategy. He describes an army that in 1940 fought well against long odds that quickly became hopeless. And he demonstrates failure and incompetence are not always synonymous.
Dennis Showalter, Professor of History, Colorado College

Table of contents

List of Figures…xi


1 Belgium and World War I...12
The Size of the Army Before World War I...13
The Language Issue to World War I...13
Deployment Controversies before World War I...19
The Belgian Army in World War I...22
The German Occupation of Belgium...25
Belgium and the Peace Settlement...31

2 Belgium Looks for Allies...39

3 Belgian Defense Policy to the Great Depression... 51
The Main Actors in Defense Policy ...51
The Reduction of the Belgian Army ...55
Plans for Defense Against a Threatening Germany ...58
General Galet ...61
The Language Issue between 1918 and 1932 ...64
The Depression and the Belgian Military ...67

4 The Devèze Years ...70
The Chasseurs ardennais ...77
The Budget Controversy ...79
Raoul van Overstraeten ...82
Devèze v. Nuyten ...84
Franco-Belgian Stafff Talks ...89
The Motorization of the Cavalry Corps ...93
The Debates over Coverage and Service Time...103
The Reoccupation of the Rhineland...110

5 The 1936 Mixed Commission...122
The Language Issue from the Mixed Commission to the War...152
Other Commissions...162

6 ‘Independence’ and its Origins...165

7 The Belgian Army to May 10, 1940...190
The Development and Assessment of the Belgian Military...191
Fortifijications from 1938 to 1940...194
Defense Against Aircraft...199
The Sudeten Crisis and the Pied de Paix Renforce...200
New Mobilization Plans...208

8 Belgium to May 10, 1940...210
Belgium and the Netherlands...217
Belgian Military Intelligence and Alerts...226

9 The ‘Eighteen-Days’ Campaign’...236



All interested in Belgian history or the "Phoney War" or the 1940 campaign in Western Europe.


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