Actually the French on 10 May 1940 had more tanks than the Germans, and heavier ones as well. The crucial difference was in the way the tanks were used.....
I don't think that keeping 400,000 plus troops in the Maginot Line really achieved a freeing up of troops to maneouvre in the field - it tied up instead a large part of what should have been Gamelins strategic reserve and more importantly, wasn't able to deliver a counter-punch into Germany at the same time Germany invaded theLow Countries. Those 400,000 troops essentially were excluded from the crucial battle..... they almost didn't exist.
This I can easily agree. The troops sitting in the Maginot line could not engage the German troops. They had to wait and basically the Germans just did small attacks to keep them were they are, except the handful attacks where they broke through with specialized Pioniers.
Ironically the French invented what Guderian teached the Germans and demonstrated in superb strokes.
Addressed to RF and ede -
This argument is dangerously reliant upon the assumption that, if the Maginot Line defences did not exist, the Germans would politely have NOT sought to attack in those areas. At least half the 400,000 men originally assigned to the Maginot defenses were in fact immediately withdrawn from their Maginot positions and actively took part in the field battle, where they were defeated along with the rest of the French forces facing the German thrust through the Ardennes. So, right off the bat, we are not talking about 400,000 men available to wreak havoc upon the Germans. The remaining 200,000 men in the static positions (some of them facing Italy, let's recall), totalling perhaps 15 divisions would have been responsible to cover 150 miles or more of Franco-German border and the important economic areas of Lorraine and northern France which lay behind - about one regiment/brigade per five miles of frontage assuming no operational reserve whatsoever being held in hand. Attacking with these Maginot troops into Germany is a nice but unconvincing theory. The French tried something akin to that in 1914, failed utterly against German reservists fighting from defensive fortifications and ruined a considerable number of the pre-war elite formations of the French Army in the process. It is all very nice to talk about forming a strategic mechanized strike force, etc, but the inescapable fact of the matter is that it would not have been strong enough to do anything meaningful, while the price of the attempt would have been the total denuding of French defenses along the German border.
Where is the Rhine easily "crossable"? The Allies later in WW2, with far superior numbers and equipment, had to undertake major army level operations in order to pass that barrier. IMO, it would have been a feat indeed for the French to even reach the banks of the Rhine before the German victory parade in Paris.
RF - I utterly and categorically disagree with your characterization of Napoleon in 1814. The French Army of 1814 was a barely functioning, ill supplied, rag-tag collection of boys, old men, convalescents and survivors of the Russian and Leipzig disasters that was NOTHING remotely akin to the splendid Grand Army that Napoleon had commanded at Austerlitz. What Napoleon achieved with these remnants against massive odds was most impressive, even in defeat.