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some preliminary remarks
The Maginot Line
At World War II
Fort Schoenenbourg
The Lime Fort
Fort Simserhof
Fort Hackenberg
Fort Immerhof
Fort Fermont
Fort of Villy-La-Ferte

The Maginot Line and the Second World War

Under the French Minister of defense, Painleve, a comitte elected by Andre Maginot came up with a plan to fortify the northern border of France. Andre Maginot, French minister of defense from 1922-24 and 1929-32 greatly promoted this idea to build a fortified line, which later on was named after him.

Starting in Basel, the Maginot Line was planned to cover the French/German border up to Sedan. Bits and pieces of the Line can be found from Markolsheim, Strasbourg, Hatten, Schoenenbourg, Lembach, Bitche, Sarreguemines, Forbach, St-Avold, through Bambiderstroff, Bockange, Hestroff, Dalstein, Veckring, Cattenom, Sentzich, Thionville, Hettange-Grande, Fermont, Velosnes, up to Montmédy and the last Fort in Villy-la-Ferté, where the Germans ran past in 1940.


Construction started in 1932/33 and lasted to 1939, when the Line finally became ready for action. THe amounts of money that were used to build it within these 7 years exceeded the costs for the nuclear weapons armament later that century. 324 km inconcrete strechted out from the Swiss border to the Ardennes crossing 3 rivers in its course: Saar, Mosel and Maas (Sarre, Moselle and Meuse).

The average distance behind the German border is 12 km, so the cannons firing ranges were adjusted accordingly, because the line`s single purpose was the defense. The French military strategy was a purely defensive and the French doctrine said never to fight on two fronts, so everything was done to prepare a battlefield for the crucial final battle to be slain and won in front of this Line.
The tactical purpose of a fortification of any kind is to save troops whereas the Maginot Line uses up troops. The French put only their best forces in it, because specialised troops were necessary to operate and maintain it. Young Officers coming straight from training in Saint-Cyr went not into field, but into the concrete. Absurdity reached the top, then. From Basel to Sedan, more than 21 Divisions were positioned in the subterrainean structures of the Maginot Line which therefore did not save troops but used up the best Divisions of the French Army.

From 1939 onwards Troops in the Line had a quiet time until 1940. These 10 months were called 'Drole de guerre', a Phoney war. During this time, exchange of fire was seldom. Prolonged combat only ocurred by the end of Mai, beginning of July, as happenend in the Fort Simserhof, Bambesch and in La Ferte. But even so, these were an exeption. The Maginot Line as well as the opposing Westwall (Siegfried Line) were considered impregnable. They said, that any charging army would fail on both Westwall and Maginot Line, so no one even thought of attacking them directly. The field theater are the busiest sections on both sides. The cause for dead or wounded was mainly accidents but seldom enemy contact.
The overreaching trust in their beloved Maginot Line along with the long months of the Phoney make the French go easy...

When Hitler overruns Poland in 1939, allied France does not take any offensive actions against oppressing Germany but continues to maintain their defensive strategy. French High Command does not learn from the consequences of their persistent and ianproppriate defensive behavior during the Poland Campaign.
Meanwhile, Hitler is preparing the West Campaign against France. The first plan of attack is made while the Poland campaign is still n progress. In September 1939, the final plan of attack is ready. The German army's Invasion in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg is planned - three countries assured of neutrality by Hitler earlier on.

The three German army groups (Heeresgruppen) have the following missions:

      Heeresgruppe A: Breakthrough in the Ardennes and crossover of the Maas (Meuse)

      Heeresgruppe B: Conquer the North Sea coast

      Heeresgruppe C: Hold frontline between Switzerland and Luxembourg

According to the Plan, the assault will be executed as a sickle cut movement. Because of this fact and the important factor of surprise, this plan strikingly resembles the Schlieffen Plan from 1914. Hitler is not satisfied and helds the opinion that the plan is not repeatable and that the French will surely anticipate the push through Belgium this time. He assumes that the French elite is positioned between the Ardennes and the North Sea. What he does not know is that the French elite is stuck in the Maginot Line.

The Instructions of General Huntzinger, French Commander of the Section of Sedan, are to avert the Germans bypassing the Maginot Line. He positions his 4 best divisions on the right flank: the strongly fortified bridgehead of Montmédy. The remaining 2 divisions consisting of old reservists are positioned on the unfortified left flank: the access to sedan.
The West Campaign is further and further postponed due to bad weather. Meanwhile, the 'Phoney War' continues and the French start to get bored. The already not very pronounced readiness to combat within the French army constantly decreases during the ten month of the 'Phoney War'.

Meantime, High Command of the army comes up with a plan to push through at Sedan. It remains unclear, if the father of this plan was either Hitler or Manstein. Hitler realizes that the big clearings of Arlon, Tintigny and Florenville allow troops to reach the Maas without encountering any thick forests. Manstein sees the possibility of reaching the estuary of the Somme in one swift move.
As the Ardennes were considered insurmountable for motorized units by the French, a thrust right through there would carry an immense tactical surprise. The weakest enemy troops were positioned under cover of the insurmountable natural barricades Ardennes and Maas. The German Army, who crossed the Bug and the Weichsel in Poland earlier on however, had no problems in crossing the Maas and Ardennes. The fortifications around Sedan were embryonal and rudimentary. As the system of the French Army was different to the German one, they had no connection between the immovable parts of the army (the ones within the Maginot Line) and the mobile parts and consequntly they had no pivotal point for the operating Army in Belgium.

The ghost of the Maginot Line obscured every French army mastermind. The fact, that the Ardennes and Maas proved to be no obstacle for tanks along with the reality, that within 3 days 8 enemy divisions reached the Maas seemed not to annoy the commanders of the allied forces Georges and Gamelin. They each seemed to expect completely different battles. One should take place in front of the Maginot Line, the other in Belgium. In between, a calm zone with moderately and poorly equipped divisions was planned to be held.
More paradox precautions were made: In Alsace-Lorraine additional troops were being pulled together behind the Maginot Line. Altogether, 40 divisions, oodles of artillery and tanks. In contrast, only 20 moderate German divisions were positioned opposite them with no artillery or tank support. The French High Command nevertheless insists on retaining the French 2,5:1 superiority, although on all other frontlines the French forces proved inferior to the oppsing German ones.

The French Campaign (Frankreichfeldzug) methodically starts from the 10th of may, 1940. The German forces successfully carried out the Sickle Stroke plan: a swift movement from Sedan to the Somme estuary to cut off enemy forces in a northern and a southern part. English and French forces get enclosed in Belgium. French-British High Command expected a german attack in the north-french less secured sector avoiding the Maginot Line. After the expected german failure, opportunity for a counter-attack should be seized. The British also saw the Ardennes and the Maas as hard to cross natural obstacles and the Maginot Line as insurmountable and therefore positioned their best forces in the north and the weaker ones further south near the Maas.
On the 12th of may 1940, chief organizer of the German Panzerwaffe Colonel General Guderian is standing outside Sedan. Field Marshal Rommel is standing in Dinant, German forces are on the banks of the Maas. The comprehensible agitation of Georges theses days is only directed at his beloved Maginot Line. He orderes Huntzinger to avert a German bypass of the Line by all means and to stop enemy forces at the line Inor-Montmédy.

At that time the German High Command is not the least bit interested in the Maginot Line. Until June, orders to guard the Maginot Line are easily executed. German Panzers are pushing forward in another direction: to reach Paris. After that, the French 2. army's role in the war became unimportant.
On may 15th, 1940 German forces make first contact of with the Maginot Line under fire.

The German Somme and Aisne Offensive starts 5th June, 1940. With it, the second part of the West Campaign began (Fall Rot). Heeresgruppe A pushed through the Somme front, Heeresgruppe B attacked in the Champagne. Resistance was not designed to be in that part of the plan. In may, Germany took risks, in june, this was no longer the case.
On June, 9th, 1940, Heeresgruppe A crossed the Aisne on multiple places paying with heavy casualties. The aim of this operation is, to push through the French defense lines from Alsace-Lorraine all the way to Paris.

French High Command signed the order to surrender the Maginot Line on 12.6.1940. To carry out their order to retreat, the French East Armies had to cover a distance of 250 km from Alsace-Lorrine to troop in Dijon. Guderian efficiently advances into the breach between the 2. and the retreating 4. French Army to cut off the 2. Army. The nightmare of the French General staff becomes reality. The bypass of the Maginot Line.
Some of the Forts of the Line disobey and only surrender at the beginning of July. The commanders of the Forts write protest notes explaining the untouched defensive resources. They would only surrender on orders of the French Government, not due to enemy superiority. The legendary, most expensive French military piece of architecture capitualtes without a struggle emerging as a useless shield with the unbeaten French 3., 5. and 8. armies remaining behind the Line.

The 14. June initiated the Operatione 'Tiger'. An attack of the Heeresgruppe C on both sides of Saarbrücken. Some direct assaults on persistend Forts of the Line in Nordelsaß after moving into Paris remain unsuccessful.

French resistance is broken by the 15.June. Verdon is conquered. Taking of the Maginot Forts becomes suplerfluous with the encirclement of the enemy troops in east France.

On the 16.6.1940, Guderian is on the banks of the Saône, the 7. German Army crosses the Rhine and occupies Alsace. On the 18. of June, German troops are in Cherbourg and on the west swiss border. Pétain pleads for an armistice on the 17.6. Lyon goes down on the 19th of June. The armistice is signed the 22. June 1940 in the forest of Compiègne. All over France, cease fire is established by the 25. of June.
Within 15 days, german forces reached the north sector of Brest and Nantes, the middle sector Orléans and in the south east the Swiss border. Thus, the east french fortified belt Maginot Line was taken from behind. The Bunker of the Line, which the French built with lots of money and wherein they trusted blindly, saw 2 months of service before they were taken by the German Wehrmacht.

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