We gathered here some general information, some interrogations and false ideas which circulated and/or which circulate in connection with the Maginot Line.
In 1940 the Maginot Line is administratively cut out in several very unequal (SF) Sectors Strengthened on the level of their power. They spread out along the borders, except side of Spain where strengthened constructions are not with the day order.
The policy option (and strategic which results from this) in the manner of which would be treated an armed conflict against Germany and Italy evolved of 1926 to 1940. This evolution, undoubtedly badly controlled, transformed little by little the Maginot Line into a caricature of it for what it had been conceived. Thus many Strengthened Sectors of 1940 they inherited the qualifier “strengthened” without having neither the structure nor the power of the true SF thought originally by the CORF. This negative evolution strongly possible and was considered since 1922 (see the document on the meeting of the CSG of May 22nd, 1922).
The negative evolution of the Maginot Line has primarily three origins:
- in the military high command the opinions are very divided in connection with the relevance of a permanent defense of ALL the borders;
it high cost of the first achievements and the international financial crisis required the adjournment of the most expensive achievements (which were also most powerful);
- finally, during years, each local politician, each influential community, wanted his fortification or his casemates, whatever is the interest and the value. And the “bétonite” of shoddy goods thus transformed the idea of Maginot Line into a vast trickery for credulous public opinion! To caricature (hardly), to the beginning of the 2nd world war one can say that almost each soldier has, in equipment, his bag of cement and his tools of mason.
Who is at the origin of the Maginot Line: Maginot, Painlevé?
Paul Painlevé is a mathematician whose work refers to the analysis and mechanics.
He is named several times President of the Council and Ministre for the War.
Between 1925 and 1929, whereas he is Minister for the war, on September 30th, 1927 he creates the CORF (Commission of Organization of the Strengthened Areas) for which is reserved the role to study and to make carry out the works of fortification envisaged by the Superior council of the War. Work begins in 1928 in Rimplas (the Alps Maritimes).
French Minister for the War, inter alia from November 2nd, 1929 to February 17th, 1930.
January 14th, 1930 it makes vote the 3.000.000F necessary to the realization of most of the fortifications than France is realizing on its borders. The debate is surging, the press seizes some and speaks about “Maginot Line”. The name is launched.
France always strengthened and improved its fortifications. With regard to the Maginot Line one can say that the first idea is in the paperboards of the army since the end of the war of 1914-1918. One can say that the first stone (or first concrete) in cost to Paul Painlevé. Lastly, one can say that the first name which qualifies it is given by an unknown journalist (?).
And André Maginot? It made vote most of the appropriations (not the first) and as soon as one speaks about great quantities of money one is likely to become famous.
The Wall of China is a single, continuous construction. The Line Maginot, it, is a succession of strengthened works independent from/to each other. However, as some have underground galleries making several hundred meters length, some journalists, little informed or anxious to create sensation, gave birth to the myth from a single fortification dug all the way along the border.
It is the cover of fire which is judicious being continuous! Indeed, the fortifications (called works) are flanked mutually; the weapons of each one of them draw on their neighbors and in the intervals which separate them. Thus these fortifications not create a physical barrier but a barrier of fire along the border.
This system is very effective. If the adversary tries to pass between two fortifications it is taken in scarf not cross shootings; if it attacks face a fortification it is exposed to the fires close to the fortification in question but, especially, it is put under the fire of the other fortifications of flanking. The position quickly becomes intolerable!
This being, it is necessary to get along on the term of barrier of fire. Certain sections of the Maginot Line have very a great power of fire combining artillery and infantry; others miss artillery; and others still rely on natural barriers (water, forests) beaten by some rifles machine gunners.
In the beginning (before the years 1930) it was not expected that the Maginot Line is a continuous barrier of the borders. Only some strategic areas were to be strengthened. Then, let us say that the project skidded!
Who did not intend to say: the fortifications do not protect their backs!
The immediate backs of the fortifications are protected from the same manner as their immediate fronts, by the shootings of the other fortifications which flank them. Moreover they have weapons of self-defense brought closer such as FM, JM and anti-tank guns which protect the entries. They, moreover, are protected by the troops from interval and the “mobile reserves” whose mission is to go on the possible weakened points.
On this subject, in May - June 1940, the “difficulty” which arises in the north-eastern zone of the Maginot Line is the following: after the entry of the German troops by the north of France, via Luxembourg and Belgium, the French High command orders the abandonment of the Maginot Line. The troops of interval make movement towards the south (when they have time of them) and the crews of certain small fortifications make some in the same way. How the flood of the refugees blocks the retirement of the men who take down, German harassings often do not turn to the advantage of French! A new order then orders with the powerful fortifications (which were not abandoned yet) to resist. But these last are found without infantry of cover and, often, without information on the enemy, certain small fortifications ensuring this mission having been evacuated! It is one of the reasons which made say that the Maginot Line protected neither its backs nor its fronts!
In spite of this handicap the fortifications which remain occupied defend against the overall attacks and, when the armistice of June 40 between into force, none them could be taken. However, if one refers to the histories of the combat of Fermont or Schoenenbourg, German spared neither their men nor their materials to try to come to end.
How much time sees one writes: they is confusing, the fortifications do not even draw on Italy! (or on Germany in the North-East). And to justify this irrefutable fact by possible diplomatic considerations.
Any system is all the more effective as its elements are not quickly neutralized by the enemy bombardments. It is essential thus that the Maginot Line is not under the direct fire of the power to which it faces and who has any leisure, in times of peace, to prepare its offensive.
However, if the weapons of the fortifications can draw in enemy territory, the enemy can always draw to them above with weapons carefully installed before war and with range higher than those from the French fortifications. The fortifications are thus made up small blocks disseminated on the ground, in order to offer less possible catch, and their casemates under concrete have plans of fire parallel with the border. To reach them by tended shootings the enemy must thus penetrate in French territory with all the difficulties that comprises: weakness of its sides, difficulty in operating heavy material, difficulty of supply of its batteries.
Each time it is possible to install weapons with action frontal and protected from the unfavourable shootings, the originators of the Maginot Line did not neglect this opportunity. Thus the turrets with eclipse, turrets which leave ground to put itself out of battery, have a sufficient protection not to be worried by shootings coming from the border. The turrets draw in foreign territory without being concerned with possible diplomatic problems which they are likely to create. It is more the lack of money than the state of the diplomacy which sometimes made give to later the installation of a turret in such or such site of the Maginot Line.
The Maginot Line protects the Belgian border badly and, by this border, the Germans benefitted from it to pass in 1940. The reasons of this irrefutable fact begin a debate more political than military.
Let us recall that the Maginot Line, at the time of its design, was to protect some precise and permeable zones from the national territory, and not its unit.
In north, the limit enters France, Luxembourg and Belgium (the Ardennes: not green on the chart above) was famous naturally insuperable because of its relief and of its forests. The fortification of this zone thus was not essential. German finally spent in May 1940 there.
With this error of appreciation is added a tactical error. Indeed, the Belgian border, very little strengthened, is then covered by the elite of the French Army, powerful, mobile, and equipped with the material with most modern; of what to largely compensate for the absence of fortifications. But at the beginning of the German attack of May 10th, 1940, the généralissime Gamelin moves this army to carry it towards the north of Belgium and Holland. The Ardennes are not protected any more; German engulfs and takes with reverse the French Army there!
The problem of the French defeat is thus not related to the fact that the Belgian border was not strengthened, but well with the fact that one removed his defenders at the last time to him!
December 6th, 1926 the Commission of Defense of Borders (CDF) draws up a precise report on the organization to be implemented:
North: light fortifications of countryside, to realize in time of war
The North-East: 3 zones (areas) of powerful fortifications (Metz; The Vosges - Lauter-; Belfort)
South-east: powerful fortification barring the collars
The CORF (Commission of Organization of the Strengthened Areas) is created on September 30th, 1927. It is charged to implement the organization envisaged by the CDF. I.e. that it draws the plans of the fortifications, makes study the new materials which must equip them, and proceeds to the realization of the unit. This is why we give the qualifier of “works CORF” to these fortifications, in opposition to the constructions not CORF, light, built after 1935.
The Maginot Line of 1940 is the unit consisted the fortification CORF, powerful, and the light fortification (“fortification stuff” writes Philippe Truttmann in its book “the Wall of France”).
Budgetary restrictions reduced artillery of the zones to be strengthened (except in the Alps): adjournments in the south of Metz, in the center and on the wings of Lauter, and in Belfort.
One can easily note (especially if one looks at the chart on which the zones with artillery CORF are in red) that the cover of the border, by artillery CORF, is ridiculously not very wide.
At the origin, the CORF had envisaged to protect, by artillery, only certain zones: Metz, the Vosges - Lauter-, Belfort, Collars of the Alps.
Budgetary restrictions reduced artillery of these zones (except in the Alps): adjournments in the south of Metz, in the center and on the wings of Lauter, and in Belfort.
Where there is no artillery, the Maginot Line is satisfied with fortifications of infantry, sometimes CORF but very often of light fortifications of countryside. On the other hand, in 1940, in the zones without artillery of fortification, the Maginot Line is effectively reinforced by a infantry of interval and a strong artillery of position.
If it is not built in mountains, difficult access, a fortification has value only if it is shouldered by a strong infantry of interval and, especially, by a powerful artillery of position. Vis-a-vis in Germany it was thus until the Weygand general orders, on June 12th, 1940, evacuation of the troops of interval. After this date it is the surge of armies by the zones deprived of artillery and the attack of the backs of the fortifications.
Vis-a-vis in Italy, the troops of interval and the artillery of position were withdrawn only after the armistice of June 25th, 1940.
On the Maginot Line, except for the turrets which draw on 360°, the fortifications with artillery under concrete (artillery which is not under turret) draw systematically only on the close fortifications. It is said that they are with action of flanking.
The flanking, imposed by the CORF, has primarily two advantages:
- It creates a stopping of fire while covering several fortifications.
- It protects the embrasures from the weapons, against the enemy blows being able to come from good beyond the border.
In the zone of the 65eDI (the Alps of the south) one notes that the sinuous border, allied the relief whose valleys to be defended form “V” very closed, does not make it possible to protect the embrasures, of the direct blows. It is said whereas the fortifications are with frontal action (action towards the border). It is a rare exemption from the rule enacted by the CORF.
A reinforced protection of the embrasures is then necessary. This is why one can observe, in the fortifications of the 65eDI, the existence of very reinforced casemates of 75mm, not only by one frontal shielding of 20cm (instead of the usual 10cm) but, moreover, by a shielding of 20cm of roof and the same side shielding. The 75mm is then literally enchased in an armor-plated cocoon.
Here 5 badges (of beret of the troops of fortress) obtained by superimposing 10 pieces 2 by 2 (with or without overlapping of parts of badges). With you to reconstitute the 5 badges.
Maginot line: general information, ideas to be meditated and false ideas? ; Document carried out starting from elements of various origins: SHAT Vincennes “Wall of France” (Philippe Truttmann) - etc ER Cima ©2004-2009
0_*; Preferences; 1_*; Introduction; 2_*; Nonhomogeneous; 4_*; Wall of China; 15_*; Backs; 6_*; Turrets; 7_*; And Belgium? ; 9_*; Precise details on artillery; 10_*; Frontal action?; 20_*; Play, breakage head