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The Maginot Line
" Whatever is the conception that one can make himself of a future war, there is a necessity that remains imperious, it's to prevent the territory from invasion. We know what disasters it can accumulate so the victory, itself, isn't able to compensate the irreparable damages. The defensive organizations of borders that we want to realize, doesn't have another goal that to block the way of a still possible invasion. The concrete is better, in this way and is cheaper than a wall of chests..." - Andre Maginot

  • World War One: Invasion of France
    • 1,385,300 killed or MIA
  • French proximity to Germany, German anger over harsh Treaty of Versailles
  • If Germany decides to invade France does not have the manpower to defend.
    • Population disparities after the war (39 mil in France to 70 mil in Germany)
  • Marshal Joffre’s plan: build a defense perimeter.
    • Accepted by Andre Maginot, the minister of war.
    • Gen. Petain supports, Gen. Gaul does not.
  • Build a defense “line” starting in 1930.
    • Popular support 274 to 26 vote for in parliament's upper house.

The Main Line

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  • 10 km from German Border
  • 20-25 km deep
  • Built in conjunction with natural borders, such as the rhine and the Alps.
  • Anti personnel and anti vehicle defenses:
    • Anit-tank: 6 feet tall vertical rods driven into the ground
    • Barbed witer
  • Ouvrages: Main defense spaced 9 mi apart in strategic locations. Manned by 500 to 1,000. Essentially a series of bunkers connected to other military buildings (barrack, mess hall, ammo stores) via an underground system.
  • Petit Ouvrages: Smaller than the main ouvrages. Manned by 200-300 men.
  • Infantry Casemates: bunkers with machine guns (see Fig 1).

Other Buildings of the Line.

  • Railroad System
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  • Observation posts
  • Flood zones: strategic areas that could be flooded to halt the Germans
  • Telephone Lines

  • Planned for last war's immobile front (trench warfare).
  • France did not know of Belgium's planned neutrality until 1936- construction near Belgium was done hastily
  • View that the Ardennes Forest was Impassible
The War
  • May 10, 1940: Germany plows through Belgium and the "impassible" Ardennes forest utilizing Panzer tanks.
  • May 19: German forces capture le petit ouvrage La Merte.
  • June 14: Paris falls. The line is cut off from the rest of France.
    • Line surrounded but still occupied; 15% of France's army is still in line.
    • Germans take over line once Maxime Weygand surrenders.
    • Germans use the line against Allied attempts to retake France.
  • Success on the Alpine Front: The line succeeds against Mussolin's attempts to invade France through the Alps.


While the line was a good idea it was doomed to fail due to the German's new, innovative strategy known as Blitzkrieg. The German plan to nullify the Maginot Line, known as "cut out the sickle" (sichlscnitt) worked well. Once the line was breached (easily by air, and rather easily by the fast, German mobile front that came cruising through the Ardennes) the line was more of a hindrance to France than a benefit as a significant number of men were trapped in the line and could not help out with the fighting going on inside of France.