The over-reliance on the Maginot line by the French for defense against the invading Germans was the primary reason for the quick fall of France in World War II. The Germans outwitted the French by mainly avoiding the Maginot Line.
Declaration Of War
In September 1939, France and Great Britain declared war against Germany, failing to convince the Germans to withdraw from Poland. Later on, after the successful campaign against Western Europe, Germany finally invaded France on 10 May 1940. The Italians joined the Germans on 10 June 1940. Eventually, France fell and was divided into German and Italian occupation zones.
Maginot Line: The French Blunder
The French population witnessed a series of deportation, execution, and war crimes daily. The Vichy Government, SS and, the Gestapo ruled and terrorized France. However, a steady French resistance by civilians and the French army countered these atrocities.
Battle of France is one of the most critical events that defined the initial phases in World War II. France had spent years in making a line of defense along the French-German border after World War I. This fortified area was broadly known as the Maginot Line.
The Maginot line was born due to the foreseeable threat from a resurgent Germany. This 300 miles long line of defense in northwest France was primarily in French-German border.
The first line of French defense had concrete bunkers, 58 large and small underground fortresses, numerous blockhouses, casemates, well-equipped housing for troop and, even an underground railway. They built them in such a way that they could fortify to withstand battle tank and air attacks.
Purpose Of Maginot Line
The French desire was to eventually see the fortress run from Swiss alps up to the English channel. By the time of the German offensive, these areas had been a work in progress for almost 11 years. It had cost France seven billion prewar francs and an untold amount of labor. Given the critical demography, resources, and industries, they were heavily fortified in the northwest frontier and, towards the French-German border.
However, in spite of various thinking and consideration put into the fortification, the French completely neglected the French-Belgium Border. The primary reason was the topography of the Ardennes forest in the Belgium and Luxembourg region. The French assumed that the Germans would avoid this region due to thick forests, mountains, and rough terrains. The Germans, however, took this route to France after defeating Belgium.
The invasion that began on 10 May 1940, from the Belgium side, completely subdued France within six weeks. Germany bypassed and thus nullified the purpose of the ultra-modern fortress of its time and one of the most formidable projects in military history.
In Defense Of Maginot Line
Today we use the Maginot line to denote failure and blunder. The Merriam-Webster dictionary goes to the extent of defining the term as ”a defensive barrier or strategy that inspires a false sense of security.”
However, a great deal of defense was being put forth to counter its reputation. The German avoidance of these areas amply suggests that it stood as a difficult fort to subdue and move forward.
Further, they built them to defend from the front and rear. The Germans avoided the front. The Americans were facing great difficulties fighting the Germans while taking the rear route to Germany.