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The Maginot line

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.

The Maginot line

Postby Erik E on 18 Aug 2003 19:54

Hallo!

Thought I would start a thread about this magnificent defence line which ended up without even being used for it`s right purpose!

Some of you might say that it was a total failure (Which I don`t agree with)

Any comments?
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Postby Dora on 12 Dec 2003 19:12

Erik,
I agree with you, the Maginot fortifications had an affect on the German invasion of France. It focused the attack north of the major portion of the defenses, into the thinner, less developed works. This spared a direct assault on Paris and the major manufacturing areas around the capitol and those of Lyon futher south.

I think, however, the French wanted to make the works so imposing that the Germans would never think of attacking France and avoiding war altogether, the feared repeat of The Great War. Well, war came and it came to France and this time France was defeated. It must have been a double anguish to have spent all that money and resources on the Line and still be attacked and loose!
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Re: The Maginot line

Postby KnightMove on 12 Dec 2003 23:05

Erik E wrote:Some of you might say that it was a total failure (Which I don`t agree with)


Well then, what was it from your point of view? :roll:
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Postby Erik E on 13 Dec 2003 21:07

Well then, what was it from your point of view


The best line of fortifications ever built in Western Europe!

It was really heavy fortified, and there is little chance that the Germans would succed taking France if the line had been completed in the north.
The line more or less served it`s purpose, as the German invasion directly from Germany never came.

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Postby bonzen on 14 Dec 2003 04:40

"The Maginot Line was widely believed to be impregnable, and for all I know there may still be those who think that the fortifications could have resisted any attack. It may be of interest to point out that the Maginot defenses were breached in a few hours by a normal infantry attack, without any tank support whatsoever. The German infantry advanced under cover of a heavy air and artillery bombardment in which lavish use was made of smoke shell. They soon found that many of the French strongpoints were not proof against shells or bombs, and moreover, a large number of postions had not been sited for all around defense and were easy to attack from the blind side with grenades and flamethrowers. The Maginot Line lacked depth, and taken as a whole the position was far inferior to many defensive systems developed later in the war. In modern war it is in any case unsound to rely on static defense, but as far as the Maginot Line was concerned the fortifications had only a moderate local value."

F.W. von Mellinthin -chief of staff -197th Infantry div


This describes the attack in the Saar region..the weakest part of the line
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odd

Postby USA_Finn on 18 Jun 2004 07:31

All German assaults failed, in 1940, against the Maginot Main line.

http://44thdivision.efour4ever.com/failure.htm
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Postby David Lehmann on 18 Jun 2004 17:36

The choice of building fortifications on the Maginot line had several goals :
- Avoid a surprise attack like in Belgium, Netherlands ... and give alert
- Cover the mobilization period (2-3 weeks)
- Economize forces (France had 39 millions citizens against 70 millions for Germany)
- Protect Alsace/Lorraine and all the industry there
- Be the basis for a counter-attack
- Force the Germans to attack by the flanks (Belgium or Switzerland)

Only after Dunkirk Hitler decided to attack the Maginot Line. The German crossed the Rhine and destroyed several small bunkers (new constructions) but the whole big forts, even attacked by heavy support (420 mm guns, Stuka ...) resisted to all assaults and inflicted heavy losses to the enemy. About 22,000 encircled men in Alsace/Lorraine mobilized 240,000 Germans and in the Alps 85,000 alpine troops defeated 650,000 Italians.
Mussolini assaulted with 20 first echelon divisions against the Alps. The army of general Olry (France) had only 85,000 men and the country was already deadly hurt by the Wehrmacht who was going to attack this army on its rears. Armistice of June 25, 1940 arrived and no French military position was lost in this sector.
The overwhelming numeric superiority of the Italians was limited because of the terrain which limited the use of motorized elements. The French fortifications constructed in the '30s was really efficient in this sector. At the end the Italian had lost 6000 men against less than 300 for the French Army.

Oddly enough, the Maginot line was a success ; it accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It wasn't designed to fully protect France from an attack from the east, though the Maginot line mentality fostered the idea that it would.
It was designed to compensate for France's inferiority in troops, vis-à-vis Germany, by reducing the area that the field army had to cover, and by freeing up personnel for that field army's manoeuvre divisions. It did exactly that. It wasn't the Maginot line's fault that the French High Command wasn't able to use the field army effectively.

Concerning the Maginot line in Alsace, the German did attack across the Rhine in June 40 (operation Kleiner Bär) with the VII Army (25th Korps, 27th Korps, 33rd Höh. Kdo, 213rd ID, 6th Gebirgsdivision ; more than 5 artillery regiments and strong air support. The French had to fight 1 vs 10 with second line troops and they had less than 10 field howitzers (a few 75mm and several 155mm) for a front of more or less 200 km.
The German massed heavy AA guns (88 mm) to fire directly at the bunkers at less than 200m and to destroy them while lower calibers (37mm AA and 37mm Pak) had to destroy the weapon slits (MG, mortars) and observation posts of the same bunker. In front of each French bunker there were about 4 to 6 Pak or Flak guns.

Armistice came on June 25, 1940 but only 1 week later did the fortifications surrender. Looking at these facts the Maginot Line did play a good part of its role. It avoided a surprise attack like in Poland, Belgium, Norway etc. It covered the mobilization period and no enemy incursion occurred during this period, it efficiently protected the industries in Alsace/Lorraine and forced Hitler to attack the neutral Belgium where elite troops were send to stop them. Every now knows that they did not manage to stop them and that they were attracted in Belgium.

Defeat was not a fatality and the Maginot line was not the reason of that defeat but became often the scapegoat.
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Maginot

Postby USA_Finn on 18 Jun 2004 18:14

"Success has a thousand fathers, failure is but a bastard." e.g. de Gaulle, Fuller, Patton.....

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Postby Karri on 18 Jun 2004 19:36

If one would compare Siegfried line and Maginot line, which one would be better? And what were their diffrences?
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Postby Erik E on 18 Jun 2004 21:44

If one would compare Siegfried line and Maginot line, which one would be better? And what were their diffrences?


The Maginot surely was 10 times better in General! Both lines of course had their strong and weak parts...... The main difference is that the Maginot have miles and miles of underground tunnels, connecting several "blocks" together in huge fortresses. The Westwall (Or "Siegfried") mainly consisted of single bunkers.
Both have their advantages, but I think in a 1940 scenario, an underground fortress had much more value!

As a second note, the French engineers put a lot of work into retractable weapons, both mortar, artillery and machinegun copulars could be lowered into the concrete during artillery or air attacks. The German army had no such equipment in the westwall.

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Re: odd

Postby bonzen on 19 Jun 2004 14:44

USA_Finn wrote:All German assaults failed, in 1940, against the Maginot Main line.

http://44thdivision.efour4ever.com/failure.htm


The article reads:On June 14, 1940, the day Paris fell, the German 1st Army went over to the offensive in "Operation Tiger” and attacked the Maginot Line between St. Avoid and Saarbrücken achieving penetrations in several locations. Three divisions advance through the Maginot Line into the Vosges.

At each main line fort, all German assaults failed.

The 197th Div. referenced above was one of the divisions that broke through.
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Postby DrG on 19 Jun 2004 17:33

Panzermeyer wrote:in the Alps 85,000 alpine troops defeated 650,000 Italians.
Mussolini assaulted with 20 first echelon divisions against the Alps. The army of general Olry (France) had only 85,000 men and the country was already deadly hurt by the Wehrmacht who was going to attack this army on its rears. Armistice of June 25, 1940 arrived and no French military position was lost in this sector.
The overwhelming numeric superiority of the Italians was limited because of the terrain which limited the use of motorized elements. The French fortifications constructed in the '30s was really efficient in this sector. At the end the Italian had lost 6000 men against less than 300 for the French Army.

Frankly I cannot agree with this interpretation.
The Italian Army Group West had 300,000 soldiers and 12,500 officers, not 650,000 (there weren't even 650,000 soldiers in whole Italy in June 1940). For obvious reasons (time, the offensive lasted less then 3 days, and logistics) the vast majority of those men was never not even near the border (I don't talk about a "front" because it was not a continous line from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea, but there were only a few narrow passes where it was possible to attack with more forces than a few patrols of skiers).
About the French military positions, it is not true that none was conquered. On 21 June the fortifications of the Cima della Nunda was occupied by the GAF (border guards) company "Lupi del Moncenisio", that the following day took part to the most interesting action in the extremely short Alpine campaign (21-24 June 1940): the occupation of the modern fort des Arcellins.
On 22 June a battalion of the Inf. Div. Cagliari, helped by that GAF company and 5 companies of the 1st Tank regiment (equipped with L.3/35 Fiamma flamethrower tankettes), with a company of the 4th Bersaglieri Regiment in reserve, conquered the fort des Arcellins with a brillant action, made with cohoperation of infantry and flamethrower tankettes (an excellent example of application of the Italian doctrine). This occupation opened the way of the Moncenisio pass, but further exploitation of this attack wasn't possible because of snow storms and the French capitulation (the armistice of Villa Incisa was signed on 24 June at 19:15).
Other French defences were occupied, as fort Chenaillet on 23 June, or abandoned by the French (Bessans, fort Trois Tetes, first line of the Piccolo San Bernardo pass except forts Traversette and Seloge). By the end of 23 June the pass of Monginevro had been conquered by the men of Asietta Division (but the word division may be misleading: only a few companies or battalions of the divisions employed on the Alps had the time to make combat actions), thus opening also this passage, but on the 24 a snow storm stopped the operations.
At the end of this tiny campaign Italy had occupied 600 square kilometers with a population of 25,000 inhabitants (most in Mentone, on the coast), at the cost of 1,258 KIA and MIA, 2,631 wounded and 2,151 frost-bitten. Thus a third of the losses were caused by the exceptionally cold weather, included snow storms (not very common in June, even for mountains with an average altitude from 3,000 m for the Alpi Graie, near Switzerland, to 2,000 for the Alpi Marittime, near the sea). Moreover, I think that the fact that the French had far less losses is irrilevant: it's obvious that infantry attacking well prepared defences will have more losses than the defenders, hidden in bunkers.
Of course the gains were very limited, but in my opinion it was only because of time (just 3 days, not counting the time lost due to bad weather), and terrain (we shall not forget that the Italian Vallo Alpino del Littorio sustained 8 months of war in 1944-45 without being passed by the Allies). Among the few forts occupied there were also modern ones, but they didn't have a resistance much better than older ones (like that of Traversette, that was placed on an isolated mount at 2,950 m, and was encircled but not conquered); the destructions of bridges and roads made by the French and minefields in the few passages between the mountains caused not less delays than more complex fortifications.
The experience of the 1944-45 campaign shows simply that very few forces, hidden in bukers and trenches, can keep the Alpine front for months, even against an enemy with a constant air superiority as the Allies in the second Campaign of the Alps.

This is a good gallery of photos of the campaign of 1940 on the Alps: http://www.istrid.difesa.it/sec_risorgimento/battaglia_immagini/battaglia_pag1.htm.
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Re: odd

Postby USA_Finn on 20 Jun 2004 01:33

bonzen wrote:
USA_Finn wrote:All German assaults failed, in 1940, against the Maginot Main line.

http://44thdivision.efour4ever.com/failure.htm


The article reads:On June 14, 1940, the day Paris fell, the German 1st Army went over to the offensive in "Operation Tiger” and attacked the Maginot Line between St. Avoid and Saarbrücken achieving penetrations in several locations. Three divisions advance through the Maginot Line into the Vosges.

At each main line fort, all German assaults failed.

The 197th Div. referenced above was one of the divisions that broke through.


Are you sure the 197th reference is to Operation Tiger?

Here is what I have for the order of battle.


Order of Battle, 14 June 1940
Generaloberst Erwin von Witzleben’s 1st Army
Generalleutnant Alfred Boehm-Tettelbach XXXVII Corp

215th Infantry Division - commanded by Generalleutnant Baptist Knieß
http://www.bridgend-powcamp.fsnet.co.uk ... %F6nig.htm

252nd Infantry Division, commanded by Generalleutnant z.V. Diether von Boehm-Bezing,
http://www.camp198.fsnet.co.uk/Generall ... Oriola.htm

93rd Infantry Division. commanded by Generalleutnant Otto Tiemann

http://www.specialcamp11.fsnet.co.uk/Ge ... ebrand.htm

At the petit ouvrages, the weak, unconnected small forts, the Germans had success. Against the gros ouvages, no success.
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Postby bonzen on 20 Jun 2004 01:59

According to von Mellenthin he was the chief of staff 197 inf division. He states that only the artillery and engineers from the 197 took part and the entire division went through the breach in pursuit of the French. He spoke fluent French and was asked to handle the surrender of the French 43rd Corps.
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Postby David Lehmann on 20 Jun 2004 12:45

Hello,

Italian OoB and main events :
http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~dpohara/alpine.htm

Beside the naval events noted in this website a few notable things on the aerial events on the French side :
After Italy declared war against France, Farman 222.2, 223.3 and 223.4 heavy bombers and Lioré & Olivier 451 bombers dropped leaflets over Roma and bombed fuel refinery in Porto Maghera and Livourne.
On June 15, 1940, second-lieutenant Pierre Le Gloan (GC 3/6) shot down 5 Italian aircrafts (4 Fiat CR.42 and 1 BR.20) in 40 minutes with his Dewoitine D-520 over Saint-Raphaël. Le Gloan was in formation with captain Assolant when they saw 12 Fiat CR.42. Le Gloan destroyed 2 CR.42 and Assoulant returned to base with his guns jammed. Alone, Le Gloan continued his patrol. Over Hyères Le Gloan attacked 3 CR.42 and destroyed one plane, he broke the combat when 8 other Italian aircrafts arrived. The airbase at Luc called him back because it was attacked by Italian planes. Le Gloan destroyed his fourth CR.42 and one BR.20 from the 172nd strategic reconnaissance Squadriglia.

French OoB :
http://france1940.free.fr/oob/alpes.html

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war, sounded like a backstab.
My previous troop numbers were wrong indeed.
The French Army in the Alps was composed of 175,000 men, but this army was at the same time attacked by Italian and German forces (General's Hoeppner XVIe panzer Korps with about 60,000 men). The Italians had 2 armies with a total of 22 divisions among them 4 alpine divisions (for a total of 312,000 men and 3000 guns according to what I could find) and the Germans had the 3. PzD as well as infantry divisions (like the motorized 13.ID) coming from the north from the Dijon and Lyon and heading for Grenoble, Chambéry and Voreppe that they will never reach due to the French stiff defense in the valleys and the accuracy of the French artillery.
The French had only 6 divisions among them 3 were fortress units + 65 artillery groups and 86 SES (Section d'éclaireurs-skieurs = ski recon platoons, elite troops). This army had not only to fight on the borders but it was dispersed in the whole Savoie, Dauphiné and Alpes-Maritimes areas and it also had to stop the Germans in the Rhône and Isère valleys. General Olry formed a combat group (groupement Cartier) of 30,000 men with tanks and artillery and sent them in the Rhône-Isère area to meet the German forces.

In the Maurienne area :
The advanced French posts covering Modane, held by 9 battalions a few guns and SES, defeated the assaults of 3 Italian divisions. All the attacks are stopped by the Turra fort, close to the Mont Cenis, defended by second-lieutenant Prudhon and his 50 men. Despite heavy artillery preparation and the reinforcement of two other divisions, the fort did not fell into enemy hands and the Italians suffered heavy losses. The French alpine troops left the fort only on July 1, 1940 on orders after having held out for ten days. They received the honors of war.

In the Briançonnais area :
All the Italian attacks on Montgenèvre (17th-22nd June) failed despite 3 vs 1 numeric superiority mainly because of the French artillery.

In the Queyras valley :
The fightings took place in an uncommon cold with rain and snow storms. Heavy combats for the town of Abriès between 12,500 Italians and 7,500 French soldiers. French aspirant Gueury with five men took 52 Italian POWs : 3 officers and 49 Alpini.

In the Ubaye valley :
This valley controls the access to the Durance and to Barcelonnette. The Italian divisions are blocked by 3 French battalions and 5 SES.

Along the coast towards Nice :
The 15e Army Corps of general Montagne has faced 10 divisions and important artillery support for 10 days. On June 18, the Italians tried without succes to take Menton and then on June 21, at dawn, the Italian divisions massed in the area launched attacks on the French positions. The attack on Nice failed and despite heavy fights the forts at Pierre-Pointue and Cap-Martin (around Menton) didn't fall. The Port-Saint-Louis fort in this area, without radio liaison, continued to fight after the armistice and finally the garisson left its position to join the French troops. They closed the fort and took the keys.

On June 24, 1940, the French positions are still intact on both northern and eastern flanks in the Alps.
At 9 PM order received to cease hostilities on all fronts, effective 12:35 AM French Summer Time.
At 10 PM, General Olry stated that:
"Of the thirty-two divisions in the Italian army, nineteen were wholly or partly engaged against the outposts - and in a few cases the main elements - of our six divisions.
"We were outnumbered seven to one in Tarentaise, four to one in Maurienne, three to one in Brianconnais, twelve to one in Queyras, nine to one in Ubaye, six to one in Tinee, seven to one in L'Aution and Sospel, and four to one in Menton.
"Our adversary only made contact with, or approached, our main positions in Tarentaise and near Menton. All our fortified advance posts held out, even when encircled..."

On June 25, 1940,
At 12:35, bugles sounded the cease-fire all along the front. The Franco-Italian armistice came into effect (only due to pressure from Germany).


----------

On the front against the German troops :
The 3.PzD and mot. 13.ID movements were hindered by the destruction of several bridges and faced the groupement Cartier. The 13.ID took Aix-les-Bains but never reached Chambéry. Near Annonay and Sarras the 1st Spahis brigade (4th and 6th Spahis regiments) blocked the German advance.
The 3.PzD had the task to take Grenoble and encountered roadblocks at Voreppe defended by the engineers of colonel Brillat-Savarin, the marine infantry from capitaine de frégate Protche and supported by heavy artillery positionned in the mountains (104th RALT towed heavy artillery regiment). 3 attacks from the Panzers failed because of the artillery fire well directed by the forward observer captain Lambert on the Bec de l'Echaillon. On June 24, a new strong German attack is stopped by the French artillery which fires on the German tanks, motorized columns and troops. In the town of Echelles held by 2 French companies and 2 artillery batteries the Germans lost 400 men without result. Voreppe remained uncaptured like Grenoble when the cease-fire occured. The Germans had lost more than 1000 men.

--------------------------

Finally France had lost the city of Menton plus 600 km2 all along the border. Beside all the Italian losses, the French troops captured also 500 Italian soldiers.

Image

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Last edited by David Lehmann on 20 Jun 2004 13:50, edited 1 time in total.
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