A team of authors has produced a finely researched study of the Maginot line. The level of illustration is excellent and this must be the definitive guide to the history and locations of one of the greatest fixed fortifications ever constructed, a fascinating story – Most Highly Recommended.
NAME: The Maginot Line, History and Guide FILE: R2578 AUTHOR: J E Kaufmann, H W Kaufmann, A Jankovi-Potocnik, P Lang PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: soft back PAGES: 308 PRICE: £16.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWI, World War I, World War 1, First World War, The Great War, Europe, Western Front, fixed defences, cost saving, WWII, World War Two, World War 2, Second World War, military engineering, forts, fortifications, reserve forces, France, Belgium, Germany ISBN: 1-52671-151-6 IMAGE: B2578.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/ybq63vnb LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A team of authors has produced a finely researched study of the Maginot line. The level of illustration is excellent and this must be the definitive guide to the history and locations of one of the greatest fixed fortifications ever constructed, a fascinating story – Most Highly Recommended. WWI left an indelible mark on the minds of military commanders and politicians. It fuelled efforts to construct fortifications and equipment to allow a future war to be fought more effectively, repeating the common error of planning to fight a war which would not be fought again. A complex mixture of motives were to fuel the construction of the Maginot Line and its German counterpart, the Siegfried Line. Neither of these enormously costly lines of fortifications were to be used as their builders had envisaged. French politicians had an understandable fear of future German aggression. They also shared the horror with many people of the unbearable cost of the trench warfare on the Western Front during WWI. Those two motives were justified, even if they produced a defensive system that was never to be used effectively and left the French military vulnerable. The French Generals were seeking a solution that would both prevent the Germans marching quickly through France and which held the potential to save millions of French lives. Again, justifiable motives with good intentions. Against these potentially positive motives, French politicians were looking to save money, a traditional political motivation and always deeply flawed. As a piece of military engineering the Maginot Line was impressive in scale and technology. British officers were seconded to the French to observe and assist in the construction. They worked well with their French comrades and shared similar views of how the Maginot Line should be constructed. These experienced soldiers pointed out the one serious flaw in the design of the Maginot Line, that it failed to run continuously from Switzerland to the Chanel Coast and therefore also neglected depth at both ends of the French border with its neighbours. This view was unpopular with the politicians and quickly sat on. Military concerns were not well-coordinated. Officers, like De Gaulle, were developing concepts of blitz kreig, similar to those being developed in Germany, but no one of importance took them seriously. Similar concerns that aviation and paratroops posed a new threat to fixed fortifications were similarly disregarded. A consequence was that politicians used the Maginot Line as an excuse to cut down the mobile reserve behind the line which actually needed to be expanded and equipped with modern armour in volume. Two factors encouraged the politicians to refuse the continuation of the Line to the Chanel Coast. The cost objection was not only very dangerous, but it was also stupid because it potentially negated the huge cost that was already committed to. The political complications of relations with Belgium was rather more tricky. The military recognized that the Germans would ignore any Belgian neutrality if it suited them. They had already twice demonstrated the vulnerability of this section of French defences. In WWI they were only frustrated because the tiny British Expeditionary Force fought with such skill, determination and professionalism that it blunted the German thrust via neutral Belgium, giving time for the French to reposition and work with amazingly close cooperation to use the BEF and neighbouring French units to strike back. Had the BEF not already been exhausted from fighting a vastly more numerous enemy, the counter attack would have thrown the Germans back into Germany. As it was, the Germans had just enough time to dig in and the resulting trench warfare cost all combatants dear. The lesson that should have been learned was that a well-equipped mobile force, with effective reserves and logistics would have avoided the terrible cost of static trench warfare. The problem was not military understanding and logic, but the delicate relationship between France and Belgium. The Belgians very quickly bridled at the thought of a French defence line along the length of their common border to the coast. The Belgians realized that the Germans would once again pour through neutral Belgium and a solid French defence line would leave Belgium to German occupation. They presented a counter threat to the Germans, Belgium constructed some impressive forts at key river crossings and worked on the French to cut the Maginot Line short, leaving the pressure on France and Britain to march into Belgium to oppose a German advance through that country. The result was to ensure a French defeat. As the authors and their illustrator have graphically set out, the Maginot Line was technically brilliant for as far as it extended. It was so good potentially that the Germans decided to take the simple route of going round it. There were attempts at frontal assault, but these only demonstrated the technical quality of the fortification. Rather than build a continuous trench line using the best materials, the French built a series of forts and a network of tunnels and underground railways to link them together. Along the network they built well-protected underground facilities to accommodate troops in some comfort, ready to be moved rapidly by rail to the parts of the line where they would be most needed. It was recognized that the enemy might break through the Maginot Line at one or more points, and a mobile reserve was established to deal with any enemy spearheads that were attempting to fight behind the Maginot Line. There was weakness in the concept in two areas. One was that the reserve force was inadequate in numbers and equipment, and poorly trained, as a result of politicians budget cutting. The other was that the Maginot Line was designed with the aircraft of WWI in mind. Had the Germans built a strategic bomber force, it would have been able to develop heavy bombs as the RAF was to do. Earthquake bombs similar to the RAF Tallboy and Grand Slam earthquake bombs would have severely disrupted the underground facilities and created the breaches necessary to pass through the Line. Even with all of the potential threats, the Maginot Line is still an impressive undertaking to rival even the Great Wall of China. It extended South along the Swiss and Italian borders to the Mediterranean. Had it followed West along the Belgian border it might not only have worked militarily, but deterred the Germans from attempting an attack on France. The primary threat was always the Germans and not the Swiss or Italians and the potential German invasion route was always via Belgium. The primary vulnerability to Germany of war with France and Great Britain was speed, or lack of it. As in 1914, the Germans could have won had they been able to conduct a lightning advance, cutting off French formations and forcing a peace treaty. The moment they faltered, the capacity of the British Empire, and the threat of the US joining the war, meant that Germany would lose the war. The industrial capacity and the reservoir of manpower beyond the range of German aircraft meant that Germany would just engage in a losing battle of attrition. As it was in 1940, Germany stalled on the Chanel Coast and then failed to establish air superiority over Southern Britain to allow an invasion across the Chanel. Had the Maginot Line extended at full strength from the Chanel, German forces would have stalled at the Line and the German military planners were well-aware of this huge risk to them.