2011/03/29

France Builds World’s Greatest Defense System (Mar, 1931)

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They really began this at a time of recession and facing a less than 100,000 strong army (and Italians)...

S O
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7 comments:

  1. DemolitionMan30 March 2011 13:47

    You forgot the Swiss...be afraid, be very afraid.

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  2. or could it be that the French government
    started this project as part of an 'economic stimulus package' to get the economy going again ?

    - charles_in_houston_texas

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  3. The theory for that wasn't in place back then iirc. There would have been a great choice of better investments for such a purpose anyway. Much of rural France has rather disappointing traffic connections even today.

    The generally high leftover debt from WWI should have demanded fiscal discipline, though. In the end, France was still burdened heavily by 1914-1935 debts when the arms race entered full speed in 1938.

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  4. Maginot was a veteran of the horrors of Verdun, and his successor who did most of the design was a mathematician, not a soldier. Not sure which officers in the military pushed for it, Joffre some claim. It was certainly not Foch, who as early as 1919 predicted the German Army's 'Fall Gelb' where they would break through into northern France and seize the channel ports. And not DeGaulle who was a proponent of mobility.

    But possibly why the French started this project was the earlier withdrawal of French, British, and American troops from the Rhineland in the 1920s and then the re-militarization of it in the 1930s by Hitler. That caused much of French military thinking to focus on that narrow border with Germany between Switzerland and Luxembourg. Unfortunately, that high debt from WWI that Svenn mentioned prohibited the line from being extended to the English Channel.

    Another problem was that there was also a great deal of French military focus on the so-called Gembloux Gap north of the Ardennes. It was supposedly ideal tank country. So despite some intel by the Belgians and the Swiss that the German Army was massing behind the Ardennes, they were ignored. Does that remind anyone of the Fulda Gap? Thank God we never had to test that theory against Soviet armor.

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  5. The re-militarisation of the Rhineland happened about the time when the Maginot line was half-finished, so it was hardly a reason for it.

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  6. S O - What you say is true, the French abhorrence of repeating another battle of attrition like Verdun where they lost half a million casualties was the main factor in trying to build that defensive line.

    And the re-militarization did cause the French to concentrate on that area so much that they neglected others. The abandonment of the bridgeheads across the Rhine by Brit troops in 1921(? or 23 ?) had something to do with it, and the removal of all allied troops from the Rhineland in the early 20s also.

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  7. "S O - What you say is true, the French abhorrence of repeating another battle of attrition like Verdun where they lost half a million casualties was the main factor in trying to build that defensive line."

    Surely the Maginot Line was an attempt to refight Verdun, on somewhat better terms?
    Trenches, Artilery Forts, Barbed Wire, Machine Guns, sounds very first world war....

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